Food is a serious industry in Cape Town. Imagine a place where you are invited to interact with a menu of playful, proudly “Sowf Effrekin” dishes, filled with nostalgic reminders of your childhood? Come to TRUTH Coffee’s TRUTH Café after dark, for some serious, unserious business.
Yes, you heard me right. When TRUTH Café closes its doors for serious caffeine addicts in the afternoon, it opens it back up after dark onto a playground of heritage dishes which invites you experience a rollercoaster of nostalgic emotions, flavours and tastes. An opportunity to dine in Cape Town’s beloved steam-punk inspired HQ of coffee is one I was very ready to accept when the invite crossed my desk a few weeks ago.
And what better occasion than my birthday dinner? I couldn’t wait to go back to the kitchen cupboards of my childhood, and to indulge in all my favourite “Sowf Effrekin” favourites.
(Editor’s note: apologies if the below review lacks my usual detailed close-ups of each dish, but I feel that it would be a bit of a pap snoek if I spoiled all the surprises for you. Take my word – just go and experience it for yourself!)
The brand famous as an instigator in the city’s coffee culture, and putting it on the world’s radar, is taking traditional kaapse cooking to a whole new level.
By day, caffeine enthusiasts get their fix at TRUTH Café (TRUTH Coffee’s bustling steampunk-style headquarters), but from 6pm it’s all unserious cocktails and serious cuisine at TRUTH. After dark.
With TRUTH Café having been voted ‘Best Coffee Shop in the World’ for two years running by The Daily Telegraph, TRUTH founder David Donde and his team felt inspired to do for the local food scene what they’ve done for coffee by expanding their culinary offering to include dinner, and extending their opening hours to midnight (press release).
I’m going to assume you’ve all at least had a cup of awesome coffee at TRUTH Coffee’s steampunk-style headquarters on Buitenkant Street. If not, I would strongly suggest getting yourself down there, ordering a coffee and then continue to read this blog on your mobile device.
Decadently quirky with everything from vintage coffee grinders to a blimp hanging from the ceiling, Truth Café is a sensory experience from the moment you walk in. Filled with the aromatic scent of roasting coffee, mingled with the sweet waft of fresh pastries and griddles of bacon for breakfast, Truth Café has become a world-known hangout for any time of the day.
Gas masks, leather clothing and Gothic-Victorian decor aside. Let’s get serious. Now, dim the lights when the sun goes down, bring out the Steri Stumpies and Lucky Fish cans and let’s take a spirited stroll down memory lane with a menu filled with Gastro-Kaap comfort food.
I mean, I wanted it all. And luckily, between myself, The Tall Hedonist and Mother Hedonist, we could work our way quite comfortably through the small, intimate menu of items.
For those of you who are not familiar with AfriKaaps, don’t despair – the menu contains a full glossary explaining the cultural signifance and meaning of things like “papsak,” “regmakertjie,” and “babalas.”
Feeling a bit “snek-ish” we started with “nie Jou Ma se Yellowtail Frikkadel nie,” “nog ‘n Blikkie Vis” and “Bovril-y on toast, and a bietjie Biltong” (ostrich carpaccio, exotic mushroom biltong and meat jelly on a buttery brioche).
We paired our starters with “Funky Falooda” and Mr. Babalas” cocktails.
As we reminisced about these brands and the clever interpretations of South African cuisine, we couldn’t possibly have imagined the celebration of heritage that would arrive at our table a short while later.
I really don’t want to give too much away and should probably leave my images to do the talking, but it was simply delightful! My senses were all awake and fully engaged as I saw, smelled, tasted, and touched elements of my childhood, and of my undeniable Capetownian upbringing.
The “nie Jou Ma se Yellowtail Frikkadel nie,” was delightfully surprising in its presentation, with “nog ‘n Blikkie Vis” scoring full marks on taste.
Moer of a hungry
For mains, I opted for the Lamb Bunny Chow, Mother Hedonist for the Oxtail Bredie and The Tall Hedonist for the “Moer of a Mixed Grill.”
We paired a second round of cocktails with mains, which were my favourites of the night: Fat Cat and Melktert Pinacolada. I’ll touch on these a bit further down.
Sophisticated, re-imagined versions of everything you thought you knew. This Gastro-Kaaps menu tricks you into seeing one thing but tasting another. My Lamb Bunny Chow didn’t come in half a loaf of hollowed out bread – instead, it was calzone’d into bread blanket, which I tore open like a French loaf. Classic in taste, but daringly different on the eye.
The mixed grill was exactly that – lamb, chicken and boerewors, just like my dad made it on the drum braai on a Sunday afternoon. Add a few sides of vegetables and it’s a feast of nostalgia.
Personally, I loved the oxtail bredie – stuffed with chicken and mushrooms, this Sunday staple was zhooshed up with red wine and veggies, and a side of spicy rice and a maize dumpling.
We sat back for a breather and sipped on our cocktails before dessert. The Instagram-worthy deliciousness that we’ve been presented with all night has left me with two full memory cards and a low phone battery. My taste buds were lulled into thinking it’s eating comfort food, before being playfully pushed into overdrive as the dark TRUTH twists became apparent.
Dessert was an absolute showstopper. We had one of each dessert on the menu, humbly called Melktert, Malva Pudding and Peppermint Crisp Tart. Ha! Don’t think for one minute that is what you’re getting. It might taste like it, but…
The peppermint crisp tart was chocolatey and tasted like fresh mint, without a leaf in sight. It still had that full-mouth creaminess you’d expect, except it looked like a very posh cousin of our Sunday sweet. The grand finale was the Melktert (white couverture chocolate, coffee ice cream, mango passion cremeux on a crispy Speculaas biscuit). Presented like a giant egg in a nest, this one was super satisfying. Cracking the outer shell layer reveals a liquid centre that tastes just like your tannie’s melktert.
The menu is playful enough for you to do your own personal cocktail and food pairing, or if you’re unsure, follow along with their suggested happy meal combinations. I decidedly enjoyed the Fat Cat, which reminds of a naughty peanut butter smoothie. The cocktails are as much part of the experience as the main dishes – don’t think of them as a drink with your meal, rather as an element of the experience.
The Melktert Pinacolada was decadently creamy and coconutty, but also refreshingly tropical with pineapple hints. It made me think of my mom’s pineapple fridge tart, and of how I used to layer the Tennis biscuits in the Tupperware before carefully pouring on the pineapple curd.
A first for Cape Town : café-style late night dining with an unconventional romantic twist. An absolute must if you are one for innovative, curiously different menus and enjoy eating with your eyes. Your Instagram will be lit with images of mind-bendingly familiar food staples, re-invented to capture this incredible Cape culture we so proudly show off at every occasion. You’ll score bonus points on date night with this tasty experience! All in all, a great way to end my birthday, doing what I love most in the city that I love most!
Thank you, TRUTH Coffee, for coming to play after dark!
TRUTH. After Dark is open Tuesday to Saturday from 6pm until midnight.
Second photographer: The Tall Hedonist, aka Timothy P. Gibson
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.
The Little Hedonist endorses responsible drinking.