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Escondido No More

Do you believe in miracles? I think I might, after a spectacularly unlikely encounter that took place over December. My husband and I decided to get away to the coast for a few days and we decided on a little spot called Betty’s Bay, a few hours outside of Cape Town, South Africa. Our Air BnB was perfectly located in front of a rocky outcrop that resulted in a naturally private beach and throughout our stay, the only person we encountered on that beach was a single man walking his dog.

In Search of Food

Because of how remote Betty’s Bay is, there is a very limited selection of restaurants. One of these restaurants promised tapas, which had me sold. You see, there used to be a tapas restaurant five minutes from my home in Johannesburg called Escondido. The menu would change on a weekly basis (keeping a handful of old faithful crowd favourites on there) and the food was always sublime. It became the default ‘special occasion’ restaurant for us to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries, and I can’t tell you how gutted I was when it closed down.

So back to Betty’s Bay. We sanitised, took temperatures and sat down at Gnocchi Tapas and Wine. The friendly waiters brought round giant wooden boards with the specials of the week. I got a bit emotional. “Escondido used to have those…” I said to Chris. We read through the menu. Some of the items seemed familiar… too familiar.

After ordering the special of a dozen oysters for R 150 (yes please, I will have twenty platters, thank you), I whipped out my phone to begin my FBI-level snooping. First step…chef of Escondido…second step…Google “Willem Lizemore”…third step…creep his Instagram…in which he proudly announces the opening of his restaurant, Gnocchi Tapas and Wine, after his move to the Western Cape. I had found Escondido, my long-lost tapas love, 1500km away in a tiny town with less than 1500 people (Joburg is home to just shy of 6 million for some perspective). I asked our waiter if we could speak to the chef and he told us all about how the journey had gone down – in short, more twists and turns than you would think! After reminiscing about Escondido, we agreed that the spectacular location of his new spot couldn’t be beaten.

Suffice to say, we ate there every single day of our stay, worked through every single item on the menu, including the non-tapas options like a sublime paella and what we unanimously agreed was the best burger of our lives. I ordered the oyster special each time and one day, I even asked for them as a takeaway so that I could take them down to the beach, stand with my toes in the water and chomp down on my platter. This turned out to be a terrifically romantic idea in theory but in practice, dabbing Tobasco and squeezing lemon wedges onto shucked oysters, juggling trays of rapidly melting ice in the 30+ degree Celsius heat…it was comical to say the least.

Lost and Found

But anyway, there’s the story of how I lost my favourite restaurant and then found it again – totally by accident – in the last place on earth that I would have thought to look for it. 2020 gave some gifts after all.

Me, a happy noodle with my rock shandy and oyster platter.

The road into Betty’s Bay. The wooden boards of my culinary dreams.


Author picture
Tayla Blaire

Tayla Blaire is a South African writer, teacher, epicurean, and (most importantly) mother to all cats. Tayla has been thinking (and subsequently writing) about food since she was a tiny tot after her mother taught her that measuring ingredients was for the weak. If you’re interested to see what Tayla has whipped up recently, check out her Instagram profile @tayla.blaire to see the recipes that she has lovingly filmed in her very own too-small kitchen.

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