On a street littered with restaurants – including the award-winning Tasting Room and Reuben’s – it is easy to miss the chalkboard advertising the daily menu for Café de Arts. But, as anyone who has frequented the restaurant will tell you, this is not a restaurant you want to overlook.
If you follow the footpath behind the First National Bank building, you’ll find yourself in front of the unassuming restaurant. A few wooden tables and chairs are scattered under the shade of the trees, and a small doorway takes you into a snug room with a black-and-white tiled floor, more wooden tables and walls covered in original art – all of which is for sale. The room opens up onto the kitchen where chef Chris Hoffman and his staff are hard at work.
While the art adds some flair to the otherwise basic décor, the restaurant doesn’t try to impress you with the details. The tables are bare, the waiters don’t wear uniforms, and the only menu is the limited (roughly 10 items) chalkboard menu. But, by skipping the extras, Café des Arts manages to really deliver on the stuff that matters: exceptional food and fantastic service.
The menu changes from one day to the next depending on what the chef has in his kitchen, but you are likely to find a good mix of vegetable, meat, poultry and fish dishes. The dishes are simple and unpretentious – think: tagliatelle with mushrooms, rocket pesto, chili and lime, or pork belly with roast vegetables, cider jus, and crackling – but attention is paid to every ingredient and how each ingredient functions in relation to the other ingredients. The result is really good food.
If it’s a sunny day, sit outside. The rustling of leaves, chirping of birds, and gentle gurgling of a nearby stream will soon make you forget that other restaurants worry about frills such as tablecloths and linen napkins.