Mugg & Bean (Cavendish Square Branch)
Cape Town, South Africa
A Vegetarian Dining Review

South Africaby Mandy J Watson
Posted: 21 December 2006

Everybody has eaten at the Mugg & Bean at some point, but it recently changed its menu so we thought we'd investigate. Here's the review, written especially for people who've already been there.

An old friend of mine recently visited from London so we thought we'd go out to dinner. Since neither of use could make a decision as to what restaurant we should select we ended up at the Mugg & Bean in Cavendish Square, which tends to be everyone's indecisive default as it's a rather relaxed restaurant that's perfect for families, rests between shopping expeditions, or even a laid-back business meeting. The restaurant chain has recently changed its menu, so I was interested to see what new vegetarian options may be on offer.

We went out on a Friday night and the restaurant was surprisingly empty (as in half full rather than the overflowing that I'm used to seeing every other time I've been there or have just walked past). This made the dining experience much more pleasant for me as I tend to feel uncomfortable in crowded places; plus, Mugg & Bean is not well known for its speedy service so I was hoping that this would tip the odds in our favour for a change.

Our waiter recommended two tables and we picked the one we preferred. Both the table and the menus were sticky, which I can't say I was particularly fond of. Welcome to South Africa. A similar experience may be sampled at any Spur restaurant - be sure to touch its sauce dispensers and salt and pepper shakers for maximum effect. I immediately set about trolling through the menu to find the cappuccino options, as well as the new menu items, and then ordered a cappuccino (R9.20 [?]) [review], while my dining companion opted for the bottomless filter coffee R8.90 [?]), which is self service from a coffee section off to one side of the restaurant, or you can ask the waiter to fill your cup for you, if you wish.

One of the new drink items on the menu is bottomless lemonade (R8.90 [?]), which I would have chosen if I hadn't intended to do a cappuccino evaluation for the Cappuccino Quest. The price is the average amount that you should expect to pay for a normal lemonade at most restaurants in Cape Town so the fact that it's bottomless is quite a bonus. The hot chocolate, though not bottomless, is also R8.90 [?], while my dining companion opted for the bottomless filter coffee R8.90 [?] or you can opt for the standard selection of teas and cool drinks.

Our waiter's name was Marc and he was rather pleasant although, in true Cape Town tradition, he disappeared for quite a while right before we wanted to pay the bill. He also wasn't as knowledgeable as he should have been with regards to the menu. I was eyeing the spinach and ricotta cannelloni (R34.90 [?]), one of the new items on the menu, which is described as "pasta tubes filled with a napolitana sauce" but couldn't remember what ingredients are used in a napolitana sauce (and, also, you can't always trust menus), so I asked the waiter to confim that it was vegetarian. He looked confused and then looked at the menu to see what it said. An item on the menu under it had a vegetarian option and the option was marked with a "V", so he said to me that that was vegetarian and therefore the cannelloni wasn't. I had already scanned the entire menu and had ascertained that only meat-based menu items with vegetarian options are marked with a "v" and full vegetarian items aren't indicated as vegetarian at all, so I knew he was possibly incorrect, which is why I had asked about the sauce in the first place as the menu wasn't clear and I wasn't sure. The waiter said he would find out and, in the meantime, I ordered the dish, but he never actually got back to me on that point.

Other new items on the menu include a baked jacket potato with chives, cream cheese, mushroom, and sun-dried tomato (R34.90 [?]), which I will probably try next time I'm at the restaurant. My dining companion tried one of the old options on the menu, the ruby double bagel burger (R49.95 [?]). As you can see from the photograph it's quite a monster burger, and he thoroughly enjoyed it.

Mugg and Bean main meals

My dinner arrived with cutlery that hadn't been washed properly, which put a bit of a damper on the meal, as I hate having to complain about such things. Our table was also lacking a pepper dispenser so I had to borrow one from another table. I would have preferred freshly ground black pepper but we weren't offered any.

The cannelloni was presented with a side salad, which comprised a large selection of lettuces, as well as a few onion rings, olives, carrot sticks, guerkin sticks, and pieces of tomato. All the ingredients were fresh and had been washed properly. The cannelloni, itself, was a bit of a surprise. It's not clear from the photograph but the dish was only about 2cm deep and the tubes - of which there were...wait for it...two (oooh!) - had been flattenend slightly so as not to bulge out of the dish too much. The tubes were well stuffed with spinach and ricotta cheese, which was superb. I can still imagine the taste quite clearly. The sauce was a little too thick and gelatinous (I am hoping due to the use of too much cornflour) and it coagulated quickly, which was a little offputting. It was very creamy but lacked more distinct tomato, basil, or origanum flavours. The tubes, however, had been cooked perfectly, although the fact that they had been flattened to hell was disappointing.

Although I enjoyed the taste of the meal it was hardly filling and, with only two tubes in a very shallow dish, totally disappointing and, therefore, overpriced, especially since in my limited experience of making cannelloni dishes I have enjoyed what I have cooked more than this dish, bar the fabulous ricotta.

Before dessert I ordered a red cappuccino [review] as my previous experience [review] with the drink had been very positive and I was looking forward to having it again, especially since the regular cappuccino that I had had earlier in the evening had been so disappointing. Sadly, Mugg & Beans' version of the red cappuccino was as disappointing as the regular cappuccino - so much so that if I had had my first one here I would have resolved never to order it again anywhere else so, just be aware of this if you choose to order the red cappuccino at a Mugg & Bean and haven't had it before.

Mugg & Bean always has a selection of cakes (which are all priced the same) and muffins on offer and both my dining companion and I chose the lemon meringue - he a full portion (R16.95 [?]) and I a half portion (R9.50 [?]) - as I know how ridiculously large the full portions of cake tend to be at Cape Town restaurants. Later, my dining companion agreed that the full portion had been a little too large. Sadly, this was - by far - not the best lemon meringue that I have had as the cake was too creamy and lacking the lemon zest taste. It seemed as if it hadn't been allowed to stand to draw proper flavour. The meringue, however, was light and fluffy, although the crust wasn't that crisp. The biscuit-based pie crust was suitably moist. Finally, and rather oddly, that's hot chocolate, and not cinnamon, sprinkled around the plates that you can see in the picture. It doesn't exactly work.

Mugg and Bean lemon meringue for dessert

While not the best dining experience I've had at a Mugg & Bean (including this particular branch, which isn't one of my favourites) I will still go back as the atmosphere is always very relaxed and friendly and you can always do a lot of people watching. Some of the other menu options are quite good (I highly recommend the quesadillas). It is what it is - if it's not to your liking the more upmarket JB Rivers (a bar, coffee shop, and restaurant with a new sushi bar) is about 30 metres away.

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Key Facts
Restaurant: Mugg & Bean (Cavendish Square Branch)
Cuisine Style: American
Ground Floor,
Cavendish Square,
Cape Town,
South Africa
Phone: +27 21 683 3329
  • Monday to Thursday and Saturday: 09:00-18:00
  • Friday: 09:00-21:00
  • Sunday: 10:00-16:00
  • Menu (2.0 MB; PDF)
Price Range:
  • Breakfast: R16.50-R38.90 [?]
  • Salads: R28.10-R45.90 [?]
  • Lunch: R25.90-R54.90 [?]
  • Dinner: R34.90-R49.95 [?]
  • Drinks: R7.90-R19.90 [?]
Vegetarian Options: Yes
Vegan Options: Limited
Smoking Section: No
Child Friendly: Yes
Wheelchair Friendly: Yes
Dress: Casual
Reservations: Not necessary, but the restaurant is almost permanently busy
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