It is kind of sad that Anthony’s Fish Grotto, which had faithfully been serving customers along San Diego’s Embarcadero for 70 years, eventually lost the bid to renew its licence, meaning that when February 2017 rolled around, that familiar waterfront sight was now no more. That said, I’m pleased to report that I did actually get a chance to grab some fish and chips from this iconic San Diego eatery while it was still in its original location!
The Embarcadero (Spanish for “landing place”) is the area along the San Diego harbour on the east side of San Diego Bay. Administered by the Port of San Diego, the Embarcadero is home to the San Diego cruise ship terminal, the USS Midway museum ship (which we just visited!), the San Diego Maritime Museum (which includes the iconic Star of India – a full-rigged iron windjammer ship – and several other historic vessels floating in its collection), the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD), the Downtown Waterfront Park, and various restaurants and shops dotted along Seaport Village.
So basically lots to see, pretty much everywhere that you look.
Then of course there is the gorgeous, clean skyline of San Diego itself, and thanks to the time of year that we found ourselves there, the bustle associated with everyone busy frantically setting up for nearby Comic-Con.
Not a bad place pull up a chair and people watch in other words.
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Oh, and pleasingly the fish and chips were rather nice.
Chantelle, the girls and I joined her folks for a weekend up the West Coast back in March of this year, spending much of our time relaxing in the tranquil atmosphere of Jacobsbaai. Monty however very much wanted to show off a local fish and chips stop that they had only recently discovered, which explains then why we found ourselves winding through the small town of Velddrif and ending up in the even smaller town of Laaiplek on a rather warm and sunny Saturday afternoon.
Now we weren’t visiting the historically significant port of Laaiplek (so named because it was the loading area for ships from Europe from where goods were then transported into the hinterland) or its adjacent sister Velddrif for their famed bokkoms or view over the Berg River, instead we were on a mission and heading straight to Die Vis Vlekhuis, a popular bar and fish and chips takeaways situated just off the main harbour of the area.
And I’m not joking about its popularity mind you. The venue was packed both inside and out (shame, their neighbours could truthfully have done with some of Vis Vlekhuis’ patrons), and the queue for food was quite the sight. (In other words, the wait time for fish and chips was a bit on the lengthy side).
Nevertheless, we got lucky in that Monty managed to secure an outdoor table, allowing us to then grab some beers, let the girls entertain themselves by colouring in (they brought their own supplies), and enjoy the live music courtesy of the rather talented and very entertaining Jay Jay who was belting out all the hits from next door in the bar area.
The food did of course eventually arrive, and I have to say, the fish and chips were well worth the wait. Generous portions, good flavour – nothing to complain about at all! Hungers were sated, seagulls were fed, and a lazy walk to look at the boats was taken.
(Oh, and a rather pleasant drive down through Bokkom Avenue along the river completed the trip.)
So, all in all a successful first visit to this small but charming in its West Coast way place then.
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Extra Credit: The team behind the Afrikaans travel magazine Weg put together this short video about fish, pelicans, bakkies and bokkoms in Velddrif. Obviously you’ll need to know some Afrikaans to follow what’s going on, though that said, even if you do have a decent understanding, that distinctive West Coast accent isn’t going to make things any easier for you to follow…
In all honesty, now that I think about it, I don’t believe that I have ever tasted bokkoms. Guess I’ll have to rectify that come our next visit up the West Coast then!
I’ve mentioned them before, but heading down to the harbour to enjoy some fish and chips at the Sea Gypsy Cafe in Mossel Bay has become somewhat of a family tradition whenever we all find ourselves up in the area. Thus, my weekend away with the girls, my folks and my brother Ryan back in March this year ended on that exact note.
Situated just outside the main harbour entrance, right across the small Biblia house, the Sea Gypsy Cafe is a lively spot with both an indoor and outdoor eating setup, a place where the vibe is good, the beer always flows, and fish and chips appear all around you.
Unless of course you ordered something else that is.
Historically I’ve always gone for the classic fish and chips, but recently Dad has converted me into grabbing one of their baskets instead, which contains a nice mix of fish, chips, crumbed mushrooms and calamari.
All ready to be washed down with some fantastic Glenhoff beer (that they have on tap). Spoiler alert: it is all rather good.
They have a good view over the bay (Santos beach is just across the water), the food is quite ‘lekker’ and in general it is a pretty good place to meet up with friends and spend an afternoon catching up.
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And then if you are anything like us – it is back into the car and on the road for the good 4.5 hour long drive home. Which on this occasion was a lot longer thanks to all the stop and go controls in place. (Am rather enjoying the new N2 road surface though!)
Extra Credit: I mentioned the little Biblia house across from the Sea Gypsy Cafe near the start of this post. If you are aren’t familiar with the group, BIBLIA is a Christian non-profit organization that sees to the spiritual and overall well-being of seafarers coming into South Africa. While their home base is the Cape Town harbour, the movement claims to have a presence in every major South African port, meaning that they should be a reasonably familiar sight for you to encounter when visiting any of SA’s larger harbours.
As is almost always the case, we were in Hermanus to watch whales. We watched whales from the piazza, we watched whales from Fick’s Pool, we watched whales from the cliff path, we… well you get the picture.
Anyway, the point is that after all that whale watching/ambling about, a spot of lunch was required – and so we randomly picked out a new spot for us to try: Harbour Rock.
Designed and built in 1997, the stone, steel and timber Harbour Rock building sits perched atop a cliff overlooking Hermanus’ New Harbour, a premium restaurant known for its wine and more importantly, ever-evolving menu of seafood and grills.
A magnificent view over the harbour and across the bay, competent chefs, an authentic Chinese sushi team, and access to pretty fresh catches, it is no wonder that Harbour Rock is as popular as what it is.
While the girls weren’t particularly enthralled at having to eat at a seafood restaurant (and to be honest, seafood isn’t really my thing either), Chantelle on the other hand was ecstatic, immediately diving deep into a delicious sushi platter
I on the other hand opted for the less exotic fish and chips option, and in terms of drinks, we turned to a delectable bottle of Wolftrap Syrah for the table.
Following our lovely lunch, we next decided to take in some of the sea air with a leisurely stroll out along the harbour wall – a perfect way to stretch one’s legs and give the food a proper chance to settle in my opinion.
This, the girls were a little more pleased with.
In summary: Harbour Rock was a pleasant surprise and definitely worth keeping in mind if you are ever looking for a nice date night venue when in the Hermanus area.
(In other words, I’m rather glad that Chantelle came up with this particular suggestion!)
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Bonus: If you would rather just have a drink, then Harbour Rock’s adjoining Gecko Bar is the perfect solution, enjoying the exact same stunning view that comes with the main restaurant experience.
Just follow the motorbikes to find it!
I think that it was my folks who originally introduced us to the Sea Gypsy Cafe, one of their favourite spots to tuck into some fish and chips whenever they are down in Mossel Bay (which, given their Pinnacle Point holiday home, is relatively often).
For some or other unknown reason it has now managed to also wiggle its way into being a bit of an institution for both Chantelle and myself, so much so that we now tend to pop in for a bite to eat almost each and every time that we too find ourselves in the general area!
So anyway, two weeks ago Chantelle and I left the kids behind with her folks in Bellville in order to spend the last bit of our holiday driving up to George, where we would then fork over R7,500 to collect our car that had been forced to stay behind for a week at the Kia/Hyundai Service Center for repairs. (More on that story later, I promise. In essence though, it revolves around old spark plugs and coils, just in case you were wondering.)
With the fixed Accent now back in our possession, Chantelle and I opted to not sleep over in George again, but rather drove our two cars down to Mossel Bay for a change of scenery. After spending a lazy day around the Diaz beach area, we did a bit of a ‘taking in the sights of Mossel Bay’ drive out and about, before heading down towards the harbour for a spot of supper – selecting the aforementioned Sea Gypsy as our restaurant of choice for the evening of course!
Situated on Quay 4 along the harbour wall, the bright blue Sea Gypsy and its gorgeous views of Mossel Bay’s beaches and surrounds is admittedly looking rather tattered these days. (Though to be honest it’s probably always been a little… weathered. It just seems to be getting more and more noticeably so with each and every subsequent visit!)
Anyway, looks/first impressions aside, we grabbed an outdoor seat next to the wall, ordered our food, watched some seagulls, engaged in small talk, witnessed a woman awkwardly trip over the foot of one of the benches, and then finally tucked into some pretty good hake and chips. (The calamari was okay at best).
Still, the views were pretty amazing.
(Also, being in the South Cape I very obviously had a Glenhoff Draught to accompany my meal, because as I’ve now very firmly established for myself, I REALLY do enjoy their brew.)
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Seeing as sunset was now upon us, we hopped down the road to The Point, now thankfully devoid of most of the crazy holiday caravan crowd that descends upon Mossel Bay each and every December holiday season.
Thanks to the smokey haze stretched across the sky (from a massive fire in the Albertinia area), the sun looked particularly fiery as it worked its way ever lower, with me managing to capture this particularly cool photo featuring the iconic St. Blaize Lighthouse in the background:
I’m pretty chuffed with it actually.
As for the rest of the evening – we spent that wandering about Hartenbos while listening to a Native American busker doing his thing.
Related Link: Sea Gypsy Cafe
Chantelle and I decided to make an impromptu afternoon trip out to Kleinmond with the kids, making our way past Rooi Els, Pringle Bay and Betty’s Bay via the beautiful coastal route that is Clarence Drive.
After a bit of driving about and looking at all the houses that make up this small coastal town (including the famous – or perhaps infamous – Western Province rugby supporters’ home that is literally decked out from top to bottom in blue, white and disas!), we next headed down to the popular tourist spot that is Harbour Road, opting to grab a bite to eat from The Boathouse Restaurant – pretty much because the girls were ready to rebel if they didn’t get ice cream right that moment!
Reminiscent of old fishing villages dotted along the southern US coastline, Harbour Road is actually a pretty nice, albeit tiny, waterfront development that puts together a great mix of tourist friendly, colourful shops and restaurants pretty much down a single road, with everything clustered around Kleinmond’s popular fisherman harbour.
Mountain peaks behind you, ocean to the front – it really is a beautiful location to sit and enjoy a beer in!
With her face still freshly painted following Courtney’s birthday party in the morning, Jessica selected which seats we were to sit in (she chose an outside table with a comfy couch at the side), and after ordering some ice cream for the girls, Chantelle and I got down to the hard business of selecting what we ourselves actually wanted for lunch.
As it turns out, fish and chips at the Boathouse is a great choice!
(Also, the surprisingly named Sxollie Cider happens to be quite nice as well. Go figure.)
Not a bad way to start an afternoon that would still see us take a stroll around the small harbour area, as well as brave a small section of the neat coastal walkway!
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With Jessica now going to occupational therapy twice a week, the opportunities for Chantelle and I to slip out for a coffee or lunch during the week are now few and far between. However, we did catch a break last Friday and managed to slip out for a bite to eat at the famous Bertie’s Moorings restaurant at Harbour Island Marina here in Gordon’s Bay.
International sailing legend Bertie Reed (1943-2006) is considered one of the best sailors that South Africa ever produced. During his life-time he sailed about 170 000 nautical miles competitively, of which over 100 000 was single-handed – including three solo circumnavigations of the globe, the first South African to ever do so!
He is also remembered for his brave rescue of fellow South African John Martin, whose yacht sank after hitting a submerged iceberg in the Southern Ocean during the 1990/91 BOC Challenge. This heroic deed (and example of outstanding seamanship in extreme conditions) was rewarded with the Wolraad Woltemade Decoration, the then highest South African civilian award for bravery.
Anyway, he and his family established Bertie’s Moorings back in 1994. The family-run restaurant/pub is centered around a hand-crafted oak barrel bar (made by Bertie himself), and can seat around 120 people. The drawcard has to be though the large deck overlooking the water!
The restaurant plays host to lots of live music gigs, and caters for big sporting event screenings as well.
We made the most of the good winter weather, and tucked into a portion of classic fish and chips, while Chantelle gave their ‘white pizza’ a shot. (Update: both were good!)
And then, because all good things come to an end, we paid our bill and went back to work!
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Related Link: Bertie’s Moorings
Chantelle, Jessica and I enjoyed a rare Sunday off as the three of us paid a visit to the always awesome Two Oceans Aquarium in the V&A Waterfront. Pleasingly, Jessica seemed to quite enjoy her first ever outing to this fishy wonderland! :)
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