When you ask a young(ish) Capetownian about Observatory, (or Obs, as it’s fondly called) most will recollect a handful of great memories that involves some watering hole in Lower Main Road. I’d like to think Obs is now a bit more grown up and caters for students and tourists alike. And with the gradual re-shift of focus and energy from a row of watering holes to a handful of urban-chic eateries, Cape Town institution, Obz Café, is still taking the lead, after all these years.
For almost as long as I have walked this earth, the name Obz Café has been in the mouths of Capetownians. It’s a real institution; one of those places you can depend on for a good time and good food, no matter what time of the week or day. I remember going there about four years ago for pizzas and drinks, and although it was dark and dingy, it had a little something-something that wanted to shine. But it seemed as if its sparkle was dulled and the light fading fast. It felt a bit tired and dated. That was, until Obz Café’s fate crossed paths with super-awesome, super-force-to-be-reckoned-with and foodie extraordinaire, the lovely Hannah Roux.
Under the new ownership of Hannah for the last three or so years, Obz Café has blossomed. But before I get into the details of the new restaurant, let me backtrack for a second.
I was (yes, we all know!) childishly excited when I got an email from Hannah inviting me for dinner at Obz Café. Always keen to explore this eccentric little hub of Cape Town, I eagerly said yes to the opportunity to revisit what was just a dark memory in the back of my mind. I honestly believe in second chances; I believe in giving the benefit of the doubt where necessary. Spoiler alert: I’m a changed person!
The revamp and venue
We walked into Obz Café just after 5pm on a Tuesday afternoon. Not expecting much, we entered a bright, high-roofed venue, with a beautifully rustic feel. Exposed light cables were draped across the pitched roof, giving just enough ambient down-light to the scattering of plush tables, couches and banquettes below to keep it comfy and cozy. Naked brick walls lined with rows of mounted photo-frames holds a welcoming space to sit back, relax and catch up on life and everything in between. The decor is chic and modern, but the café invites you to a chilled visit interspersed with gorgeously beautiful cocktails.
The most surprising element though – it was almost full. On a random Tuesday afternoon at 5pm, there was a steady stream of tourists, students, couples and groups of friends sidling in from the sidewalk. As they came in, they were swiftly and efficiently cleared to tables by the star-studded team of staff, who obz love what they do.
I loved the embracing space of the new, upmarket Obz Café from the moment I walked in. The banquettes along the wall begged to be filled with laughter, chats and plates of food. The intimate little tables for two’s or fours were waiting for couples to sit and daydream about life and love. The large, party-size tables across the room excitedly made space for groups to celebrate and rejoice in achievements or life events. The cluster of sidewalk seats asked for lazy cocktails whilst people watching over Lower Main Road.
The bar at the back was a definite feature and eye-catching in it’s ruggedness. The pass is boldly in full view adjacent to the bar, and steaming plates of food were swiftly leaving the kitchen, whisked away by waiters who carried the dishes with the same confidence that Hannah first had when she walked into her new venture that very first day.
The experience and starters
We had a lovely chat with the sparkling Hannah herself. Over suitably chic cocktails (because you just HAVE to indulge in their ridiculously sweet Happy Hour!) she shared her story; one of passion, of taking leaps of faith, of putting all your cards on the table and making it work for you, sometimes against all odds and expectations. Her story speaks of hard work, family, sacrifice and perseverance. Her love for Obz Café, and it’s people, is apparent; it shows in her commitment, in her excitement, in the twinkles that are her eyes. Fully embracing what is even still today a mainly male-populated industry, she proudly holds herself upright and her staff under wings of camaraderie and the spirit of shared ownership.
After a few menu recommendations, it was time to order. Whilst we waited on our starters, we sipped on a basil and cranberry mojito, as well as their signature Obz Island. When she first took ownership of Obz Café, Hannah immediately recognised the gaping demand for a bespoke cocktail menu. Together with her staff, they quickly whipped up an impressively decadent cocktail selection, which is showcased best during their Happy Hours (Tuesday – Friday, between 17.00 and 19.00 – all cocktails 50% off!).
Our starters arrived with a smile and we were blown away with the presentation alone. We ordered a portion of the crispy ravioli (spinach and ricotta, served with a red pepper dip) and a portion of nachos. We looked at each other with big eyes, because if this is the size of the starters, then we’re in for a feast!
Both dishes were incredibly fresh and served piping hot; simple in their design, but crammed full of texture, flavour and a sprinkling of pure magic. Those crispy ravioli’s though…
The main event
I thoroughly interrogated the menu. It promised simple, wholesome and nourishing meals, with a hint of Obz Café indulgence. It caters to all tastes and foodie whims, with no foreign names that require a quick check on Google Translate to order. I did raise my eyebrows a bit at the prices – it seemed incredibly reasonable. Disclaimer: It’s almost too good to be true, but it is!
Now, word on the street is that the Obz Café peri-peri chicken is a must. So I pre-ordered a half-chicken when we walked in, because it takes 45 loving minutes to slow-roast to perfection in the wood-fired pizza oven. The other thing they are apparently well known for, are their pizzas, so one Tom Bomb coming up.
Another round of cocktails kept us entertained – this time a classic Cosmo for the lady (with all the theatrics table-side!) and a Landmine – now this feisty one I can strongly recommend to anyone who appreciates unusual flavour combinations! Sooo good!
I looked around at what has now turned into a sundowner spectacular at Obz Café. Chatter filled the space to the rafters, and the waiters ran the tracks with their eyes closed. It was bustling and vibey and a lovely way to spend a mid-week evening. It felt like home.
Our mains arrived and my eyes literally almost popped out of their sockets. Again, the presentation was incredible but the portions were so generous! I quickly checked the menu again to see the prices in case I made a mistake, but no. There it was, black on white.
I’m going to let the images below do the talking on behalf of our mains, because we didn’t speak for a good half hour whilst we feasted! The peri-peri was spicy and fragrant without being too overbearing. The chicken was incredibly soft and juicy and char-grilled to perfection. The pizza base was thin, crispy and very authentic, and the toppings carefully hand-selected for maximum flavour.
We honestly didn’t think we’d have space for dessert, but our very persuasive waiter…well, persuaded us that we do! A chocolate fondant and a Lindt brownie later, we sat back to reflect on a fun, surprising and quality night out, right here in the heart of Obs.
The family at Obz Café are waiting for you with open arms for your next business lunch, study date, drinks after work, a family affair or a celebration of friendship. Whatever the occasion – you are most welcome! Because, as I’ve come to realise looking at the photos on the wall – family is the cornerstone of Hannah’s world. Keep a look-out for their weekly specials and be sure not to miss out on these steals!
That evening, with every mouthful, I was overwhelmed by the quality, the meticulous detail, the hours that went into creating this space. I can see Hannah’s personal touches in every dish and aspect of the menu. She is living and breathing her brand, because she bought into the brand. She has turned this household name into something worthy of a complete revival and second breath. If you’ve ever wanted to be seen at Obz Café, the time is now. This iconic landmark is here to stay – for students, tourists and locals alike, with a fresh new look and a sizzling hot menu, but absolutely timeless in it’s legacy.
The Little Hedonist has made every effort to ensure that the information in this post was correct at the time of publication. However, I do not assume any liability caused by errors, such as price, menu changes, opening times, and contact details.
Disclaimer: I was invited to this event in my personal capacity. There was no expectation for platform coverage in the form of a blog, or social media posts. This is my honest and truthful opinion and review thereof. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are solely those of The Little Hedonist, given in good faith and in no way influenced by the company or its affiliates. All images, unless otherwise stated/credited, are also my own.
Second photographer and photo credit: Timothy P. Gibson