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Den Anker Bar & Restaurant

Den Anker Bar & Restaurant
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Cost
R85 - R145
Ambience
Comfy & casual
Food
Bistro fare, French
Payment
Mastercard, Visa
500

Critic's review

Tudor Caradoc-Davies

Food
One of the old ladies of the V&A Waterfront, Den Anker has been around while many other fly-by-night joints have flared and closed down. With a new buzz to the place, there’s plenty of life in the old girl yet. Based on a Belgian bistro-style restaurant, Den Anker with its central boat-bar counter is one of those unusual spots that seems to be perfect for lunches and dinners in weather both fair and foul. An interesting mix of visiting sailors (always identifiable by the weathered mugs and ocean-going jackets), tourists and locals alike, they are all drawn to the hearty yet slightly chic pub fare of Belgium that Den Anker excels at.

Expect to find steak and frites, moules (mussels), the odd venison dish and a decent spread of seafood. The Os a Moelle (bone marrow), was probably the only dish sampled that lacked something, needing acidity in the form of a salsa verde or something similar to cut the richness of the offal. The Soup de Poisson Normande served with a rouille, grated cheese and croutons was an excellent, powerful broth loaded with fishy flavours both nuanced and blunt; perfect for a wet winter’s night on the water’s edge. The steak tartare you can choose to mix yourself or trust in the chef. In this case, the chef nailed the blend perfectly. A similar riff on the tartare is the Toast Cannibale, a starter portion of the seasoned beef that comes on toast.

Carnivores are faced with a fair amount of decision-making. Probably the best deal on the menu is the Wagyu burger special (R155), which comes with a Vedet beer. The burger – rich and fatty in all the right ways – also hit the spot. The Moules Marinière was a 1kg bowl of perfectly steamed mussels done the Belgian way in wine and herbs.

Desserts cover Frenchified favourites like chocolate mousse and crème brûlée. The Crepes Flambee Den Anker set alight at the table provides an excellent sweet point to finish off the meal. Keep an eye out for the #LCHF after certain menu items, designating which meals fall into the paleo/banting/Noakes lifestyle. Den Anker would clearly you drink your carbs in the form of beer.

Drinks
One of the biggest drawcards here is their extensive beer menu. Their sister company is The Belgian Beer Company, which explains the fantastic array of beers available, form Maredsous to Liefmans and Trappist beers. A favourite is the Duvel Triple Hop, a limited run Duvel made with three hops varieties, with a new guest hop each release. It’s a powerful beer with a citrus punch. The clear, saison-style Vedet which partners the Wagyu burger special was strong enough to hold its own against the richness of the rich, fatty beef. Order a Kwak, which comes in a special (and expensive) bowl-shaped glass and you’ll have to hand over your left shoe as a deposit until they get the glass back. Non-beer fans are not neglected in the slightest. The wine selection is equally extensive and well matched to the rich bistro fare.

Service
Excellent, perhaps partly due to the regular stream of international visitors. You are greeted at the door by the maître d', and looked after by waiters who give just the right amount of attention, and immediate service.

Ambience
Den Anker straddles an interesting part of Cape Town culinary history. If you took the adjacent swing bridge across the cut you’d be at the legendary sight of Bertie’s Landing (alas, no more), one of the landmark venues of the late 80s/early 90s. If that Bertie’s vibe lives on at the V&A, it lives on at Den Anker, albeit with a classier menu and more refined offering. On sunny days you can sit outside and pretend you’re Leonardo di Caprio in Blood Diamond (the Cape Town scene was shot there) while sipping a beer with Table Mountain and the harbour for backdrops. Inside, the bar with its upturned boat adds just enough of a buzz to the rest of the restaurant without getting so busy that you have to deal with renditions of “What shall we do with the drunken sailor?”

And…
Of late, the couple who run Den Anker and The Belgian Beer Company, Rejeanne (marketing) and Doekie Vlietman (the chef) seem to have reinvigorated the place. There’s a buzz to it, perhaps due in part to renewed interest in the craft beer scene, the availability of quality Belgian beers at Den Anker or online, or the jazzed up menu with its range of classic Belgian bistro fare as well as the more faddish trend of paleo offerings. Whatever the case, Den Anker is a great place to drop anchor for the evening.

(July 2014)

  • Ambience
  • Service
  • Food
  • A cosy spot that prides itself on its Belgian heritage. Standout dishes: beef fillet done Chateaubriand style, served with vegetables and ‘grandmother’s’ sauce; and rabbit simmered in Belgian beer, served with potato croquettes.
  • Food
    Being proudly Belgian, no mussel (when they can get them) is safe here, with preparation being done in beer. However, the steak tartare is one of the best in the city, as is the fish soup with rouille. For mains try the Carbonades Flamandes, beef braised in Trappist beer, served with chips (what else?). Or the duck breast with plum and ginger infusion. Finish with crêpes flambèes.

    Wine
    A prize-winning list with great Cape wines, and Belgian beer.

    Service
    Smooth and friendly.

    Ambience
    Cosy, with comfortable wooden touches everywhere, at its best in winter or when the wind is blowing but great all year round.

    And...
    Here you can find out why Belgian beer and chocolate are world famous. (GL, September 2010)

User reviews

  • When we dined here 9 years ago, we vowed we wouldn't come back but last week we somehow landed back there and what do you know? Another bad dining experience. On arrival we saw the manager returning food to the kitchen and that should have made us leave. I ordered the kingklip and as I usually do, I asked the waiter if the fish was fresh. Am affirmative reply 'we get fresh fish in daily' he said. Two pieces of kingklip were served to me and the first one was so old and fishy, the second piece even worse. The manager came and immediately replaced my order. When I said I would have the risotto,,meh persuaded me to rather try another piece of kingklip. ( perhaps the risotto was not good either.?) Another piece of kingklip arrived , better and fresher, but not amazing. Funnily enough, the couple behind us from Perth, who had just stepped off The Queen Mary sent both their main dishes back too and since we had something in common, we spoke about the poor food this restaurant serves. They, as we were, were offered dessert on the house, but if the manager was truly apologetic for serving stale and old food, he should have waived the bill, or at least the dish. Too many South Africans accept below standard fare. Den Anker happens to be in a good location but the food and customer care is disgraceful. We will certainly never return there.
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  • Another good lunch here, the menu may not change that often, but the service was excellent, the food good, the location in the V&A is splendid, and you don't have to be a beer drinker (let alone Belgian beers), to enjoy the bar, indoor and outdoor seating and the view. Good wines by the glass (reasonably priced), welcomed on arrival and Odette who served us was absolutely 'spot-on'. Often taken for granted, this remains one of the better V&A options.
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  • Lunch on 06/04 was extremely poor. The waitress was totally absent minded, we waited for 12-15 minutes to get a bubbles refill. The Kingklip was average, the Duck was cold and raw. The Choc mouse was good and the Irish also good. Won't see me again. At R1k for 3 without starters and 1 btle avg bubbles 2 deserts a rip-off. manager tried his best but not a good experience at all.
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  • Den Anker restaurant at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town - what a joke! This restaurant really disappointed me! Order the prince prawns and get them veined? This means you larger than usual prawn with the vein full of excrement still in it! Manager apologises by saying that they don't usually de-vein medium prawns. I don't even serve prawns like that at home. On top of that the wine choice is limited and over the top expensive - keeping in mind that this place is owned by the Jordan wine farm. They don't even have a view of the harbour to make up for their poor service - which was not even acknowledged by the manager after we waited several hours for our food to finally arrive... and no baby changing facilities - which just put the cherry on the top for me. Dedfinitely not recommended by me - try it if you want to waste time, money and a beautiful day at the waterfront!

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  • I am not really a big fan of the V&A Waterfront. One of the reasons is that I don’t really like the restaurants there. Besides it gives me the impression of a fake city, like Disneyland for gay sailors. Some parts are really pretty, especially near the water, but the architecture itself is rather “toy block”.

    Last week Friday, Myles and I spontaneously decided to have a bite and watch a movie. He was raving about Willoughby’s and this is where we met. No way, I wasn’t in the mood for sophisticated Sushi at an overcrowded place, noisy inside a mall. Willoughby is a place where I would much rather go to on my own, especially during peak hours. Besides it’s indoors. What a waste when it is beautiful and sunny outside.

    We went for a walk and ended up at “Den Anker” attracted by the beautiful window-front, the view and Belgian cuisine. We didn’t get to see a movie, the food was too good and invited us to linger around for longer.
    Myles had “Fromage de chèvre chaud wrapped in bacon, served on toast” for starter – delightfully presented with a beautiful combination of flavours. Very pleasant, small but potent and convincing.
    I decided to go for “Croquettes Crevettes Grises” for starters. Unbelievably tasteful, homemade Croquettes with North Sea Shrimps. Sounds ordinary – I admit I was even a bit skeptical initially but I absolutely love Croquettes and had tried something very similar at the Fashion Market recently and was convinced. Nonetheless, I ordered them and was very happy. A lovely, soft texture, very aromatic and unimposing.

    Myles orders ”Kingklip Itallienne, panfried on a bed of Angel hair pasta and served with a light summary sauce of olive oil, lemon juice, tomato, basil, diced apple and toasted pine” for main. Failed. We gave it back – unfortunately it was blunt and didn’t live up to its promises at all. Such a pity. We can’t quite understand how it survived on the menu for such a long time. Second try. Myles reordered “Lapin à la flamande, simmered in Belgian beer, served with potato croquettes”. Shot! Although the rabbit was a bit dry, the flavours were good – rich, spiked with chunks of pear and Cape Malay spices.

    And me? A dream of “Moules Marinière” exquisitely prepared in Belgian beer, served in a cute, black pot – I have been disappointed when ordering mussels in South Africa many times. Somehow the aroma always seems to be missing. Not this time, I finally found a place that serves perfectly prepared mussels! Well done!
    I enjoyed the waiter – not pushy or loud, just gentle, friendly and discreet, with a honest smile and a deal of patience. He didn’t ask any questions when we gave him the Kingklip back, he stayed professional - a pretty cool waiter!

    “Den Anker” has a lot to offer, delightful food and a restaurant with different sections, each section has a different atmosphere. A lounge feeling in the front invites to have drinks and socialize, an elegant dining area and a romantic, intimate part at the back, perfect for candle-lit dinners.

    I haven’t had “Belgian Waffles” in ages, I mean really, who orders Belgian Waffles nowadays? The old saying “When in Rome..” finally proved itself to me. Lovely.

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Specials

Winter Specials at Den Anker

Den Anker is cooking up the popular moules-frites: 1kg of mussels with fries for R110. Or dine on Trappist Tuesdays when you can enjoy a cheese platter for every Trappist beer you order. On Wednesdays it’s Ladies’ Night, when women can get a free Liefmans beer with their main course. Stop by for beer tasting on Thursdays for R60 and on Fridays enjoy a Wagyu burger and fries with an Anker Brew for R120. Order any three tapas on Saturdays for R130. Also pop in for lunch Mondays to Sundays for a hearty meal (such as pork belly with caramelised apple and spinach mash in June, lamb shank in July and coq au vin in August) with an Anker Brew for R90.

Facilities

  • Accepts credit cards
  • Booking required
  • Child friendly
  • Dinner
  • Fireplace
  • Food
  • Functions
  • Licensed
  • Lunch
  • Parking
  • Serves food
  • Wheelchair
  • WiFi

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