I went to the launch of Cru Cafe on Tuesday and then ate there on Friday night. The launch was good in that the snacks on offer were from the tapas menu so we could test the food, but there was nobody around to welcome me and explain what Cru Cafe is all about. So whatever I share with you, is simply my own impression and experience. The snacks were quite nice actually, which is why I was happy to end up there for dinner on the Friday night. We sampled crostinis with various toppings: chicken liver pate with muscadel jelly (very good), slices of chorizo (good) and humus (unexciting). The lamb meatballs were excellent and the ostrich biltong was horrible (too dry). The fried maize cubes with kale, chilli and garlic were interesting.
On Friday evening we got hungry late in the evening and so we arrived at about 10pm and the kitchen was still open, which was a good start. Things went briefly downhill after being seated at the table of our choice. We were in direct view of the bar and there were about six waiters standing around doing nothing which included not serving us. We received no attention for about ten minutes, but a few waves brought someone over and then things moved forward. Once it got going, the service was pretty good.
We ordered the (free range) Karoo Lamb Cutlets (R95), which came with carrot and turnip mash, sauteed green vegetables and a rosemary jus. And the chicken breast wrapped in serrano ham (R90), stuffed with asparagus and served on potato mash with a cheese sauce. Both meals were generous portions and very tasty. I was very happy with my chicken.
Cru Cafe is a wine bar so the wine list is extensive (120 apparently), with quite a few options but the glass, ranging from R25 and up. I eventually opted for the Clos Malverne Pinotage Reserve because it sounded fancy and was one of the more reasonably priced red wines at R160. It turned out to be a good choice and we enjoyed it. We ordered a bottle of sparkling water (R22) as well, after ascertaining that it is local water.
The decor of Cru Cafe is modern but not harsh. The walls are covered with fun murals about wine which can provide some distraction if ever required. One of the unique things about Cru Cafe is their ‘wine flight’ option where you can select a varietal and receive three tasters of that varietal accompanied by a paired snack.
One thing you must be careful of is that Cru Cafe is one of the only restaurants in Cape Town which will include a 10% tip in the bill regardless of table size. I’m not particularly bothered by it although it does remove my ability to reward the service or not, depending on my experience. Some would argue that 10% should be a minimum (see my poll on this here), regardless of the level of service offered and you could complain if you felt the 10% included was not deserved. What does irk me though, it that they do not draw your attention to the fact that the tip is included in any way. It is included as a food item and there is no text indication nor verbal indication from the waiter. The result is that a lot of people will do what I nearly did, which is to add the tip on the total.
In the UK at some of the restaurants I ate at they added a suggested tip which is not compulsory, I think that might be a good compromise. I think they will earn themselves some irate customers with the policy of including a tip and not drawing attention to it.
I enjoyed my dinner there, would happily go again and maybe sit outside in the courtyard next time.
Cape Quarter Extension, Greenpoint
Tel: 021 418 6293
I ate there on Saturday for lunch. The food was bland and tasteless. The service was amateurish and bumbling.
On presentation of the bill I noticed that it was accompanied by a laminated card, DL size, which attempted to argue in the most hamfisted bulshitty manner a justification for the 10% “commission” (as it is described on the bill). I declined to pay it, as the propaganda sheet argued that it was discretionary, and nothing makes my blood boil like obligatory and mandatory discretionaries. When I explained this to the charming and pleasant waitron a flicker of worry and fear flashed across his face. “But I am now going to get in trouble”, he told me.
I asked to see the manager, and an Assistant Front of House Manager appeared. He informed me that crucafe did not actually have a manager.
The owner, in his laminated propaganda sheet, argues that obligatory discretionary charges, disguised as “commission”, are better for service levels and are “worldwide practice”, and Cape Town is just keeping up with the rest of the world.
What a load of absolute rubbish!
The worse part was that the bill still left a blank line before the total – so that someone with bad eyesight, or a bit inebriated, or a non english speaking tourist, might inadvertently add service on top of a bill already containing service disguised as “Comission”.
The slimiest argumentation though, was that the “commission” would lassoo the waitron community and force them to become responsible tax paying citizens. Did you ever hear such crap??
So I left, a bit peeved, and when no one was looking, snuck back and slipped the waitron his tip, in cash, tax free.