Tucked away on the misty slopes of Vredehoek, The Woodlands Eatery is nestled behind a Coke bottle wall of vertical gardening. It’s emblematic of what’s to come: natural ingredients as far as the eye can see, freshly prepared and simply served, with a twist.
You know the minute you walk through the sliding wooden door (with broom brushes stuck to the bottom, presumably to redistribute the energy used to open and shut all day) that this is no ordinary restaurant. Somewhere between wendy house and Victorian parlour, your surroundings on the other side of the entrance are a mix of wooden shelving, gold spray painted chairs, ornamental wall hangings, and old light fittings and lamp shades. And a rather unusual rabbit.
Things take another unexpected turn once you get down to the business of browsing the menu. While there are a range of other intriguing dishes available, we came expecting pizza – and so should you, at least to begin with. Where else could you order toppings like ‘Tuscan-style slow-roasted lamb and crème fraîche’ or ‘caramelised pork topped with mango and coriander’? And where else would they arrive cooked like this:
Forget the idea of thick, stringy melted mozzarella needing to be pulled apart Pizza Hut-style, as you sink your teeth into a doughy slice of hot cheese. This is not that pizza, and I’d bet good money that there’s no thinner base in Cape Town. But what happens when you remove the superfluous layers of cheese and dough is that the remaining flavours have nowhere to hide. If the ingredients aren’t the very best, and the flavours aren’t the very tastiest, you’re going to know it straight away. And the inverse of course is equally true: if everything is what it should be, it all comes together beautifully. Which is exactly what happened on the pizzas we ordered: one lamb and crème fraîche combo, and one pork and mango.
The waitress mentioned quite proudly that the owner of the place is committed to taking great care about what we put in our bodies, and is committed to sourcing grass-fed meats and organic ingredients. That comes through immediately in all parts of the pizza – everything looks and tastes like top quality. The lamb is soft, with a gentle flavour and not slathered in sauce. The crème fraîche is rich, thick and creamy; the way you’d expect it to be. The caramelised pork is plump and juicy, with just the right balance between a slight bit of crunch on the fat and the melt-in-your-mouth texture of the meat. And the coriander looks and tastes like it was just picked from one of the Coke bottles hanging outside. Which it probably was.
The base, though, is what sells everything laid on top of it. It might be thin but it’s not flimsy. It’s a crisp, delicious host to the toppings, that becomes even more enjoyable when you reach the blackened burnt bits. It’s also more square in shape than the round style we’ve become accustomed to, which suits me perfectly because that can only mean one thing: even more of everything to eat!
It’s worth noting at this point that the salt and pepper finger bowls aren’t there for decoration. When the pizza arrives at your table, it comes unsalted, flavoured only by the ingredients themselves. It’s up to you add what you need, including chilli and garlic options that also arrive with your meal.
Last (but never least, in my book) we need to talk dessert. If you want to win me over from the word go, you just just need to include anything melty, milky, creamy or vanilla-laden on your menu. That’s what happened here with the chocolate fondant, which takes 15 minutes to make and is worth every one of those 900 seconds and probably 9 000 more. What arrived on the plate was a perfectly baked volcano of luscious cakey goodness, made just the way all good fondants should be. And for ultimate perfection, the vanilla ice-cream was flawless in every way – it couldn’t have been smoother or creamier. There’s also a certain firmness to the texture, almost chewy, that my fellow vanilla ice-cream disciples will appreciate. It may seem like a simple pairing, but there’s so much that can (and often does) go wrong, and so much that’s so right about the way these guys have done it.
Walking away after a great meal (while burning off the calories as you climb the hill to your car), it’s hard not to love what you’ve seen, experienced and tasted at Woodlands. Will I be back? Try and stop me.
About The Woodlands Eatery
Address: 2 Deer Park Drive, Vredehoek, Cape Town
Contact details: 021 801 5799 | Web | Facebook
Hours: Tues-Thurs 5pm to 9:30pm | Fri and Sat 12pm to 10pm | Sun 12pm to 9pm
Menu: Pizza, antipasti, seafood – chicken – meat – vegetarian, wines, craft beers, ciders, soft drinks