REVIEW: Woodlands Eatery for Sunday comfort and pizza take-aways

dsc_0001.jpg Ever get that feeling that everybody else has cottoned on to something good, yet somehow you’ve completely overlooked what’s in front of you? Woodlands Eatery is a small spot in the city-flanking suburb of Vredehoek, which makes it part of my ‘hood’. It opened in late 2010 but I only heard or read good things about it some nine months later. I’m surprised because it’s super-popular for a spot that on face value is an entrenched neighbourhood local. The food and prices are decent too.

Two visits: Sunday lunch with a booking. And last-minute pizza take-aways last night, after my dilly friend Jane got her wires crossed and cancelled our girl’s-night-out. On both occasions the place was packed to capacity – go figure in recession-ridden Cape Town. The Sunday crowd was a mix of ages and stages. Midweek dinner was full of pretty twenty and thirtysomethings with disposable income and social lives unhindered by young children. Those were the days…

A few observations: the space is divided into the ‘cool’ sun-dappled outdoor smoking section, while the oxygen seekers have to make do with the smaller indoor, darker interior. At night the indoor area is cosier. Appealing décor: mismatched tables, little prints of birds and things, a grouping of decorative lampshades, and an exposed brick bar area. The vibe is casual - families with young children sit alongside trendy couples. A good thing: owner Larry always seems to be around. dsc_0004.jpg

The food? Honest with creative interpretations of classic combinations. Some dishes work better than others but overall the impression is good. The salt-and-pepper squid with garlic aioli (R48) and deepfried minced pork wonton with a fresh Asian-inspired side salad (R45) kicked the meal off to an impressive start, except it lacked a bit of spice heat. The beer-battered hake (R75) to follow needed more seasoning and crisper roast baby potatoes however. Asian noodles (R85) with pork belly and prawns was good, detracted only by its Asian seasonings being slightly out of balance in the salty/bitter/sour/sweet department. Chocolate fondant (R38) was without fault – crispy cake round with a deliciously oozy centre, partnering quality creamy vanilla ice cream. Just right for two sharing after a filling meal. dsc_0010.jpg

We started our meal with very pleasant Darling Brew Slow Beer half draughts (R19), before opening a special bottle we’d brought (corkage R30). But Hermit on the Hill is a very affordable garagiste white and red range by glass (R19 to R24) and bottle (R75 to R95).

The pizzas favour combinations veering away from Italian purist traditions. But they have crispy thin charred bases and don’t overloadl the toppings which I like. A take-away Parma ham pizza (R85) turned out to be a tomato-less pizza bread topped after baking with quality Parma, rocket, crumbled feta and tomato slices. Pleasant enough but the balsamic drizzle was too sweet after a few bites. A three-mushroom pizza (R60) was impressive. A smear of homemade tomato paste with a dash of melted cheese and a topping of uncooked feta, and what appeared to be raw shimeji, shitake and button shrooms with rosemary sprigs. Tangy and delicious.

In short: Woodlands Eatery serves tasty and honestly prepared food, even if some of the Asian saucing isn’t quite spot on in the sweet-to-salty balance. Plenty of vegetarian options, while a limited selection of wines at everyday-drinking prices suit what the venue is trying to be.

Spend: A little under R50 for starters, around R60 to R85 for pizzas, R75 to R85 for mains and a few desserts at under R40. dsc_0005.jpg
Value: Well-priced and uncomplicated food and drinks. Inexpensive yet clever décor pitches this spot at just above a home from home.

Flavour rating: Better-than-good food and a friendly, unintimidating atmosphere.

WOODLANDS EATERY, 2 Deer Park Avenue, Vredehoek. Tel 021 801-5799. Open Tuesday to Thurs dinner, and Fri, Sat and Sunday for lunch and dinner. Take-aways too.