My work takes me on business trips around the world, where I then often end up having business dinners. But what I actually look forward to during these trips, if time permits, is to head out into the streets, enter a nice-looking place that catches my eye and just kick back and enjoy the food. This column is about the time I went on a business trip to Cape Town in South Africa.
Upon checking in at the hotel on my day of arrival, it was already time for dinner. I asked the concierge what restaurants she could recommend, and she answered with a number of famous high-end restaurants in the city. But I was on my own that evening, so I made a request.
“Could you tell me a more intimate family-owned restaurant, one where the locals go?”
She replied, “there’s a seafood restaurant I go to often, five minutes from here. I’ll give you the address.”
The place she told me about was a truly cozy restaurant, bustling with men and women of all ages and backgrounds. I was welcomed by the staff with open arms and the biggest smile. A simple blackboard announced today’s special— oysters— so I ordered oysters and white wine. As I looked at the menu again, I noticed the words ‘Best Tomato Soup Ever!’ There were other appetizing dishes on the menu, like carpaccio and sautéed octopus, but I ordered the soup without a second thought, and sautéed monkfish to go along with it.
The soup truly lived up to its name. It warmed my soul and became one of my favorite memories from that trip. But I wonder if it was the flavor alone that made the soup so great for me. The smiles from the staff, the family-like feeling of the place, the heart and soul the chef put into his dishes—there was something special about the evening that could not possibly be found at high-end restaurants.