When you love food as much as I do, you tend to pass clothing and shoe stores without much notice, but can’t stop yourself from ogling when you come across a pretty restaurant; you stop and stare, beguiled by the smells, a sparkling interior and intricate décor, dreaming of perhaps having something like this yourself one day…
Robyn Timson felt this way as she walked passed a little spot in Birdhaven a few years ago, fantasizing about all the things she’d love to do with it, so when it went on the market a few months ago she jumped at the opportunity to turn her little fantasy into a reality.
Her new restaurant is called Arbour.
An Arbour is an alcove with its sides and roof formed by climbing plants and Robyn wants to recreate exactly this; a thriving, green sanctuary filled with light and life. The restaurant and courtyard are dappled with hanging plants, herbs and aloes, which she wants to grow freely, for in her words ‘I want the space to weep with greenery.’
Real food cooked beautifully
The idea is simple: breakfast/brunch/lunch, it’s French-inspired fare without the frippery; stewed fruits and yogurt, omelettes, galettes, crepes, salads, casseroles, oxtail, confit of duck…in Robyn’s words ‘it’s real food, cooked beautifully.’ (The difference between a crepe and a galette is that a galette is traditionally savoury and made using buckwheat rather than flour, so it’s gluten-free with a strong, nutty flavour, whilst a crepe is a sweet treat made with plain flour.) She’s always been fascinated with French food and the French style of cooking, ‘I’m focusing on simple ideas, made well, using the best ingredients.’
Robyn has always wanted to work with food; as a child she was fascinated with reading cookbooks and watching the BBC food channel (as it was known back then). She studied at the Prue Leith academy and went on to work in the London food scene before returning to South Africa and working in events, several restaurants and as the head chef for Fresh Catering in Johannesburg. She then went it on her own and, whilst catering a function, was told by one of her clients that her dream spot in Birdhaven was up for sale, so she gobbled it up.
Her favourite part of the restaurant is the courtyard; it’s filled with sunshine, lined with vines and plants and has a quaint water fountain trickling away in the background, ‘so few restaurants have beautiful courtyards or outside areas that aren’t surrounded by cars or parking lots, it’s a special space.’
She tells me that this is going to be an owner-run restaurant, it’s important to her that the service is of the highest standard, that it’s warm and homely and that you can taste the love in her food.
I devoured a galette with confit of duck and a pink peppercorn and cherry sauce; Robyn paired it with their imported French cider (which is a treat let me tell you) and I finished my experience with a chamomile tea served in the most exquisite cast iron pot alongside delicate crockery on a stunning, wooden serving board.
The devil is in the detail and this girl is giving it horns.
FYI: breakfasts cost between R45-R85, lunches between R55-R140 and they are fully licensed.