Cappuccino Quest: Forries In Cape Town, South Africa, Surprises With Some Decent Coffee
There's a barista at Foresters Arms Restaurant & Bar in Newlands who knows how to prepare a good cup of coffee so patrons have even more reason to visit beyond the weekend-sports-events camaraderie for which for the pub is famous. (The pizza is pretty good too.)
Foresters Arms Restaurant & Bar, commonly known as Forries, is a pub in Newlands in the Southern Suburbs of Cape Town that is an institution. It's commonly overflowing with people on the evenings and weekends but is quieter during the day so it's a good place to opt for if you want a laid-back breakfast or lunch in a central location with plenty of free parking.
The current establishment is the third incarnation of the building. Foresters Arms has a fascinating history dating back to 1852, which I recommend reading about on the web site
so I won't rehash it here, suffice to say that its story is intertwined with, among other things, the city's history of beer brewing.
As popular a spot as it is, this was only the second time I've visited. The first time was in December with a large group, which made trying to evaluate a cappuccino impossible, and the second was a couple of weeks ago, when I went with a friend who was visiting Cape Town as we thought it might be a good spot where we could languish for the day without being considered a nuisance.
It was one of those winter days during which the sun comes out for a bit so we opted to sit outdoors and warm up in some sunbeams, rather than inside where it was notably colder. (The weather began to turn late in the afternoon when we left I noticed that the indoor fire had been lit.) Our waiter, who I overheard telling other patrons was new to the job, was great - she was attentive and friendly without being disruptive and intrusive - which was just as well as my meal didn't go as planned. As it's a pub there aren't a lot of vegetarian dishes on the menu and the most notable is a lentil-and-chickpea veggie burger that I had ordered in December. I wanted to try it again because I wasn't able to give it my full attention and all I recall was having mixed feelings about it.
Turns out I picked the one day when the burger wasn't available. Our waiter explained that the kitchen has been working on a new recipe because the original burger hasn't been well received and I had just happened to appear on a day when they hadn't yet prepped it as they don't get a lot of vegetarians, and certainly not early in the day. I was therefore left with a menu selection of starter nibbles, including spring rolls, which every vegetarian is going to pass on as that's the "we don't know what to serve you" option that's always tacked onto menus and is usually not particularly interesting or noteworthy (nevermind lacks protein), a beetroot salad, or two pizza options.
I chose the Da Vinci wood-fired pizza (R88: feta, roasted cherry tomatoes, onion, Peppadews, basil pesto, and fresh coriander), which was R26 more than the burger I had intended to order but it was tasty, with a wonderful thin base that was crispy on the edges but pleasantly soft everywhere else (I really dislike hard, crunchy bases). It featured a good balance of ingredients and was light but filling. I would definitely consider going back to have it again.
My culinary misadventures continued when we ordered milkshakes as Forries doesn't serve my favourite flavour, which was a disappointment, so instead our waiter recommended the Nutella milkshake. It turned out to be much as one would expect - pleasantly chocolatey without being overbearing - but it isn't nearly as good as a handful of milkshakes I've had at other establishments. (One day I really must write about the extra-thick milkshakes at Trenchtown
if they are still on the menu once the renovation is complete.)
I also, of course, ordered a cappuccino, and was surprised at the quality, especially considering that this is a pub, not a specialist coffee shop. While it missed the mark slightly in some areas it was still, overall, better than most of the restaurant cappuccinos I've had in Cape Town and its surrounds in the last six months so I'm posting this review ahead of some of those just so that we can have something more positive in the archives because the next few entries are going to be quite dire and depressing.
The cup was presented correctly with the handle to my right but the spoon was placed in front of the cup with the handle pointed to the left, instead of behind the cup with the handle pointed to the right.
I completely forgot to ask what the size was - every time I thought of it our waiter was at another table and each time she stopped off at our table to check on us it had by that time slipped my mind. I estimate that it was at least 220ml.
The foam was poured with fern latte art so that messed with the outer ring of crema, as you can see in the photo: while it's not broken the colour varies at different points along the ring. The light-dark balance was about the best I've seen when someone has poured latte art. The microfoam was less than half a centimetre thick but it was velvety and had a glassy sheen, as wet foam should. There were also few bubbles, they were very small, and they manifested slowly. Sadly the foam didn't taste sweet - it had no taste at all - so it wasn't made at quite the right temperature. However, for all its (relatively minor) faults, this is some of the best foam I've seen in a while.
The temperature of the cup was far too hot - I'd estimate at over 80°C - so I was expecting the same of the coffee. As it turned out the coffee was at a good temperature of around 60°C. (I did take a while to get to it so it did cool down a little from when it was first served to me but from the taste I could tell that the coffee wasn't prepared at a temperature that was too hot.)
I was expecting bad coffee and was surprised to discover that this wasn't the case. The coffee was
too milky and, coupled with the lack of foam, which should have been at least one centimetre thick, and the size of the cup, it bordered more on the side of a latte than a cappuccino. However, the espresso was extracted well and the coffee was brewed properly - there were no hints of bitterness or a sour taste. The coffee was flavourful, although the excess milk diluted the taste a little, and sweet.
7/10. There were unfortunately some problems - notably with the foam and there being too much milk - but overall this was good coffee, just not a fantastic cappuccino. It's clear the barista who was on duty has had some training and elements that are usually destroyed in many places in Cape Town, such as the flavour and the microfoam, were well done here - the machine is obviously kept clean, the espresso is extracted properly, and the coffee is not brewed at too high a temperature. I think the cappuccino is overpriced (I'll pay R25 for an 8 or a 9, not a 6 or a 7) but I would go back and order it again.
23 June 2016
Foresters Arms Restaurant & Bar
Address: 52 Newlands Avenue, Newlands, Cape Town, South Africa
Phone: +27 (0)21 689 5949
Hours: Monday to Thursday: 11:00 to 23:00; Friday: 11:00 to 00:00; Saturday: 09:00 to 23:00; Sunday: 09:00 to 22:00