Found at the top of the hill on 158 Kloof Street, Gardens, Cape Town, you can find the quirky, crazy and bohemian-style restaurant, which is part of the Madame Zingara restaurant chain and which has been dubbed “the love-magic product” by http://capetownmagazine.com.
There is limited seating overlooking the street but inside there are enough tables and chairs (some of which even include swing chairs, which look like great fun, although personally, I think after a few drinks, these could be… challenging) on the downstairs section, dotted here and there.
There is a pretty cool upstairs section but I think the usage of it generally comes on a reserve basis, though if you ask the bartender or waitrons very nicely, they might let you quickly check it out or even snap a few pics.
That’s the thing about the Bombay Bicycle Club, there’s just so much to see. From potted tropical palm plants to nodding gold cats to beds and drum sets suspended from the ceiling above you to a weird assortment of, well, largely junk, you can find any and everything inside or forming part of the decor. (I use the term ‘junk’ very loosely and as they say: one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.)
And it’s not there to look pretty, it’s all there to create a sense of the unknown, of wonderment even and it certainly hits the mark there. I spent most of my time there (which was just short of two hours, give or take) taking in my surrounding, pointing odd items on display out to my companions and straining my eyes to try read various ‘dusty’ bookends or quotes. (there are some interesting lines that make absolutely no sense but they’re awesome and strangely amusing all the same.)
The small, round tables are draped over by long, velvety tablecloths and thus look like something you’d find in a fortune teller’s shop. (I half-expected to find tarot cards lying somewhere close at hand or to have someone offer to read my palms or predict my future… fortunately, none of this occurred.).
Although there are windows and doors it’s pretty dark inside, even when all the candles (some of the candlesticks on the bar counter are literally caked in old wax… oh, and be sure to look at the cash register, even that’s wacky) are lit, which makes it quite smoky inside but there’s a faint light during the early afternoon and presumably they use proper lighting when the dark of night slips in.
(Don’t be put off if you hear the term ‘love nest’ thrown around and even though the decidedly hilarious intro. of the small and compact menus – which are complete with mini elephant carvings (elephants are something you’ll see all over the shop’s interior decor and even the front shop window) at the top and covered over in plastic – says it’s “the oldest gentlemans’ club in the world”, there’s really nothing untoward about the venue and if you’re still not entirely convinced, they often host staff parties and the like.)
The menus are fairly easy-to-read and I liked that they didn’t take up much space because the tables are not huge. I also loved the quirky intro. to the menus, which, even though you know it’s all quite fantastical, is most amusing to read – be sure to look at the list of famous people who have supposedly stopped by, both now and in former decades.
We arrived at the restaurant a few minutes before 4:00 p.m. (drinks are served from 4:00 p.m. till 6:00 p.m. and at this time you get their 2-4-1 special, which is what we had) and although we had to wait to order our drinks till 16:00, we were shown to a table and allowed to relax and take in the fun, smoky vibe until then.
Since this was my first cocktail experience, I was pretty excited and hoped they’d be as traditional as possible – which they were, as the cocktails even came with the quintessential colourful mini paper cocktail umbrellas. (I really wanted to retain mine for sentimentality’s sake but managed to lose not one but two, as the waiter was so quick and efficient in his table-clearing but I at least have a photo of them. Mine was green but they come in other colours too, like blue etc.) I especially ordered the Strawberry Daiquiri for this purpose (although I also sampled my companions’ orders, namely the Cosmopolitan and Long Island) and it didn’t disappoint.
In fact, all the drinks were good (we later had a glass of white wine which came in a really awesome glass – which, to me, looked like a crystal chalice) and the prices were standard (say roughly between R 40 – 55 and less for the wine, although we did, as I said, have the 2-4-1 special) and the food/dessert menu looks great too. (as did the little bread basket and spreads/preserves they placed on our table as it got nearer to 6:00 p.m. We didn’t touch it because we had a feeling you’d pay extra for this and we weren’t staying for dinner.)
However, note that dinner is only served from 6:00 p.m. onwards. The restaurant is open for drinks: from 4:00 p.m. till 6:00 p.m. and for dinner: from 6:00 p.m. till 11:00 p.m. on Mondays to Saturdays.
Now, back to my drink, it also came with a cherry and orange slice garnish and double straws and was really nice and perfectly iced – a good choice for my first cocktail if I do say so myself!
(Oh, also be sure to check out the bathrooms and passage leading to them… more decorative surprises await you. Even a sort of shrine/tribute to Martha Stewart… all for good fun, I’m sure.)
The staff were fairly plentiful for such a small place but I liked the fact that they were unobtrusive and apart from occasionally asking if everything was okay in passing, left us to our own devices unless we summoned them.
So now for the rating… The Bombay Bicycle Club gets a 7/10 for: good drinks and accompanying special, plenty of character and humourous little quirks and unobtrusive staff members and most impressively, despite all the furniture and odds and ends, a dust-free and rather spotless restaurant.
The only thing I can really fault the place for is it’s possibly a bit too dark (even on a sunny afternoon) and a little too cramped. I also think the table spacing could be a bit limiting and although it creates a more intimate dining experience certainly, feels like a small shame because it seems very popular and is a really fun place to visit… I’d hate to have been turned away if we’d come later purely because it had filled up and there were no tables left open.
All and all though, it was great fun and I can definitely imagine visiting it again – the dessert menu has me keen to return purely on its own.
For more info., you can contact them on: +27 (021) 423 6805 or visit their website on: http://bombay.co.za or find them on most social media sites.