Cape Town - Restaurants and hangout spots are like friends. Some are in your life for a season, some for a reason, and others for life.
Seasons could be defined by your budget or needs. You go to a certain place because it's got cheap booze and food, or because there's plenty to keep the kids occupied. Reasons could be defined by your immediate need: you're in the mood for a burger, Asian fusion, or confectionary.
I don't know what it was that initially attracted me to Obz Café in Lower Main Road, Observatory, but it seems now a lifetime ago. I was young, and was active in Observatory and I really liked what the place had to offer - chic, hip decor, delicious, trendy food, prices that wouldn't break the bank. And then, just like that, the season was over.
I'd not returned to the Obz Café and it kinda fell off the radar for me... until last weekend, that is. It's been nearly three years since new owner Hannah Roux took over and boy, is peak season back.
Maintaining much of its original offering, the "new" incarnation of the restaurant is familiar, and feels that way. The menu, however, has undergone a thorough nip/tuck.
The wood-fired pizzas are a firm favourite, so you can't go wrong there, but what you really should look into are the starters.
Let's start with the starters: the crispy prawn bites are to die for. They're lightly battered and fried tempura style and then served with the most delectable Sriracha mayo you've ever graced upon your lips. It's a sizeable portion too, and perfect for sharing.
Crispy Prawn Bites are among the many small plates to share, and are a treat for the senses. Picture: Lance Witten/Cape Argus
Next, the burgers... I consider myself to be a burger aficionado, and the offerings at Obz Café are off the top shelf. Obviously I chose the Crunchy Munchy Burger, and I was in no way disappointed. The saltiness of the crispy bacon, softened by the creamy texture and inviting flavour of the brie, played counterpoint to the smoky sweetness of the caramelised onions, atop a tender, meaty, beefy patty that felt it had more heft than its 160gr tag on the menu would suggest. Along with the standard accoutrements of mustard mayo, pickles, red onion and lettuce, it was an absolute chorus in my mouth.
The Crunchy Munchy Burger is a delightful, meaty creation featuring bacon, brie and caramelised onions on a toasted brioche bun. Picture: Lance Witten/Cape Argus
The House Burger, served with deep fried onion rings. Picture: Lance Witten/Cape Argus
I'm saving the best for last. While the burgers were masterful movements, the sumac calamari starter is a complete concerto. No kitchen spice cabinet is complete without this citrusy spice, a sentiment expressed by the owner, and one with which I wholeheartedly agree.
The way Obz Café uses the sumac and marries it to other flavours in its starter is frightfully good. The calamari heads are drizzled in sumac-infused olive oil, served on a fresh salad of rocket and baby spinach, with red onion rings and healthy dollops of basil pesto and just enough sushi mayo. The textures are delightful, with flavours that pop and fizzle on the tongue and around the palate like the notes of a soprano dancing above the crescendo of an orchestra.
The Sumac Calamari is the star of the menu. An absolute revelation your tastebuds will not experience anywhere else. Picture: Lance Witten/Cape Argus
It's not just the food that'll bring me back to Obz Café - the warmth and service of the staff and setting all contribute to making you feel at home. They've also got Happy Hour specials and a great selection of beers on tap. And look out for Quiz Night, where there are fantastic prizes up for grabs, as well as an opportunity to test your general knowledge against your mates and other patrons.
The season for Obz Café's space in my life has returned, and it's fast blossoming into a lifelong relationship.