As Cape Town's burgeoning pool of restaurants becomes ever more fierce, the unveiling of a new restaurant is becoming an increasingly more precarious business. For a restaurant to stand out in the City Bowl, it needs to offer something entirely different to what's happening around it and of course, execute this difference with poise and just the right amount of attitude.
On a recent Friday afternoon I got to visit the now open, Homage, on Loop Street, which showed off a well-polished concept and delightfully fresh and imaginative food.
The restaurant stands out on the somewhat quiet area of Loop, sitting directly opposite the Pepper Club Hotel, in a double-story Victorian building built in 1862. The changing of hands over the past century has seen many new layers attached to the building but the intricate iron stilts and balcony still hold historical charm, which has been reignited overall within Homage. Inside the walls have been stripped to expose the blue stone foundation, hues of gentle greens and blues sweep the interior along natural wood surfaces and a generous dose of plants.
The restaurant's interior is a complete oasis, with nature being brought inside through features like the edible plant wall and skylights that trickle rays of sun onto dining tables and cast moody shadows throughout the afternoon.
The dreamlike nature of the space doesn't end there, with upstairs holding the bar and Roastin' Records music library for purchase. Middle Eastern rugs and retro furniture provide the appropriate premise for flipping through vinyl or sipping a cocktail from the bar. The space awaits future events like vinyl evenings and film screenings.
The kitchen is a pivotal part of the restaurant, not only because of its food. It plays an adhesive role in combining the overall philosophy and functionality of the restaurant, with a fire oven at its core, which can be seen from the dining area. The wood fire oven is a crucial element in tying together the historical and indigenous theme of Homage, as well as giving the food a flame-grilled quality.
The menu is a constantly-evolving project with dishes that are difficult to encapsulate in one cuisine. The driving force throughout the menu however, is a love for indigenous flavours and cuisine which shows in dishes like braaied mielie and the variety of fresh local produce. There's also a strong Israeli and Middle Eastern influence with ingredients like Labneh and roasted garlic tahini, and an overall wholesome, attentiveness to food preparation that shines through in presentation, freshness and the vibrancy of flavours.
The menu is divided between small plates like the smoked aubergine, pomegranate salsa, roasted garlic tahini and pita shards, and then main dishes which feature rib eye, chicken, miso salmon and a vegetarian dish consisting of charred sweet potato, braaied mielie, smoked aubergine, gomae greens, root vegetable slaw and toasted seeds. It's the salad plate of dreams and it shows just how carefully both meat and vegetables have been considered, both equally important in the kitchen.
For now Homage is open for lunch but they will eventually be open for breakfast and dinner as well - so watch this space!
- Ceili McGeever