There’s a place in Cape Town that Bae squirrels himself away to when he wants some “Bae on Bae” time and always returns far happier. He comes back with dreams in his eyes and a bounce in his step. Eventually, he introduced me to “his” place for my surprise birthday breakfast in 2021, and I understood his love for it.
Fast forward to 2022, and I’ve taken the reigns of our social diary and incorporated weekly date nights now that the world is feeling a little more accessible again.
Whilst navigating him in the car to where we were heading, he positively yelped with joy once he figured out that we were driving in the direction of Pilcrow & Cleaver (aka “one of Cape Towns hidden culinary gems” – quote Cape Town Vegan [me])
Chef and proprietor Judi Fourie opened Pilcrow & Cleaver 3 months before everything changed in 2020. For those 3 months, they were booked every night, and by all accounts, it was a super successful opening! How they survived is a testament to Judi’s grit, determination and unwavering passion for what she does. I’m glad we haven’t mourned the closure of Pilcrow & Cleaver because now YOU GET TO TRY IT!!!
Firstly, it’s located on Church Square in the CBD. I don’t know about you but I rarely ever spend time in this part of town, and I don’t really have much reason to go there (until now, obvs!), but the location is rather beautiful, on a tree-lined pavement opposite the National Mutual Life Association of Australasia building. It makes you feel like you’re in a European city (Brussels, Amsterdam?), which is a welcome escape considering how limited we’ve regarded travel the past few years.
Pilcrow & Cleaver is an intimate but open space. You can sit at the bar and watch the team in the kitchen at work, sit at a table further in for privacy, sit outside on the pavement (Parisian style) or, our favourite, at the stacking windows overlooking the square. Best seat in the house 😁
Further evidence of Judi’s passion is that the menu changes every week, published on a Monday. It is not entirely vegan, but there are always options available, including a dessert (thank you – so many restaurants always bail on a vegan dessert!), so it’s great for all dietary preferences.
We started with a cocktail each, and Judi presented us with a complimentary starter from the kitchen: deep-fried coconut milk (tempura) with plum sauce. We thought we’d misheard? How do you deep-fry coconut milk?!!! Well, here they do and let me tell you, it was divine! Almost like a mozzarella. So smart.
Another pre-dinner treat followed in the form of a Bao Bun with a Hoisin dipping sauce.
The first course was roasted tofu in a creamy coconut, miso and carrot sauce, served with tender stem broccoli and carrot top gremolata. It was a beautiful dish, not too heavy, and the colours popped off the plate.
Before the next course, we enjoyed some of the superb tunes coming from Judi’s 90’s playlist, which contributed to the relaxed and laid back atmosphere.
The next dish up was Singapore Noodles. Soaked rice noodles were flashed with turmeric root, sesame oil, soy sauce, green beans, edamame, shredded carrots & topped with spring onion.
It had just the right amount of heat (spice) and was light and fresh, packed with flavour and wholesome veggies.
A sorbet palate cleanser was served before the final savoury plate, The Pomegranate Molasses Roasted Aubergine: roasted aubergine steaks with pomegranate molasses, warm quinoa, baby spinach & tahini dressing. It was probably the richest of all the dishes and the most tremendous variety of textures. We left some room with one course still to go (dessert).
Vegan Banoffee. Being allergic to bananas made dessert a no-go for me, but Judi solved that problem by creating my own chocolatey decadence!
The Banoffee had a crunchie oat crumble base with burnt bananas, vegan vanilla ice cream and caramel & Valrhona chocolate. The base gave it a different texture to what you might call a classic Banoffee Pie, but Bae assured me it worked well!
Pilcrow & Cleaver doesn’t really fit into any one dining category for me because it ticks many boxes. It has a fine-dining edge to it without being stuffy. It’s casual but feels special. It has proper linen napkins, quality crockery and a carefully curated wine list.
Open for both lunch and dinner, they offer a 2-course lunch (R250), or 4-course lunch/dinner (R500)
Interestingly they also have a no-tipping policy and choose the initiative to pay a living wage across the board to all of its staff without relying on tips for their income.
Thank you to Judi and her fantastic staff for hosting us and creating this wonderful space to enjoy incredible food.