Living in Cape Town and trying to make a decision on where to eat out can often be a daunting task. When it comes to restaurants in this city, we are literally spoiled for choice. Then again, one runs the risk of choosing unwisely and ending up at the handful of not so special spots that also call the city home. Luckily I have a selection of favourite eateries that I make a point of frequenting on a regular basis because I am assured of a wonderful experience each and every time I visit.
One of these is Mondiall restaurant. All clear glass and warm wood, this eatery is situated in the heart of the V&A Waterfront and has been successful in tastefully encapsulating the vibrant energy of this popular tourist attraction into it’s inviting interiors. Think a combination of industrial finishes, high ceilings and textural elements that amalgamate into a flowing space that feels at once roomy but also very intimate. Chic marble plinths and retro leather wingback chairs make up the informal seating area whilst bistro-style tables and banquettes are able to accommodate dining parties of all sizes. An enormous iron chandelier presides over the entire restaurant, it’s glittering raw crystals cut from various precious minerals that give off a soft light after dark. There is such attention to detail here – from the branded wrappers at their Burger Bar next door to the embossed pats of butter one receives with a complementary bowl of bread. But enough about interiors – as this is a (mostly) food-orientated blog, I’m here to mumble on about Mondiall’s new Winter Menu.
Changing seasonally, Mondiall’s staggering selection of menus ranges from about four to six variants at a time – not counting wine, bar and children’s menus. Their latest addition is the winter menu and it features all of the dishes that we find ourselves craving as soon as the weather grows cold. Think hearty risottos, grilled red meat and juicy burgers that add to one’s winter padding in the most delicious of manners. Not wanting to miss out on anything, I opted to visit the eatery on two occasions so as to better sample their lunch and dinner menus. Besides from running wonderful meal specials during the week, Mondiall is a wonderful place to escape the cold and the crowds and curl up over an extended lunch of as many menu offerings as you’re able to enjoy in one sitting. Eating out with my friend and fellow foodie Candice (she is a total goddess!), we enjoyed the Bowl of Squid, the Game Fish Tacos and the Prawns. Wholly unexpected, the Squid arrived sautéed with chorizo, leeks and onion and was reminiscent of Spanish tapas – especially when eaten with the charred ciabatta toast that accompanies it. The Prawns came with a choice of either lemon butter or Peri-peri sauces and a salad but being me, I omitted the leafy things and ordered a side of Parmesan & Truffle fries instead. While its been said that size isn’t everything, a panful of these colossal crustaceans are most definitely geared towards the very hungry – be prepared to use your fingers and dig in! They are worth it.
Mondiall is most known for their Burgers and Tacos and no first-time (or third or seventeenth) visit is complete unless you’ve sampled their famed Wagyu Beef Burger or Game Fish Tacos. The latter is the archetype of chef Stephen Mandes‘ skill in taking the humble burger and elevating it to a cult-like status. Every bite is sumptuous, the generous fat content of this special kind of beef providing an unsurpassed flavour while the fusion of mature Cheddar, pickles, fresh tomato and buttery lettuce make this burger – literally – perfect. Handcut fries accompanied by Stephen’s own invention of umami ketchup (a secret blend containing truffle oil, amongst other things) rounds off the kind of meal that never fails to satisfy me. The Game Fish Taco is equally as popular, with meaty cubes of spicy seared tuna combined with shredded slaw, creamy avocado, a zesty lime dressing and a piquant tomatillo compote all rolled up into a soft wheat tortilla. The generous portions and complex flavours are able to take this summer staple comfortably into colder climes.
I paired my lunch options with my favourite Delaire Graff Cab Franc / Rosé 2016 (it’s perfection with the prawns) and finished off the experience with a hearty dessert of steamed pudding with sticky roasted pears and silky creme anglaise. For a fan of British food, this was truly the nicest way to end off the meal as I barely ever get to see a proper steamed pudding on South African menus.
It was dessert that I was most keen to try upon my return visit for dinner. I’ve previously heard great things about Mondiall’s sweet treats and nothing gets me going like the promise of something sugary to indulge upon. But more on that in just a moment.
As varied a restaurant as their menu selection, Mondiall is able to almost completely reinvent itself at dinnertime. Soft candlelight and a gently flickering gas fireplace offer just enough light and heat to diners after dark while the overall ambiance is one that offers a more intimate experience. After a pre-dinner cocktail at the eatery’s stylish bar, we settled on Vergelegen‘s 2012 Shiraz and welcomed in the winter evening with starters comprised of the Steak Tartar with a parsley emulsion and the Mushroom Gnocchi with crispy roast cauliflower florets. My dining partner had never before acquainted herself with steak tartare and pleasurably enough, Mondiall’s version made for the perfect introduction. Fillet steak – pinkly rare and finely diced – is served alongside a delicate parsley emulsion and crisp melba toast. Almost a meal on it’s own, this protein-rich dish is as exquisitely executed as it is plated. For mains we both had the Rump Steak, an option that I only ever have as a special treat. Tender, juicy and full of flavour, I especially asked for my cut of rump to be a fatty one (more fat, more flavour) and was not disappointed. The sides included another classic favourite – Potato Dauphinoise – and sautéed greens, the combination of which paired expertly with our Shiraz.
Although swiftly reaching saturation point, we opted for the Tonka Bean Cheesecake for dessert and I cannot rate this dish highly enough. A firm yet silky texture, the cheesecake itself seems to be some kind of hybrid between a crème brûlée and a standard cheesecake, but far creamier. Drizzled liberally in butterscotch caramel, this dessert is worth having on it’s own – perhaps with only a good glass of red to accompany it. I’m actually still daydreaming about it.
Mondiall’s winter menu will run for the duration of the season and I strongly propose that you make a date, book a table and arrive hungry. Also – aimed at the cerebrally-gifted – Mondiall has a running joke in which you can win yourself a meal on the house by correctly guessing what the collection of numbers painted on the walls inside the restaurant mean. I myself happen to know the answer but I’ll be keeping mum on it unless the right kind of persuasion is used.
Like the chance at another helping of that cheesecake…