It is going to make a nice change for Capetonians; this craving to be in The Mess, rather than desperately trying to find a way out of it. Because this quirkily named, newly-opened bar and restaurant is everything locals and visitors could possibly wish for.
The name references the 15th century when a group of people who ate together was known as a ‘mess’ and brings to mind the military and naval tradition of referring to the dining hall where soldiers and sailors ate as ‘the mess’. The mess, historically, was a communal dining space; a home away from home- a place of companionship and camaraderie. The word ‘mess’ also has its roots in the old French word mes, meaning a portion of food. And the word ‘mess’ brings to mind the word ‘messy’ which the best food often is.
Food is something that The Mess in Green Point takes very seriously; while the casual sharing of dishes and the eating with your hands may be encouraged, there is nothing careless about their approach to food. While the concept may be one of informal, unfussy eating, The Mess still offers a sophisticated night out with the sharing plates of globally-inspired dishes all packing flavour punches comparable to some of the finest dining establishments in the city. The difference being that the food at The Mess is the sort of food you want to, and can eat several times a week because The Mess is the kind of place that feels like home. Only with better food.
And this is exactly what owner and restaurateur Carlene de Gouveia wanted when she first dreamed of what this restaurant in Green Point, conveniently situated a mere 5 minutes away from both the Cape Town city centre and the sea, could be. She envisioned The Mess being the social hub of food-and-wine-loving city residents who want a place to hang out, see their friends, meet for dates, celebrate, have fun family suppers and enjoy really good food in beautiful surroundings.
The Mess is the restaurant Carlene always dreamed of, casually elegant and serving the food she likes to eat from the places she loves. Carlene is a perfectionist, a gourmand and a food technologist who has spent a substantial amount of time in the food and wine industry. She knew what she wanted and had a very strong feeling of the communal casual dining that she wished her restaurant to be known for.
Chef Luke Wonnacott of Lukefoodalways consultancy was the one she turned to make culinary magic. Luke understood exactly what Carlene wanted and was able to work alongside her to create an eclectic menu that focused on shared plates of good quality ingredients. Both Luke and Carlene believe that food should be beautiful as well as delicious and that flavours must be celebrated. The menu, while varied, is actually quite small so that diners can be assured that each dish is expertly prepared using only the freshest, finest ingredients.
At The Mess there is no strict adherence to any one style of cuisine instead the dishes take their inspiration from all corners of the world. Generously-sized sharing plates such as yoghurt and thyme flatbreads with mezze of French confit duck rillette and pickled beetroot, white bean and tahini pate with pine nut and mint vinaigrette inspired by visits to Turkey and pickled goats’ cheese with Moroccan nut dukkha set the scene for the tempting global flavours on offer.
A plate of Asian Beef Tataki with ponzu dressing is effortlessly complemented by a serving of lime-infused tuna ceviche with a coriander and spring onion salad or a Mexican spicy squid taco with smoky mayo or pork belly taco with smoked apple and charred corn slaw. Italian Aubergine Melanzane with grilled aubergine, fior de latte, tomato ragout, pine nut and parmesan crumble is as tempting as the fall-off-the-bone American Southern staple of pork loin ribs which are, of course, meant to be eaten by hand.
Those not enamoured with the idea of sharing food will be glad to know that there are main plates on offer as well. Confit crackling pork belly, braised red cabbage, smoked apple, and fennel jus or a Cape Malay vegetable curry with smoked apricot couscous, flatbreads and tomato chilli jam all shout ‘mine-mine-mine!’ as does Angus ribeye or beef fillet with sides of charred broccoli and dukkha, thick cut fries and truffle mayo.
Desserts are equally well considered; for the purists there is a traditional crème brulee, chocolate addicts will delight in the dark chocolate lava cake which is served with white chocolate and lime ice cream and roasted hazelnuts and few will be able to resist the Fromage Blanc Eton Mess – a fromage blanc and vanilla panna cotta with meringue shards, naartjie sorbet and seasonal berries. Not in the mood for a full desert? Then how about a sharing plate of delicious Cannoli to go with your coffee?
But what is food without wine? Or beer. Or cocktails such as Frozen Mojitos or Pink Grapefruit Flavoured Gin & Tonics? Accompanying the carefully considered menu is a small well-selected wine list of Carlene’s favourite wines. It is a list that will change and be updated according to the seasons or Carlene’s moods and preferences. Her insider knowledge means that diners will be delighted by the occasional blackboard offer of a special wine that Carlene feels needs to be shared with the world.
The bar is spacious and elegant and the outside area is protected and prettily lit up with fairy lights. Of course there is no guarantee that you won’t be tempted to stay for dinner as well. But that’s ok. Call some more friends. Stay for dinner. Feel at home. Because here you’re in The Mess. And that’s a good thing.
The Mess, Restaurant & Bar is situated at Shop 110 - The Rockwell, Napier Street, Green Point. Open Monday to Saturday from 18h00 till late. The kitchen closes at 22h00. For dinner reservations please call 021 418 3910 or book online at http://themess.co.za