On the last Thursday evening of the month, Cape Town is busy. Kloof Street's traffic is almost back to pre-Covid days. People are waiting on pavements to be allowed into bars. It's good to be out.
Our Uber drops us off next door to one of the city's most popular drinking establishments where we are welcomed and screened by the front of house manager, Herve Shabani.
Ëlgr means moose — the animal — in Swedish, a nod to chef Jesper Nilsson's country of birth. He is married to a South African.
The restaurant's interior is elegant: calming combinations of grey, green, wood and leather. We're led through to the back where there is a courtyard, a rarity in the Mother City. Most of the tables — carefully placed to allow for social distancing — are occupied. There is a bar and a pizza oven along the back wall.
My date for the evening is Mia, my 18-year-old daughter who is a pescatarian, and tonight's chef's menu mostly caters to her needs, but one of the first course dishes is a charcuterie board.
I eat the entire selection of cold and cured meats, savouring the truly sublime pork rillette. I'm thankful for the seasonal watermelon salad dressed with lime juice and chilli to cut through the rich meatiness of the charcuterie. I'm also thankful for the wine pairing.
The sommelier on duty, Ryan Matendawafa, had poured me a glass of Saskia, a blended white by Miles Mossop Wines. Its crisp lightness is an excellent start, and my daughter wonders why Ryan removes my glass before it is bone dry. I am happy he did. It gives me the opportunity to try the next wine.
The Camissa, an organic rosé by Avondale Wine in Paarl, is paired with three wholesome salads. Curried beetroot with cashew and coriander; fresh vegetables dressed in a sunflower tahini and dukkah; and gem lettuce with dates, apple, shallot, orange and parmesan.
For our mains, we were both offered the kingklip served with a peperonata (tomato, red pepper and onion) sauce. To accompany this I drink a splash of The Wine Thief by Roussanne. The fish is perfectly cooked. The pescatarian daughter approves.
To finish we share the raspberry semifreddo. It's a kind of Eton mess drizzled with olive oil. Entirely decadent and moreish.
The eclectic chef's menu is not quite tasting menu, not quite tapas nor does it commit to one style or type of cuisine. There are hints of Middle Eastern, Indian, French, Italian … It offers a selection of wholesomely sized dishes made from local, in-season produce.
The chef's menu is intended as an expression of the kitchen. This did mean we missed out on trying the pizza, which by many accounts is some of the best in town, especially the white pizza (it has no tomato).
It's fairly priced from between R45 to R150 for the various dishes. The chef's menu is R395, with wine pairing R795. The pizza is R120.
In a couple of months Ëlgr has established itself as a local. We recognise a few of the diners from our neighbourhood. Throughout the evening there is happy chatter from the tables. The staff are unharried and their service is excellent.
We learn that not only the chef, but the restaurant's manager, Chase Pargeter, has followed his heart to Cape Town.
It's this combination of love, good food, delicious wine, and a wind-protected courtyard that is luring people through the restaurant's doors. It is a happy place.
• Ëlgr is located on 75 Kloof Street in Gardens, Cape Town. For reservations, call 021-422-0384 or e-mail email@example.com