The Mess: good food, ugh ambience

The Mess restaurant is in the Rockwell building in Green Point, or De Waterkant, or whatever they’re calling the area now in some vain attempt to make it appear cooler than it actually is. As a building, the Rockwell is so utterly without character that it makes the faux Tuscan nightmare of Montecasino look like a jolly Etruscan village square on Christmas eve. The Mess, alas, appears to have been affected by its surrounds, and has about as much ambience as a garage forecourt at 3am. Well, that’s my take. If we’re to believe Food24 “Outside diners can enjoy the romantic, fairy-lit alleyway running along The Rockwell.” Leaving aside whether we should be setting fire to fairies at all, it wasn’t really the vibe I got.

But the food makes up for that, and to be fair, I was there on a Tuesday night. Although given the surfeit of esurient gourmands that wander the streets of Cape Town every day like starving zombies with their small intestines crammed into skinny jeans, days of the week don’t seem to be a factor any more.

Matters weren’t helped by the fact that there was a largish table, of what I took to be English tourists given their accents, peculiar dress sense, and propensity to guffaw at every asinine quip, who seemed compelled to light up cigarettes between every course. And there are a LOT of courses if you’re sharing tapas.

What is it with people from the so-called developed world and their love of flirting with cancer? Perhaps they miss the random deaths of empire, and this is their over-compensation. All I know is, it really makes it difficult to enjoy a meal if your enjoyment is premised on actually being able to smell the food.

Speaking of the food: tasty. I loved the yoghurt and thyme flatbreads so much, I had them as a starter and as dessert. First, with a white bean and tahini pate, splattered with pine nuts and a light and piquant mint vinaigrette, and then for dessert with a pickled goats’ cheese. My mouth is salivating at the memory, I actually think I might go grab that for lunch today.

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White bean and tahini pate, pine nuts, mint vinaigrette, delicious flatbreads.

I also had some of the squid and chorizo, which was described on the menu as “Charred

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Squid lite.

baby squid, chorizo sausage, ponzu glaze, pineapple and red pepper salsa”. It was beautifully balanced for my palate, the pineapple restrained and the chorizo agreeably spicy. It tasted as good as squid can nowadays, in a country where restaurants are basically feeding you b-grade crap from overseas that was caught and frozen when dinosaurs still roamed the world (1984), and what’s left of the local calamari industry all goes to feed the rich of Europe, presumably in some fairy-lit alleyway I’ll never get to see. In fact, my top dining tip for this year is never order calamari again, unless you’re too drunk to find a KFC.

The beef tataki with a ponzu dressing was also very good. There’s something about ponzu’s citrusy saltiness that brings out the best in rare beef. It’s not going to change your life, but we all know that can go both ways anyhow. What I didn’t have, but will go back for, is the creole fried soft shell crab, with smokey mayo. Despite the fact that I generally consider smoking food as one of the great food cliches. along with balsamic glazes, sriracha drizzles and sun-dried tomatoes (or Satan’s droppings, as they’re called), that combo does sound promising. Oh, I almost forgot the mushroom and cauliflower (“Grilled seasonal mushrooms, gruyere cauliflower puree, almond & parsley butter, radish”). That stuff rocked. Assuming unctuous is a positive term, it was positively unctuous. As in beautifully rich, oily and demanding of a second helping.

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Really bad pics of beef tataki (L) and mushrooms and cauliflower (….R?)

I’ll go back and sit inside next time, on a Thursday night, and give the ambience another chance. Should you go eat there, you ask? Yes, yes you should. I had fun, and the food was fun.

– All Superwhatever reviews are paid for in full by the reviewer, because who the hell else is going to pay?

– If you prefer the usual fawning, sycophantic reviews of those mysterious people laughingly referred to as ‘food writers’, here are two.

– The ludicrously blurbed “A restaurant inspired by the very indulgence and enjoyment of eating and sharing” (unlike other restaurants that are inspired by hating your food and being selfish), and the sadly shouty “THE MESS IS UNDOUBTEDLY ONE OF MY FAVOURITE NEW RESTAURANTS OF THE YEAR!

Another tip – never ever trust reviewers who use exclamation marks non-ironically, Exclamation marks are the Crocs of the grammar world.

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The Mess “restaurant and bar is located in the trendy [gag] De Waterkant Village in Green Point on the ground floor of The Rockwell All Suite Hotel, Shop 110 Napier Street.”

Operating hours are Monday to Saturday 18h00 till late and Friday lunch 12h00 – 15h00 (lunch during summer). (021) 418-3910 or info@themess.co.za

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