Diane de Beer
There are those who would start with the tummy-warming anchovy toast and end with the chocolate brownies that drift into soft-landing memories. That’s what Rachel Botes and her specific food sensibilities do to you. She plays with texture, tradition, freshness and quality to create dishes that bring both a smile and satisfaction to a dining experience. She challenges herself and constantly changes the feasts on her brightly coloured plates.
On the regular menu, sample the three-cheese tart, handmade and topped with a green bean salad and a date and orange dressing; or the Persian salad with pan-fried chicken served on rocket and salad greens with a salsa of artichokes, olives, piquanté peppers and pecan nuts topped with parsley, mint, cream cheese and a lemon-yoghurt dressing. These should inform you about the exciting flavour explosions abundant on the menu.
For special occasions or private meetings, don’t forget about her special table in the deli right next door, where orders are placed for delicious dishes and then collected. It is a space that invites you to party or have long and lingering meals around that special table.
Finally they have a liquor licence, which allows Carlton Café to have special evening food and wine-pairing events. On the daily wine list, the emphasis is on quality yet inexpensive wines but you’ll also discover some collectible finds. The sourcing is fantastic.
This is a warm bunch with friendly smiles and quick service. They can be run off their feet, but they’re always on alert, with many eyes on the lookout for problems.
One of a kind, Carlton Café has a street café vibrancy with passers-by and constant traffic as people pop in for a comforting lunch or a quick coffee. From sweet-smelling roses to the best baked goodies of all-time, it can all be sampled on the spot or taken home to extend the feeling of goodness.
Even in this busy street, parking is always available. It feels like home away from home.
Eat Out critics dine unannounced and pay for their meals in full. Read our full editorial policy here.
Carlton Café has been a much-loved establishment in Pretoria for many years and it’s easy to see why. Chef-owner Rachel Botes clearly loves being creative with food and the menu at this beautiful eatery is proof of that. They have a few favourites that have been on the menu since the very beginning, as well as menu items that their regular patrons keep asking for. Amongst these is Chef Conny’s southern fried chicken: chicken breast strips are rolled in the chef’s mix of herbs and spices before being fried and served with baby potato salad and a creamy yoghurt and mustard dipping sauce.
Other favourites are their putu pap and biltong breakfast – which is simple, but so absolutely South African and a house specialty. The pap is topped with mascarpone cheese and fried beef biltong – hearty, rib-sticking stuff. For something lighter, try one of their salads (the Persian chicken salad with artichokes, olives and lemon-yoghurt dressing is a winner) or the Marmite tart. This old-fashioned Marmite tart is topped with a soft-poached egg, caramelised onions, served with a parmesan crisp. While marmite tart is absolutely delicious the Parmesan crisp is a little tough, not the crisp, thin wafer you would expect.
For something sweet, their white chocolate blondie is a favourite amongst the locals and is stuffed with macadamia nuts and comes served with their own vanilla bean ice cream.
Carlton Café is not licensed to sell alcohol. However, you won't even notice when you try one of their innovative drinks. If you’re after something refreshing, their Anglo-Turkish iced tea with rose water and citrus will go down a treat and the granadilla lemonade is perfect on a hot summer's day. For something warmer, try their “Taai Koffie”, which is coffee with a layer of condensed milk at the bottom of the glass, or their decadent, thick hot chocolate with chilli.
The staff are very well-trained and their service is friendly and efficient. There is always someone on hand when you need something but they don’t hover and give you space to peruse the menu at your own time.
Relaxed, modern and unpretentious. The rows of cookbooks and friendly faces of the staff will leave you feeling relaxed and ready to dig into chef/owner Rachel’s unique and creative dishes.
Try some of their take-away meals or make use of their excellent catering services for your next function.
Eat Out reviewers dine anonymously and pay for their meals in full. Click here to read our editorial policy.