HEALTH FOOD RESTAURANT
Make no bones about it — broth is back and bubbling
Discerning foodies the world over are touting the benefits of soupy stock lauded for its cure-all health benefits, writes Tarah Darge
The flutter of a simple linen flag emblazoned with a wishbone marks the entrance to Marrow – a dinky and bare-bones restaurant on Cape Town’s Loop Street dedicated to serving broth.
While a simmering pot of meaty leftovers doesn’t sound like a fashionable drink, discerning foodies the world over are touting the benefits of the soupy stock lauded for its cure-all health benefits.
The owners of Cape Town’s popular Gin Bar and Honest Chocolate are behind this iteration of a global trend, and the idea began brewing more than five years ago.
"We’ve always had a great love for all things soupy and for how healthy and easy nourishing food can be," says co-owner Dennis Williams.
After hosting a few successful soup-centric experiences around the city, a recent trip to Japan rekindled the vision.
"We were stirred by the quality and delicate nature of Japanese street food [of which ramen is best-known] coupled with the care and pride that goes into preparing the simple dishes served in beautiful, tiny spaces," Williams says.
"With the re-emergence of bone broth as a ‘health food’ internationally, combined with the inspiration from Japan, the urge to open a tiny place that specialises in broth was back on our radar."
A period of experimentation followed, during which the team honed its value offering and learned how to cook bones for up to two days to extract the "silky-smooth" flavour that elevates the wholesome brew above the run-of-the-mill stock available off the shelf.
"We wanted to do something that was different from ramen, hence no noodles, and distinguishes itself from soup, which lead us to focus on the experience of eating broth on its own, almost like a healthy alternative to a cup of coffee, or serving it with amazing combinations of ingredients to create a full meal," he says.
What emerged was a style of cooking that was full of depth, colour and texture and came with a wealth of ancillary benefits the crew noted with keen interest.
"We saw how satisfied, yet light we felt after eating broth. We started eating less, wasting less and realised how this style of cooking is fast, more affordable and healthier than most of the things we have become accustomed to." With a concept at the ready, all that was needed was the appropriate space to test it in, so when a spot on Loop Street became available, they took it.
Though the irony of their location next to the now defunct Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital is not lost on them, their name is a nod to Zucchinis — the former health food store they now occupy.
Paying tribute is one of their core values. "We have a few criteria by which we evaluate new ideas," says Williams. "Our principles include authentic interest, creativity, gathering passionate people who believe in the concept as well as honouring the roots of the space we choose."
For now, they offer five broths, bubbling in stainless-steel pots behind the minimalist counter. Options include soy-and miso-infused clear bone broth, white vegan broth with coconut milk and lemon grass, a brown bone broth with harissa and red wine, a green dashi broth and a golden turmeric broth dressing.
These come in cups at R30 a swig, but hungrier patrons can opt for their bowls with toppings such as roasted chicken and chorizo, aubergine and tofu, steamed white fish and tenderstem broccoli, as well as venison and Turkish apricots, with extras such as rice balls and soft-boiled eggs.
There are no sugary drinks to be had. Instead, there’s a homemade plum cordial, fire health tonic, or patrons can bring their own wine.
There are stools along the wooden counters where the virtuous meals are served, presented in chunky bowls and glass beakers, an unexpected morsel of Turkish delight gifted as a sweet and delicate end.
These deliberate touches are courtesy of the up-and-coming chefs, headed by Danielle Smith, who are making the style of cooking their own.
"We believe it’s about time smaller, ‘fast food’ or even street food-type places start winning some culinary awards, which makes it an alternative for young chefs to venture to areas outside of fine dining," Williams says.
The 22-hour boiling of the ingredients extracts the amino acids important for good gut health, strong and healthy bones, inflammation and immunity, and sleeker, glossier skin, hair and nails.
• It is open from Monday to Friday for lunch and serves dinner till 8pm from Wednesday to Friday.