Sometimes I do silly things. I know the rules, I have a bit of common sense, but sometimes I have mental lapse. Anthony Bourdain, the chef who in his best-selling book “Kitchen Confidential – Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly”, said to never buy seafood on a Monday, not to be tempted by sushi specials and think about the focus of the restaurant before you place an order. Stuff it, I said, and as much as I enjoy Bourdain and have 3 of his books, sometimes when there’s a need, a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.
With that reckless approach I went to Mixa’s, Kloof Street Cape Town, last night, a warm Monday evening. I had a hankering for fish and chips, you see, and after seeing their R 29.90 special every time I walked past the bar – I am not going to call it a restaurant – I gave in to temptation. An added attraction was peace and quiet at a place where nobody knows me and I don’t know anyone. An anonymous diner. I just felt like it. That sort of full-moon mood.
Mixa’s is popular, they run traditional happy hours and the crowd there seems to be a mix of decent people. From the conversations I overheard, the guys at the bar nursing beers were chatting about life, wife, job, boss and so on while the women are an appealing mix of pretty young tourists enjoying holidays in the sun and friendly divorcees of cougar age. You get the picture. The regulars enjoy commercial beer, not the artisanal craft beers and not the single malts. Perhaps a place to go for a cold beer on a hot night and a change of scenery.
Now I’m a born and bred Capetonian and fish and chips has been a part of my life since I can remember. I consider myself a bit of a fish and chip fundi, having eaten fish and chips all round the Cape, from corner café to 5 star silver service. I love the simple stuff, fresh food, done simply, done well. My favourite is the R 45 version at Bascule Whisky Bar, delicious fresh fish, large portion of chips, home baked bread – at a 5-star hotel. For R 37 I get a decent portion of grilled or fried hake, with chips, rice or salad at Ocean Basket. For under R 40 any branch of Texies and that bit of history, Revelas in Long Street supply lekker old-fashioned fried fish and chips, smothered, if you want, with salt and vinegar. Kalky’s in Kalk Bay is another classic with fish coming from the boat to your plate in no time at all. Perfection. Simple, inexpensive, I love it. And living right by the sea fresh fish is a given. So I thought.
And look, it takes a lot for me to complain about service and food. I would rather return my food, leave quietly and not return, than engage in a debate. This is the first negative review I have posted. And yes, I should have known better. I really should have known better.
The signs were there from the start. After ten minutes of trying to log on to the wi-fi (yes, I sat down and for ten minutes nobody came to take my order) I asked Chris, the waiter, when I eventually caught his eye, if the fish was good. Yes, thumbs up, really good, he said. So I ordered it. Did I feel a chill? A sense of foreboding, perhaps? Not really… But then after a while, (defrosting time?) a thin piece of fish, all batter really, with a cup of chips arrived. Garnish was a lettuce leaf that had seen better days and looked like a victim of domestic violence, battered and bruised with perhaps burn marks – and 2 thin slices of soft carrot. My first taste of the fish gave me the chewiness from frozen and too rapidly thawed fish. Ah. Give up Bernard, send it back, a wise man would say. But I didn’t. I could not be bothered sending it back. I think I was in a state of shock. Was this really happening? Can it really be that bad? Surely not. But nobody came to ask if I was enjoying my meal. I sat alone. Me and “the special’. I nibbled away at a bit, pushed the food around, and then left my plate on the table next to me. I was there to work, you see. After a while, Chris removed the plate and left. Time passed. I felt like a cup of tea. Looked up, perhaps someone could come and take an order…but nothing. I carried on working on my computer. Time passed. After 45 minutes I waved my arms around and Chris arrived with the bill. Still, I thought about keeping quiet.
But no, this was just too shocking for silence. Was this part of a Leon Schuster movie? Candid Camera? So I asked – complained. Chris said – yes, the fish is frozen; we sell about 600 a week so it must be good. And waiting 45 minutes for you to come over – Ja well I dunno, what can I say? Chris was dismissive, an “I’m here to serve drinks and don’t bother me with complaints” type of approach. On my way out the barman said – “Ja it is thirty rand, what do you want for thirty rand?” Oh come on.
Mixa’s is a bar that serves food. And it shouldn’t. A flippant approach to service, poor value for money and a place I wont go to again. With so many places close by offering decent food at a good price, why on earth did I try Mixa’s? I’ve learnt my lesson. Never again. I’m heading to Kalky’s this weekend, to wait for the boats and the fresh fish.