Some years ago I stopped hanging out after dark in the Cape Town City Centre unless I had to attend an event.
Neither the exuberance of intoxicated students on Long Street nor the cool hipsters on Bree appealed to me, a suburban 40-something mom.
So it was a lovely surprise to be introduced to Castello's Jazz Bistro on Keerom St one rainy Thursday night. Here's a place in the heart of the Mother City that caters to a more mature crowd with its chilled ambience, fresh and delicious food, generous drinks and a whole lot of jazz.
Don't be fooled by the intimate venue, the no-frills decor or the limited menu.
Executive chef and co-owner Siven Pillay emerged from his kitchen to assure us that they had a lot more up their sleeves, before proceeding to explain with great passion the high standards he maintains regarding freshness and quality. No pantry spices and sauces for him, it's all made in the Castello's kitchen.
On Siven's recommendation, we chose the Yellowtail with two different sauces and the chicken curry with ground almonds and freshly made flat bread.
Both meals were generous and beautifully presented, and the freshness and flavour of the spices and sauces was noticeable. My favourite was the flat bread with garlic and parsley that I used to mop up my chicken curry sauce - it's the kind of place where this is not frowned upon.
Castello's offers all the usual drinks as well as a list of local reasonable priced wines.
Coming round for just a drink and to enjoy the jazz is also an option. And the jazz is worth hanging out for.
Castello's is a popular breakfast and lunch spot for the lawyers and judges across the road at the Western Cape High Court. Earlier this year owner Vaughn Fransch, advocate by day and a trumpet player by night, took the decision to open the bistro on Monday and Thursday nights as a place "in the heart of Cape Town" to play alongside and listen to top local and international jazz artists.
The night we were there Fransch made an unforgettable cameo appearance walking from the back of the restaurant to the stage playing a trumpet solo while stopping to greet guests along the way. He then joined the band, Lorendo Brown, and Friends, on stage for a few songs, chatted with us and other patrons a bit, then rushed back across the road to tackle more legal matters. Seem like this guy has got life figured out.
Cape jazz legend Alvin Dyers and his band host a weekly Monday Night Jazz Jam and you can expect to hear others like Darryl Andrews, Mike Rossi, Andrew Ford, Hilton Schilder, Marc de Kock, and Ian Smith.
The venue is also open to hosting events especially when it benefits a good cause.
We thoroughly enjoyed talking to the artists between sets and hanging out with the mature, jazz-loving regulars. Castello's just seems like the kind of place where at the end of the night everybody knows your name.