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Mediterranean fare down south

It’s just been announced that Metrorail’s southern line to Fish Hoek is open again, so if you want to take a trip out of town but don’t want to deal with the mad traffic, Kalk Bay is a good option. Of course, there’s always a cost; you’ll have to endure the grimy metrorail coaches. Still, hold tight to your bag and get lost in a novel or newspaper (such as this one) until the ocean comes into sight, and you’ll be alright.

After taking a dip at Kalk Bay’s Dalebrook tidal pool, bracing the shorebreak at St. James beach, or wondering along the pier at the harbour, you’ll probably have built up an appetite. There are plenty of options in Kalk Bay, but avoid the Brass Bell if it’s food you’re after. The Bell is good for a beer or a bottle of wine but the food is mediocre and overpriced. Slake your thirst there by all means. The Captain’s Cabin is a great pub, especially if you’re a bit older, or you can sip a cold brew on the desk while watching surfers slipping into the tube on Kalk Bay reef. But for a decent meal that’s not over priced, walk along to Beira Mar, the Portuguese restaurant at the end of the strip, opposite the harbour. There’s been a few restaurants in the spot beneath the twisted money tree where legend has it the fishers used to get paid, but Beira Mar has weathered the Covid storm and although understated among the increasingly hip eateries along Main Road, it always seems to have a decent number of patrons. For good reason.

Portuguese cuisine is as familiar to us Saffricans as fish and chips, there’s one in every town, and usually, they’re a good bet. Thanks to the Portuguese having sailed this way since Diaz obsessively erected crosses along these shores centuries ago, Portuguese staples have become as much part of South African fare and pap ‘n wors.

You can size them up by the quality of their chicken livers, and Beira Mar’s are superb. They’ve done away with the tongue-sizzling peri-peri and opted for a milder, lime-based spiciness that is as intriguing as it is tasty. We shared one as a starter and chose baby chicken and chicken trinchado for mains.

The baby chicken had the de rigueur peri peri sauce, which you can choose extra hot if you like. We went for mild, which nonetheless had the right bite for a refined palate. Tender and spicy, it was satisfyingly what was expected.

The chicken trinchado seemed like a disappointingly small portion at first, but after devouring the buttery bite sizes swimming in trinchado sauce with a lemon zest base, I was elegantly stuffed.

Beira Mar conforms to the idea of a Portuguese restaurant by the sea: trestle tables, plastic table cloths, quarry tile floor, roosters and the ubiquitous red and green of the national flag as part of the décor. The menu likewise sticks to the tradition: various fish, prawn, and calamari dishes, prego rolls, espetada, trinchado, and, of course, the chicken livers. Sometimes, you don’t want any surprises. So you ought to be aware, they are not licensed. There is, however, a bottle store next door so you can get your own wine or beer and bring it in. Also, don’t be fooled by their Facebook page which gives you the idea there’s a breakfast menu: there isn’t. It’s one menu covering lunch and dinner.

Mother City News paid for itself, the bill came to just over R300, tip included.