Upmarket chippie is as fresh as it gets
The hake and chips proves there is nothing better than traditional fare done exactly right, writes Tarah Darge
There might be plenty of fish in the sea, but none are battered and fried to perfection quite like those found at Cape Town’s newest culinary addition in Bree Street — SeaBreeze Fish & Shell.
While the strikingly blue-hued restaurant is owned by Brits, there is a distinctly local spin on traditional favourites at the upmarket chippie.
"Cape Town overflows with spectacular seafood, and our focus is to create a restaurant celebrating all that wonderful fresh produce," say owners Alex and Ruth Grahame, who set out from the shores of Scotland after owning and operating the renowned Hornblowers seafood restaurant in the village of Gourdon in Aberdeenshire.
"Whether people pop in for a bite to eat during their work day, some oyster and fizz after work or decide to linger longer over our dinner options, we want each dish and experience to remind people what great seafood is all about."
The double-page menu is refreshed each day according to the swashbuckling condition that produce is available, seasonal and sustainable.
Their "green-list only" policy is so watertight that it nabbed head chef Phil Alcock an award in the South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative’s Trailblazer Chefs for 2017.
The outstanding offer of "10 bucks a shuck" twice daily from noon to 1pm and 5pm to 6pm during Oyster Happy Hour is a big drawcard.
Freshly shucked at the welcoming entrance bar, the choice on offer is Knysna oysters and the Saldanha Bay varietals, which are a plumper, if slightly less flavoursome, option.
They come presented on a tray of ice served with a tangy vinaigrette or toppings — like beetroot pickled cauliflower and amasi — that highlight the local inflection in each dish.
"Small plates" are starter-sized and include wild langoustines, a seared tuna nicoise and a savoury smoked snoek doughnut, which is a uniquely alluring combo of homely apricot snoek and brioche.
For mains expect dishes like squid ink tagliatelle with prawns and mussels in Cape Malay sauce, a flaky fish pie or tuna burger. There is always a selection of grilled fish, served with local sauces like chakalaka and veggies like aubergine chips — a far cry from the oily mounds of potatoes found wrapped in newspaper the world over.
The real star of the show is the perennial hake and chips, proving that there really is nothing better than traditional fare done exactly right. Wondrously crispy and light, the golden batter encases a small but plump portion of fresh hake served with fat, hand-cut fries and a thick tartar sauce.
To end, order the apple crumble cheesecake. Clearly created by a lover of puds, the crumbly meets creamy texture and caramel pour-over sauce is so decadently good that sighing in delight would be forgiven.
The wine list complements the swimmers and leans heavily towards the whites and bubbles. A selection of local MCCs can be ordered by the bottle or flute.
Wine sourced from an impressive array of artisanal farms can conveniently be ordered by the glass, carafe or bottle — not an option offered by most restaurants.
In a nod to seafaring spirits of old, there is also rum, muddled into interesting pineapple and matcha cocktail combos created to wet a whistle and slake intrigue in equal measure.
Located in a heritage building neighbouring Culture Club Cheese, SeaBreeze eschews the usual tawdry fish shop décor. Deep blue and fresh white walls commingle with wooden tables, a mismatch of chairs and warm lighting, which makes the space feel contemporary but relaxed, a sensation aided by the exceptional service.
Out front, there is a sleek countertop that spills out on to the extensive terrace, ideal for enjoying the Bree Street scene.
SeaBreeze Fish & Shell is open Monday to Saturday, 12 to 9.30pm.