Special dispatch: Gusto, Cape Town, South Africa
117 Hatfield Street
+27 (0)21 461 7868
by Flora Ashley
This morning Cape Town was brought to a grinding halt by an hour-long power cut. Never the most productive of workers, Capetonians – who have a deserved reputation for dropping everything and heading to the beach at the merest opportunity – looked out of the window, saw that the weather was gloriously sunny, and decided to call it a day.
The tourists looked happy. Not because the city was on an impromptu holiday, but because – at last! – this was Africa. Here was the ‘real’ Africa – or, if they’re American, Ah-frica – of unexpected and unexplained blackouts. If only a cow or two – or even just a goat and some chickens – would wander through the CBD then the experience would be complete.
However much they seem to like Cape Town, one always has the impression that tourists are a little disappointed by how... familiar the city feels with its rows of Victorian terraces, hipsters and artisanal coffee shops. Suddenly their flack jackets (what do they keep in all those little pockets? Malaria tablets? Emergency quinine rations?) and head-to-toe khaki outfits seem strangely out of place.
My friend E and I saw two particularly mournful Germans while eating breakfast at Gusto on Saturday. We were sitting in the pretty courtyard of a Georgian building, and half of the blackboard-walled cafe was taken over by earnest white, middle-class women with their yoga mats, and I wanted to shake the tourists by the shoulders and shout, ‘Cheer up! This is an essentially Capetonian experience! An anthropologist could not ask for a better case study!’
Gusto is in a part of town which has been heavily gentrified – even five years ago I wouldn’t have walked around the area – and serves ‘whole’ food. It does lunch and breakfast, and on weekends sells organic veg. Having pulled back from a slide into urban decay, the city is now littered with similar cafes specialising in seasonal cookery; Cape Town is yoga- and smoothie-mad; and there are more food bloggers than is sensible.
Our breakfast could easily have been served in Melbourne or San Francisco. On the other hand it reeked of Cape Town: from our cappuccinos made from Origin beans (truly the only coffee for the cool Capetonian), to the aggressively frothy apple and orange smoothie, to the food. This was not the kind of place that does bacon and eggs with beans and bubble.
E had poached eggs with roasted tomatoes and goats’ cheese: the eggs perfectly runny, the tomatoes charred and just this side of squidgy. (I say nothing about the cheese. I think it’s vile and an abomination.) I have a tremendous weakness for French toast, and it came with flaked almonds, cinnamon, and crème fraîche. It was almost perfect, but I don’t understand the vogue for making French toast with sourdough or ciabatta: it goes tough and tastes too much of bread instead of eggy deliciousness.
We ate, in short, with gusto. (Sorry.) And even the Germans – who had sighed and wondered why they’d travelled so far just to have croissants and coffee for breakfast – perked up and decided to walk down the road to Parliament, no doubt in the hope of spotting a coup d’état.