Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Cactus That Is Beeg, Very Beeg...

This is a special review. Not only because it is written by me and not only because it has taken an unprecedented month or so to write. It is special because it is the first Honey Ho review that looks at two venues at once. We didn’t mean to, really. We were going to have a few drinks, couple of nachos and then call it a night, but alas…it was not to be so. I blame in on the frozen margaritas forced upon us by Nolene. (She was celebrating, you see.) I blame it on Danelle who emailed saying, “I don’t care where we go but please can we get drunk?!” (She’d had a hard week, you understand.) I also blame it on the chilli poppers that set our tongues on fire and made our asses clench at the thought of the morning. I could blame it on Eskom, because I can. And Mugabe, because hopefully we won’t be able to for much longer. But never, never would I blame it on the boogie. That part of the evening was fantastic!

Ok, let’s start the very beginning. Apparently that’s how you do it…

I was late getting to The Fat Cactus Cafe. Why? Because the Ho’s are usually late so I thought it would be cool. On the way, I got a mysterious sms from Nolene saying, “Was it 6:00 or 6:30 because I’m running out of frozen margarita!” and thus the tone of the evening was set. I arrived to find Nolene 2/3rds through a jug, in an excellent mood. She was celebrating something that I can’t post in this blog but it’s cool and no, she’s not pregnant. Slowly the other Ho’s arrived and soon the goss and chatter and laughter coming from our table was giving the other patrons a good run for their money! The Man in the Blue Shirt sitting at a table clearly too close to us practised his withering look at every chance he got – and was pretty good at it by the time he got up and left. The frozen margarita was flying (literally! Haidee managed to, after only just saying hello to everyone, throw an entire jug of margarita on the table. Messy stuff. However, Dan and I grabbed our straws, puckered up and drank most of it off said table. Generally I wouldn’t do this kind of thing but we’re talking about a whole jug here…eish…) and we had an awesome time.

Now, if you have ever been to The Fat Cactus you’ll know that it doesn’t have trouble getting patrons. If you haven’t booked by lunch time, you may not get a table for the evening, and Fridays/Saturdays are always fully booked. Why? ‘Coz it rocks. The food is great and pretty reasonable (although there have been some serious price hikes on their menu recently), their frozen margaritas are the best in Cape Town, they don’t overdo the chilli, they don’t scrimp on the cheese, and their chilli poppers kick ass! The décor is rustic without being manky and even though the tables can get a little sticky, The Fat Cactus balances Mexican Cantina with Local Pub perfectly. It’s is an institution. In a city where restaurants come and go, you can be sure that the corner of Durban Road and Caledonian Road will be home to this Mexican tribute for a good, long time.

There is a flip side to being an institution, though. If you have been going to a place for so long, you notice trends in the menu, the clientele, and most importantly, the service. And at the moment, the service is not as slick as it used to be. We used to walk in there and the waitress would know what we wanted without having to ask. We’d chat about what she was up to, what we were up to, and it was cool. Like being part of some kind of family or group, or something. Ok, maybe it’s a big ask for a successful and busy restaurant to offer this. Maybe it is an understood and acceptable compromise that a restaurant makes in return for bigger bookings. Or is it? There are a number of restaurants that manage to be successful and still leave you feeling like you are a part of something special. Anyway, the busy-ness of the Fat Cactus means an amped vibe but significantly slower service, and the high turnover of waiters there means that from one visit to the next, you may get the feeling sometimes that you’re just a number. (Except Chris. He was fantastic! And appears to be very happy wedged between the Ho’s!) But, hey. The food is still awesome and the Full Combo Platter rocks the house, and I guess you go there to eat with friends not to make friends. But there’s just a certain special something that I miss there these days.

So, fat on chilli poppers, nachos, frozen margarita and more disparaging looks from The Man in the Blue Shirt, we decide that we have to hit a dance floor. And right now, the best dance floor in Cape Town is DecoDance at the Old Biscuit Mill. It is possibly the most unpretentious space in Cape Town – which takes some doing in these parts – and no matter what you are wearing, what you are drinking and what your level of sobriety, you will fit in. Absolutely. The music is a throw back to all the stuff that the Cornerhouse used to play and that no one else seems to play on dance floors anymore. Why? 'Coz DJ’s forget that there are other people out there who are over 21 years old and who don’t always want to hear electronic music. Sometimes a slamming electric guitar is essential. The décor here is awesome: plush red carpets, paired movie house seats, old photos and images on the walls, and the obligatory black and white chequered dance floor. My only criticism is that R30 is a bit steep for couvert charge before you even start drinking – and their drinks aren’t that cheap – but hey. What would you pay for an excellent evening out? For us Ho’s: whatever it takes! So we poured into DecoDance (a few Ho’s had had to go home already) to continue to pogo the night away. The others may have been dancing…who knows. All I know is that coordination seemed to get trickier as the night went on. And why, oh, why did we end up in an ice-block-down-the-neck war with one of the staff members?! Very mysterious but damn funny!! So, well done, Ho's: truly an exceptional match of dinner and dance venues for an outstanding evening!

Quote of the evening:
“Fat girls don’t have the monopoly on body issues.”

Honey Ho Rating (these are only for The Fat Cactus as DecoDance is a little hazy...):

*Toilets – 3. A little too small and I hate having to negotiate the toilet just to open the door. But generally clean and good enough for you to do what you need to.
*Price – 4. The prices have gone up quite a bit but then so has food in general.
*Food – 6. Awesome!
*Ambience – 6. Buzzing and vibey.
*Decor – 5. What you see is what you get. Works perfectly.
*Service – 3. Service has become too slow and the waiters differ hugely in attitude and people skills.
*Value Added – Nah, nothing extra thrown in. But they will give you a litre of frozen margarita to take away if you bring your own bottle!

*Ho Rating – 11!! Pick up the phone a book now!

Tel: (+27+21) 685 1920


Floss said...

I likes your style ho!!!!! Ripping review, makes me REALLY wish I could have been there... (maybe I can go on the wall of ag shame for being such a hardworking lass and missing out on such a snorter of an eve!?)

Anonymous said...

Indeed! What an evening it was! It's time for another one...start thinking about where to next. Xxt