The Cape Grand restaurant brin

The Cape Grand restaurant brings flavours of Ouma’s kitchen to UK

Jonette Seeby, who inherited her flair for cooking from her colourful and talented grandmother in South Africa, tells us the story behind her UK restaurant Cape Grand.

The Cape Grand restaurant brin

koeksisters cape grand (Medium)The Cape Grand Cafe & Restaurant in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire is owned and run by the dynamic British-South African duo of Mark and Jonette Seeby.

Jonette, who inherited her flair for cooking from her colourful and talented grandmother in South Africa, tells us the story behind the Cape Grand.

How did you two meet?
It was 1997. It’s a long story and has the makings of a best seller. When Mark has the time he has promised to write the book, unless there is a good ghost writer out there looking for a project. But here is the abridged version: I was running a 5 star boutique hotel in Kensington and Mark at the time was working as a detective in London’s West End. The rest is history.

Are you united in our passion for food?
Absolutely, we were both influenced by our grandmothers. Mark’s grandmother was the head cook in an English country home, where Harrods and Fortnum & Mason would deliver the finest of foods, she was an old school Mrs Beeton.

My grandmother was an artistic and creative Afrikaans lady. She was a big woman, her passion was fashion and food.  As a five-year-old I stayed up late into the night and made roses with the icing clay that she used to make the most amazing iced flowers and finery for wedding cakes looking like white marble statues. Her hands always smelt of good food.

Cape GrandWhat is your core food philosophy?
Quality, consistency, keeping abreast of current trends and flavours.

How are you influenced by modern South African cuisine?
South Africa, like Australia, is renowned for freshness and quality and adapting to current trends. Modern South African food is a twist on the old favourites adding new flavours, for example sweet potato chips with a truffle oil aioli mayo, bobotie samosas, biltong carpaccio with pickled mushrooms and shaved Parmesan. My flavours come from the heart.

What makes your restaurant unique?
I have cooked for the last three presidents of South Africa when they visited the UK. We are so passionate about what we do that consistency is paramount. We will not accept second best. We are not looking for a Michelin star but have created a good local neighbourhood restaurant serving good quality freshly cooked food. We are not a chain and can adapt our menu accordingly.

If South Africans are missing that taste of home then The Cape is the place to be any day of the week or on a Friday or Saturday evening. We have an excellent selection of South African wines and beers.

We also have an outside catering side of the business – weddings are our speciality. We were flown out to Franschhoek in January to cater at a three-day wedding for the goddaughter of one of the directors of Spier Estate.

Describe the location of The Cape Grand.
It is in the busy but quaint South Buckinghamshire market town of Beaconsfield. We don’t have too many chains in our high street yet, although they are beginning to appear. Buckinghamshire has retained the 11+ and grammar school system and good education is something the majority of South Africans are passionate about. We are surrounded by some of the best schools in the UK therefore we have a large South African clientele, coupled with the fact we sell probably the best food, biltong and boerewors for miles around.

bobotie 2I believe you are connected to a restaurant in Cape Town?
Yes, Table Thirteen at Victoria Junction, Green Point is a small deli day time cafe owned and run by my daughter Lara O’Sullivan. She vowed never to go into the food business but having grown up in The Greyton Lodge Hotel it is in her blood. She has also opened a small takeaway in Paarden Island, Cape Town. We exchange recipes and ideas – she is constantly e-mailing me for recipes and asking how did we used to make this and that.

What are your future plans?
We have the family farm in Swellendam, on the border of De Hoop nature reserve, which we would love to turn into a small luxury guest retreat 40km off the main road, but the restaurant and our catering keeps us busy here. The trouble is we are the business and find it difficult to leave it alone.

Are you involved in any charitable projects?
We have just forged a relationship with Springfield Wine Estate in Robertson and promote the ‘Thunderchild’ wine where all profits go a local Robertson orphanage. Mark’s mother has multiple sclerosis so that charity gets his attention. We also are selective with donations to local schools and fundraising events whenever possible.

cape grand 2

Visiting the Cape Grand:

If you’re coming from London, Beaconsfield is 20 minutes on the train from Marylebone and the restaurant is literally two minutes away. (Turn right out of Beaconsfield station, walk up the road and at the T-junction it’s diagonally across the road).