I love City Bowl Market. Biased? You bet. From the day they opened their doors they also opened their hearts and I was there. Right time, right place. I was new in Cape Town and the people of City Bowl Market took me in. They drew me in with their delectable wares, then ensnared me with their wonderful characters – good food and good people, two of my favourite things. Over time they’ve become my friends, their products my staples and their market my home-from-home.
Every Saturday from 9am to 2pm the bright pink hall on Hope street becomes the City Bowl Market. After hours, it’s a church. The gracious old building has been many things to many people and currently it’s Madelen Johansson’s raison d’etre. The gorgeous Swede appears to take things in her stride, running her market with Ikea-like efficiency. What drives her is an inherent passion for good food markets – like those she experienced growing up in Sweden. Attracting top traders is no mean feat when you’re competing with other, more established Cape Town markets but CBM hosts a bunch of my local favourites.
If coffee is a priority in your life, you’ll love Care For Coffee at the City Bowl market. Dave Coleman’s a sun dried Kalkbay surfer by choice and my favourite barista by profession. His vagabond bunch of assistants claim to make better coffee, but Dave’s cup runneth over with upbeat sunshine and love – and I’ll take that over milk and sugar any day! Dave believes if you take good care of your equipment and your customers, they’ll take good care of you. Judging by the happy queues at the shiny coffee machine every Saturday, he’s not wrong. My coffee staple is a ‘Bean There’ double shot flat white… or two.
Classic Marmalade’s Don Yeowell is my very first market friend and I adore him. He’s so switched on and wickedly funny in his own chilled out way. This ex ad man manages to give me an alternate perspective on everything from food to life and when he’s not saving my sanity or my taste buds, he sells his wife Clare’s award winning marmalades, pickles and preserves. My Classic staples are Mojito marmalade, Piccalilli and the Tomato & Chilli jam. Try the whole range, Clare is gifted when it comes to balancing flavours.
Marty’s my guy. He always has a story for me, a juicy titbit or some ham hock thrown in for good measure. He’s the epitome of your friendly local butcher right down to his stripy apron and generous hugs – and he knows how to handle a hog. Martin’s a sweetheart and is currently receiving rave reviews from local foodies for his bacon jam. My Curedeli staples are streaky back or neck bacon and braised leek & sage bangers… and his breakfast croissants when I’m hungover.
I like a market where I can stock up on groceries and not just pig out for the day. To this end, Simply Wholesome tick quite a few boxes. Marcelle is a cancer survivor and distributor of only the freshest, most wholesome of foods. She’s passionate about the health benefits associated with a natural, preservative and chemical free diet and is dedicated to spreading the good food message – in her own gentle, sincere way. Maurice, on the other hand, is passionate about mocking the bejesus out of me at every opportunity. I humour him; at his age it’s the least I can do. My Simply Wholesome staples are chicken, eggs, butter – and a lot of love and laughter.
You have to be quick to buy fruit and vegetables from the spunky Monique and her tireless mum Angie; getting them to stand still long enough for a photo proved impossible. Their stall is the biggest and easily the busiest at the market. By 11.30 they’ve sold out. The Rodgers family are well respected in the Southern suburbs for their quality produce, most of which is sourced directly from the farmers. My staples from Rodgers Fruiterers are fresh, seasonal fruit and veg for next to nothing!
The South China Dimsum Bar is one of the hippest new venues in town and it all started here at the City Bowl market. Ed and Clint built their reputation and clientele at CBM long before opening their Long street venue and have remained loyal ever since. Clint may be the muscle and the mouth, but get to know Ed and he’ll blow you away with his quiet, subtle sense of humour. Together with Clint’s darling dad, they make beautiful, fresh food and serve it with love. I have so much time for these guys and so much respect for what they’ve achieved and who they’ve remained. My South China staples are chicken pot stickers (in situ) and pork buns (to take home) – and just about anything else they’re making on the day.
Other staples include fresh pasta from Fabio, the passionate Italian who cracks me up with his dumb jokes and outlandish sales techniques. His gnocchi is gnyummy and the angelhair, my pasta of choice. Anya’s Saszali chocolates are back at the market – delectable truffles double dipped in Lindt – I am addicted to the salted caramel. Oded’s keeps me in Schug and Habanero Sauce (both are remarkable) while Lutvia’s fresh Limonata and permanent bonhomie take the sting out of life. I buy fresh pita’s from Salad Lover and the day I own my own home in Cape Town, Brendan’s doing all the woodwork. I love his chopping boards and bowls and the passion he has for his craft.
By now my bag is heavy and my wallet light. There’s still plenty to choose from though: pies; cheese; nuts; seeds; home made malva pud with proper vanilla custard; hearty stews; breads; cakes; macaroons; Dirk the drummer’s earthy loaves and beautiful arms; schwarmas; springrolls; cupcakes; Phillipe’s biltong, carbanossi and sense of humour; freshly squeezed juice; crepes… even natural skin care products that will leave you as wrinkle free as Hans who sells them. And don’t leave before trying a Bar-One brownie from La Petite Moo, my current food crush; that and Invin’s Durban curries – with rice, as bunny chow or wrapped in a rooti (potato evenly distributed).
Last on the list is beer and socialising with my fellow regulars. We congregate outside in drips and drabs, beer and munchies in hand, conversation mostly out of hand. Our little clique grows each week as more and more people fall in love with this market and its happy, personal vibe. Madelen and her staff invariably kick us out long after closing time, long after every trader has packed up and left, long after the hall has been restored to a place of worship. Just not of food.
Mahatma Ghandi said there were people in the world so hungry, that God could not appear to them except in the form of bread. I’ve been to church and had my weekly bread – it’s artisanal and I bought it from Tammy while she updated me on her love life. I love this place, its people and its food. If the kitchen is the heart of the home, then City Bowl Market is my Cape Town kitchen.
14 Hope Street
Every Saturday 9am to 2pm
Update November 2013: This post is a reflection of the market as it was when Madelen Johannsen was running it. Management has subsequently changed as have many of the traders.