Not the fanciest, but oh the memories

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Copy of CW BELLA LUNCH 3048 INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS Bella Buckland, six, enjoys lunch at the tea restaurant in the Company Gardens after her visit to the Cape Town museum where there is a variety of interesting things to see. Picture: Ian Landsberg

Cape Town - The tearoom in the Company’s Garden is a beloved institution. It’s been there for as long as I can remember, and beyond; the current management have been running it for 42 years. At the end of July, it will be gone.

Well, at least in its present state. Although Messrs Rodriguez and Gouvea wanted to stay on, and have tried numerous times to renew their lease, the council, aka City of Cape Town, has refused, according to my source, Jany. There was a petition, but to no avail. They are all very sad, she said, and so am I.

Some time this month, the winner of the tender to take over the place and turn it into who knows what kind of touristy hell will be announced and it looks like there is nothing to be done about it.

As it stands, it’s not the fanciest of places. I’ve never sat inside, nor eaten anything more gourmet than a burger or a toasted sarmie with chips (although you can get “real” meals too like a mixed grill or Malay curry), and maybe tea and scones.

The service has been, shall we say, casual, at times, and the ladies’ room hasn’t been upgraded in many a moon. But it’s got so much character and charm. And it fills me with nostalgia and many memories of my years spent living in the City Bowl when we would take a walk down there on a Sunday after a heavy weekend for restorative breakfast and beers. Bunking school to meet a boy for a strawberry milkshake. Afternoon dates with illicit lovers. A quick escape from the office for lunch which may or may not have gone on longer than it should have; the Company’s Garden is a wonderful oasis that envelops you just a stone’s throw from the mayhem that is Adderley Street.

Naturally, we had to stop in there this week. Here’s my free advice for the day: do not swipe your hand across the plastic table cloth to clear it of dust. The pigeons were there first. More advice? Always keep wet wipes in your bag… and a towel if possible. Douglas Adams knew what he was talking about in Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. It’s not always practical for a handbag, but definitely have one in the car. You’ll be amazed at how often you need it.

The tea comes in a stainless steel pot with a jug of hot water to stretch it out. The sandwiches are cut into chunky triangles. The only thing missing was the All Gold tomato sauce that had not been decanted into a plastic tomato. Otherwise, it would have been as if we had walked into another, older, gentler world where time stands still.

A busker with a guitar played unobtrusively, and a woman, with a giant poodle with one of those ridiculous poofy-legged grooming cuts I thought only existed in 1950s cartoons, stopped for coffee and a cigarette. A short, skinny man with a tight maroon faux leather bunny jacket and a mullet came up to tell me he had been looking for the bathroom for ages. Since I wasn’t wearing an apron or carrying a tray, I’m not sure why he assumed I worked there, which he claimed is what he had thought. I’m not going to think about that part any more.

But, memories. This place is made of them, and there is still time to add more before it changes forever.

l Open daily from 8am to 5pm. Telephone 021 423 2919. - Weekend Argus

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