It’s not a secret that I am not entirely fond of Port Elizabeth. But last week, when we ventured out to watch Suicide Squad, I stumbled upon The Friendly Stranger, a quirky little restaurant that has been making the rest of the city a little less kak since opening in 2012. You may not know of it if, like me, you’re a Grahamstown resident who only heads to the windy city for the things our small town does not have (a cinema, Woolworths Food, McDonalds and Nandos).
We stopped for coffee/beers which soon turned into brunch. We felt right at home because of the relaxed venue as well as the friendly attitude from the staff. While waiting for the food we had the chance to soak up the sun on the deck, watch puppies playing at a nearby stream and view the quirky art on the walls from local creatives.
It is incredible how the second oldest building in PE has been transformed into such a modern space without losing the sense of history. It is the former port captain’s house, built in the 1800s and used when the lagoon used to come right up to this area. It has since been declared a heritage site, and much of the original structure remains.
The decor itself is quite eclectic; you need a bit of time to take everything in. Think stencil art, an abundance of succulents on almost every available surface, kitsch-but-cool knick-knacks on shelves, perfectly mismatched furniture, bicycles hanging on the walls and a canoe suspended from the ceiling!
There’s a myriad seating options, from inside at the bar, out on the balcony, the deck on the side, the patio tables near the entrance or the bar stools right on the main road looking into the store, to the couches and tables in the basement which are cosy, secluded and perfect for more intimate meals or just catching up on work while you eat.
The food definitely did justice to the hype created by the atmosphere. Whenever I eat at a new place, I try to go for an ingredient that I know I definitely like, but in a meal I haven’t tried before. In this case, I saw salmon on the menu and I was like yes please! Rather than the usual salmon salad, I opted for The Royale. This is two poached eggs with slices of smoked salmon on artisan bread topped with horseradish infused hollandaise sauce. It was definitely a winning choice and such a good combination of flavours. Also the roasted tomatoes with balsamic reduction on the side were just the perfect addition to an already scrumptious meal.
My boyfriend had the Hulk Burger, an artisan roll with brinjal, roasted red pepper hummus, crispy roast veg and cheddar patty topped with caramelised onion. The patty is made from scratch, so the burger is fresh and absolutely delicious. I never thought I would enjoy a completely vegetarian meal, but after stealing a bite, I have definitely changed my mind.
Left: Chimichurri avocado on toast. Right: Poached eggs on toasted ciabatta with bacon, rocket, roasted tomatoes and balsamic reduction.
My friend Hannah tried their carrot cake, which I didn’t get a chance to photograph because she was busy eating and I was busy stealing a taste (I am the meal sampling expert). I think this may be the most incredible cream cheese icing I have EVER eaten. That is not an exaggeration. It is so so good. If you go for just one thing, let it be a slice of cake. Heavenly!
The Friendly Beer also serves craft beers and the Bridge Street Brewery is just a walk away to the building next door. Definitely worth trying out instead of going to the usual Nandos or McDonalds (although we did go to both later in the day because why choose when you can eat it all?)
The Friendly Stranger.
1 Bridge St, Brickmakers Kloof, Port Elizabeth.
076 437 6850.
Open 7 days a week.
Mon-Sat: 7h30 till 16h00
Sundays: 8h00 till 14h00