Sunday, August 24, 2014

I found hmmm just down the road

Around every Cape Town corner is a surprise; they often come in the way of culinary treats in special places, made in love by creative people. I'm actually writing from one of those places, about another place, right now... but that's another story for some other time.

I'd walked past Hmmm at least five times since my work had relocated its venue to Roeland street at the beginning of 2014. Each time I'd - almost - rung the small bronze bell that's loosely tied to the wrought-iron security gate. But it was only last week that I'd truly discovered and savoured the 4-table Clare Street establishment in a nondescript part of Cape Town's central Gardens area.

As it turns out, inside the plain-Jane buildiing thar has as it bookends two panel-beating and spray-painting businesses, is Hmmm Taste and Flavours (with not a single hipster in sight).

What I especially love is when my first impressions and instincts are confirmed in a big way, albeit it later: Hmmm is a small owner-managed bakery where owner Alison Stoner-Harper (a graduate of London Cordon Bleu School of Patisserie and of world renowned Silwood School of Cookery) and her team can be found hard at work. 

The first thing that hit me on the level of sight and smell was CHOCOLATE: I could see and smell lots of it, mostly displayed in small loaves in the simple glass-cabinet to the left of the main counter, as well as on the large  'baking operations' table amidst the busy team of bakers quietly hard at work.

With a bit of nosing around I've found that they supply up-market restaurants and delis, and their artistic creations have been used in numerous film shoots and magazine ads.

While I ordered a cappuccino and wolfed down a scrumptious breakfast at 3pm, only to be charged R36 for both (that's outstanding value!), it's actually cakes that are their speciality: custom wedding cakes, birthday cakes, surprise cakes - they bake them all on the premises, in full view. Other treats are their decadent biscuits, tarts, rusks, homemade ice-creams and quiches. (It's exactly the off-the-beaten-track kind of place I'd love to introduce my wizened traveller-mother to...when next she's on the southern tip of Africa.)

It's a cozy fresh-coffee shop where breakfasts and light lunches are served while you're left to your own devices, literally, or to page through an old fashioned newspaper or book (remember those?).

I'll also always support a friendly owner-managed establishment that serves breakfast all-day long.

While South Africa is undoubtedly a nation of foodies and packed with culinary delights across many cuisine genres, the majority of it extraordinarily good quality and value for money, Cape Town definitely, um, takes the cake. As I'm currently teaching my second year feature & review students, a journalist and/or writer could fill a lifetime's career with all things food-related.  

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