Picture: RICHARD HOLMES
Picture: RICHARD HOLMES

Capetonians can be fickle when it comes to eating out. One minute you’re the flavour of the month, the next you’re the culinary equivalent of Steve Hofmeyr.

Of course some spots seem immortal in the eyes of locals. Bibi’s in Wynberg for rogan josh and koesisters. Borruso’s in Rondebosch for pizza. Belgravia’s Wembley Roadhouse for a late-night Whopper sandwich. Super Fisheries in Athlone for a great gatsby at the place where it all began.

But for a parcel of fish and chips? Now you’re into dangerous territory.

So when the president chose Palace Fisheries in rough-and-tumble Salt River for lunch on the go this week, he proclaimed he’d heard it was the best in Cape Town.

That’s fighting talk in a city where everyone has their favourite. Could it beat the crisp chips of Lucky Fish? The fresh fish of Snoekies? Hell, I’m surprised the Kalky’s lynch mob isn’t already marching up Main Road with flaming torches.

Picture: RICHARD HOLMES
Picture: RICHARD HOLMES

The only solution was an immediate visit. And vinegar, of course. Lots of vinegar.

So while President Cyril Ramaphosa was busy with – I’m presuming here – picking out a tie and tweaking his state of the nation address (Sona), I bundled my son into the car and headed for Palace Fisheries.

It’s not the first time Palace Fisheries has enjoyed the limelight, having previously featured in The New Yorker magazine, but owner Justino Ferreira still seems bemused by the sudden attention.

Palace Fisheries was started in 1955 by Ferreira’s father, an immigrant from the island of Madeira. Today there are four shops across Cape Town, but the Albert Road counter is the original. Ferreira, who grew up serving customers and stacking rolls in the window for the weekend rush, is behind the counter as shift workers and locals bustle in during a busy lunchtime.

Hopefully Ramaphosa has changed his suit since Tuesday, because the scent of wood smoke wafts out the Palace door.

“Ja, we’ve always used wood fires to heat the oil, and I think we’re the only fish shop in Cape Town that still does it this way,” says Ferreira. “Our customers swear they can taste the difference.”

Picture: RICHARD HOLMES
Picture: RICHARD HOLMES

Ramaphosa walked out with a parcel of hake and chips, a generous slab of deep-fried fish atop a pile of chips that could easily feed the prez and a bodyguard or three.

“We’re calling it the Ramaphosa Parcel in his honour,” says Ferreira.

And at just R59.90 it’s cheap enough to shave a bit more off the cost of Sona.

I can’t abide deep-frozen hake, though, so opted for the medium snoek instead. It ticked all the right boxes for a good crisp batter, firm flesh, with requisite meaty flavour. Hint of wood smoke? Not so sure. Suitably slap chips? Absolutely.

Whether Ramaphosa’s visit will spark a flurry of foodie influencers flocking to Ferreira’s door is yet to be seen, but next time I have a hankering for fish and chips I’ll happily stop by the presidential Palace in Salt River.

533 Albert Road, Salt River
021-447-0450

President Cyril Ramaphosa makes a quick takeaway lunch stop at Palace Fisheries in Salt river, Cape Town. Subscribe to TimesLIVE here: https://www.youtube.com/user/TimesLive