Buena Vista Social Cafe Stellenbosch – to kuier or eat?

We visited Buena Vista Social Cafe outside Stellenbosch for lunch the other day and though it was a bit impromptu (I really wanted to go to Rust en Vrede for their lunch steak special, until I realised there is very little chance that they’ll sell beer for Brian!) I decided to do a quick review anyway.

Buena Vista is part of a chain of restaurants and it appears that they have a standardised menu over the group, focusing on Cuban food. The menu is broad with a long list of starters and mains to choose from, but an even longer drinks list! This is the most extensive cocktail list I’ve seen in the Winelands so far so of course I had to try one – that wasn’t very good at all, though that might be my personal taste more than anything else. They have a big selection of beers on tap as well as a lot of bottles, so plenty of options for Brian.

You can also order bottles of spirits should the mood strike you, and in keeping with the theme, cuban cigars as well. The extensive drinks menu probably should have tipped me off that this may be more of a ‘kuier’ or drinking establishment than a foodie’s paradise, but I am willing to suffer for my art! The menu caters fairly well for vegetarians but of course not really for vegans; what doesn’t contain meat definitely contains cheese; or meat and cheese in a lot of cases. We ordered Flaming Diablos which are Jalapenos stuffed with dates and cream cheese, wrapped in bacon and deep fried for a starter, as well as a Lamb Borrito and Burger Del Toro. Now, I’ve never heard of a borrito before, plenty of burritos yes, but not borritos so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was looking forward to getting something along the lines of what you get in Mexican restaurants, big rolled burritos stuffed with rice, beans, meat, salad and cheese. What I got was very different and looked more like a parcel than a burrito, and there were no rice or beans to be found (though a lot of people would probably say that is a good thing!). On first sight the food didn’t look great and the Diablos came out with the mains instead as a starter, but it all tasted ok with nothing to really complain about. The borrito tasted fine as did the burger and the Diablos were quite interesting, though who’d be able to eat two of them I’m not sure! The borrito contained a kind of cheesy lamb sauce with tomatoes and was pleasant enough, though not necessarily something I would order again. The burger was also fairly good with nice fried potatoes, though there was nothing ‘bravas’ about them whatsoever, contrary to what the menu states. Buena Vista would be a nice place for a drink with groups of people as there are lots of outside tables, and a nice garden, though both times we’ve been there we were the only clients. Service is adequate though it should be with only one table to look after. There was nothing wrong with the food per se, but the next time we visit I might stick to the drinks and maybe a plate of nachos!

Ambience – 3/5
Service – 3/5
Food – 3/5
Value – 3/5

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