In an attempt to adapt to the crippling restrictions of the Covid-19 lockdown and the absence of international tourists, our local restaurant, bar and coffee shop owners have had to roll up their sleeves and fight for their survival.
While the extension of the curfew until 10pm and the lifting of the alcohol ban have brought some relief, many establishments have also come up with innovations that are not only testament to their resilience and determination to keep their doors open, but also to offer their loyal customers added value.
”The only way forward is through innovation because the way we did business before simply won’t work anymore,” says Emilia Knight of The Gallery Café & Deli Food Store. At a time when business owners are simply trying to keep going, Emilia, who has garnered a strong following with her unadulterated ‘good-mood food’, has decided to expand her operations by taking over the small gallery space on the other side of the High Street entrance to Walker Bay Modern Art Gallery and The Gallery Café.
“It’s all still a bit deurmekaar,” she laughingly told me last week, “but I see this as a blank canvas to which I’m adding bold new brush strokes. It’s like a playground for my creativity.” There certainly is nothing stagnant or ordinary about Emilia, and her remarkable energy and enthusiasm knows no bounds.
The new buzz word at The Gallery Café & Deli is #ZeroWaste. “That means that the menu is small and everything is freshly made to order – nothing gets old and nothing goes to waste,” says Emilia. While The Gallery Café has reopened for sit-down breakfast, brunch and lunch, the deli will continue to offer coffee, pastries, bread, fresh produce, flowers, cheeses, preserves, sauces, oils… and in the new additional deli space Emilia is launching a daily harvest table on the first day of spring that can be enjoyed at one of the tables or window-seat counters in the shop.
She is especially excited about her new soft-serve ice cream machine which she’ll use to make traditional dairy vanilla ice cream as well as strawberry and coconut gluten- and dairy-free vegan ice cream. With spring on our doorstep, the mere notion of homemade ice cream is enough to conjure up pleasant images of the summer season ahead. Find The Gallery Café & Deli at 22 High Street or call 076 837 4231. Closed on Mondays.
Over on Marine Drive above the Old Harbour, Rudolf van der Berg decided to keep Burgundy closed for almost four months and only reopened – with quite a bang – on 24 July. “We used the lockdown to make some changes, to paint and renovate, and to plan the way forward over the next 24 months,” he says. That’s how long Rudolf thinks it might realistically take to get back to ‘normal’.
One of the biggest changes was merging Burgundy Tapas with Burgundy Restaurant, and turning the previous tapas kitchen into a pastry kitchen. The restaurant now comprises three distinct areas – the Bistro Room with its enclosed verandah, the Cypress Room (the main part of the restaurant) and the more private Clock Room. And when the weather is good, the outside seating area remains ever-popular, with its inspiring views across Walker Bay.
The menu has been consolidated to include breakfast, lunch and sweet treats during the day, and there is a separate one for evening dining. “We are supporting local suppliers as far as we can, because our salvation now lies in looking after one another,” says Rudolf. “Visitors want to experience food with a local flavour, so fresh seasonal produce from the region is where our focus lies. Our wine list has also been adjusted to offer exclusively local wines.”
Another clever innovation that Rudolf has come up with, is turning the Bistro Room into an away-from-home office space on weekdays, where locals can enjoy complimentary WiFi in a private cubicle. The mobile partitions can be set up to accommodate a single person working alone, or up to four persons working together at a table. An added bonus is that Burgundy’s excellent coffee is just a minute away, as is a light lunch should you get hungry. This new offering is proving to be extremely popular and Rudolf says the space was fully booked on Friday morning.
“There are no strings attached and anyone is welcome,” he says, adding with a grin that bringing your own flask of coffee and a Tupperware of sandwiches would obviously not be acceptable. Burgundy Restaurant & Bistro is open seven days a week. To make a booking, call 028 312 2800.
Fabio Lenci of Fabio’s Ristorante and now Dal-Italia Delicatessen is another restaurateur who put the lockdown period to good use. “Coming from a family of Italian restaurateurs, pasta is our passion and the idea of opening a fresh pasta factory in Hermanus popped into my head,” he said. “We already had the ideal location (where Tosca was before, in Aberdeen Street) and because we had no customers I could go ahead with acquiring and installing the pasta-making machines and training my staff in this traditional Italian art, made from closely-guarded recipes that have been handed down the family,” he says.
In his search for a name for this new enterprise, Fabio returned to his native roots and “after much thought, sketches and scribblings, Dal-Italia seemed just right. The idea of fresh and homemade meant we suddenly found suppliers of local produce asking if we could sell their goods, and so the Dal-Italia Delicatessen was born.” I highly recommend you pop in to get the freshest pasta possible – if your timing is right, you might even see it being made, as fresh pasta sheets and tagliatelle are turned out several days a week. You even have a choice of traditional pasta made with free-range eggs or egg-free vegan pasta.
The panzerotti is Fabio’s speciality – half-moon shaped pasta pillows with delicious fillings, either gluten-free or made with normal pasta. The fillings range from organic spinach and ricotta, to beetroot or pumpkin with parmesan, toasted onions and sunflower seeds, to chicken and porcini mushrooms, and even prawns and crayfish! There are also homemade sauces available to accompany your choice of pasta, or you could take home a ready-made pasta meal (fresh or frozen) such as gnocchi or lasagne.
And now I haven’t even mentioned the range of deli cheeses, charcuterie and dry goods or meat products – best you pop in and discover all these delights for yourself! The deli now also includes a cosy coffee shop where you can enjoy authentic Italian coffee along with one of Fabio’s daily blackboard specials. Find Dal-Italia in the bright red building at 13 Aberdeen Street or contact 028 313 0333.