The first thing I notice is one giant ostrich perched in the middle of the bar. I’m at The Village Idiot, a straight-out-of-the-box new neighbourhood restaurant and bar lodged on Loop Street in Cape Town’s city centre, and by the time I’m seated, I find myself wondering whether what I’m seeing is, in fact, real or whether I’ve had such a long day at work that I’ve started hallucinating.
“That’s Oskar, our village idiot mascot,” explains Reg Macdonald, the co-owner of the eatery, pointing to the large stuffed feathered creature. And from there, he begins to tell me the story behind this rather intriguing venue.
The Village Idiot was launched in May 2015 by Reg and his partner Grant Baker, who together envisioned creating a place that would serve as a good old neighbourhood hangout and meeting spot that offers great food and drinks in a chilled environment that encourages a bit of silliness and tomfoolery. Reg is no stranger to the hospitality game and has opened an extensive list of establishments (nightclubs, bars, you name it) all over the world. The Village Idiot is not his first in Cape Town, and those who are familiar with the city’s hotspots will know him as the guy behind the rock ‘n’ roll nighttime haunt Aces ‘n’ Spades.
The atmosphere here, though, is very different from the fast-paced, high-energy ambience typical of Aces ‘n’ Spades and instead diverts to a vibe that, as Reg puts it, invites you to relax, unwind (after a long day at work) and adopt a carefree attitude. The venue boasts a large balcony that plays host to spitbraais in summer and offers lovely views of the surrounding concrete jungle, an enchanting colonial fireplace that makes winter nights more bearable, pool tables, board games like Monopoly and Backgammon and other playful surprises here and there. In summation of what The Village Idiot strives to be, Reg emphasises that “this is a place where we raise our glasses to foolish renegades, adventurous idiots and all the people who refuse to live life by the rules of normality.”
So it makes sense then that the chosen location of the eatery defies the Cape Town ‘foodville’ trend that has new places flocking to popular spots like Kloof, Bree and Long Street. On the contrary, this newbie is located in a lesser explored part of town that, in fact, was once the nightlife hub of the city and is now considered the financial district. Fittingly, Reg sees The Village Idiot as the kind of spot suited folk can come to loosen their ties, kick up their feet, have after-work drinks and eats and generally dig into all the neighbourhood restaurant has to offer.
Speaking of which, the food offering is quite a pleasant surprise. Although the bar gives off an English pub feel (think low lighting, leather booths, wine barrels, taxidermy and wooden tables), the cuisine deviates from this by embracing South African braai culture. Conceptualised by chef Sheldon Raju and food expert Guy Wood, the menu is, according to Sheldon, “a melting pot of South African cultures that has basically been put on a plate.” Accordingly, visitors can expect enticing options like braai boards (a selection of local braaied meats served with chakalaka), freshly baked roosterkoek, Durban-style hot peri-peri chicken, boerewors burgers, biltong and cheese platters, potjies and appetising sides like pap, grilled mielies, potato salad, chips and more.
An element of surprise comes in the form of the daily specials, which Sheldon injects with creativity and only reveals on the day. In addition, the selection of desserts is also sprinkled with a local theme – expect milk tart (made from a recipe from the 1940s) and braaied banana and pineapple served with coconut ice cream. On the drinks side, folk can expect a tight range of options, like classic cocktails with a South African twist (there’s a gin and rooibos-infused concoction, for example), craft beers and wine.
By the time Reg and I reach the end of our conversation, I can see why he decided to create a place like this. And since I can be a highly strung type, I might just put The Village Idiot on my radar as my go-to spot when I just want to escape the stresses of work and life, let my hair down and be a bit of a fool.
Tip: The venue boasts TV’s and a large drop down projector that will be used to screen sports matches. The Village Idiot will also host a series of weekend events (from live music nights to spit braais on the patio) in the future. For more information, visit The Village Idiot’s Facebook page or call +27 0(21) 418 1548.
Photo cred: Laura McCullagh