This venture from William Sharp, who had until recently run the Chef’s Recruit hospitality industry placement agency, is a brave and strong signal in Cape Town’s culinary scene. Brave because it is situated in Simonstown, and strong because the dishes make the trip worthwhile.
The menu is divided into four sections: starters, light meals, main courses and desserts. And there are gems in each one.
Chef William Sharp’s ingredients are fresh and well prepared, but it’s the small creative gestures and innovative flourishes that elevate Mangata’s offering above your standard restaurant fare. Sharp has clearly given a lot of thought to the sauces that go with each dish, and has a knack for conjuring bright and evocative flavours that really lift the dishes.
The ostrich carpaccio, for example, comes with a horseradish snow and Bloody Mary jelly that complements the meat exceptionally well. The pork neck bonbons are served with a deep, smoky tomato purée that makes for a memorable hors d’oeuvre (especially if it’s washed down with a punchy pinotage). Another good light option is the calamari, which is served with a burst of citrusy pineapple salsa and plenty of fresh greens; perfect for a summer evening.
Fans of duck will not be disappointed with this main course, which is served medium rare and combines well with pickled shimeji mushrooms and potato croquette. And I can highly recommend ordering the marrow bone with the beef fillet – it will have you mopping up that rich goodness with the potato fondant and craving more.
The chef’s creativity comes through strongly in the dessert section. Sure there are the standard ice-cream/sorbet trios and the crème brulee, but there’s also an orange-scented brownie in toffee sauce and the signature Mangata Vanilla & Cardamom option with saffron-poached pear and Amaretti crumble. We can’t resist the yoghurt panna cotta with mixed berries and strawberry mousse. And neither should you.
We delve deep into the wine list, beginning with our own wine, for which we pay R40 corkage fee, continuing into a triumphant ending with a Splattered Toad that lives up to its funky name. There is also a selection of craft beers available. This is one of the few restaurants at which you can enjoy a red or white throughout the evening, depending on your preference, and the menu caters generously for both.
Finding excellent service staff can be a big challenge in a place as far flung as Simonstown. Would the restaurant err on the side of stiffness? Too much formality often belies an insecurity in the kitchen, while too little can be slightly annoying. But Mangata’s staff achieve an excellent balance between confidence and warmth. There’s a natural rapport between the waiters and front of house, which is always a good sign, and the waitrons’ station is a prominent feature in the restaurant, which means that you can summon help easily. We are impressed.
Mangata is a Norweigian word for the reflection of the moon on the water, and from the restaurant’s balcony you can see the lights of Kalk Bay shimmering on the bay. By the time we arrive at the restaurant it’s already dark, but the balcony must be a great place for a sundowner – and a light meal.
Inside, the large, open space needs some filling to build up an atmosphere. With only three or four tables occupied on the night, the ambience is ever so slightly subdued. We enjoy our meal, but by 10pm the restaurant has already emptied and we get the sense that the staff want to go home. Maybe that’s just a Simonstown thing.
Mushroom fans absolutely have to try the wild-mushroom bruschetta as a starter option – it is heavenly.
Eat Out critics dine anonymously and pay for their meals in full. Read our editorial policy here.