Category Archives: Observatory

Gypsy Cafe Review

What with new jobs and overseas trips and product launches and things, arranging a date and venue for this month’s Cracker (October’s, that is) was a bit of a last minute affair. I was struggling to think of somewhere, so when Jo suggested Gypsy Cafe I grabbed it. Jo and I went there a few weeks ago and had a lovely, relaxed, delicious meal. On top of that, I like supporting small businesses (having been one myself for many years), and local businesses. Unfortunately, our Cracker experience there last night was not so great.

The restaurant has a Gypsy theme in its decor and menu: the specials on the menu change regularly, and a pin in a map on the wall shows where they are this week. Last night we were in Germany: one of the starters was a lovely vienna salad, and one of the mains was roast beef with sauerkraut, the other was beef schnitzel. The other starter we had (three of us had the salad) was the chicken livers in a spicy coconut curry-like sauce, which was delicious. For other main courses, we had the Venison (Ostrich), and the Two Tarts.

Here’s a wodge of pictures:

The food was all great, except I wasn’t happy with my ostrich. It came a little too rare for my tastes (I like medium rare, can do rare, but don’t do bleu), and I asked for it to be cooked a bit more. The chef generously, and quickly, brought me a whole new one. Unfortunately, it was pretty much as rare as the first one.

A much bigger problem was the really bad service we had. We arrived at 8 p.m., and the joint was jumping. It took us a little while to get drinks (first rule of restaurant club, people: get people their drinks immediately. Then they’ll be much happier waiting for other stuff.), but the kitchen was so busy that we couldn’t (and not for lack of trying) place our food order until 9.30. By about 9, after several pesterings of the waitress, we asked if we could have some more bread for the table to tide us over. She went away and came back and, apologetically and nicely, told us that the kitchen was too busy to even do that. We were not happy bunnies. When he eventually came over, the chef apologised briefly for the wait, but after waiting an hour and a half, it would have nicer to have a “bigger” apology.┬áThe food came out quite quickly after that, but most other guests had eaten and left by then.

We had a nice night out anyway, because we’re four friends who enjoy chatting and drinking, but it was not a great dining experience at all. If there had been another waiter, maybe things would have gone a bit more smoothly. Time for the scores on the doors.

The Wild Fig

The club’s over-larnification at Aubergine has led to a snail-like drawing in of horns, and we’re all about the relaxed, mid-range experience at the moment. Wild Fig was perfect for this. For a start, it’s beautiful: quite apart from the piquant detail of being next door to the mental hospital, it has the stunning giant wild fig tree outside, and the restaurant itself is a white-painted house on multiple levels, curled around three sides of a courtyard full of trees. The interior is dark-painted, cosy and eclectic, and very slightly shabby in a way that’s intimate and comforting.

The food is rather a fun combination of nouvelle and pub: intense sauces, interesting flavour combinations, but with the portions approximately twice the size of somewhere like Aubergine, and the main course comes standard with roast potatoes and vegetables. We all overate horribly. Starters were substantial in themselves; I had spring rolls, slightly fatty but tasty, and the EL’s deep-fried camembert was perfectly done, a great improvement on the slightly stringy one we had at the Hussar. (Owing to my somewhat dilatory approach to this reviewing thing I can’t remember what anyone else had, but I’m sure they’ll chip in in the comments).

Main course enabled me to pursue my current goal of trying all the possible versions of duck in Cape Town in search of the perfect one: this was crispy duck in an orange sauce, very flavourful, with the kind of crispy skin that really requires one goes at the bones in one’s fingers. Other main courses at the table included, if I remember correctly, some sort of game in a chilli chocolate sauce, and a giant chunk of lamb shank – the usual ritual of fork-swopping was observed, and it was all very good.

We had to try dessert, despite being full, because the ice-cream offerings were so unusual. I had a brandysnap basket arrangement with berry ice-cream, somewhat delectable, but I think the chilli and honey nut ice-cream sandwich was even better, with wonderful flavour contrasts and a subtle bite.

If I have anything to carp about it was possibly the service, which was pleasant but slightly slow. This didn’t really matter, as it suited our relaxed mood perfectly.