Like meat and potatoes…
After years of pleasing discerning palates, the husband and wife team behind the Baxter Theatre’s tasty buffet are reinventing themselves as foodies-for-hire
that, I moved around South Africa before going on to gain experience overseas in England and Bavaria.”
Bernard hails from a small town between Marseilles and Toulon, in France, and attended hotel school in Nice before travelling to England and Germany, like Jessica.
She chuckles: “When we first met, we communicated in German, as I didn’t speak French and he wasn’t confident about his English. He was based in Plettenberg Bay at the time, and came to Cape Town to see sport – although not soccer.”
Bernard’s first encounter with South Africa in 1968 resulted in a love for this country which led him to become a South African citizen in 1992.
Before establishing the Baxter Terrace restaurant, he ran the popular Why Not Tearoom in Plettenberg Bay, and subsequently opened La Med in Camps Bay.
“That place was too successful,” Bernard says wryly. “Sometimes we would have up to 1 000 patrons a night – it was the first tapas bar in Cape Town, and we kept it going at the same time as the Baxter restaurant for five years. But in 1995, we sold it because we would close there at 4am, and have to open the Baxter at 9am.”
As if running the Baxter Terrace were not enough to keep them busy, the couple also have an outside catering business under Jessica’s management. This brings its own array of challenges and triumphs, like the function to inaugurate the newly refurbished library at UCT with no kitchen facilities.
“Everything had to be brought in from outside, to a formal sit-down dinner,” Jessica recalls. “My best catering experience is probably the sit-down dinner for 750 people to celebrate UCT's 175 years… it had an African theme, and I included dishes from all over the continent.”
The varied menu at the Baxter Terrace is Bernard’s domain, and he devises it each morning with a view to quality and value for money.
“People don’t have three hours for a leisurely meal before the theatre, so what we serve has to be quickly available – that is the key to success,” he says.
The food ranges from hearty soups to rich casseroles and fragrant curries, as well as a choice of roasts with the usual accompani- ments; for vegetarians there is an extensive salad bar or hot vegetables.
The Lyons’ contract at the Baxter expires next March, and they have decided to move on. But they will remain in Cape Town and expand the catering arm of their enterprise, so the signature food of their theatre buffets will be available on opening nights at venues like Artscape, the Fugard Theatre, and the Baxter.
Contact Jessica Lyon at 021 689 5351 or e-mail jessica.lyon @uct.ac.za
TASTE: Foodie veterans Jessica and Bernard Lyon.