Chad Blows is flying solo and has named his new restaurant accordingly. I first met Blows shortly after he had been promoted to head chef of The Conservatory at The Cellars-Hohenort hotel in Constantia, following training under Peter Tempelhoff at their fine dining establishment, The Greenhouse. His path to independence involved a stopover as head of The Pavilion at The Marine in Hermanus were he had the opportunity to introduce a touch more of his personal style.
Although he has a string of accolades — including having represented South Africa at the Jeunes Chefs Rôtisseurs Competition and working with Gordon Ramsay — Blows is a homeboy at heart and confesses that his signature dishes are mostly inspired by his mom's cooking. I fondly recall a heartwarming twist on his mom's oxtail potjie and his famous fish in a beer batter (prepared over three days) so I was very excited to find him closer to home on Loop Street.
His background is in fine dining, which is reflected in the elegant yet relaxed “classiness” of Solo’s decor. However, the tiny kitchen presented challenges for the menu and a fresh start. “The restaurant focuses on simple, unpretentious ingredient combinations with big flavours and seasonal produce,” says Blows. And there’s no room in there for cold storage so ‘fresh’ is not just talk at Solo. “We make all our pickles and confit on-site but had to outsource the baking to specialists.” (On that note, a little tip from Blows: head to Aniyo Bakery at Vogue House on Thibault Square for the best croissant in Cape Town).
I witnessed happy customers who’d returned for more burgers but it was an unusually nippy day for this warm Cape autumn so I took full advantage of the field mushroom and boerenkaas gnocchi. Perfectly presented with just the right amount of cream, it was loaded with shiitake and oyster mushrooms and a few slithers of pickled courgettes, which cut the richness for a most welcome fresh take (R80). Blows has managed to keep most breakfasts and lunch items below R100 and considering the size of his kitchen also manages miraculously to take good care of customers with special dietary needs.
The glass-roofed and treed courtyard offers an intimate escape from the overcrowded city and on First Thursdays, both Solo and sister gallery 99 Loop are open late, with the dinner menu (on those nights only for now) changing from month to month.