As one of the most thriving foodie streets in the Mother City, Kloof Street is where you will find Vadivelu, an authentically South African Indian restaurant. With a menu and hospitality offering that echoes the owners’ Tamil ancestors who arrived in South Africa as indentured labourers 150 years ago, the restaurant truly embodies South African Indian heritage in more ways than one.
Restaurant name: Vadivelu
Address: 151 Kloof Street, Gardens, Cape Town
Contact number: 021 300 5777
Opening times: Monday to Saturday 12pm to 10pm. The restaurant is closed on Sundays.
The average price of the main meal: R120
Corkage fee: R50.00 and only one bottle is allowed.
Parking situation: There is on-street parking available, although limited.
Food type: South African Indian
Staying true to their tagline of “We are not just another Indian restaurant”, Vadivelu’s menu is shorter when compared to other Indian restaurants, sticking to no-fuss dishes packed with authentic flavour from the Tamil heritage.
For starters, the menu features a range of Indian street food bites such as a cult classic pani puri, which is puff shells served with a savoury filling, topped with tamarind. Other dishes in this section include bhaji, better understood as a fritter packed with spices and vegetables. Vadivelu offers this in two options, either onion or zucchini. As a South African Indian, I opted to try the classic onion bhaji, served with a green chutney made with cilantro, mint and other spices, and in a portion of four. The bhaji was prepared to perfection with a crunchy exterior and a softer interior packed with flavour. Other classics available include a trio of samoosas – lamb, potato and chicken.
For mains, there is a wide yet tailored selection of menu options. The dedicated vegetarian section features the ultimate classic loved by not many but all South African Indians, sugar bean curry. Other dishes include dhaal, paneer tikka masala, aloo gobi, and more. As I scanned through the menu, I was struggling to decide as all the dishes seemed appealing, but in true Indian hospitality style, one of the owners of the restaurant walked past my table and asked what I would like to eat. I was conflicted between the aloo gobi, a potato and cauliflower curry, and the paneer tikka masala.
Faced with this dilemma, the owner opted to give me the best of both worlds and asked if I would like potatoes to be added to the paneer dish; I graciously accepted. It’s safe to say they are willing to go above and beyond for a customer, tweaking dishes to meet your tastes.
The paneer tikka with potatoes was a hearty and delicious dish. The potatoes were so soft even my Indian grandmother, better known by her street name as “Ma”, would definitely approve.
For diners who love fish dishes, there is a prawn curry that the restaurant heralds as its top seller. Sticking to simple and uncomplicated dishes, the menu also features urban curry with lamb or chicken, biryani in three options, chicken korma, and the like. Each main dish is served with basmati rice and sambals, a fresh spicy and crunchy side made with onions, tomatoes and chillies.
The main dishes are served in hearty portions and offered at medium to hot, catering to different spice levels.
For dessert, my eyes widened in pure joy as I saw my classic favourites, which made me feel truly at home.
One of the options for something sweet after your mains is payasam, a Southern Indian pudding that features vermicelli and earthy spices served with a poppadom, which is well known as a comforting dish. The second option is suji, a truly melt-in-your-mouth dessert experience that features semolina, butter, cardamom and cinnamon. I opted for the suji and while it may not have lived up to my biased standards of my mum’s, it was delicious. The only drawback for me was the amount of butter used, but it may be a personal preference as the rest of the dish crossed all the necessary checks for a classic gently spice-infused and delicious suji.
The dishes are fairly priced, ranging from starters at R60 to mains at R120, with the most expensive dish being priced at R210. It is important to note that the restaurant is cashless and only accepts card payments according to their menu.
The highlight of the drinks section is their unique tailored wine menu which caters to various price points of R200, R400 or R600 per bottle. There is a range of wines available, from De Grendel’s Shiraz, Krone Borealis Brut, Vondeling ‘Petit Rouge’ Merlot and a range of others. The wines in the R200 section are available at R60 per glass.
The rest of the drinks menu features sodas, cordials such as passion fruit, and other regular drinks.
The restaurant’s interior boasts a true homage to Indian culture and aesthetics, with refined design kept in mind. The walls are accented by greens, earthy browns and pinks, and feature key elements of nature, with murals painted that feature plants, animals and the like.
Providing a cosy environment, the main dining section features a fireplace, while the outdoor section has a covered roofing and exterior that can be shared when the weather turns. With iconic classic Indian songs playing in the background and an undeniable aroma of spices filling the air, patrons are bound to feel truly immersed in the overall experience.
Echoing the principles of Indian hospitality, the service is top tier, with a gentle and patient manner from the staff. The staff are attentive and well informed on the menu offerings.