UPDATE: Sadly, as of December 2020, Balducci has closed its doors after 24 wonderful years of service. However, you can still support their sister restaurant, Gibsons.
Last month I had the immense pleasure of visiting what must surely be one of Cape Town’s finest restaurant offerings: Balducci.
Tucked away near the lower level entrance/exit point of the V & A Waterfront’s Victoria Wharf in Shop 6162, Balducci’s philosophy, as stated in their own words, is a simple one: “to provide a memorable experience by redefining the essence of good home cooked food and continually upping the standards with its slick understated European elegance, stunning views and gracious service in our trendy yet stylish environment.”
Established in 1996, this Slick Restaurant Group member – along with the likes of the equally popular Gibson’s and Belthazar, also found at the catch-22 that is the Waterfront – certainly ticks all the boxes on that score.
Also, they have indeed upped the standards by expanding their already impressive “unrivalled menu of simple, everyday home cooked Italian dishes that reflect the most traditional elements of food and culinary styles,” to incorporate tasty breakfast and brunch meals – only between 08h00 a.m. and 11h30 a.m. – such as their ‘Organic Omelette’ and ‘Balducci’s Brunch’ (these both look excellent), as well as some wonderful Asian offerings, including my new personal favourite, sushi, to name but a few of the tasty meals available to you on their chic, beautifully detailed, illustrated menu.
(I don’t often enjoy paging through the menu once I have placed my order but, on this occasion, I did. So much so that my dad asked our excellent waitron, who happily obliged, to actually leave one with me…)
The views – especially as you walk on the outside towards the main restaurant and separate Balducci Asian Tapas, Noodle and Sushi Bar just opposite within the V & A Waterfront itself – are absolutely beautiful as the Harbour lies below you and Table Mountain protectively looms in the background like a watchful stone giant.
Balducci restaurant itself oozes style and sophistication in what is both a chic and creative blend of smart modernity meets old-school décor – and this becomes clear the moment you approach its doors.
(Please Note: This is also a non-smoking restaurant.)
It is sufficiently well-lit (it certainly was during my evening visit to the restaurant with my parents), with spotlights and low-hanging silver lights.
The tables and chairs are all very professionally set in advance, irrespective of where you may choose to sit inside, and the main restaurant is loosely split into two sections by a dividing wall, which has been cleverly transformed into honey-coloured, wooden shelves that display an interesting array of bric-à-bracs such as porcelain white skulls and rabbits, ceramic vases and the like.
Because we chose to sit at the table nearest this (the chairs are comfortable beige-ish leather seats), across from the rather large, copper pizza oven(s) (appropriately stamped with the black, bold Balducci ‘B’), I kept looking at these quirky items, which only add further interest to the place as a whole. I also like the fact that you can peer through the gaps to the other part of the restaurant.
(Another cool feature near the oven(s) is the quite considerable bookcase that features a collection of colourful books… looking at all those book spines is especially tempting for all the bookworms, such as myself, among us.)
The well-stocked bar area is also quite interesting to look at, as are the fancy copper, silver or golden mounted wall- and column-encircling displays that complete the décor’s ultramodern feel.
Still, please don’t be intimidated by the restaurant’s decidedly classy looks and professionally-dressed staff, for the dress code is casual.
Although I am not the kind of person who needs or even wants to dine out often, I do enjoy it as much as the next person on occasion and usually find it to be a special, enjoyable experience, especially when shared with friends or loved ones.
Because I live in Cape Town now, I don’t see my parents as much as I would like during uni. semesters, so getting to spend a relaxed evening with them in a beautiful restaurant, whilst enjoying top-quality, good food, is a true blessing and Balducci certainly provided us with such an evening.
They have great specials, including the one that we tried on that particular mid-autumn evening.
This special currently runs from Monday to Sunday, from noon until 18:00 p.m. sharp and includes a wide array of choices between the following three major options: Bento Box (23 Piece Sushi Box with free Miso Soup) for R129; (250g grain-fed) 28 day matured Sirloin, served with your choice of starch or vegetables, for R89 and all pizzas (excluding the flaming prawns) and pastas (excluding seafood) for R59 – all of which make for excellent lunch- and supper time value!
In the interests of caring for the environment and good health, Balducci endorses “alien clearing by using alien wood types in our pizza ovens,” and as often as possible, uses “in season vegetables and fruit* and superb quality procured meat, poultry, fish and game, available in South Africa.”
*(For this reason, at certain times of year, seasonal produce such as: “avocado, melon, strawberries and other popular fresh ingredients” may not be available so please be cognizant of this when placing your order(s).)
Also, Balducci says: “We do not use frozen chicken (only fresh) and only use export quality grain-fed 28 day matured beef. We only use the very best extra virgin, award winning olive oil.”
Personally, I was quite hard put to choose between the Balducci pizza (this house pizza, at a standard price of R90, includes a bacon, creamed spinach, feta and avo. topping) and my eventual choice, the Ostrich Lasagne (Al Forno Al Ragu).
At a standard price of R115, this dish includes a bechamel and pomodoro sauce, baked al forno* with mozzarella and imported Parmigiano.
*(Note: Al Forno food is essentially oven-baked food; many Italian dishes are prepared this way.)
Although I think the other option would have been excellent too (it was pretty hard to narrow it down to those two but I did know from the get-go that I wanted to try an Italian dish so it made my choice somewhat easier), I thought the ostrich lasagne would make for an interesting choice and I’ve wanted to try ‘proper’ lasagne for a while now so it seemed like the right choice – and later, it managed to exceed my best expectations! 🙂
My dad ordered the ‘Butter Chicken Curry Pasta’. At a standard price of R110, this spicy dish (Note: it contains nuts) is prepared in the traditional Northern Indian way and is served on penne or gnocchi – though my dad opted for penne.
As for my mum, she went for the Sirloin steak and chose to have it prepared medium rare, opting for chips as an accompaniment.
Because we ordered before 18:00 p.m. and as part of the running special, both my dad’s meal and mine cost R59, whilst my mum’s cost R89.
We each had a 300ml Coke (R19) with our meal. These are served in the original glass bottles – which, odd as it may seem, I personally love – with partially ice-filled glasses and sturdy black straws provided.
Note: When ordering certain alcoholic beverages, please be aware that the following rules apply: no corkage, “wine vintages” are subject to availability and lastly, in respect of the 2013 Liquor Act, “NO unfinished wine, malt or spirits is allowed to be taken off the premises, even if the bottle is unfinished. This now constitutes a criminal offence.”
Our waitron – who appeared to be Balducci’s head waitron – was really friendly, professional and respectful and she knew the menu and its content off by heart, making it much easier for us to choose our meals.
On an entirely separate note, one of the main things I took away from my careful menu perusal was that Balducci also offer its patrons a wonderful selection of drinks (including cocktails) and desserts. Although I had honestly wouldn’t have had enough room left for either after finishing my comfortably filling meal and accompanying Coke, I would have loved to try any one of those too.
We arrived there at around 17:00 p.m. and by 17:04, we had ordered, been served our drinks and, after taking a few minutes to decide on our meals among ourselves, we probably only waited, at most, 20 to 25 minutes for them to arrive at our table, which they all did within a minute or so of each other.
This was extremely quick and efficient service and it is something I always truly appreciate as it’s quite frustrating when you are looking forward to sharing a meal with your closest friends or family and one of you has to wait for your meal to arrive whilst everyone tucks in to theirs or else, the other people have to risk their meals getting cold as they politely wait for yours to arrive, so thank you and well done to Balducci on that account too!
I can’t quite remember whether there was background music playing, as we spent most of our time there chatting – in between my frantic note-taking – before our meals arrived, but, if there was, I am happy to say that it must have been nice and soft, as it very clearly did not distract my trail of thoughts or interrupt our pleasant converse – another added bonus to what ended up as an overall great evening out at Balducci with my parents.
Now, as for my meal (it was served piping hot so I had to give it time to cool)… It was absolutely great, was super cheesy (and I really mean that), which was lovely, and the lasagne and the bechamel + pomodoro sauce were really, really tasty. What’s more is that it was presented in an attractive, modern bowl, which made eating it somewhat easier.
(My dad’s butter chicken curry pasta was also presented in this way, whilst my mum’s sirloin and chips was served on a rectangular plate… Clearly much thought goes into the presentation and serving dishes of choice.)
I have to mention that I am not a big ‘meat eater’ but that I really do like lean, pure meat and this ostrich meat was definitely lean and good. I have had ostrich meat before so I knew what to expect in terms of its flavour (it has a very nice taste, but, unlike virtually everything else, it does not taste remotely like chicken and is quite gamey, I suppose) but it was well-cooked and extremely tasty in this dish. This was a rich, excellent meal that receives a 10/10 rating from me.
When we were finished eating, I asked my parents to rate their meals out of 10 for me and to be completely honest when doing so and they both said without a moment’s hesitation that they would give each of their respective meals a 10/10 rating too.
I tried one or two of the chips, which were a cross between fries and potato wedges, from my mum’s meal (she said the sirloin was superb and was cooked just right too) and I have to say that those are about the best chips I think I have ever had anywhere – they were really great and perfectly cooked!
This was a wonderful eat-out experience for a very reasonable price considering that this was top-quality and immensely tasty food in such a stunning setting.
Also, if you like to be served by professional and helpful, yet unobtrusive staff as much as I do, then Balducci will certainly meet that requirement too. I personally feel this is a must at any good establishment and am always extremely impressed when a restaurant’s staff actually go over and beyond the meeting of this necessity as the staff at Balducci did.
I honestly can’t fault anything about Balducci and I wouldn’t want to because the entire place and my experience of it deserves an easy-to-award 10/10 overall rating.
We didn’t need to book in advance on this particular occasion, but this is advisable (and is sometimes, essential), according to their website: www.balducci.co.za.
It is apparently easy to book online and the following bookings can be done online: personal dining, block bookings and functions. (These will all be confirmed via email and please be conscious of the fact that your booking is only confirmed once you have received said email.)
However, for ‘same day’ reservations, please call them on: +27 (021) 421 6002/3. (Fax no.: (021) 421 6010)
Additionally, you can email them at: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit them for yourself at: Shop 6162, Victoria Wharf, V&A Waterfront, Cape Town.
Whilst major credit cards are accepted, cheques are not.
Lastly, please be aware of the fact that, although children are welcome, prams are not allowed at night.
(For more info., please see their website: www.balducci.co.za or contact them telephonically using the number as provided above.)
So, if you’re in search of wonderful, quality food, professional service and a superb all-round eat-out experience and setting, then be sure to try Balducci restaurant… they come strongly recommended by yours truly! 🙂
Many thanks to the www.balducci.co.za site and to their menu for the additional info. used in this post!
Author: Tamlyn Ryan
Content writer by day and blogger by night, Tamlyn Ryan passionately runs her own travel blog, called Tamlyn Amber Wanderlust, from her home base of Cape Town, South Africa. And, despite a national diploma in Journalism, in her free time, Tamlyn’s preferred niche remains travel writing.
Tamlyn is a hopeless wanderer, equipped with an endless passion for road trips, carefully planned, holiday itineraries and, above all else, an innate love for the great outdoors.