At one time in Kalk Bay there was only one restaurant, which was on the seaside of the railway line. As far as my memory goes, this restaurant was run by a German businessperson. It was a steak and seafood restaurant. I can still remember going there for my 16th birthday and because of the occasion can still remember having a pepper steak. Later, when I was in the South African Navy, I would go there with friends for a fish braai on Sunday evenings. The unusual part of this braai was that you could select a fresh fish from a countertop and someone would braai it on the coals for you.
My mother Myra became an expert in various fish dishes and came out with a pioneering South African cook book on seafood called “Myra in the Galley”. She also smoked large quantities of Snoek and other fish in a cold smoker. Later she started a restaurant called “Myra’s Galley” in Kalk Bay main road. She was one of the first to start a restaurant in the main road and although it was a small eatery, she managed to attract a reasonable number of customers. I had high hopes for her in the restaurant business because she could really cook well (I suppose sons would say this but I am going on feedback from local and international visitors) and loved it. I ate there on a few occasions when I was in Kalk Bay and enjoyed the homely and relaxed atmosphere. But my father was struck with a heart attack in his early 50s and so she closed the restaurant and cared for him. It was a pity because I think she would have made a real go of it.
Those were the early days in the restaurant business in Kalk Bay. One restaurant dominated the evening food and entertainment market but after a few years many other restaurants started opening up on the main road. During this time Kalk Bay became an attractive weekend destination with its growing coterie of antique and art shops. Kalk Bay harbour attracted several restauranteers, which added to the number of restaurants in the village of Kalk Bay. Nowadays you are spoiled for choice in Kalk Bay. The biggest problem is parking because so many visitors come to Kalk Bay for its restaurant entertainment.
It’s interesting how this small fishing village became so popular. At one time it was a pass-through town with people from the suburbs taking little interest in the harbour village except to go down to the harbour and watch the boats come in or to buy fresh fish from the quayside. If you lived there, people would look at you as if there was something wrong with you. Imagine that.
The new interest in Kalk Bay has meant a steep rise in property prices. From what was once a modest area, you would be lucky to even afford a flat in Kalk Bay. It just goes to show how important timing is. In the years that my mother had her restaurant in Kalk Bay she only made a modest income but if you were to jump even 10 years later her restaurant would have been thriving.
It is ironic that as the fish stocks in False Bay have dwindled because of overfishing and exploitation, the retail and restaurant business in Kalk Bay has grown. Yes, you may find fish on your plate that was brought in by the wooden fishing boats to Kalk Bay harbour but most of it comes frozen from the large fishing companies in Cape Town and up the west and east coasts.
As with many other small fishing villages, Kalk Bay has continued to grow into a local tourist attraction, attracting many visitors from upcountry as well as international visitors during the holiday season. Although there have been benefits for the original locals from Kalk Bay most of the business has gone to outsiders seeking opportunity in the small fishing village.
The bright and colourful small fishing village of Kalk Bay has lost its original ambience as a working harbour and sadly has become more associated with beer swirling revellers, party seekers and the sophisticated beautiful people then a tranquil little working harbour village to soak up the sun and the fresh sea breeze as my mother so much loved in the early days.