Bo-Kaap Kombuis

24 September 2012

By Callan Smith

Situated in the oldest Malay settlement in South Africa, Bo-Kaap Kombuis boasts authentic Cape Malay flavours and a view that will leave many breathless.

Bo-Kaap adorns the neck of Signal Hill as a jewel of the Cape. With brightly coloured houses and a distinct style - Cape Malay that is - that differentiates it from the surrounding suburbs it is hard not to notice its glistening appeal. Nestled snugly in the middle of the niche area is the Bo-Kaap Kombuis, a family owned, authentic Cape Malay restaurant that embodies the culture, beauty and uniqueness of the area.

Bo-Kaap Kombuis is owned and run by Yusuf and Nazli Larney and they call themselves “total Bo-Kaapers” - they were born and raised there, have made a life of their own there and would not want to live anywhere else. The Larneys started the Bo-Kaap Kombuis with a modest vision of a small coffee shop, where they could write poetry, paint and treat guests to authentic Cape Malay cuisine. Unfortunately their vision was not to be as the Bo-Kaap Kombuis exploded onto Cape Town’s dining circuit nine years ago and is regarded as, arguably, the most sought after Cape Malay restaurant today.

The couple regularly receive recommendations, from people living across the street to people residing as far out as Russia and Kazakhstan. They have hosted politicians, ambassadors and many other VIPs and all these high-profile customers are flocking to the Bo-Kaap Kombuis for one thing: authentic Cape Malay cuisine. The couple believe it is this one factor that is the reason for the success of the Bo-Kaap Kombuis because the food that is prepared is a reflection of the surrounding Bo-Kaap; its history, heritage and love for people - regardless of race, religion or creed.

Yusuf explained that when he and his wife were growing up, many mothers in the Bo-Kaap area would spend hours cooking Cape Malay cuisine, an arduous but rewarding task “These days people do not have the time to cook the meals that our mothers made, thus the aim of the Bo-Kaap Kombuis is to give our guests the same authentic cuisine without the need for them to prepare it,” explains Yusuf.

The couple insisted that guests should not leave their presence without eating their traditional dish named “Denningvleis”. “The dish consists of leg of lamb, cut into small chunks, marinated in tamarind, bay leaves, All Spice and coarse black pepper, then caramelized to perfection,” said Nazli. The end result is a succulent, dark-brown dish served with mash-potatoes, steamed veggies, white rice and salad.

The amazing thing about the Bo-Kaap Kombuis is that the food is prepared anew everyday, fresh from local farmers and distributors, and cooked by highly-skilled chefs. Normally this would raise the prices of the food to exorbitant amounts, but Yusuf explains that he wants the food to be eaten by everyone, not only people who can “afford” it. “Food is an investment in a person and if you only invest in the wealthy, what does that say about you as a person? We want our food to be eaten by people from all walks of life,” says Yusuf. The most expensive meal is crayfish curry which, at the time of writing, is selling at R 95 - it is all downhill from there, in the good sense of the phrase.

Visit the Bo-Kaap Kombuis for an incredible experience of the Cape Malay culture that you will truly never forget.