I like discovering new places when in an unfamiliar part of town. It takes me out of my comfort zone. The same goes for trying new foods, especially when it’s something sweet or savoury.
So when new Greek bakery and deli YiaYia’s Table opened in Cape Town, it was an opportunity for me to expand my Greek delicacy know-how beyond baklava.
Tucked on the corner of Mowbray’s Durban Road, I visited on rainy Saturday afternoon. Walking in, the white with dashes of yellow interior immediately caught my attention.
Charming yet modern came to mind. Also noticeable was the large wooden table in the middle of the bakery, but more about that later.
I was greeted by owner Demitri Parolis whose family owns the bakery. His pride in his labour of love oozes out of him as he takes me through their menu which he says was inspired by his grandmother Elli, whom the bakery was named after – yiayia is Greek for grandmother.
The building itself is steeped in rich family history, which Demitri was happy to share.
When Covid-19 and subsequent lockdown hit, the Parolis family converted what was once their butchery into a bakery and coffee shop. Open only for a few months, the place was buzzing during lunch time, something which Demitri says he is grateful for.
Once they opened, the community threw their support behind it and now they have a loyal customer base made up mostly of locals.
And it’s not hard to see why people would have to get a quick coffee and bite to eat at YiaYia’s Table. There’s a warm calmness about the place, something that invites you in and holds you in its grasp.
The food and coffee’s not bad either, as I discovered when Demitri sent a collection of tasting plates to the table.
The bakery’s speciality is koulouria – a ring-shaped bread with a variety of fillings to choose from like spinach and feta, sundried tomato or chocolate.
Greek treats like kourabiedes (Greek shortbread), bougatsa (custard pies) and spanakopita are just a few of the choices on offer. There’s even a large enough selection for vegans.
Now back to Elli’s story.
“In 1937 my gran came to South Africa as a mail order bride,” said Demitri. “My grandfather came here 10 years prior to set himself up.”
Their love story reads like something from a romance novel, except it’s real life as recalled by their very own grandson.
There are certain aspects of Demitri’s grandfather’s butchery that remain today, such as the ceiling fan. “There were certain things that we wanted to maintain to show off the history behind this,” he added.
The idea to open the bakery materialised when Elli died. She was an avid baker and her grandchildren grew up eating her confectioneries and pies.
“When she passed away, we had all her recipe books. And when Covid hit, our lingerie business was a bit of a worry but we managed to load all our stock on to the online platform, and that kept us going,” said Demitri.
As their warehouse started emptying out, they decided to open a Greek bakery. They took the basis of Elli’s recipes and commercialised them because they were poorly written in “Greeklish”.
“What we did was to decipher the recipes and then started producing them at home during lockdown.”
The rest, as they say, is history.
And the reason for the wooden table as the centrepiece of the bakery? It’s paying homage to the woman that inspired everything behind the business – Elli’s yellow Formica kitchen table – where meals and laughter were shared with three generations of the Parolis family.
YiaYia’s Table: 41 Durban Road, Mowbray, Cape Town. Visit www.yiayiastable.co.za or email [email protected] IG: @yiayiastable. Twitter: @yiayiastablect