Olympia Cafe: One of Our Favorite Cape Town Restaurants
One of our all-time favorite restaurants can be found in the sleepy seaside suburb of Kalk Bay: Olympia Café. Max first discovered Olympia Café when he lived in Cape Town in 2013, and we have been back together many times since.
Olympia Café is located in an unassuming corner building, with lots of Victorian character, right on Main Road in the heart of Kalk Bay. Though only a 30-40 min drive from the city center, Kalk Bay is a world away. A historic fishing town, Kalk Bay feels stuck in time, and has a much more laid back and sleepy atmosphere than the rest of the city.
Upon entering the restaurant, one wouldn’t think much of the interior, but that is part of the charm. The main seating area is crowded, butting up against a deli counter and coffee bar, where numerous employees are constantly buzzing around. The inexperienced guest will enter and endlessly wait to be seated, but the trick is to write your name on an inconspicuous chalk board located above the door about 6 feet in the air. Part of the kitchen is actually in this area, so you can watch the highly skilled cooks prepare your meal. Our favorite area to sit is actually a green, outdoor covered garden area, elevated and to the right of the main entrance.
Olympia Café is oozing with character. One can often find an intellectual type person hand writing in a notebook at one of the high tops while sipping espresso. I half expect to see feather pens every time I enter. The bathrooms are rather strangely located through the kitchen (don’t be afraid, just walk back there), and a favorite memory comes from seeking out the bathroom and stumbling upon a few cooks butchering a 6-foot-long yellowfin tuna on a table next to the door. While inexperienced Americans may find the restaurant hygiene not up to their unrealistic standards, that is simply part of the charm and what we love about the place.
Olympia Café offers a breakfast, lunch, and dinner service. Between services, the restaurant takes a break, but don’t expect to get food. We were never able to quite figure out what this unposted schedule is, but just be warned that if you’re in the restaurant and being ignored, it might be during a non-service hour. You really can’t go wrong with any of the food, though it is one of our favorite breakfasts in South Africa. The stuffed croissants and French omelets are incredible. Our first love at Olympia is the Mussel dish – 1 kg of Mussels in a traditional sauce served with crusty bread. Absolutely to die for.
If there is one complaint to be had, it’s that the service really is lacking. Everyone constantly seems busy (rightfully so), and you are often forgotten about. Don’t be afraid to seek out your server in order to place your order or pay your bill. While this was initially frustrating from our American perspective, it has honestly become part of the experience.
Our favorite time to go to Olympia is in Cape Town’s winter, when the tourists are long gone, and the restaurant is packed with locals. It has a much more laid-back atmosphere, and everyone seems to know each other. Just be sure to pay a visit to Olympia Bakery around the corner on your way out for some delicious take home baked goods.