Of french toast and white squirrels

Fast food…

Nestled in the middle of Cape Town city centre, The Company’s Garden Restaurant offers a haven of peace and tranquility for everyone who needs a break from the city buzz. Have a leisurely breakfast or lunch under the massive old fig trees, or slowly sip your coffee and look out over the manicured lawns of the Company’s Garden. And before you reluctantly leave, remember to buy peanuts to feed the squirrels!

 Three course meal…

I remember as a little girl visiting the gardens with my parents as a much-anticipated outing and treat. If you are still small, the trees seem to be meant for giants, and even the shrubs looked like it belonged in the rain forest. Being an only child, I could entertain myself for hours, happily skipping down the winding paths, making up fairy tales and adventures as I touched every leaf, chatted to every squirrel, followed every bird. It was a magical place, and still holds a certain enchantment for me to this very day. The real treat was that little packet of red-skinned peanuts you buy from the local vendors. The joy of sitting patiently on your haunches, luring the squirrels with an outstretched hand filled with nuts. And of course the joy of eating the other half of the peanuts yourself!

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Later of years, the Company’s Gardens became a haven of peace for me. Early morning I would go to the National Archives in Roeland street to do research on my thesis, and the afternoons I whiled away at the Company's Garden restaurant. It looked a lot different then; smaller, less modern. Groups of men would sit and play chess. The pigeons and squirrels would squabble about crumbs under the tables. They served humble sandwiches and good coffee. 

Not much has changed since, if you think about it. It's still a historic Capetonian landmark known and loved by locals and visitors alike. Except, the restaurant got a proper face-lift and is now converted into a modern, urban-chic venue. The whole restaurant is inspired by nature – from the logo to the various design elements and furnishings. It blends in beautifully with the lush surroundings of the gardens. It's an amalgamation of local history and contemporary vibes. The food is still as good and the coffee still as strong. They kept the outside seating area the same and added some tables and food counters inside for winter's days. The menu is a lot more extensive and mostly aimed at the overseas market with South African inspired dishes. But you can still order a humble sandwich or traditional breakfast! People still while away their afternoons here, whether catching up with friends, working on laptops or reading books. The atmosphere is heavy with togetherness, although everyone is absorbed in their own space.

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You can also rent the venue for functions. I'm very sure it will transform from a airy and light eco-conscious day time venue to an uber-elegant evening backdrop. For events, they offer a variety of set menus, catering from lavish breakfasts to high teas and evening meals.

The Company's Garden restaurant is also very child friendly. Seeing that the majority of the seating area is outside under the trees, there are ample safe spaces for the kids to run around in the overgrown jungle. It's also nice for prams and push-trolleys, as there is plenty of space between the tables. There's also a giant chess set within eye's view from the restaurant and large squares of lawn where they can kick a ball or play a round of tag. The kiddie menu also looks rather delectable, with several dishes for even the pickiest of eater.

We went on a clear weekend morning for breakfast. Parking was easy along one of the side streets, and only a short walk to the restaurant. We didn't have to wait for our lovely little table outside. The staff was super friendly and attentive and immediately you feel at home. Soon a tray of steaming coffees arrived, with crockery that sentimentally reminded me of my childhood. We drooled over the breakfast menu and I had to cast my eye over the lunch items, too! The menu is absolutely gorgeous and very well thought out. There is really something for every taste.

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I ended up being my predictable self and ordered the classic eggs benedict. Karl was delighted with the offering of banana bread french toast. My mom decided on a basil and rosa tomato omelette.

Whilst we waited for our food, we excitedly spotted squirrels and admired the giant fig tree. We people-watched and daydreamed about our breakfasts.

The pièce de résistance of our breakfast spread was most certainly the banana bread french toast. It was drenched in maple syrup, the tart strawberries cutting through the richness. Thick slices of home made banana bread piled generously with crispy streaky bacon, this was any foodie's dream on a plate. I was slightly green with envy, even though my eggs benedict looked incredible. The omelette was simple, yet delicious; melted mozzarella, fresh basil pesto, rocket  and cherry tomatoes oozing from their fluffy, eggy bed. My hollandaise sauce was silky smooth, the eggs boiled to a perfect medium, and the wilted spinach and micro-greens complemented the luxuriance of the dish.

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I would struggle to fault this experience. We felt like tourists in our own city, and got a chance to view it from a greener angle. There was nothing rushed about our breakfast, even though it was filling up fast the later it got. As mentioned before, the staff was friendly and chatty, and very attentive. You find yourself in a green bubble of happiness, filled with good food and nature all around.  Afterwards, we bought little R5 packets of peanuts inside, as I did all those years ago. We eagerly fed the squirrels whilst meandering through the expansive gardens.

As if this wasn't already a star performance in itself, Snowy showed up to wave us goodbye! Snowy is a resident albino Eastern Grey Squirrel (or Tree Squirrel), the kind commonly found in Cape Town’s suburbs. As his name suggests, he is completely snow white! He is a bit of a celebrity in the Gardens, and frequently delights young and old with his antics and fluffy white fur.

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All in all, a great morning out and money well spent. For a few hours, you forget all about time; you forget that you are sitting in the middle of an international city, filled to the brim with tourists and locals alike. It's quiet and peaceful; a lovely place to settle down if you have thoughts to think or books to read. There's a space here for everyone, whether you choose to work, play, indulge or just laze.

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Meet Amilinda Wilkinson

Amilinda Wilkinson

Amilinda Wilkinson is a small town girl with big dreams. She is a nature geek, total foodie, devoted wife and mother to furry children. When she's not at the office, she explores, writes about, photographs and indulges in this fragile adventure we call life.

Read more from Amilinda on her blog The Little Hedonist.