by Matthew Sterne
on April 15, 2011

The Horny Grazer Review
A snail gets mugged by a tortoise. The snail goes to the police station to report the crime.
“What happened?” says the officer on duty.
“I don’t know”, replies the snail – “it all happened so fast.”

So much potential, so much charm, but undoubtedly the slowest service in town.

How many chances do you give a new restaurant? Well, to its credit and to my complete discombobulation I have been to Cafe Paradiso four times. On each occasion the result has been the same.

Cafe Paradiso is the latest reinvention from those zany fopdoodles at Madam Zingara.

Cafe Paradiso
Do not be fooled by claims that “Breakfast, lunch and dinner are a relaxed and vibey affair at Café Paradiso”. By relaxed and vibey they mean that the waiters amble around like they’re coming last in a race between dope smokers and dead people.

The service is quite simply appalling. If you have any form of pressing hunger or time constraint – avoid this restaurant like a rebarbative oligophreniac.

To be fair, it’s not so much the service that is bad, the waiters are actually quite pleasant and usually fairly charismatic – it’s just that everything takes hours to arrive. Literally hours. We sat for over 90 minutes between starters and mains on two separate occasions. Is it the kitchen? Waiters with Alzheimer’s? I really don’t know, but they seem completely incapable of remedying the problem.

Cafe Paradiso
What rankles the most is that we inevitably plough through several more bottles of wine than we would normally, resulting in an inflated bill and a week day hangover. And the only winner? Cafe Paradiso. It’s like the Zimbabwean National Lottery where the winner was a certain Mr R Mugabe from Harare.

But it’s not all bad. In fact some of it is jolly good. It’s a great location at the top of Kloof Street in central Cape Town. Think rustic Tuscan – pebbled courtyards, a wine room and several farm house dining rooms. You can even watch fresh pasta being made. An excellent distraction between courses. Another good one is watching paint dry.

Cafe Paradiso
The menu is typically Italian and split into antipasti, starters, salads, risottos/pastas, mains and sides. It’s a mouth watering menu crammed full of all the things I find most delicious.

I’ve enjoyed the black risotto with chorizo, sundried tomatoes and lemon aioli on each of my visits (starter – R50). Seriously good. As is the salt and pepper squid with spiced mayo and chilli dressing. And there’s always a tantalising ravioli of the day as well. The pastas and risottos are certainly the speciality. For mains (by which time you will no longer be young), the feathered steak with fresh pasta, tomato salsa and arugula was pretty mediocre (R90). Not bad, not very good. I tasted the lamb salad with baby spinach, garlic aioli and sunflower seeds (R60) which was really delicious and a good option for the abundant carbophobes. There’s always a good selection of imaginative specials on offer as well. Quite a good survival tactic at Cafe Paradiso is to order only starters.

The wine list is not extensive, but there’s all you need and it’s well priced for Cape Town ( a bottle of Buitenverwachting Buiten Blanc will set you back R95).

Cafe Paradiso is a frustrating restaurant. It could so easily become a Cape Town stalwart if they could just get their acrobatic act together. Madam Zingara, please put the porcinis down and get a wriggle on.

The curious thing is that I’ll probably go again soon. When I have some time to spare.

Cafe Paradiso
Contact: 110 Kloof Street, Cape Town, Cape Town, Western Cape
Tel: 021 423 8653
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