I am unashamedly besotted with coffee culture, Italian culture and with the premise of a comfy place to work with great coffee and even better (read free, high speed) wifi. Being a writer tends to lend itself to a nomadic way of working but in my quest to find the perfect spot I find myself being drawn back to the same place time and time again. Stretta Café in Hillcrest is that place.
Beautifully designed by Kevin Boyd with quirky and unusual touches (a visit to the ladies is recommended) the open plan, open air design spills out alluringly onto the pavements on either side of the shop. Fat, over-indulged couches and armchairs nestle in the corner, with a counter and stools for the laptop tribe available in the centre of the main outside area. On the opposing side of the restaurant is a sun drenched deck where a happy afternoon can be passed, sipping one of the delicious craft beers or munching through possibly the best chocolate cake that will ever pass your lips.
To ensure that the feel was consistent with the previous home of Stretta in the Heritage Market, the décor is intentionally simple, honest and gritty New York Italian with softer touches such as the 3 light grouping. For their unusual design Kevin took the lights that were originally in the space, stripped them and recovered them with as much fabric as possible, with the intention of not only softening the space visually, but also limiting as much sound as possible, which can be a challenge with an industrial type space.
Stretta has artfully managed to combine cosy coffee culture with a thriving, busy restaurant and don’t bat an eyelid should you set up shop near a plug point for 3 hours, or indeed arrive with ten of your closest mates for a full on party. The menu is quintessentially Italian with a pronounced preference for all things fresh and decadent. The pizza’s are reminiscent of Firenze with thin bases and less cheese than the slapstick take away joints in SA seem to prefer, and what the salad menu lacks in breadth is more than made up for in simple deliciousness.
Although the food is divine, the atmosphere convivial and the décor fun, possibly the best thing about Stretta are the waitrons. There is no doubt that having hands on owners who are constantly available to patrons makes the client engagement meaningful, but none of it would matter if the waitrons offered the standard fare of surliness and slack attitude. Without being harassing, they appear to make it a point to get to know the clientele, greeting regulars on site and being surreptitiously available. With such a cross section of clients, this approach seems to be working, and I am assured by my female friends that their loyalty and regular visits to the restaurant have nothing to do with Johnny the Irish Managers gorgeous accent.
Stretta is open from 7am till 9pm and can be found at The Colony Centre in Hillcrest. Visit www.stretta.co.za for more info.