Previously a bit of an ugly duckling, the East City has recently undergone a transformation, with many new and exciting cafes and restaurants choosing to open their doors in the edgier side of Cape Town. Swan Cafe is the most recent of which, the French-style creperie adding a touch of glam and a whole lot of Parisian taste to the historic Buitenkant St.
Their recipe for success is a simple but delicious one: savoury galettes, sweet crepes and excellent coffee, combined with stunning visuals and warm service. It’s understandable then that nabbing a table can prove tricky.
The Ambiance and Decor
Always welcomed with a hearty ‘Bonjour!’, one is ushered through the open glass doors into the bustling space below. The French flag colours of blue, crisp whites and touches of red are creatively woven throughout the waiters’ uniforms and decor. It will come as no surprise then that the cafe is owned by French born Jessica Rushmere, previously a model and former owner of De Waterkant’s Le Petite Tarte.
The striking wallpaper versions of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Leda and the Swan” and Jean-Léon Gérôme’s “Leda and the Swan” catch the eye first, both paintings given a blue, monochromatic filter, but really it’s the motif of the swan (designed by the acclaimed Heidi Chisholm) that is most charming. It is ever-present: from the necklace around Jessica’s neck, to the cutlery holders, wallpapered bathrooms, and trays and teas for sale. The overall impression is one of elegance and minute attention to detail, elevated by a playful bonhomie that makes itself known in the cluster of birdcage-encased lights, hopscotch of hexagonal tiles on screed flooring and modern bistro chairs, designed by Haldane Martin, the genius behind the decor.
As for the service, it is exceptionally friendly, efficient and presided over by the owners who are ever-present.
The menu is easy to understand, but no less difficult to choose from. Instead of getting in a flap, opt first for a savoury galette. Made with buckwheat (and gluten-free) flour, these delightful squares come filled with delectable, and largely healthy, combinations like Gypsy ham, cheese and a sunny egg, bacon, mushrooms and roasted baby tomatoes, or (my personal favourite) the smoked salmon, cream cheese and smashed avo. The ‘Swan Specialities’ include slightly more envelope-pushing numbers like The Biquette with goat’s cheese and caramelised apple; or the ‘Out of the Blue’ with blue cheese, red wine poached pears and prosciutto.
But what of the sweet crepes? Well, they’re just as magnificent. The nostalgic cinnamon, sugar and fresh lemon is available for those who like to keep things simple, and of course, there is always nutella and banana – an eternal favourite. But the show-stoppers are where the real flavour combinations take flight. Order the Lili La Gourmande with oozing salted caramel, caramelised apple and flaked almonds, or venture over to the dark side with a combo of dark chocolate ganache, poached pears and candied walnuts. Add whipped cream or artisanal ice-cream for an extra layer of indulgence.
Swan specialises in teas, having created with their own blends with local tea experts, Nigiro. Choose from one of several different options, all very sweetly named with titles like ‘French Kiss’, ‘Christmas in July’ and ‘A Minty Affair’ and served with all the trappings. If you fall in love with with a particular blend, they’re available for purchase (in a swan-adorned tin). For something different, try the Tumeric or Beetroot lattes (almond milk is an option) is simply wrap your hands around an comforting latte or hot chocolate if you’re not full up on the sweet stuff already.
Transported to the South Bank, and wrapped up in Parisian glam, all that’s left to say is ‘Bon Appetit!’
Swan cafe is open Monday to Friday, 8am–4pm; Saturday 8am–2pm (walk-ins only).
To book, visit their website or call 079 45 44 758.
All images by Micky Hoyle
Blog post by: Tarah Darge