The promise of escapism for the price of an espresso and a croissant. That’s the simple ethos behind Coco Safar, the gorgeous café and pâtisserie drawing a crowd in Cape Town
BY RICHARD HOLMES, PHOTOGRAPHS BY BRUCE TUCK, RECIPES AND STYLING BY COCO SAFAR.
Coco Safar is the brainchild of co-founders Wilhelm Liebenberg and Caroline Sirois. Wilhelm, who was born in South Africa, spent the best part of 20 years abroad, working in branding, marketing and luxury.
South Africa, spent the best part of 20 years abroad, working in branding, marketing and luxury design for everyone from boutique hotels to fashion brands and even Cirque du Soleil. “I’ve always been on the luxury side of design and branding, which has given me a very good understanding of high-end hospitality. I also realised there’s a huge gap in the market for a luxury coffee and café experience,” explains Wilhelm, who splits his time between New York, Toronto and Cape Town. “We saw an opportunity to create the Hermès of coffee, café and pâtisserie.”
It’s a global perspective – and ambition, as we’ll see later – that makes its presence felt at Coco Safar. “We want people to feel as if they’re in Paris or Vienna,” Wilhelm says. “For me, it’s about the promise of escapism for the price of an espresso and a croissant. So, if you’re going to have this daily ritual of coffee and a pastry, why not make it memorable?”
At the heart of Coco Safar is the elegant pâtisserie, where a display case is laid out with impossibly flaky croissants, colourful treats and a cornucopia of pastries. There are Canadian scones with home-made preserves, South American alfajores draped in chocolate, mille-feuille with oven-poached pears, and decadent bonbons made of Valrhona chocolate. A vibrant, creative and oh-so-tempting array of goodies, it’s as if Willy Wonka ditched the chocolate factory and got himself a pastry qualification.
But, for something more substantial, there are plenty of savoury choices, too. Alongside the creative breakfasts, which are served until 2pm on weekends and 1pm on weekdays, there’s a lunch menu focused on refined bistro-style cuisine. “The menu is very much inspired by Caroline and me. We call it ‘haute comfort food’,” Wilhelm chuckles.
It’s certainly a globetrotting menu, wandering from a duo of decidedly untraditional bao buns – filled with sweet-and-sour lamb and fresh herbs – to a fragrant coconut fish curry. The smoked brisket sandwich (with slow- cooked smoked brisket served with triple-cooked fries) is a safe choice, as are the handful of generous salads.
There’s a local influence here, too, with a standout being the bobotie dish: lamb replaces beef, and the rich meat and savoury custard topping are well balanced by yoghurt and piquant mango chutney made in-house.