Hook, line and sinker 28.05.06

It’s taken me a while to write this one, many events, eatings and random liveliness got in the way, but it’s well worth recording – not so much as a Hungry Man epistle but as a notable restaurant visit.

It’s not that this place in the small heart of Pringle Bay is unknown, in fact it has a staunch following of locals and “in-the-know” Capetonians who like to think of it as their little secret. Since the place only accommodates 24-odd people, it’s easy to pretend exclusivity. While the Hungry Man was there this particular day, he was a pale shadow of his usual ebullient self, restrained by the very loud presence of another friend. So let this chronicle of our eating adventures simply serve as a marker, and be entered for the sake of completeness.

Stephan is the owner’s name here, a burly ex-diamond diver with curiously quivering lips that pucker and flutter as he concentrates over the hearth. He is assisted by his wife, and between the two of them, they take care of all the business. Now diamond divers have a reputation for hard drinking, hard living and other random extreme physical exertions. Not many actually take enough diamonds out of the sea to get out of the game, so they are forced to remain trapped in the icy waters of the west coast for the rest of their able lives. It is romantic stuff.

Stephan got out, whether by windfall or good sense I don’t know. He became a fisherman with a shop that sold his harvest, and a few years ago “expanded” this into a small restaurant where he cooks whatever’s fresh in iron skillets on the coals. This place is as basic as they come. Brick walls where graffitti is encouraged, wooden bench tables, toilets odourously crammed between the dining area and the crayfish tank. His hearth is in the middle of the space, and he moves in and out from it while telling all guests in his booming baritone what it is they can expect to eat.

A choice of two starters usually includes one fish soup, usually a chowder. Then the main affair, served from the coals to the table on the iron skillet. Basmati rice indecently slathered with butter is your only foil to the fish, about five kinds of the freshest fish, cooked beautifully. Expect some that you are not in the habit of seeing often, for his sources are legion and specialised, but he pretty much always has tuna in season.

This is communal eating. Thay have a few wines to choose from, but you’re welcome to BYO, happy that the chef may exact his tax, a taster. But he only likes monster reds and whites that have splinters to impale your palate. Later he comes round with his blowtorch to offer you his creme brulee or his chocolate pot, the only desserts.

And just when you thought it was safe to get back in the water… he does not cook fish on Wednesday and Sunday nights, when its a steak fest. And all lunches (except Sunday) are simple fish and chips, not the extravaganza.

Book ahead. The Hungry Man does approve of it, even if hasn’t had much to say here. He did say “it was a result”.

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