Café Zör in the Bo-Kaap celebrates the diverse culture of the area

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Glenn Muller

Recently established Café Zör in the historic Bo-Kaap in Cape Town invites guests to enjoy a Cape Malay-influenced meal, and guests can enjoy a variety of dishes showcasing the diverse culture of the area.

Cafe Zör was established in March 2019 as a way for owner Glenn Muller to pay homage to his mother, who was known as Aunty Zör to many in the community. With Café Zör, Glenn hopes to continue her legacy by offering unpretentious and tasty meals in a relaxed environment.

Glenn says the coffee shop serves “delicious coffee and freshly prepared meals, and encourages customers to relax, listen to some vinyl, log onto the free Wi-Fi or grab a book and get lost in time”.

Café Zör is fully halaal, and no alcohol is served on the premises. Vegetarian and vegan options are also available on the menu.

Glenn tells more.

First things first, please tell us more about yourself.

I am Glenn Muller, and I am the owner of Café Zör. I grew up in Retreat on the Cape Flats, in a tiny one-room house with seven brothers and one sister.

Laughter and food were our constant companions in rather bleak circumstances.

It was always my dream to have my own business one day, and be in a position to employ staff and do what I enjoy.

I always wanted to combine my passion for people, travelling, running and food; however, there was always the fear of leaving one’s secure workplace and facing the unknown.

Perfect way to start the day with some breakfast and coffee

Having worked in the public as well as the private sector in some senior positions, and armed with a degree and MBA, I have always had that feeling of unfulfilment – that I wasn’t following my passion.

As long as I can remember, I yearned to own my own coffee shop where I could cook, but was enslaved to a monthly cheque and accompanying fears of opening one’s own business. In December 2018, I tendered my resignation and embarked on the scary but exciting journey of opening my own coffee shop.

Tell us more about the story of Café Zör. What is Café Zör all about?

Café Zör was established in March 2019 and is situated in a mid-19th century (1861, to be exact) double-storey building in the historic Bo-Kaap.

It pays homage to my mom, fondly known as Aunty Zör in the community; she spent hours behind a stove, slaving away cooking delicious meals. My mom was a humble, kind, giving and compassionate soul who was loved by many.

I think it is fitting that I can continue her legacy by offering unpretentious and tasty meals in a relaxed environment. She also believed in the power of education, and instilled in us the desire to succeed, no matter what the circumstances.

Inside Café Zör

Café Zör serves delicious coffee and freshly prepared meals, and encourages customers to relax, listen to some vinyl, log onto the free Wi-Fi or grab a book and get lost in time.

Café Zör integrates perfectly into the close-knit Bo-Kaap community, as small, independent businesses are the key to oppose gentrification and help to preserve the ethos and culture of the place.

Taking a look at the menu of Café Zör

What inspired you to open up Café Zör?

As previously mentioned, I always had a dream of owning my own coffee shop and creating an environment where customers feel that they have stepped into a relaxed space which serves excellent coffee and delicious home-cooked meals.

I also didn’t want to have any regrets about not following my dream and believing in something that I was passionate about. In my opinion, fear is arguably the greatest deterrent in following one’s dreams, as we become too comfortable with the trade-offs of stress, unhappiness and lack of passion.

I wanted to step into the unknown; on 7 February 2019, I signed the lease, and within a month the coffee shop was furnished and ready to serve its first customer.

Some fresh fruit juice

What makes Café Zör different from other coffee shops and restaurants?

Café Zör has its own identity: with its unique setting in a historic building in the iconic Bo-Kaap, the space was created for families, the lonely traveller, tourists, the local community, surrounding businesses, and the misfits and the marginalised – the perfect place to hide away from a sometimes brutal world.

The decor is somewhat eclectic; you are encouraged to relax, and, before you know it, customers who have just met are engaging in interesting discussions, and friends are made.

Breakfast is served

Café Zör also supports local artists, and amazing art and photographs are sold at the shop, with all proceeds going to these artists. We also have a small deli that stocks delicious sauces, nuts, olive oil and some products from my overseas travels.

There is a definite Cape Malay influence in the food, and customers can be treated to a variety of dishes showcasing the diverse culture of the area. Vegans and vegetarians are also catered for.

Please elaborate on the food and vibe at Café Zör.    

Café Zör serves breakfast and lunch using seasonal ingredients, and a different dish of the day is served daily. The menu at Café Zör is merely a guide, as we are able to adapt dishes to customers’ demands and preferences (within reason, of course).

Inspiration comes from having watched my mom cooking in that small space and creating magic from a couple of fresh ingredients. And, yes, it tastes like real food.

Some delicious options from the menu

A variety of meals to choose from

All our dishes are freshly prepared, and we use free-range eggs and chicken and quality seasonal ingredients.

Some of our popular dishes include peri-peri chicken livers, homemade granola, blueberry flapjacks, croissants served with scrambled eggs and Norwegian salmon, vegan banana bread served with almond butter, and our chicken sandwich made with homemade pickles and Japanese mayo.

We also prepare a couple of dishes of the day, which could be anything from a butter chicken curry to a slow-cooked oxtail, lamb madras with Bombay potatoes or various soups and pastas.

The vibe is relaxed – and what better way to enjoy some coffee with our New York cheesecake, than while listening to some Sinatra or Santana.

All dishes are freshly prepared

Café Zör is 100% halaal, right? Tell us more about why this is.

Correct. Café Zör integrates perfectly into the close-knit Bo-Kaap community, and is fully halaal, with no alcohol served on the premises.

There are also very few restaurants that offer a fully halaal menu, and thus customers have another option to choose.

The interior of Café Zör

What is the scariest thing about opening a new business?

It is the fear of the unknown. Will I succeed? Do I have the self-belief to follow my passion? Can I make a business from my dream?

At Café Zör, I firmly believe that we are about more than just serving coffee – we are in the business of serving, and every customer that walks through our doors is a blessing for which we are very grateful.

What has been the most rewarding thing about opening Café Zör, so far?

That our customers actually enjoy the experience – and, yes, it has only been five months, but I am living my dream.

Death by chocolate

You are looking at showcasing local talent at Café Zör in the future, be it stand-up comedy, music or poetry? Please tell us more.

Looking ahead, we certainly want to use the space to showcase local talent, be it stand-up comedy, music, or poetry nights, etc, and merge that with good food and coffee. 

Café Zör will also explore its own version of First Thursdays, whereby a Cape Malay-influenced buffet will be on offer together with some local entertainment.

We also have a space to host conferences for small groups to conduct their business or strategic meetings.

New York-style cheesecake

What does the future hold for Café Zör?  

To establish the Café Zör brand as an unpretentious, honest eatery with its own unique style that caters to the locals and tourists alike. Also, to collaborate with other entrepreneurs, and create a platform to showcase their unique talents and offerings.

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Visit Café Zör's website for more information.

  • Photos: provided
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