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What strikes you first as you step off the sidewalk into the newest restaurant on the Camps Bay strip is an immediate sense of warmth, from the hints of neo-classic styling in the décor, to the effusive greeting from the floor. Welcome to Zenzero, where the sense and the tastes of Italy, its flavours and style, come brilliantly to life.
This newest of beachfront venues, Zenzero is an 100-seater tucked between The Kove and that perennial favourite, Paranga. Diners will appreciate its spacious and elegant interior – the chandeliers, the plush sheen drapes which hang from ceiling to floor, the ornate mirrors, the richly upholstered chairs and wall-long divans in white or deep brown leather, interspersed with chairs covered in gold, cream and brown. Inviting for sure, comfort most certainly coming, but don’t sit down quite yet.
Instead make your way to the well-appointed bar. It’s a place you feel you can sit at well into the night, over a grappa or three, with a special friend, or many. Like most things Italian, more is merrier. So why not start with a Martini, or a Champagne Bellini? There are a dozen at least to choose from in an explosion of exotic flavours. How about a vodka, shaken, with muddled peach halves, fresh apple juice and squeezed lemon? That would get a lunch or dinner off to a very refreshing start. Order your wine from the extensive list on offer and have it sent to your table. The choice is beyond plentiful. Chianti of course, wines from Montepulciano in Sienna, from the cellars of Lamberti and Zaccagnini, and a superb selection of the Cape’s finest reds, whites and sparklings to suit the most discerning palate, at a wide range of prices. Champagnes read like a who’s who too, from Louis Roederer to Dom Pérignon, Laurent-Perrier to Krug.
Zenzero, which in Italian translates directly as ‘ginger’, feels exactly that - a place to sit down in, and savour taste in, with zest. Sitting at your table, covered of course by a crisp and freshly laundered white tablecloth, you’ll get an immediate scent of two all-time favourites of Italian cuisine - rosemary and lavender. There’s a potted plant of either one or the other growing happily on each table. A quirky and inventive touch that reminds you why you’re here - great food. By the way, the herbs have a cousin at the entrance – a not insignificant olive tree you’ll have passed as you came in through the door. Nice touch, too.
With the scent of herbs playing on your senses you’ll be reaching for the menu so here’s a heads-up. Apart from the homemade pastas (breads are homemade too) and a multitude of salads and tramezzenis, the chef recommends the fish carpaccio, the calamari, the butternut gnocchi and the spinach and risotto ravioli. Not forgetting the spaghetti with clams or truffle fettuccini. Or in winter, as a warm glow of a wall mounted fire lights the room, you might want something heartier, like the oxtail tagliatelli or T-bone steak Fiorentino. Each dish is made with the freshest ingredients meticulously sourced, and additive-free.
Hopefully you’ll go all the way before you head for home or back to the bar. In this event a classic tiramisu with rich mascarpone or a luscious praline and toffee panna cotta with butterscotch sauce will help you get there. As they say, Live life, taste Zenzero.