Hout Bay locals are familiar with Spiro’s and Ragafellows restaurants, operated by Spiro Ragavelas, his brother, and Spiro’s wife Julie. Riverway Café is Julie Ragavelas’ personal venture, with feminine décor showing in vintage plates decorating walls, old-fashioned cabinets and scarves draped over wrought-iron chairs.
The café’s location is one of its best assets, outside a shopping centre on the Baviaanskloof River embankment planted with greenery. Glass walls and a terrace let in spirit-lifting sunlight.
The menu offers all sorts: breakfasts, substantial salads and even high tea. But I found it lacking in starter-type dishes for nibbling on during a lazy lunch. Pulled pork jalapeno bacon poppers didn’t entice. Mushroom and Brie soup did, but wasn’t very shareable.
We settled on a salt and pepper squid main dish between two. Calamari rings and tentacles, plus tempura vegetables, were tasty but oily, suggesting a kitchen not understanding batter-friendly temperatures. A vinegar overdose made the accompanying Asian dipping sauce inedible.
There were no complaints from the child at our table, who was delighted to have a spice-free squid half portion, after a request to the management. But then children enjoy most things arriving with fries and tomato sauce, and Viennas were the only protein alternative on the children’s menu.
For adults, a grilled citrus tuna steak was topped with sliced avocado, on wilted spinach. Its soy and coriander leaf fish marinade was garlicky, but made for a tasty combination with sweet, zesty lemon curd.
Baked cheesecake and chocolate cake from the display were homemade and sweet; coffees perkily strong. But the dish we’ll remember was the bunny chow. This was Durban street food lifted to café-style glamour: a soft loaf replaced government issue bread, whole spices infusing a chicken and potato curry inside to just beyond Cape Malay heat.
What to eat Soup options change from time to time. The rest is usually on the printed menu.
When to go glass-walled, it offers cheerful daytime terrace tables and winter sun well into the afternoon.
Who to take family for all-day breakfast or lunch; girlfriends and aunts for tea and scones.
What not to do expect waitstaff with menu knowledge.
What to drink Bring your wine corkage-free while they wait for a liquor licence.
Whatever you do don’t ignore this if you’re worn out by soulless shopping centre eateries.
Breakfasts average at R55 to R75; kids’ lunches R25 to R45; adult mains R65 to R95; salads R65 and cakes R35.
The verdict honest but not exceptional food.
THE RIVERWAY CAFE, Midpoint Centre, Mainstream Way, Hout Bay. 021-791-0565. Open weekdays 8am to 5pm, Sat 8am to 4pm; Sun 9am to 3pm.
A version of this appeared in The Times on 27 May 2015.