Bombay Bicycle Club review

A topic that comes up in conversation often is the question of what makes a restaurant successful. I’ve heard many suggestions such as location, price, owner involvement, quality, etc. Yet for each suggestion, I can think of several restaurants which don’t have that attribute and are still highly successful. It seems to me it is a combination of things, but some people have a knack for it.

The Madame Zingara guys are an example of this. From their highly successful Madame Zingara’s and Cara Lazuli to the totally revolutionary and well supported Tent of Dreams, these guys have made it happen. Unfortunately Europe was not kind to the Tent of Dreams and it was liquidated. But the Zingara team is back with a new venture, the Bombay Bicycle Club.

This is an example of location not making a difference. This venue is at the top of Kloof St, opposite Baccini’s. This is a good location, but Amigos didn’t make it and Fabulous couldn’t have seen more than 10 diners before it closed. Within a couple of weeks, Bombay Bicycle Club opened as was packed from the first week. I went as part of a big group for a birthday and we had a set menu, so it’s not the best visit to review, but I think I have a good idea of the place.

The nice thing about having the set menu was that we got to sample a whole lot of dishes. For starters they brought us platters of chicken phyllo parcels (R34 – delicious), deep fried camembert (R33 – amazing but not sure if the tomato coulis adds to the dish), tomato tart (R35 – much nicer than it sounds or looks) as well as some lovely carpaccio (not on the menu so can’t tell you the price) and salad (R33). The starters were all so good that we couldn’t stop eating them and were quite stuffed by the time our mains arrived!

This is certainly in contrast to Mesopotamia where we also had the ‘set menu’ except the starters were merely gestures which reminded us how hungry we actually were. For mains we could select between the chicken pasta (R47 – nice but the promised pesto was not evident and the chicken was scarce too), the Ravioli (R48 – very good) or the Gnocci (R46 – a bit stodgy). I opted to pay the surcharge and have the oven roast fillet (R110 – very rich sauce but good steak, I don’t think I’d come to BBC for steak though, the other dishes are more interesting and better value).

As you can see the prices are very reasonable. We ended with the pavlova (R32 – which was fine, not mind blowing) for dessert. This was much to my disappointment because they do have their famous chocolate cigars (R33 – have them!) and I was looking forward to enjoying those as it has been a while.

Service was under a lot of pressure with our large group of unruly diners but they handled fine. I didn’t get a chance to study the wine list but it is quite short and reasonable priced as one might have expected.

There are some things that bugged me, one was the smoking. I don’t know if it was just upstairs where our party was, but it was very smokey. The other thing is that they have packed the tables in there so you end up trying to squeeze past chairs to get anywhere, like the toilet which is an adventure through the back of the restaurant. If you enjoyed the old Zingara, you’ll like the Bombay Bicycle Club, similar buzz and eclectic decor, even some of the same staff.

Bombay Bicycle Club
158 Kloof St, Gardens
021 423 6805

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12 Responses

  1. Michelle says:

    Went there last night, and yes the deep fried camembert was excellent; very vibey, and certainly tight squeeze when it comes to the tables

  2. Max says:

    How come it was smoky? Is it a combo bar?

    I had dinner at Cubana in De Waterkant, and the smokiness was terrible. Will go there again for a drink (great vibe) but never to eat with all that smoke.

  3. Dax says:

    I can’t comment strongly on the smokiness. It was smoky upstairs where we had our function, but not sure about downstairs. It is combined with a bar, so not sure what their policy is.

    Maybe someone else can comment?

  4. M says:

    Ate there last night (Sat night). Started off great but degenerated as the evening wore on. We had a two-seater upstairs in the non-smoking section, and soon after we arrived at 8.30pm the two-seater next to ours became occupied by about 10 people who appeared to have migrated from the bar. They were also friends with the table behind ours, so we had people shouting loudly to each other, people leaning on the backs of our chairs, and bums in our faces as they lent over to talk, and some of them were smoking. When we asked the waiter if this was a non-smoking section, he said yes, and then looked vaguely at the smokers and wondered off. Totally annoying, particularly since we were paying for starters, main, a bottle of a wine, and a tip.

    There were redeeming factors: the veg bake was one of the best vegetarian dishes I’ve eaten in a restaurant. The ambience was great, and if I were a student, I’d think I’d found heaven at the bar (or at the 2-seater next to ours). The macadamia butter served with bread to start was delicious. Can’t say the camembert was great — personal preference whether you love the taste or not (I don’t).

    My veg bake did arrive lukewarm, but our waiter had lost the energy he’d started with at the beginning of the evening and clearly wanted to jol with his friends, so I reckoned getting it heated up would’ve taken way too long. On a positive note, it was good he’d lost his energy, because at first he tried way too hard to entertain us with his fake actor’s accent and glittery glasses, and quite honestly, I’d rather be chatting to my partner than politely laughing at his antics.

    Would I go back? Yes, because it’s cosy, vibey and the food is good. But I would insist on a table far from the bar and far from an empty area where drinkers can congregate. And possibly, I’d book an earlier table to avoid the drunken masses who were there when we left at 11pm, reluctantly, because it was immediately after we finished our mains and our bottle of wine still had a way to go.

  5. Hardy Heron says:

    Terrible! Far too smokey, and too much of the same old same old.

    Yes, we all loved ol’ Madam Zingara – but really, what business does a man who got liquidated for not being able to pay his creditors have opening up another restaurant! And I hear he managed to save a tidy packet (R700k+) by buying back the house he owned that was liquidated along with everything else (SCANDELOUS!!)

    The nerve of the owner used to strike me as daring. Now it strikes me as selfish and arrogant.

    Also seems te be the wrong half of the staff contingent. Maybe they stepped on too many toes?

  6. Jessica says:

    went to Bombay bicycle club last week and we were also squeezed upstairs onto a tiny table- didn’t mind that, but do mind the smoking downstairs which you can smell everywhere (isn’t this illegal in South African restuarants now?) Also found the food not great- badly over oily (tomatoe soup starter then salmon pasta) and got a horrible runny tummy the next day. Perhaps coincince, but although nice friendly waitress and nice vibe, we won’t be going back!

  7. Rene says:

    Just called them to make a reservation and guess what – no more smoking in the restaurant only outside!

  8. M says:

    No smoking — how wonderful!! I went back again two weeks ago. I booked a table for 13 people. I requested a table furthest from the bar so that we wouldn’t have the smoke and other people crowding around our table while we ate. We had a fantastic time — the vibe was great, everyone loved their food, and the service was excellent. Unfortunately I did feel the effects of a smoky restaurant (blocked nose) even though we didn’t smell the smoke at our end. So I am overjoyed it is now smoke-free!

    Regarding a large table, they tried to insist we take the set menu, but I didn’t want to take responsibility for making other people’s food choices. So instead I told them to treat our table as two separate tables — we were 8 adults and 5 kids, and the kids ordered first and ate first, and then us afterwards. It worked very well.

  9. Q says:

    We went to Bombay Bicycle Club for a birthday party and found the drinks terribly expensive. I was drinking Vodka and got a sneaky feeling I was not drinking the vodka I was told I was drinking. I asked for a straight up shot of the Voddy and lo and behold, it is most certainly Smirnoff masquerading as Absolut! I wouldn’t be surprised if the Johnny Blue is not Johnny Blue!

    How can they get away with ripping off the public like this? Is there someone I can report them to?

    That and the oily food coupled with the not so great music and seating fiasco made for a poor night out. Boo!!!

  10. Lou-Lou says:

    My family and I were lucky enought to get a table at the Bombay Bicycle Club on Friday night. Although we requested to sit in the smoking section we were informed that they have changed their policy and smoking is no longer permitted in the building. With our spirits a little bit dampened we went along anyway. To our pleasnat suprise the evening turned out to be a real feel good evening.Besides it bringing back fantastic memories of my 21st birthday party that took place at Madame Zingara on Loop Street the waitress that served me on that meomorable occasion was this dreadlocked goddess who greated me at the door, remembered me and swiftly suggested a catch up tequila. Needless to say the food was delicious, I inhaled the starter prawns,Spingbok shank for mains and of course finished with the chocolate cigars. The service was immpecable as every need was catered for. The evening turned into a musical montage of great tunes that had us all cackling and singing along,even my dear old Grandmother.So good to have these guys back in the Mother City. Most enjoyable and will definately be back there soon.

  11. Dax says:

    I ate at Bombay Bicycle Club again last night. I thought I would take advantage of their 1/2 price rib special, which is running until the Tent of Dreams is open.

    Yes, the Tent of Dreams has returned and opens this coming week. I’m attending the media launch on Thursday evening.

    But back to my meal. BBC is a good example of not overselling yourself. The vibe is casual food at relaxed prices and so your expectations will seldom not be met. I had the ribs were admittedly average. They came with some veg which was nice. They resurrected of my pet hates which is when they bring you the finger bowl with the food, so by the time you use it, it is freezing cold.

    My partner had the linefish (cod) with a Thai green curry sauce and she was impressed. She said the fish was done perfectly and it must have been good because she didn’t even offer me a taste, even after I offered her a rib. I think she should have paid for the meal instead of me.

    We finished off with the chocolate cigars which are always enjoyable.

    Service was quite good, even though the waitress had a table of about 16 to deal with at the same time.

    BBC always has a buzz and it’s casual and fun. If that’s what you are looking for, you won’t be disappointed.

  12. Anton says:

    I visited BBC last night with my lady and a couple we were setting up and managed to get the last table when we phoned. It was the first time there for most of us. The ambience is obviously an experience but it was also hot and stuffy and our table was continually assaulted by blasts of hot smokey air from the kitchen upstairs.

    The service was pretty good but I have to say the food was disappointing. For starter we had to send the deep fried haloumi cheese back – it was rubbery and overly salty and the flat bread was absent on the plate. We then opted for the Phyllo Parcels and those were great. The prawn starter was also very good.

    The main courses were major disappointment – the risotto had been killed with garlic and salt and simply was not enjoyable. The creamy Quattro Formagio pasta was stodgy and salty and didn’t get eaten. There was nothing great about the Con Pollo pasta either. The only dish that was anything to write home about was the chocolate chilli steak and this was actually delicious and had to be shared by three people since two of the dishes were horrible.

    At the end of the evening the bill came to R822 for the four of us including drinks and tip and I felt ripped off seeing that the food was so below average. I think someone needs to confiscta ethe chef’s salt shaker and give him a lesson in proper seasoning.