I almost cannot begin to describe how excited I am to tell you about this new spot I’ve recently discovered in Green Point… but, since I write for a living I’ll certainly try. If you’re an avid reader of WomenStuff then you’ll know that I get the opportunity to visit a lot of restaurants … no really, the list is so long that I often tend to forget where I ate last night, let alone last week. But, while some eateries might disappear from my memory without so much as a second thought, Green Point’s latest wunderkind, The Mess, is hard to forget. The brainchild of food technologist and wine expert, Carlene de Gouveia the restaurant offers some of the best food you will have the pleasure of eating in Cape Town along with a relaxed atmosphere that begs you to stay a while and indulge just a little bit more. Here’s why The Mess is undoubtedly one of my favourite new restaurants of the year.
The restaurant, and its name, was inspired by Carlene’s love of ‘messy’, more casual-style shared meals and the act of literally getting your hands dirty while savouring every bite. The quirky name references the 15th-century phrase for a group of people who ate together (known as a ‘mess’) as well the military and naval tradition of referring to the communal dining hall, where soldiers and sailors ate, as ‘the mess’. Of course, there’s also a nod to the brilliance of messy food – as we all know the messier the food, and the saucier your hands, the better it is. But, just because they love messy food and a more casual style of dining doesn’t mean they’re not serious about what goes on your plate. The food at The Mess is indeed excellent. Morish in fact. And, Carlene and her team insist that while eating with your hands might be encouraged they’re beyond serious about each and every dish that leaves the kitchen.
The menu was developed by Carlene along with chef patron, Luke Wonnacott of Lukefoodalways consultancy and is deliberately quite small, to ensure that each dish is expertly prepared using only the freshest, finest ingredients. With over 12 years cooking in some of the world’s top restaurants (including Atlantis the Palm, Dubai), the award-winning Chef Luke Wonnacott is indeed a maestro of food. The dishes the pair have created at The Mess are beautifully uncomplicated and oh-so-flavoursome and I can’t wait to go back and try more of it, soon! I got the chance to try a tasting menu of the dishes available and can personally vouch for the Aubergine Melanzane (grilled aubergine, fior de latte, tomato ragout, topped with a pine nut & parmesan crumble – R80) and Pork Belly Tacos (BBQ lacquered pork belly, smoked apple & charred corn slaw – R69). Both of these dishes are available as plates to share and are beyond yummy.
Special mention must go to the Aubergine Melanzane which was incredible. I’ve tried a lot of Melanzane dishes and I’ve never tasted one quite this good. For me the pine nut & parmesan crumble take this dish from great to incredible and while this might be a ‘plate to share’ I could easily eat the entire bowl on my own next time I visit (sure, the portion size is huge but I like a challenge!). The Yoghurt & Thyme Flatbreads (R18), paired with the White Bean & Tahini Pate (R27) and the Pickled Goats’ Cheese with Moroccan nut dukkha (R29), are also a wonderful way to start a meal at a large table. I found the flatbreads to be fluffy and bursting with flavour and, when you pair them with the various dips it’s heaven in your hand!
Of course, sometimes you don’t want to share (trust me, I’m right there with you) so, The Mess has you covered with a selection of larger main meals on the menu as well. For something meaty, try the Angus rib eye steak (300g -R155), Pork Belly (served with braised red cabbage, smoked apple, a fennel jus, and braised baby vegetables – R155), or the fall-off-the-bone Porkloin Ribs (500g – R150). There’s also a Cape Malay vegetable curry served with smoked apricot couscous, flatbreads and tomato chilli jam (R87) which is perfect for those who love a little bit of spice. And, if something on the menu doesn’t catch your fancy then make sure you check out the specials board for new and exciting dishes on offer. We got to try an incredibly fresh Potato Gnocchi that I am hoping and praying makes it on the main menu sometime soon. Served with a samphire salad and a lemon dressing this fresh, summer-inspired gnocchi dish was a welcome break from the usually super rich Italian dish.
As for dessert; do yourself a favour and try the Baked Dark Chocolat Lava Cake (R60). This dark chocolate pudding with white chocolate & lime ice cream and roasted hazelnuts is a chocolate lover’s dream come true and is more than worth the calories. If chocolate isn’t your thing (gasp!), then try the traditional crème Brulee or the Fromage Blanc Eton Mess (a fromage blanc and vanilla panna cotta with meringue shards, naartjie sorbet and seasonal berries).
While you’re there don’t forget to sip on something delicious during your meal. Owner, Carlene spent a substantial amount of time in the food and wine industry before opening The Mess and you can be sure that the wine list features some of the best local wines to pair with your food. It is a list that will change and be updated according to Carlene’s moods and preferences and her insider knowledge means that diners will also be delighted by the occasional blackboard offer of a special wine that Carlene feels needs to be shared with the world. In addition to fabulous wines, the drinks menu also offers a selection of delicious cocktails, including three signature gin & tonic cocktails made with real fruit syrups. I loved the bitter-sweet Pink Grapefruit Flavoured Gin & Tonic but the Mojito is also a winner of note.
Find The Mess, Restaurant & Bar is situated at Shop 110 – The Rockwell, Napier Street, Green Point, Cape Town. The spot is open Monday to Saturday from 18:00 till late (the kitchen closes at 22:00). For dinner reservations and more information visit their website here.