Restaurant Review: Zuidste Kaap Restaurant, Cape Agulhas

To me, no true travel experience is complete without some kind of good food and drink to accompany it – and recently, on my umpteenth visit to the beautiful and terribly wild Cape Agulhas, the southernmost tip of Africa (where the two oceans, Indian and Atlantic, meet), I was really fortunate to enjoy an outstanding meal as a precursor to said wonderful Agulhas visit.

The eat-out venue in question was none other than Zuidste Kaap Restaurant, which, on its lovely website proclaims itself to be, “…the single most popular restaurant and pub situated on the southernmost tip of the African continent.”
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Like all the other restaurants in Agulhas (of which there are a handful), it’s almost impossible to miss as it’s located in the Main Road, to your left if you are entering Agulhas from nearby Struisbaai.

Zuidste Kaap first opened its doors in January 2000 and is currently owned by Mr Neels Grobler, who bought it in 2010 and has maintained its appeal and standard of good food alike ever since.

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Judging by the difficulty* we had in securing a table (there is delightful indoor and outdoor seating alike, with at least one non-smoking area, and rustic, seaside charm in abundance, no matter which option you settle on), the ‘single most popular’ bit certainly seems to ring true! 🙂

(* Though it must be said, it was during the height of peak season and some three days before New Year’s, during which time both Agulhas and Struisbaai are packed with local and international visitors who flock to this charming corner of the Cape during the Festive Season.)

Even from the parking lot, it is evident to one that Zuidste Kaap is full of Cape Dutch character, complemented by the pleasant, slow-paced seaside atmosphere, which permeates throughout its entire vicinity.

Carefully enclosed by a chunky, white-washed wall and marked out by its attractive red and blue signage to your left, the attractive, thatched Cape Dutch building, wherein Zuidste Kaap Restaurant and 3 Oceans Pub is housed, is certainly rich in both character and ‘coastal cuteness’.

The outdoor tables, which are a mixture of single wooden chairs and picnic benches, are quite exposed to the sun, especially in this the height of summertime, but there is considerable shade to be found, thanks to the colourful umbrellas, riet dak (the best way I can describe this is to say it is like a kind of reed pergola – minus the intertwining vines, of course), which covers the approach up to the main entrance, and of course, the lovely veranda and its accompanying unusual wooden benches (which are quite comfortable but above all, decidedly beautifully carved).

Inside, where it is much darker and  cooler during the day (at least in summertime), you will find more lovely wooden tables and chairs, as well as a rather interesting display fridge (exhibiting large, matured meats), a fish tank filling up almost the entire back wall space and wedged in between the two notable features, the famous and apparently well-loved Zuidste Kaap/3 Oceans Pub, which has a most delightful backstory to it that I will elaborate on later.
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Aside from the wonderful stone chimneys on either end of the restaurant, there are also sturdy cross beams that support the thatch roof above. Perhaps because I have trained my eyes to seek out different decor patterns or themes at restaurants and cafes to describe in my reviews afterwards, I noticed that the lights suspended from the roof were covered by large-ish wicker baskets, as oppose to your more everyday shades, with paraffin camping lanterns rounding off the unusual lighting. Personally, I really liked this quirky touch as it further adds a degree of individuality to Zuidste Kaap.
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There are also a strongly nautical and seaside themes to be found in the decor, which are accompanied by quirky clocks and a combination of either brightly coloured or sombre, old paintings. I also liked the reddish drapes, tucked back from the windows, which complemented the general colouring and atmosphere of the restaurant’s interior nicely.
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If, like me, you can’t help but notice the beautiful, smooth wooden furniture that dominants throughout, both indoors and out, then it might interest you to know that much of this was salvaged by a Struisbaai local and indeed, the restaurant’s original owner, who cleverly utilised what were once, “giant timber logs reaching ten meters in length and weighing up to 10 tonnes each.” The wood, which washed ashore onto the beaches in December 1999, was what remained of a freight-liner, wrecked off the coast of Madagascar some two months prior.

Combining his “passion for people, food and socializing”, Zuidste Kaap’s creator made swift work of the logs, turning them into furniture that “would ultimately be used in this restaurant.”

Furthermore, http://www.zuidstekaap.co.za tells how the 3 Oceans Pub (which is full of every kind of beverage bottle in creation, judging from the little I saw of it) was also largely created from these logs, stating: “The chairs, table tops and bar counter were all built from the same logs.” Apparently the Pub is also a popular watering hole “where many friendships have been made.” You can also “have a good chat” or catch the latest in Supersport action all whilst quenching your thirst.

Although I only discovered the wooden furniture’s key significance after my visit to the lovely restaurant, it certainly attracted my attention on the day and prompted me to interrogate both my parents over what its possible origins/ make of wood was, as I really loved its attractive colouring and smooth texture.

Our table for four was also capped off nicely by a large jarful of seashells, no doubt gathered in and around Cape Agulhas or neighbouring Struisbaai, which I’ll also be reviewing in the coming weeks. Again, I really loved this simple but sweet touch, but then, I confess, I am grossly biased when it comes to anything even remotely seashell-related.
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Because the restaurant was very busy when I visited, I felt it was a slightly understaffed, with only three waitrons managing the tables, which were all continuously occupied during the entire duration of our hour-long visit. Still, they managed well and we didn’t have to wait too long for the leather-bound menus.
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Inside, the menu was unmistakenably festive, with its red colouring, printed holly bouquets and white or gold text and, although it was nevertheless rather simple, I liked it because it was quite easy-to-read and everything was carefully categorised.
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However, one thing that did irk me slightly was the fact that only the wine was listed in the menu, meaning all other drinks were totally exempt from its pages and although the winelist was well-presented, it is anyone’s guess what other drinks the restaurant specialises in or typically serves.

We ordered your more standard drinks (two 330ml Cokes @ R15, a 330ml Coke Zero @ R16 and a chocolate milkshake @ R33, which was fractionally above the usual R26-30 milkshake price mark) so it was okay but I’d still like to have seen what drinks were available and above all, their prices, as this always varies from place-to-place. It’s a small detail that I feel could and perhaps should be added into the festive menu, though perhaps it’s included in the normal one.
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I feel it’s important to mention that the desserts are also excluded from the menu’s pages but there was a small blackboard, positioned on one ‘mantelpiece’, providing the day’s available desserts and the menu itself (like many other places you visit) does tell you to ask your waitron as this can change from day-to-day so I had absolutely no issue with that.

I must be one of the most indecisive and slow patrons in existence when it comes to giving my order so it’s almost inevitable that I will need more time to fully make up my mind but, as has proved the case so many times in the past two years, I also seem to have the knack of ending up with the best or tastiest meal by a table’s unanimous agreement.

This proved to be the case once again as my chocolate milkshake (R33 as aforementioned) and excellent (note the added emphasis on excellent here) stuffed chicken breast (R99), crammed full with peppadews pesto and feta cheese, were possibly the pick of our table’s trio (two of which I partially sampled) of different orders.
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At this point, before I begin describing the size of the portions and the level of tastiness of our meals, I feel it’s important to point out that although the menu, by its own admission, is less extensive than some, Zuidste Kaap’s emphasis (as stated in the very first page) is on quality rather than quantity.

Still, you have more than enough meals to choose from, with notables such as: sirloin steak, eisbein (apparently one of its most famous and highly recommended meals as we discovered via word of mouth), seafood and seafood combos, pastas, vegetarian dishes, salads, starters and chicken or ostrich options to choose from, all of which are South African-based dishes with that necessary hint of local flavour. (There’s also a special section reserved for Kids under-12.)

The menu further adds that Zuidste Kaap can “recommend every dish” and because it has been “carefully considered and created for your eating pleasure,” substitutions are not part of the deal here.

Importantly, which is how I knew in advance that we would have a slight wait for our meals, it also goes on to say that because all the meals are “freshly prepared” and “good food takes time to prepare”, during peak periods, you can expect to wait longer for your meal to arrive, though “your patience and understanding” in this regard is appreciated.

So, whilst our drinks took ten minutes max. to arrive, our meals did take roughly 45 minutes, maybe even longer, to arrive. That said though, they were certainly worth the wait!

Whilst some meals (like their burgers, I think) come with a portion of chips, like some of the sauces, you need to order these separately as an extra in most instances. You can also choose between chips or veggies and though they cost R32, that particular day’s vegetable mix sounded great too, it must be said. Though in the end, we all opted for chips @ R22. (It was a decent amount of quite small, finely sliced fries.)

(In terms of payment, as stated in the menu, Zuidste Kaap accepts all major credit cards, barring Diners Club and American Express cards.)

My mum ordered a ‘Hake and Calamari Combo.’ (R128), whilst my dad and brother both chose the fresh ‘Catch of the Day’ special @ R135 p/p. (Note: For this particular meal, the prices vary based on the day’s catch etc. so you will need to ask your waitron for a set price as it is understandably not provided under the menu.)
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As mentioned earlier, my meal was deemed by all to be the best, both in terms of visual appeal and taste. I tried a bit of my mum’s calamari and the other meals all looked really good in their own right, but mine was seriously good and comes strongly recommended.
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The portion was generous, the crumbed chicken was cooked to perfection but was still soft (in other words, not dry) and so scrumptious. As for the filling, they certainly did not stint on the peppadews – which I must say, got to be pretty spicy after a few mouthfuls so I personally loved them (if, however, you aren’t a huge fan of spicy foods like I am, then you might want to go for something else on the menu) – or the feta, which were the ideal filling for the tasty chicken breast.
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I honestly cannot fault my meal and I think it’s one of the best poultry meals I have ever had (and I am a big fan of chicken, irrespective of how it’s cooked so I’ve sampled my fair share of chicken meals, so to speak) and thus, is easily awarded a well-deserved 10/10 rating, with my compliments to their chef!

As for milkshake, it was good, had a nice chocolate flavour and was quite creamy so I’d give it a 7/10, whilst my portion of added chips, which were a little thinner than I’d best like, deserve the same rating.
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When I asked the table to rate their food, both my brother and my mum gave their meals an 8/10 rating
(this was for the Yellow Tail and Hake + Calamari Combo. respectively), whilst my dad really raved about his meal and same as me, he couldn’t fault it even if he had wanted to. As such, he awarded it a 10/10 rating. (Though I did jokingly ask how they’d rate their drinks, because they all ordered Coke cans, my drink was the only one it makes proper sense to rate. :P)

(Afterwards, I did check out the bathroom and because I famously loathe using public toilets anywhere, I am pleased to report that Zuidste Kaap’s, at least the Ladies at any rate, is small but clean and neat like everything else in the restaurant so well done on that front too.)

All in all, my visit to Zuidste Kaap was thoroughly enjoyable and deserves an 8/10 overall rating for the following: lovely seating options (indoors and outdoors alike), a peaceful, nice atmosphere, good drinks and great food, decent sized portions from a reasonably priced, nice menu (though a few things seemed a little above the normal price to me, including the extras like chips and my milkshake), excellent decor and furniture housed in a  charming and quintesstentially Cape Dutch-style building and reasonable quality service under the busy circumstances, though I still felt our waitron could have perhaps been a little more engaging and less quiet but was still friendly enough, I suppose.

My experience was generally great though and it was a most memorable meal for me personally so and by far the best restaurant I have eaten at in the area (and I’ve tried three there now), so if you visit Cape Agulhas, be sure to pull in at 99 Main Road and pay Zuidste Kaap Restaurant or its 3 Oceans Pub a visit.
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For more info., please contact them on: +27 (028) 435 7838, email them at: info@zuidstekaap.co.za or check out their website at http://www.zuidstekaap.co.za.

Many thanks to Zuidste Kaap Restaurant’s December 2015 menu and website for the additional info. and image used in this post.

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Author: Tamlyn Amber Ryan

Tamlyn Ryan is a writer and blogger, who runs her own travel blog, called Tamlyn Amber Wanderlust. Despite a national diploma in Journalism, her preferred niche remains travel writing. She is a hopeless wanderer, equipped with an endless passion for road trips, carefully planned, holiday itineraries and above all else, the great outdoors.

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