Blues perhaps suffers the most from the classic challenge that well located restaurants are faced with. This is the inverse relationship between the beauty of the setting and the quality of the food. Situated upstairs and overlooking Camps Bay beach, Blues simply finds itself in one of the world’s iconic places. And as an interior space, it is also very pretty indeed: calm sea tones with lots of white matched to airy volumes and wood “beach house” elements, as well as a lovely bar area. Most tables have “that” view, so this is an ideal beach-side restaurant.
Except it has a very poor reputation for its food. Simply put, they have never really had to try hard, and, well, didn’t. Not since the early days at least (they’ve been open since 1987) when this was a break-through venue, a delightfully sexy and modern restaurant with food that – if never “gourmet” – was fresh and simple.
I recently returned to Blues with some hope that there had been a successful return to early form, while not blind to the fact that they have tried to “reboot” numerous times over the last decades. The interior has been spruced up and it looks as good as it ever did. The menu has been formatted to look fresh and inviting, while still offering quite a range of modern classics; with a focus on seafood and Italianate dishes. Most importantly, there is a new floor and kitchen team.
We were immediately off to a rough start when I ordered a wine and was met with a completely dumbfounded expression from the waiter. I repeated the request. He held the menu up for me to perform that profoundly irritating act of pointing the wine out, but I prevailed and named it again, and he left to find the bottle – only to return to tell us that this wine was in fact no longer carried, hence his confusion.
After this indictment of the training, he performed well enough, indeed he was again put through a test when one of our main courses, the “Blues Gourmet Burger” (R84) arrived rare instead of medium. He offered to return it to the kitchen and the manager arrived to apologise too. Fortunately, a rare burger is less objectionable (in my view) than the over-cooked yellowtail (R130) which was a skinny tail piece to begin with and served with a paltry portion of mash and boring sautéed peppers (“grilled Mediterranean veg”).
Our starters were equally unconvincing. Battered prawns on an avocado, chilli, crème fraiche and rocket salsa (R90) were saved by the salsa, as the prawns rested in an overly dark batter, their flavour lost. A Caesar salad (R65) was nominal, except the eggs looked as if they had spent a good morning under heat, and had a dry, half cooked mien, really representing a lack of attention to detail. So Blues remains so frustrating – if only the simple food they offer was cooked accurately, the experience would be delightful in all respects.
For: The setting
Against: The food at high prices