Sea Point is fairly overflowing with places to eat. With everything from budget sushi and somewhat dingy-looking pubs to fine-dining and classier bistros, there’s a pretty wide offering. Nevertheless, when Engruna opened in October 2013, it caused a little frisson in the seaside suburb. Sister restaurant to La Boheme and La Bruixia (and located right next door), Engruna came from good enough culinary breeding to bring Sea Point locals flocking to try out the more casual burger and pizza menu. Now that the dust has settled, Katharine Jacobs puts the youngest sibling through its paces.
You may have difficulty deciding what to order. The menu is packed with winning-sounding dishes like a honey-and-soy-glazed pulled-pork burger with homemade tomato chutney, and a pizza topped with slow-braised lamb shank, mange tout, fresh basil, poached pears and a roasted garlic crème fraîche. Even the vegan burger with a lentil and kidney bean patty, avo and homemade relish sounds appealing. There are gluten-free rolls for the wheat-fearing, too.
At nearby tables, paper-thin rectangular pizzas are delivered as we order a smorgasbord of dishes in an attempt to try everything. Jalapeño poppers with a yoghurt dip and the honey-and-soy-glazed pork ribs are zingy and tasty. Then comes a pizza topped with Asian smoked pork ribs, red onions, spring onions, mint and fresh corn; a lamb burger; the famous tiramisu; and a chocolate brownie. We also order the truffle-parmesan chips for the sake of being inclusive.
To be honest, the fare is good, but not great. I’m ever so slightly disappointed by some of the dishes. The truffle-parmesan chips are undercooked: they still have that milky potato taste that comes from insufficient frying. The lamb burger with tzatziki, humus, salsa, feta, grilled onion and mint jus is swamped in sauces and toppings without being big on flavour, while the pizza – despite the fragrant promise of its toppings – is a little thin on top and pretty dry. I fail to finish the tiramisu (I’m not sure the taste outweighs the calories, which is my personal measure of a pudding’s worth) and the chocolate brownie, while a decent rendition, doesn’t knock our socks off.
There’s a well-compiled blackboard wine list with plenty of affordable but smart options (think Warwick First Lady, Kaapse Vonkel and Pecan Stream), with all but a couple available by the glass. The rustic fare also lends itself to craft beer, of which there’s a pretty good range, with Devil’s Peak, Darling, Jack Black and a CBC amber weiss available on tap.
This is one area that certainly shines. Small, intimate tables, the warm glow of candles in low lighting, and a steady buzz of patrons pouring wine, sharing pizza and laughter… Engruna has atmosphere in spades. Tables on the deck facing the busy Sea Point Main Road are hot property on balmy evenings.
Waiters are friendly and extremely helpful. Bookings are a good idea, but walk-ins are also accommodated (the fairly swift service means you’re likely to get a table in the near future).
This is not the best pizza in Cape Town. In fact, it probably doesn’t make my top five. This is partly an indication of the high standard of neighbourhood restaurants in Cape Town: we have some absolutely superb little bistros and burger joints. But at Engruna I’m slightly let down by the execution of the very promising menu. It just feels like some excellent ideas are being badly prepared. (Although it’s quite possible I visited on an off-night).
That said, I’ll probably still be back. There are very few places in Cape Town that can nail this kind of relaxed buzz, and when eating out with friends, the right vibe can be even more important than stand-out food.
Engruna means ‘crumb’ in Catalan.