Why you should care
Because fermentation can be fabulous.
I’m not even halfway through my savory lentil bunless burger when I start to feel full. This is weird: I’m one of those people who eat everyone else’s leftovers when I’ve finished my own meal. Even weirder is the fact that the plate in front of me looks more like a salad than a burger. This feeling of fullness, I later discover, can be put down to the awakening of my “internal microbiome, where all uninhibited sexiness originates,” according to the eatery’s owner.
Flanked by glass-fitters and a tool hire company on the wrong end of trendy Bree Street, Sexy Food in Cape Town is an unexpected oasis. From the moment you walk through the curtain of mist at the front door, you know you’re somewhere different. The walls are clad with bricks of pink Himalayan rock salt, the furniture hewed from slabs of raw, untreated timber.
Think krauts, kimchis, kombuchas and kefirs (that they all start with K is pure coincidence).
And the food? Much of it is fermented, which is tastier than it sounds, and the rest is raw, organic, generally wholesome. Think krauts, kimchis, kombuchas and kefirs (that they all start with K is pure coincidence). There’s also no booze or meat on the menu — a niche offering compared to the bars and bistros further down the street.
The restaurant is the lovechild of James Kuiper, a professional sportsman–cum–cancer survivor who started eating fermented foods while his body was struggling to deal with the ravages of chemotherapy. “Getting cancer was the best thing that ever happened to me,” he says. At first he tried cutting foods out of his diet, but then he realized that he instead needed to “put good stuff into my body to feel sexy again.” That meant eating more probiotics, which thrive in fermented foods. He took this passion and, in October 2012, started using the Sexy Foods name to sell frozen burger patties to various local health shops. He then became a fixture on the Cape Town market scene before finally opening the current restaurant in 2015.
About 80 percent of the produce on the menu comes from a local family farm that has been producing fermented foods since 1984. The owner’s 8-year-old son even bakes the restaurant’s organic sourdough bread. And despite the specialty homegrown dishes, eating at Sexy Foods is quite affordable. The most expensive dish on the menu — a pasture-raised egg and cultured mayonnaise sourdough sandwich dressed with prune chutney and “sexy-biotic” dressing (the menu entry is actually longer and more detailed than this) — is a shade over $7.
As I sip on my homemade kombucha (which tastes surprisingly like champagne but is entirely nonalcoholic and packed with probiotics) and psyche myself to finish my “burger,” the guy at the next bench introduces himself. Lyndon Barry eats lunch here every day and he takes jars of kraut and kimchi home to liven up his evening meals (Sexy Food closes at 5 p.m.). He says he’s always been “a healthy eater” but only started eating fermented foods a few years ago. Every once in a while he’s tempted to try another lunch spot, but then, he says, “I remember how good this food makes me feel.”
Sexy, in a word.