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.
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.
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.
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?”
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.
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!
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.
Went a few weeks back with some friends. After being told about the specials, some of which were ordered, we were then informed of their unavailability. We then re-ordered, each of our meals was awful, the line fish inedible. Hoping to fill the gap I ordered a dessert which I couldn't finish it was so sweet. A completely dissatisfying meal and overpriced is an understatement. We gave the waiter over 10% tip, a gift really for such terrible service, and he proceeded to be pull a grumpy face until we left.
Den Anker has officially become a tourist trap.
Very disappointing. Den Anker had been recommended, but from start to finish it was a bad experience. The butter came in tin foil packets, special of the evening was fillet steak on the bone which I ordered medium rare. It came well done. The manager spent all his time cutting bread for apertifs or making espressos rather than checking on his customer experience. Bar staff were having a meal behind the counter. For the prime position that they have I am sure many are let down by the experience. Won't be going back there.
Winter Specials at Den Anker