Eat Out critic Linda Scarborough visits SMAK, the newly opened deli and café on the ground floor of the Bowman Gilfillan building on Bree Street, a location that has seen many tenants come and go in the past few years.
Average meal: R80
Serves: coffee, build-your-own sandwiches, rich breakfast and lunches.
Best for: business meetings and workday lunches when you have some time and moolah to burn.
Parking: you can usually find a spot this side of Bree, but bays are carefully monitored by the city’s uniformed attendants, who charge per hour.
Star ratings: food 4, service 2, ambience 4.
The breakfast menu is brief but impressive, offering gourmet granola with beurre noisette and maple syrup emulsion; a great-sounding beans-on-toast option with avo and chorizo; fancy scrambled eggs on toast with caramelised onions and parmesan; seared salmon with poached egg and prosciutto (a little steep start to the day at R105); and Mexican-style baked eggs with rump steak.
If you’re stopping by after 11.30 and before 3.30pm, you have about seven choices on the menu for lunch. It’s pretty serious stuff, as evidenced by the chefs in whites bustling around the open kitchen in the back. Ordinary city-bowl fare available elsewhere like chicken wraps and salads makes way here for fresh handmade pasta with pesto, greens and parmesan (R75) and chalmar rump with dry-roasted beetroot and cauliflower purée (R120).
The mussel bowl (R88) may seem like a petite portion, but with flavour this big, you don’t need much more. The creamy broth is packed with chopped coriander and parsley, with the smoky notes of bacon coming through the warmth of chilli. It’s a hit for a light lunch, and you’ll want to slurp the sauce from every last shell.
For something a little more affordable and filling any time of the day, try the classic croque monsieur (R38) playfully dubbed ‘the heart stopper’, or you can build your own sandwich from the selection of local and imported cheese, charcuterie and pickles (price by weight).
We also hear that the bacon butty (R38) is pure indulgence, with thick-cut smoky bacon on a homemade bun with lashings of salty butter. Bakes like mini banana loaf and carrot cake make a nice accompaniment to a takeaway coffee.
Beans are from Uber, and there are some speciality hot drinks like bulletproof coffee and red and chai lattes. Cold options include imported San Pellegrino fizzy fruit beverages and water, plus the usual soft drinks. They don’t have a liquor licence, but you’re welcome to bring your own if you’re staying for a leisurely lunch.
It’s too early to comment fairly, but we’re sure the team will get the hang of things soon enough. There is a large staff complement, so you won’t be short of attention.
They have very smartly done up the space, with pale wooden counter seating, an island of tall, dark shelves filled with deli items and sweets, and a long counter alongside the till. Depending on where you sit, you can watch the kitchen or roadside activities.
SMAK offers the best of both worlds – a bustling sidewalk-café kind of feeling with protection from the elements.
Eat Out critics dine anonymously and pay for their meals in full. Read our editorial policy here.