REVIEW: Burger-free Clarke’s in Bree Street

dsc_002.jpg Here is my dilemma. It feels like you’re shortchanging a new restaurant if you’re trying to review them on their reputation for producing a great burger, and you weren’t successful. But then we felt more than a little shortchanged on arrival at Clarke’s in Bree Street at 1.45pm for a quick midweek lunch. Only to be told when menus were handed out that the cheeseburgers were all sold out (as was the Caesar salad).

Clarke’s serves other food but offers only one burger (a vegetarian version doesn’t count), the free-range cheeseburger they’ve developed a reputation for. It’s a lot like going to a pizzeria and discovering they’ve run out of dough.

This is a CBD eatery that doesn’t take bookings, is open on Wednesday (the day of our visit) through Friday from 7am “til late”. You would assume that even with a busy lunch crowd, staff would be expecting some customers in the afternoon? They have an interesting menu and good intentions, yet reports I’ve read suggest that Clarke’s has a history of running out of ingredients since opening in December 2011.

In their favour, having no burgers forced us to try two other good items on the menu. The Reuben was a standout sandwich. Soft free-range beef brisket from Bill Riley Meats, unusually but extremely tastily partnered with braised red cabbage, blue cheese dressing and emmental between toasted slices of 66% gourmet rye.

dsc_002.jpg The Pulled Pork Sub delivered subtle slow-cooked pork shoulder flavours, delicious with sauteed Swiss chard and provolone cheese. Pickled cucumber and red onion was on the side. Both sandwiches were R50.

Two friends both had the Cobb salad, a mix of choped iceberg, chicken, boiled eggs, fried bacon, blue cheese and tomato. At R40 apiece, presentable and tasty but on the small side, and not special.

The deal at Clarke’s is about supporting all the artisan suppliers. The food is supposed to taste better, and I’d say, largely does. Bill Riley provides the free-range beef for the burger patties, there are buns from Worcester, ice cream scoops from The Creamery, and so on.

The space is light and airy in that clever-on-a-shoestring-budget way, and it seats more people than you’d think. It’s comfortable without being pretentious, and bar chairs suit single diners at the central counter where tapping into wifi happens at the price of a R16 flat white (Deluxe coffee). A bugbear is the inconsistent service. It would be nice to see better communication between staff in the kitchen and on the floor - for our group of four, only two glasses of water were brought on arrival. Two salads arrived a good twenty minutes before the two sandwiches ordered at the same time. Ahem.

Nevertheless, we will return for the burgers, only to see if they live up to the hype.

CLARKE’S 133 Bree Street, Cape Town CBD. Tel 021 424 7648 Clarke’s