Flunking a cold poached egg test

Caesar salad with cold poached eggs.

Caesar salad with cold poached eggs.

Published Apr 7, 2024


Bona Terra Café

Where: 1 Bona Terra Road, Assagay

Open: Monday to Friday 7am-4pm, Saturday and Sunday 8am-4pm

Call: 062 602 2948

I’m back in Hillcrest this week. It’s a sort of halfway house to transfer mother from my sister in Hilton to home in Durban ‒ a trip in which we both have an unenviable amount of horrendous roadworks to negotiate.

We meet at Bona Terra Café because it’s just off Kassier Road and easy for us both. The Glass Guy joins us.

It’s a pleasant café with which is basically a wide open terrace looking out onto a garden where the kids can play. There’s a jumping castle thingie and trampoline, sand pits and swings, jungle gyms and stuff for kids to explore. It really is a home for parents with young kids who can relax with a coffee and get some quiet time or catch up with friends while the kids have fun. There’s also a special family changing room, and a number of young moms with prams are evident. Grandmothers who had the kids for the afternoon were enjoying themselves.

Bacon, feta and avo pizza.

The gardens are a lovely setting and you really feel like you’re in the country. There’s a nursery and decor shop next door. On a midweek day it’s busy. It feels inviting.

We soon settle down and are given two menus, a regular menu and a specials menu. The regular one includes most coffee shop staples and a selection of fresh baking ‒ the kids can even make their own biscuits and they’ll bake them for you. The specials menu includes more substantial lunchtime meals ‒ and a selection of fruit daiquiris.

I order the beef curry off the specials menu, only to be told it is not available. Ditto the butter chicken. It’s only then that I’m told one of the other chicken dishes also isn’t available. I’m beginning to wonder why we were given the menu in the first place. But maybe over a busy long weekend the kitchen had had a run on all sorts of things and was only catching up now.

Smoked salmon stack.

I settled on a bacon and caramelised onion quiche with cheddar and thyme (R135). It certainly looked impressive and I suspect this was what caused the delay in the food coming from the kitchen. The only problem is it wasn’t really a quiche. It was so stuffed with bacon and onions that it became a bacon and onion tart. Sometimes more isn’t better.

And there was something very sweet in it. Caramelised onions are always going to add sweetness to a dish but this was dessert sweet. I don’t know whether sugar was added to the onions to speed up the caramelisation, or maybe the bacon was cooked with honey, but I couldn’t finish it. The chips were forgettable.

300g ribs with chips and salad.

Mom’s Caesar salad (R125) was another disappointment. In fact, the famed Italian-American chef Caesar Cardini, who invented the salad in 1924, would be turning in his grave.

The menu describes the salads as being made from “farm to table greens straight from our farm”. Well these turned out to be common or garden iceberg lettuce. Maybe the family farm is called Spar.

While there was plenty of bacon and croutons and Parmesan cheese in the mix, there was also the case of the cold poached egg. When ordering, the waiter even asked how she would like her poached egg, and she said soft. So the expectation was that the egg would be cooked to order. In fact she even asked for a second egg (+R12). It emerged that because breakfast ended at 11am, and they couldn’t do eggs after this, the eggs were cooked in advance. Our waiter explained them as “salad eggs” and said the kitchen had found the softest of the bunch.

Bacon and caramelised onion quiche

Bizarre, I know. I had visions of the chef and waiter poking and prodding a tray of cold eggs to work out scientifically which were the softest. I then hate to think what a toasted bacon and egg sandwich tastes like. Or worse, the mixed grill on the specials menu. Or is that another item that wouldn’t be available?

My sister’s smoked salmon stack (R159) with more of those “garden greens”, herb cream cheese, avocado, red onion, cucumber and capers on toasted sourdough was pleasant enough, except there was no sign of the cream cheese anywhere, while the Glass Guy’s 300g plate of ribs (R125) with onion rings, chips and salad was missing the onion rings. The ribs off the specials menu were sticky and tasty and enjoyable enough, although certainly not the unctuous, melt-off-the bone variety, while the chips could have done with a second frying. The salad, you guessed it, was more iceberg lettuce.

The Niece had the pick of the meals ‒ a bacon, feta and avocado pizza (R145), except that it arrived after everyone else was halfway through their lunch. The pizza had a nice crisp, firm base and plenty of toppings. Judicious use of salt in the tomato paste or dough might have improved it more. But we all helped her finish it off.

Afterwards we enjoyed good coffees, the Niece, some sort of white chocolate mocha latte creation (R39), and the Glass Guy, an iced chai frappe concoction (45). I marvelled at how luminous pink the pink milkshakes the kids at the next table were schlurping down with gusto. I bet no strawberry went anywhere near them. We then shared a slice of the baked cheesecake (R65) which was enjoyable, especially as it wasn’t overly sweet.

When the bill arrived a 10% service charge had been added. Personally I think this is counter-productive. Good waiting staff are generally going to earn more than their 10% service fee. To me, the fact that a service charge is added suggests the waiting brigade isn’t up to scratch. But be that as it may, I have no objection if this is how you want to run your business, as long as this is clearly stated in advance. Not a word. A curt line about no substitutions or removals from dishes at the top of the menu. But nothing about this.

Food: 2

Service: 2 ½

Ambience: 3 ½

The Bill: R1 267.20 including 10% service charge.

Independent on Saturday