Wandering around Cape Town’s Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, it’s not uncommon to find a babble of accents worming their way down your ear canal: Japanese, German, Swedish, American. The V&A is nothing if not a United Nations of happy tourists.
And globetrotting is precisely the inspiration behind the menu at Mondiall; the new waterside bistro from chef Peter Tempelhoff and restaurateur Patrick Symington. Outdoor tables with mountain views will be like hen’s teeth on a calm day, while indoors there’s a New York brasserie feel to the venue, with triple-volume ceilings and Art Deco touches.
The name translates loosely to ‘of the world’, and it’s Tempelhoff’s travels through kitchens and restaurants around the globe that see everything from Japanese noodles to Nordic gravadlax feature on a menu that can at times seem overwhelming in its variety. Are you in the mood for Italian or Americana? Asian or Nordic? Peruvian or Parisian? You’ll find it all at Mondiall, where tapas and brunch options fill in the gaps between the main lunch and dinner menus.
With the varied clientele of the Waterfront it’s a case of offering something for everyone to bring feet through the door, and it’s a rare diner who won’t find a dish to suit his or her palate and pocket.
Classic bistro dishes run to the Mondiall Waldorf Salad and sirloin with Café de Paris butter, alongside a good ol’ American cheeseburger, done here with marbled Wagyu beef. Cape Malay lamb curry may tempt the tourist looking for a safe taste of local cooking, while Parmesan gnocchi is about the only real option for vegetarians. While most dishes are well travelled, one standout dessert is rather close to home: the Maple and Pecan Pie still baked to his mom’s recipe.
“We’ve taken my favourite classic dishes from my travels and added a little spin on each,” explains Tempelhoff. “They’re a little reinvented, but we didn’t want to lose the essence of these dishes. We wanted to keep them as classic as we can because the flavours just work.”
The menu becomes more interesting on the exotic dishes from Tempelhoff’s travels: line fish ceviche from Peru, or ‘scattered sushi’ on sticky rice, but my runaway highlight was the richly flavoured ramen noodles cooked in a Chinese master stock; a surprisingly authentic take on a heavily traditional Japanese dish.
All that variety is wonderful, but isn’t he concerned about his kitchen being a jack-of-all-trades, yet master of none?
“I don’t think so,” counters Tempelhoff. “If you look at most brasserie menus, there’s food from five or six different countries. I think it’s an expression of how people eat today: one night you go out for Indian, the next you go for Italian, then you go out for a burger. So this menu is about cooking for the people.”
While Tempelhoff devises the menu, the day-to-day cooking is done under the eye of head chef Oliver Cattermole, and after some early inconsistencies the kitchen seems to have settled down.
Prices are what you’d expect for the Waterfront, which means paying a little over the odds, but then the hordes of tourists don’t seem to mind. Opening just before the summer season may have given Mondiall a baptism by fire, but the real test will be the chilly weeks of winter when the tourists have gone and Capetonians are hunkered down at home.
But “we built this place for the locals,” assures Tempelhoff. “We wanted to build a place that is beautiful, has got good views and decent food. Not over-the-top and not too expensive.”
Alfred Mall, V&A Waterfront
021 418 3003
11.30am-10pm daily, Brunch (10am-3pm) weekends