Friday, February 5, 2010

Olympia Cafe - how slow can you go?


I have written about how much I like the food at Olympia Cafe in Kalk Bay. Vince is addicted to the spinach polenta, which is creamy, garlicky and delicious. We met our new friend Jane (another happy blog introduction) there for lunch. She is also a fan, as a past Kalk Bay resident.

But it's time to talk about the service. It has got to be the slowest in town.

It is very sweet and kind. When it arrives. But it might take ten minutes for anyone to approach your table once you have been seated. This is a long time. But this is Kalk Bay. Who needs to be anywhere?

And as soon as your main course arrives you suddenly find yourself back in the Bermuda triangle of table service. No one will find you. Ever. Nor will you be able to make contact with the server-beings circling you, chatting in a friendly fashion to each other.

You shoot up flares in desperation, the ceiling starts to burn. No one notices.

Worse, no one will look for you. Or wonder what happened to you. You are gone. You never happened. You could die in your leftover linguine and never be discovered. Or maybe you'll just strangle yourself with it as it stiffens on the plate.

This is when you begin to understand Slaapstad (Sleeping town: the Afrikaans pejorative for Kaapstad, Cape Town). Why is it OK for service to end when the main event has been delivered? What about coffee, dessert, a bill? What if we'd like to LEAVE?

You snag attention by sticking your foot out, and sending someone crashing to the floor under a pile of yesterday's plates that have just been cleared.

Making people wait this long isn't cute, it is incredibly sloppy.

This style of service is not limited to the Olympia Cafe, though they are the foremost proponents of the art of not being there that I know - it is a Cape Town-wide affliction, with rare exceptions, like The Food Barn.

All one's good intentions about about leaving US-sized, 20% tips dwindle as the quarter hours pass by. Tipping the customary 10% feels uncomfortable to me in South Africa, and I always leave more, but after these serial desertions I feel the tradition is justified. It's what I would pay for the worst possible service in the States. And I have never done it, Stateside.

The food is good. So are the prices. And it is in a pretty little village-like part of the city that retains a uniquely good feel.

But put. a. wiggle. in. it.


  1. Slo or no, that food looks sooo good.

  2. I agree. The food is still amazing, the buzz and clatter and grime still there, but service is definitely slipping. Sadly.

  3. hmmmm, creamy, garlicky spimach polenta. Recipe (or best guess), please.

  4. You could die in your leftover linguine and never be discovered.

    the funniest thing I heard all day. the kind of thing you might say while real mad but still be forced to smile.

  5. LOL the Bermuda Triangle of table service, that's worth a New York Times column...

  6. The food and coffee look incredible. I just wanted to point you to: Look at the post regarding the mosaic wall of expression in Richterveld, So. Africa. Is this close to where you might be while visiting? The wall looks so incredible that if you are close, I would go.

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