Restaurant Review: De Goewerneur @ The Castle of Good Hope

Recently, when I visited the Castle of Good Hope – which is directly across from the bustling Grand Parade and rather iconic Cape Town City Hall – for the first time, I scarcely expected to find the charming De Goewerneur Restaurant contained within Outer Court’s Block A.

De Goewerneur’s outdoor seating – shielded by beautiful, cast-iron pillars (originally made of wood, they were remade at some point over the years and the cast-iron was painted to resemble marble, which it indeed does, even from close-up) that run the length of Block A – instantly appealed to me (especially after I saw the ‘Cake of the Day’ board just behind them…), as it overlooks the lovely lawn section of the Outer Court.

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(The Outer Court – and the restaurant in part – offers visitors a most breathtaking, 360-degree panoramic view of the famous trio of Table Mountain, Devil’s Peak and Lion’s Head, all in one glorious, sweeping shot.)

After duly noting each of these details, I decided that, once my exploring and sightseeing were done for the day, I needed to make a final stop at this relaxed-looking restaurant, coffee shop and kiosk in one.

True to my word, after a few pleasant hours exploring the Castle’s many nooks and crannies – during which time I visited two of its three on-site museums and watched The Key and Firing of the Signal Cannon Ceremonies not once, but twice (I think I was partially deaf by this point) – I eagerly returned to check out De Goewerneur.

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Much to my initial disappointment, my beloved outdoor seating had filled up by this time (to be fair, it was around lunchtime) and so I resigned myself to sitting indoors instead.

This turned out to be great in actual fact because I still had lovely views of the Outer Court and its sea of happy Freedom Day visitors (thanks to the well-preserved Cape Dutch-style windows that the inside tables face) and what’s more, it was quiet and cool inside, especially when compared to the surprisingly warm autumn weather I came in from.

(Though the outdoor seating mostly always has some shade as far as I can tell so the sun’s rays are never a problem.)

Also, I was able to watch the effortlessly friendly and helpful waitresses’ busily going to and from the small kitchen (via the rather narrow passage that leads to the kiosk on your left and the indoor seating area on your right… This is where I sat with two other couples). Despite the fact that it was pretty busy outside, they managed to do a sterling job of attending to our needs equally.

 

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I am glad that I sat inside for another reason and it is this: the restaurant reminded me of the old Cape Dutch manor houses I have previously seen on some of our province’s oldest wine estates and personally, I love the feeling of timelessness and history that the existing Cape Dutch buildings seem to encapsulate.

As far as the interior décor is concerned, they have kept things as clean and simplistic as possible, which I like. The off-white walls have only a few items mounted upon them (mainly thickly framed mirrors and one old painting that reminded me of some of the more ancient ones I had just seen across the way at Block F in the William Fehr Exhibit), although there is one rather cute, little display case situated between the two, court-facing windows I mentioned earlier; the windows are framed by flowing white curtains.

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(If you have the time, be sure to also pop into the kiosk and check out the one in there.)

Seating is provided in the form of comfy, red leather chairs and the tables are covered by burgundy- and maroon-striped, complementary tablecloths, which somehow reminded me of Middle Eastern-type materials with their simple cloth texture and colouring.

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Their small, laminated (double-sided) menu offers a nice selection of so-called ‘South African dishes’ and roughly features the following: an all-day breakfast, a variety of coffee, tea and soft drink options, toasted sandwiches, croissants, juice, meal and cake of the day options, still bottled water and finally, tasty-looking, home-baked muffins and scones (These are available for viewing in glass displays near the front entrance).

(Note: Many of their offerings are available for takeaway right from the outset. Also, ask the waitresses about the specials of the given day.)

I assume that the ‘Meal of the Day’ (R40) was a chicken burger with potato wedges or salad because that’s what many of the people around me appeared to be tucking into and I was hard-pressed when it came to choosing between that and the ‘Cake of the Day’ special (R20), which had initially lured me there.

Eventually, I decided to go with the latter (I actually just really wanted something sweet but I also wasn’t particularly hungry so it seemed like a good choice), which I paired with their filter coffee. (At R10, it is served with either hot or cold milk.)

Although the meals all looked great, I think I made the right decision.
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My filter coffee, which was very reasonably priced (as are so many of their offerings when compared to the standard ‘city prices’ I have grown accustomed to), was brought to me no more than three to five minutes after I had placed my order and was served in an attractively decorated black-and-white cup and saucer, with my accompanying milk (I opted for hot but even that cools down quickly so don’t let it stand for too long) arriving in a mini silver jug.

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There were ample sugar sachets already provided on the tables and honestly, there was a generous amount of milk to go around too, if you happen to prefer that your hot beverages be milky.

(Alternatively, the coffee would be ideal black, as it only needed two sugars to make it rather sweet and, though it certainly had a great percolated coffee flavour, would not be overpoweringly strong.)

I would give it an 7/10 rating, though I should add it only doesn’t rank in higher because it wasn’t an exotic blend per se and didn’t require a special preparation process like some brews, which is only fair… Still, I really enjoyed it.

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A few minutes later (but really it wasn’t very long at all because I had barely even started on my coffee), whilst I was happily taking in my surroundings, my waitress brought my dessert/cake (it was ‘apple pie served with custard’ on this particular day) to the table and, much to my surprise, immediately apologised for having taken so long to bring it to me.

This was not at all the case, as I hastened to assure her, but I feel this further supports my belief that at this particular establishment at any rate, speedy, polite service is a prerequisite rather than a loose afterthought.

I was quietly impressed by the service right from the start and it was really good to be treated so well, especially as a local, and it seems even better when I think that this is the kind of excellent hospitality and service that foreigners visiting our city or country are receiving at places such as this.

Now for my dessert… 🙂

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It was described as an ‘apple pie’ but the outer layer resembled a cross between a pancake and a crepe rather than the more traditional pie crust I had envisioned when I ordered it. Don’t get me wrong, this did not detract from it in any way – I am merely describing it as I found it to be.

It did, however, possibly make it a bit more difficult to divide it up into smaller pieces, as even with the sharp, small fork I was provided with, it was not easy to eat at first and at one point, I even contemplated asking for a dessert spoon (or even a knife), though I decided it against it and instead made excellent use of my accompanying custard.

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This was not the super smooth, instant kind I am used to but was rather the proper homemade, thick orangey custard – it was tasty and went well with the apple pie, which had a gooey, cinnamon-infused filling made from tenderly baked, chunky apple pieces and soft raisins.

In fact, because it was getting kinda messy anyway and there was quite a lot of custard in the pouring jug, I decided to just pour it all out onto my rather long (a very good thing in the end…) plate.

This worked wonderfully, as it not only softened the pie’s light outer layer, thus making it easier to separate into forkfuls, but it also helped me to mop up the warm custard itself.

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I also liked the decoration: icing sugar and three, finely sliced apple pieces, which were crisp and fresh.

I am pleased to say I managed to eat it quite neatly in the end and I thoroughly enjoyed it (mainly because the filling tasted like my all-time favourite dessert, apple crumble, which I am ridiculously biased towards… though I believe most people would have loved this sweet treat too!). As such, it garners a 9/10 from me.
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After I had finished, my waitress brought the bill upon my request and probably watched my face sag in momentary horror when only then did she decide to inform me that they do, in fact, not have a card facility and thus, it run on a strictly, ‘cash only’ policy.

However, she managed to quickly reassure me by telling me that there was a Cash Express ATM just next door in the Castle’s main foyer/reception area and that I could go there to withdraw the necessary amount before coming back to settle the bill.

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This seems a tad risky to me (after all, you don’t know what some people are likely to try get away with…) but I think it is testament to their working on a trust basis… another nice feature, I feel.

After I had duly gone next door to the Absa ATM (you can make withdrawals of a minimum of R50 and upwards), she went off to get my change.

Although I asked her to add the tip to the due amount, she brought back the full change so I merely slipped the tip into the leather ‘folder’ and left it on the table before regretfully leaving both the restaurant and the Castle itself a few minutes later.

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Now, for the overall rating of De Goewerneur… It receives a firm 9/10 rating from me for the following reasons:

It offers visitors a beautiful and rather special setting, with lovely seating options both indoors and out, a quiet, relaxed vibe even at its most busy periods (and despite the firings of the cannon… the cannon went off for the third time whilst I was in the restaurant around 13:00 p.m. and still made all of us jump slightly. I swear, the booms seem to just grow louder with each firing…), efficient, friendly and welcoming staff and a very hands-on manager and/or owner, tasty food and drinks, good pricing and above all, speedy service and quality offerings.

De Geowerneur is a must if you visit the Castle of Good Hope and have some free time on your hands, as it’s no doubt a restaurant even the Gov. would have been thought highly of!

For more info. on De Goewerneur, you can call Sinovuyo directly on: + 27 (021) 787 1202.

(Please note: They also offer function bookings.)

Many thanks to De Geowerneur Restaurant and Coffee Shops menu (and signage) for the additional info. used in this post.

Let me know your thoughts or suggestions! I'd love to hear from you.