The Duchess Of Wisbeach
Duchess of Wisbeach is a place that you either love or hate. My friends love it, my family love it, and judging by the fact that it is always fully booked, a lot of other people love it – but check on the web and you will find a lot of people not loving it. I chalk it up to expectation. With a name like Duchess of Wisbeach we went expecting a pretentiousness and subdued, elegant dining experience. What we got instead was a loud, vibey restaurant with a relaxed atmosphere and plenty of personality.
For me the whole dining experience took on the feeling that we were at some big family dinner. Our waitress, Celeste, was warm and friendly. In spite of being vegetarian she had a lot to say about the menu and each dish – so much so that she pulled up a chair and sat down to talk to us through it. The restaurant was packed, she had to squeeze past tables and generally seemed to be all over the place; at one point she forgot our drinks but the familiar and warm way in which she handled it made it seem like we had forgotten that we could have just gotten up to fetch them ourselves and shouldn’t be standing on ceremony.
The dining room is crisp and elegant but still very cosy and inviting. Enormous duchess portraits and ornate mirrors line the walls. Small porcelain and china dogs of various breeds sit atop each table illuminated in the flickering candle light. This is a dog friendly restaurant and several patrons have their loyal hounds lying next to or under their tables really emphasising the feel of being at dinner with family and friends. The only downside is that the noise level can seem a little too loud at times given the small space – definitely not for those looking for a quiet dinner.
The food is not cheap but the quality is high and there are cheaper options. Starters range from R55 to R80, mains R85 to R130 and desserts R45 to R60. The menu changes monthly to take advantage of seasonal produce and states, at the bottom, that ‘the meat is organic, the fish is green and nothing is frozen except the ice cream’. (For those who don’t know, the ‘green’ of the fish refers to the Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative rating – with green fish the most sustainable.) There is a good selection of wine almost all of which is also served by the glass. For starters we shared cheese stuffed onions with balsamic and parmesan, a truly delicious treat which was not overly cheesy or rich but rather well balanced and very fresh. For mains we went for the spinach and ricotta gnocchi with olive oil at the suggestion of our vegetarian waitress – we were not disappointed – it was light and delicate without any starchiness. The boeuf bourguignon was as rich as the gnocchi was light; perfectly flavoured and truly dissolved in the mouth. My only disappointment of the evening was the desert. Bread and Butter Pudding is a personal favourite so how could it go wrong. No custard! I’m not referring to being served ‘with custard’, I’m referring to the actual egg and milk mixture in the pudding itself – it was non-existent. It felt like I had been served slices of bread with marmalade and raisins on.
The dessert notwithstanding, for me this is a real restaurant that offers high quality food and the best atmosphere in Cape Town – A gem worthy of a Duchess.
3 Wisbeach Road, Sea Point (Tel: +27 21 434 1525). Booking Essential!