As someone who has worked in numerous locations in Cape Town for nearly two decades, I can personally attest to how difficult it is to find an eatery that agrees with one that is also (relatively) affordable. If the following descriptors – “unpretentious”; “comfort food”; “artisanal”; “homely”; “intimate”; “relaxing” – tick the boxes of what you value in a daily eatery, then I’ve found your new lunch spot. It’s called Café Zör, and it can be found at 160 Buitengracht Street, Cape Town.
Opened and run by Glenn Muller, who prepares all the food himself and adds his “self-taught” touch to everything, the restaurant is modelled on the culinary output of his mom Zör, after whom the establishment is named. “Growing up in Retreat on the Cape Flats in a tiny one-roomed house with seven brothers and one sister, laughter and food was our constant companion in a rather bleak environment. My mom, or Aunty Zör as she was fondly known in the community, spent hours behind the stove creating delicious, soul food on a shoestring budget. Paying homage to my mom, we serve freshly prepared meals with delicious coffee,” Muller expounds.
Having worked in the public as well as the private sector in senior positions, Muller states that there “was always that feeling of unfulfillment – that I wasn’t following my passion. I always wanted to own my own coffee shop, but was enslaved to a monthly cheque and accompanying fears of opening one’s own business.” In December 2018, he tendered his resignation and embarked on “the scary but exciting journey” of opening his own coffee shop. If foot traffic is anything to go by in the short time I visited Café Zör, it appears Muller is onto something. In hardly three months of being open, the eatery appears to have made a mark in the hearts of Bo-Kaap locals and professionals who work in the area. “Café Zor integrates perfectly into the close-knit Bo-Kaap community and is fully halaal and no alcohol is served on the premises,” adds Muller.
“That’s all well and good, but what’s the menu like?” I’m hearing impatient readers ask through the ether. Some of the signature dishes include the peri-peri chicken livers, homemade granola, blueberry flapjacks, homemade vegan banana bread served with almond butter, and the chicken sandwich made with homemade pickles and Japanese mayo. “We also prepare a couple of dishes of the day, which could be anything from a butter chicken curry, slow-cooked oxtail, various soups, paneer makhani and various pastas. Vegans and vegetarians are also catered for. Our New York cheesecake and chocolate mousse cake is a perfect marriage with our coffee or various teas on offer,” adds Muller.
On the day I visited, I had the iced coffee and Panko Crusted Chicken Burger, both of which hit the spot – the former for being subtly flavourful instead of overpowering, which I’ve experienced many times in the past; and the latter for being crunchy and succulent at the same time, as well as for its sublime side salad.
It’s obvious that Café Zör is a passion project for its owner, going by observing Muller’s earnest application. “I believe in following one’s dreams and for the first time in my life I can honestly say that I am doing something that I am totally jazzed about,” comments Muller.
* Visit www.cafezor.co.za for more information. Follow on Facebook (@cafezorcapetown) or Instagram (cafe_zor) for regular updates.
By Peter Tromp