Muizenberg boasts a multitude of restaurants, coffee shops, craft breweries, and bakeries. Many of them have excellent views of the sea, and food to match. But, what I consider possibly the best lunch table on the Peninsula is just a little way down the road. And it’s in the former home of a Venetian count and countess: Casa Labia.
Most people driving along the seaside from Muizenberg to Kalk Bay are so busy looking at the gorgeous views of the ocean, they seldom notice the gracious Italianate mansion on the other side of the road. But, if you were to stop and enter it, you’d be in for a lovely surprise.
The house was built in 1929 as the Italian embassy and home of Count Natale Labia and his wife Ida. It now hosts a delightful restaurant, Cucina Labia. You can choose to be seated at a table in one of the rooms, which are bedecked with Venetian chandeliers and priceless art from the Count’s personal collection. Or, there’s a peaceful courtyard surrounded by colorful blooms.
But I think the best tables are on the covered terrace, with views over the manicured croquet lawn, and archways that perfectly frame Cape Hangklip across False Bay. This is my favuorite place to sip a chilled glass of rosé on a sunny day, while I watch the waves and the world go by. Everything about the place makes it easy to pretend you’re a well-bred aristocrat being waited on by adoring staff. Just remember: dessert is compulsory when you’re a countess!
After you’ve enjoyed a delicious lunch, you should take a little time to visit the small museum on the other side of the hall. It features the history of the Labias in the Cape. By all accounts, they were a fascinating family, and their home was a meeting place for leading statesmen and businessmen during a thrilling time in history. Count Labia, who was Italy’s first minister plenipotentiary in South Africa, died in 1936, apparently of heartbreak after Mussolini’s invasion of Abyssinia. (But try not to let that ruin your enjoyment of lunch.)
Cucina Labia is open for lunch Tuesdays to Fridays from 10am to 4pm, and for breakfast and lunch from 9am to 4pm on weekends. Dinner is served only on Friday evenings between 6pm and 10pm. Every Saturday and Sunday, between 1pm and 4pm, diners can enjoy a live piano performance on the grand piano in the ballroom.