Some people say they never order ‘Riesling’ because they can’t face the embarrassment of having their pronunciation corrected by the waiter (Oh the shame – it’s reez-ling by the way). In a similar vein, I’ve never been to Cheyne’s in Hout Bay because if you come from the UK, you pronounce it ‘Chain-eys’ as in Cheyne Walk in a posh area of London, but all other local diners are calling is ‘Shaynes’. They’re right by the way and I was wrong – very wrong – to use this as a reason not to go and eat there. We finally did last Thursday night.
Cheyne’s is in Hout Bay, on the strip of restaurants, bars and arty shops as you head toward Chapman’s Peak. It’s ranged over two or three rooms separated by hole-y walls so you can see into the other rooms. It’s nothing exciting décor-wise but it’s quite atmospheric and relaxing. Our table was possibly the widest table I’ve ever sat at with four people, which wasn’t ideal for intimate conversations but had another purpose as we shortly discovered. Bathrooms were a little rustic after the main restaurant and I could have lived without the bucket containing Domestos and other cleaning apparatus in the ladies loo.
So the purpose of the extremely wide table was to hold plates of delicious food – who’d have thunk eh? Cheyne’s serves tapas-sized portions of very Asian-inspired food – the closest equivalent I have experienced is probably The Pot Luck Club – and the menu is divided into seafood, meat and veggies with a dessert section. We had already started poring over the choices and debating our options when the waiter suddenly announced a Winter special for June/July of four tapas for R200.
People – listen to me now. If you only take up ONE winter special this year, make it this one. Armed with the opportunity to taste 16 dishes, we went crazy and filled the table. Highlights were the meltingly-soft ribs, the amazing tempura shrimp, the wonderful crispy, curried beef morsels and the duck-fat chips. Or maybe it was the soft-shell crab, the tuna tempura and the pork belly. Who knows? Who cares. It was all amazing and we ate until our belts snapped. Desserts were a bit of an afterthought but the cheese board was fine and the fondant was properly-gloopy.
Not so great as the food - but they could be. I think that they may only have got their liquor licence recently which perhaps accounts for the number of out-of- stocks but when they get their re-order levels correct, it will be an interesting list. More training needed for the staff, particularly on the Chenin Blancs, but good prices and some nice wines.
Slick, smiling and cheerful. I always love it when waiters tell ME about the specials instead of me having to ask for them. Just sets the tone for a lovely meal.
I don’t think I’ve enjoyed a restaurant visit as much as this for some time. And not only me, but my husband and our dining companions – for once there wasn’t a duff dish or a disappointing experience amongst us all (and we all eat out a LOT). The Winter special is kind of the icing on the cake but to be honest, I would happily go there anyway and pay the full price which isn’t outrageous for any of the dishes.
This is absolutely, 100% my kind of dining and now I’ve found my way there, Cheyne’s can expect to see me back on a very regular basis.
*Food24 dined unannounced and paid the bill in full.
Follow Cathy Marston on Twitter @cathymarston.
- Cathy Marston