Charming Café Charles

There are places you walk in to and feel one hundred percent at ease. Places where you just feel at home, comfortable, and perfectly happy. Places you just don’t want to leave. That was the feeling I had when I entered Café Charles …  and the feeling I still had when I left hours later. It’s also the feeling of wondering why on earth I had never been there before!

Hello Café Charles

But I am ahead of myself. Let me go back to the beginning. On a beautifully clear Friday, I met up with my friend Shannyn at Café Charles in De Waterkant for some lunch. Café Charles has three completely different seating areas. First up, the beautiful garden on the pavement, complete with a hundred-year-old pepper tree and lil’ water fountain. Then there is the upstairs roof section with beautiful city views. And, finally, we have a comfortable lounge with a fireplace for those cold days. After exploring it all, we decided that the lounge was the perfect place for us on this slightly chilly day.

Café Charles

Café Charles

Drinks First

First thing’s first. Shanny ordered a beautiful Gin and Tonic (Geometric Gin R38; Barker & Quin Tonic Water R38), while I decided to go with a glass of Gabrielskloof Rosebud 2018 (R50). I’ve never had this particular wine before and ordered it purely because of the name. Film geeks like me will remember the elusive rosebud from Citizen Kane.

Anyway, name aside, this is a delightful little Syrah- and Viognier-blended rosé and one I will definitely order again. Café Charles serves their wine in a stemless wine glass, which I love. It reminds me of my happy times in Hungary, where stemless glasses are the norm. Shannyn also loved her pretty G&T!

Café Charles g&t

Cheers to G&Ts!

Delving Into Starters

We decided to share our starters – and what a great idea that was, because, well, double delight.

The baked camembert with homemade berry compote, almonds, and toast (R95) was hands down the best camembert I have ever had. In my life. Ever. The berry compote complemented it perfectly and the roasted almond slivers added the ideal amount of crunch.

We also ordered the rooibos-smoked trout Niçoise salad with citrus buchu aioli and poached free-range egg (R95). I’m not usually a Niçoise fan but this salad was incredible. The smoked trout was perfect and the citrus buchu aioli brought all the flavours together beautifully.

Café Charles nicoise salad

Salad time!

Café Charles camembert

Is this the best baked camembert you’ve ever seen or what?

What Goes In

One of the many things I love about Café Charles is the focus on where the food comes from. Chef Shaun and General Manager Justine are super particular about this. And I think it’s awesome! The starter we had was made with farmed trout as normal trout contains too much plastic. The eggs are referred to as ‘happy eggs’ and are sourced from Usana Farming Estate. The meat is supplied by Frankie Fenner. And the croissants are lovingly baked by Proof Bakery. Organic, pesticide- and preservative-free ingredients are used as much as possible, and, yes, you can taste it.

Mains, Glorious Mains

Risotto is something we don’t often see on menus. Made with wild mushrooms, truffle oil, and pecorino crisps, this risotto (R110) was not just beautifully presented, but delicious too. Shannyn loved her choice of main and compared it to a warm hug. And I have to agree. Sexy comfort food in a bowl.

Another thing we don’t often see on a menu is ostrich. So I had to order that. The 200g ostrich fillet (R195) is served with dauphinoise potato, spinach, mushrooms, and carrot cumin puree. I absolutely loved the presentation of this dish. It was so pretty. And it was just as good to eat. The ostrich was made perfectly and the dauphinoise potatoes were to die for. Perfect happiness.

Warm hug risotto Café Charles

Warm hug risotto

The Café Charles ostrich

The ostrich

Café Charles ostrich

Isn’t it pretty?

Caffeinated Endings

As much as dessert looked delicious, we were stuffed to the brim. So we finished our dining extravaganza with some flat whites made with Hout Bay Coffee. I am always excited to try a coffee brand I have never had before and I definitely look forward to having more of this.

Café Charles coffee

Glorious coffee

Final Thoughts

There are many things that stood out for me at our visit to Café Charles.

Firstly, the love that goes into the food. You can see it all the way from Chef Shaun to GM Justine to our awesome waiter Bongi. These people love what they do. They are filled with passion and want you to have the best dining experience possible.

The next thing that stood out was the menu itself. It is filled with interesting choices and combinations and, without being overpowering, definitely South African. The dishes were so beautifully presented and so good. Compared to the price, it feels like the guest is the clear winner here. No overpriced, underwhelming dishes … what a rare thing for Cape Town.

I also loved the relaxed vibe, the fact that I didn’t really want to leave because time just seemed to slow down and you get to actually enjoy yourself.

So, hats off Café Charles, and thank you. I look forward to my next visit.

Visit Café Charles

Café Charles is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, 07:00 – 22:00 daily, except Sundays when they close at 15:00. They are located at 137 Waterkant Street. For more info, check out www.thecharles.cafe or mail them on hello@thecharles.cafe.

Written by Sabine Palfi
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Article Date: October 2019

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All information correct at time of publication. We do not accept any liability caused by errors, including, but not limited to, changes in price, menu, opening times, address, or other contact details.