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The Black Sheep

By Kit Heathcock

The Black Sheep has been a local Kloof Street institution since it opened in 2013, its constantly changing blackboard menus and lively evening vibe surviving Day Zero, loadshedding and pandemic, and coming out the other side smiling. I visited recently to write a review for The Inside Guide and got way more story than I had space for in that format. So here is some of what co-owner Jorge Silva shared with my daughter and I, while we feasted on delicious starters of crispy asparagus and parmesan rolls, and spanakopita with olive burnt butter.

The Black Sheep
Photograph by Kit Heathcock

Jorge arrived carrying a bag of tools, “I’m the plumber today,” he says. He was going to fix a leaking pipe in one of the bathrooms, very much hands-on at all levels, but he sat down to chat with us first. I already knew that Black Sheep was a family business, but hadn’t quite worked out the connections until Jorge explained: he and his wife Nina are front of house and business managers, Nina’s sister Sherry and her husband Jonathan Japha are the chefs.

Jorge is from Chile (his name pronounced with Spanish inflections - hor-hay) and ended up here in Cape Town on holiday 14 years ago, after falling in love with his South African wife, Nina, when they were both working on cruise ships. “I’d studied sociology and business in Chile but decided that restaurants were my life.”

“Sherry and Jonathan spent a good ten years in the UK working in London and Dublin,” he says. “When they came back to Cape Town the two of them and Nina ran a place in town called Fork. That menu was Jonathan’s. I saw the ridiculous level of skills between Sherry, Jonny and Nina and I thought we need to get our own thing going. To get used to the local trade I worked at Fork as a waiter, demoted but happy to be part of the vibe, learning Jonathan’s style and how crazy he can be in the kitchen.”

After a couple of years of all working together at Fork they decided to go for it. “We thought at that point we had between the four of us, 60 years experience in the industry. Maybe we’re ready.”

As well as working in Michelin-star Chapter One with Ross Lewis in Dublin, and at Conran’s Blueprint Café with Jeremy Lee in London, Jonathan cooked in several gastropubs during his time in England, and fell in love with that informal style of cooking grounded in excellent local ingredients.

“We thought there was enough fine dining in the city, a lot of low-end, but we didn’t see much of what we wanted to do which was UK gastropub style – unpretentious, honest food. You don’t need a tablecloth to have a good plate of food,” Jorge says. “Like a gastropub the idea is to have a good relationship with your neighbourhood, we will not have a static menu, rather change and move according to season. We never call ourselves a gastropub though, people here think it’s an illness!”

They started looking for premises but never really thought they’d be able to afford Kloof Street until the estate agent insisted on showing them this location. It used to be an estate agency. “When he showed us the place, my mind was racing. A week after he called again. The landlord was a restauranteur before going into property and he said, I want you guys. He backed us to make it a reality. Four years later, he offered us across the premises across the road for a bar, which became Dark Horse.”

I ask about the names of their businesses which are obviously inspired by pub names, and he laughs, “We’re the black sheep of our families. Jonathan’s parents are famous architects, my folks are air force people so..."

The Black Sheep - blackboard and starter
Photograph by Kit Heathcock

While they were still building and fitting out the restaurant they put a blackboard outside with the opening menu, and were full from day one. The constantly changing board menu (they never print menus) has made it a place for locals to pop by often and has also garnered a following of regular international visitors.

They’re also very understated about what they do – it’s only through this conversation that I find out how much they embrace the sustainable principles of nose to tail and locally sourced ingredients, because they don’t boast about it at all and actually prefer to avoid the labels.

“We are very much into the idea of people making up their own minds about who we are. We are honest about who we want to be. But we don’t call ourselves anything, the only thing I can say, this is a restaurant.”

But they do things properly. They will buy half a cow, or a whole sheep or pig and Jonny and Sherry butcher it themselves, progressing through the different cuts on the menu – chops, steaks, ribs, curries, right through to tongue, sweetbreads and liver, until they’ve used it all. They were one of the first few restaurants to use Abalobi, the programme and app that connects small-scale fishermen directly with the restaurants, so the fishermen get a fair price and the restaurant gets fish as fresh as can be, straight from the boat.

And they’re champions of local producers, as Sherry tells me when she emerges from the kitchen once the lunch service eases (she does lunch, Jonny does dinner). “Our ingredients don’t have passports,” she says with a laugh.

The Black Sheep - fish mains
Photograph by Kit Heathcock

The fish is excellent – it’s often the first thing to be wiped off the blackboard, Jorge tells me, once the fresh catch of the day is sold out that’s it, they don’t replace it with frozen. Sky has ordered beer battered fish and chips, the fish turning out to be kingklip belly, so delicious and succulent that it knocks hake right out of the water. In the end I went for kingklip too but served on lentils with cauliflower and garam masala, a nice contrast of textures and earthy flavours.

This being for a review we’re obliged to continue on to dessert, such hardship... even though I’m full by now. We debate sharing. Sky has spotted the lemon cheesecake with berry sauce, but the chocolate brownie with ice cream and chocolate sauce gets my vote (although a walnut tart is also tempting), and so in the end we get one each and without too much trouble finish everything.

The Black Sheep - dessert
Photograph by Kit Heathcock

Afterwards we wander across the road for a peek at the Dark Horse, quiet now mid-afternoon, but you can see it must get quite a vibe going in the evenings. They have their own kitchen with a casual bar snack menu (blackboard only) and the staff rotate between the two kitchens. Up the stairs we emerge onto a cosy little roof terrace, turquoise walls, lots of plants in pots with views over the city and back towards Table Mountain, one of those hidden gems to remember next time I want a quiet afternoon hideout in the city.

Dark Horse
Photograph by Kit Heathcock

Where and When

Black Sheep,
104 Kloof Street,
Cape Town


Tuesday – Saturday, 12pm – 10pm
Monday, 5pm – 10pm



I was a guest of Black Sheep for the purposes of writing a review for Inside Guide (). There was no expectation of writing this blog post, but I felt the story needed telling.