The Fat Zebra’s premises may not be as large as the name suggests, the diminutive black-and-white striped café on buzzing 7th Street certainly caters for a vast variety of tastes. The menu offers everything from traditional American, Italian and Indian, to Austrian, proudly South African, vegetarian, and even banting-friendly dishes.
I’m a breakfast person, so I headed to the The Fat Zebra at 8:30am (an hour after they opened) thinking I would miss the morning breakfast rush. But I became increasingly worried as I climbed the steps into the eatery, noticing that the inside was as full as the outside, and the small café didn’t seem to have many tables. Thankfully it didn’t take more than five seconds before a waitron spotted me looking lost and offered to seat me at a long table occupied by a single patron inside or at a little table outside which I had overlooked. I opted for the latter.
I was disappointed that the café didn’t offer Wi-Fi so I could check e-mails while waiting for my skinny cappuccino (R20), but I was grateful that sitting outside gave me a chance to people-watch. The warm, welcoming café is so small that even patrons seated outside can view the goings-on in the kitchen. This setup also makes for great service as waitrons never really disappear from sight. My orders were certainly delivered promptly.
I was intrigued not only by the wide of range of dishes, but also by some of the unusual names of the menu items – from Kev’s Tiger Oats – Raaarr! (R40 or R55 for a honey, fruit and almonds option) to Eggs ‘Ben-addicted’ (various experiments with eggs benedict ranging from R45 to R65).
I ordered salmon and creamed eggs on rye bread, a surprisingly reasonably priced meal (R80) considering salmon is one of the more expensive dishes on the breakfast menu. The meal was a pleasant and well-balanced combination of flavours with the balsamic sauce drizzled on the plate enhancing the taste of the salmon.
For lunch grazers, there is an assortment of salads, tapas, chicken dishes and rolls, which all sound mouth-watering and consistent with what you’d expect on a café menu with a little taste of the melting pot of South African culinary influences. Think pizzas, pastas, boerie rolls, burgers and samosas.
I’m likely to go back to graze at the homey café for supper, specifically on their Norwegian salmon seared in their wood fire oven.
Despite the variety, when it comes to the contents, the café’s offerings are pretty standard and tend to stick to the recipe – whatever the cuisine. The Fat Zebra is not attempting to start a culinary revolution, which is perfectly okay with me and the bevy of regular customers, who seem to make up a significant portion of patrons, judging by the manager’s interactions with them. There’s a place and time for everything. And when it comes to cafés, different can be dangerous when most customers simply expect good, honest, familiar food at fair prices and with friendly and prompt service. The Fat Zebra offers all these, plus the bonus of variety.
The little building with black-and-white striped exterior is certainly making its mark on 7th Street, giving patrons more options than they would expect for less than they’re used to paying in Joburg.