A few months ago the restaurant in the Company’s Garden – aka the Gardens Tearoom – in the centre of the city was closed down and the Zingara Group was awarded the tender for a new restaurant. Immediately, there was controversy and in typical Capetonian manner we all jumped up and down, worried about this change. The tearoom was seen as charming and olde worlde, was inexpensive, and was an institution. We like our ‘institutions’ whatever that may mean.
On the other side of the coin was the opinion that change was needed, the food was not great, and tourists wanted something better. I doubt anyone had actually asked the tourists what they thought but I’m on the fence with this issue until they open. Yes, the food was mediocre but the service was quick and friendly, and no-one went there for fine dining. A quick snack during a walkabout, surrounded by trees and squirrels and ducks was all that was required. But, as I say, I decided to remain on the fence – not my usual position, I must be getting mellow.
The Zingara Group does not offer cheap quick meals so the general fear was that they would open something too ‘fancy’ for the Garden, would detract from the charm of the setting, and be too expensive for locals. They were quick to issue a press release promising to keep the ‘historical integrity’ of the tea room. A tearoom in South Africa is an olde world unpretentious little restaurant, there are very few left and they don’t generally inspire much confidence these days.
I often walk through the Garden with clients so I am looking forward to seeing what the new restaurant – Haarlem & Hope – will offer. They should open this month but when I was there this weekend it didn’t look as if this deadline will be met. However, that’s not my bugbear today.
I peeked through the fencing to see the progress and my eyes almost popped out when I saw that the magnificent old eucalyptus tree that was the talking point of the restaurant is no more. This tree was massive and had the most stunning bark. Now, I’m all for chopping down alien trees because they often prevent the natural vegetation to grow and they are too thirsty. But in this case the Garden is full of exotic trees and the Camissa River running under the city is being completely ignored as a source of water. This is an urban setting, not the mountainside where fynbos needs to be the focal point!
It appears that this tree fell down after they took over – how convenient, it was a bit messy. A eucalyptus tree will coppice when trimmed so why was this not permitted to happen? Did it break so far down that it could not coppice?