Cape Town was sweltering on the day I headed to the new undercover poke restaurant that's just opened on Church Street in Cape Town's bustling CBD.
Hokey Poke opened its doors (rather discreetly) last Monday 6th February and not finding a stitch of information about it online – and by information I mean photos – besides a cryptic, but very cool-looking website, I decided I had to go and see it for myself. And so in 32°C heat I took a fairly long walk to Hokey Poke, hoping it was going to be worth it. I was also busy writing a piece on hidden gems in SA, and could tell that it was going to fit the criteria.
Seeing the facade of the street level restaurant, it was clear that something good was happening inside. Sand coloured breeze blocks make up the exterior, with very understated signage and a single strip of pink neon light. It’s downtown LA meets a side street Japanese sushi joint. But inside the decor takes on more descriptions, with cheeky art on the walls by Hoick, along with a now definitive neon pink palm tree that splashes pink on the white walls, and white tiled tables that make the space feel clean and bring out it’s simplistic essence.
The Interior was designed by Christine Joubert, although she worked closely with Hoick who developed Hokey Poke's image. Owner, Max Botha, explained it was a very collaborative affair, which really shows in the well-executed overall design and instantly likable and intriguing brand that has been created.
The food is made up of poke and more poke (pronounced 'poh-kay'), the Hawaiian raw fish staple. Fish and other ingredients are chopped up into bite sized morsels and served in a bowl. The dish became a major trend in LA a couple of years ago, and with that came Western variations. The classic poke bowl is made with spicy ahi and/or soya sauce and sticky rice. Find out more about the history of the dish here.
At Hokey Poke a bed of rice (or the option of kale slaw, brown rice or baby leaves) is topped with fish and a bunch of other ingredients like edamame, coriander, radish, avo and just about anything fresh, with all ingredients displayed before you to pick and choose. Max explained how he discovered the dish in his travels about a year ago and decided he had to bring it to Cape Town. And he's done it just in time, as the poke scene is still very much at it's inception.
My poke bowl which was called 'Hot 4', was super tasty and really fresh, with sticky rice, jalapeños, avo, coriander, spring onion, pineapple, fresh tuna, sriracha mayo and Santa Anna nachos chips. I was thrilled about the nachos addition (having a slightly problematic addiction to corn chips), and they added a nice crunchy texture as a contrast to the overall soft ingredients. A medium bowl will cost you around R80 and a large around R100.
I walked out totally rooting for this new place. Every inch of the restaurant has been carefully thought out and although I was skeptical about the location, it actually works. It's safe to say it's a new favourite, and I'll definitely find myself doing that long walk again to get some more poke.
Note: There are a selection of soft drinks and Kombucha Brew, but Hokey Poke currently doesn't have a liquor license, so you can bring your own until their license has been approved.
For more information on Hokey Poke, click here.
(Photos by The Mint Lobby)
- Ceili McGeever