Urban Playground (Maitland)

There have been lots of posts about Urban Playground, but this article goes beyond the restaurant itself to bring a little more insight into this remarkable place and Peter Ayub, the guy behind it, who is a real Angel beneath the tattooed sleeves.

The food is out of this world, let’s satisfy your vicarious taste buds before you ask. We were served an amuse bouchè while we waited for our food, and then we were overwhelmed beyond what the hype about Urban Playground had set us up to expect.

Between 4 of us, we sampled the lamb kofta on flatbread, the steak sarmie and a margarita pizza. Before you tune out, even the pizza was the best Hannah has ever had. The lamb kofta was aromatic and tender, the flatbread was perfect, thin and light, and the steak sarmie was big enough to stop a charging Springbok prop while at the same time being absolutely delicious.

Of course we had to try desserts and we couldn’t decide so we just ordered one of everything. The lemon cheesecake was light and had just the right lemon zing, and the Malva pudding was worth every calorie and then some. I wasn’t that wild about the chocolate brownie but the rest of our party loved it.

A quick aside about coffee. I’m a proper coffee snob. So much so that I have an industrial coffee machine at home which sits on a coffee station that I had built just for the coffee machine. I’m very very fussy and blunt when it comes to coffee and there are less than a handful of places in Cape Town that make coffee I can honestly enjoy. This is one of the handful. Peter gives his chefs barista training and it makes such a difference. I’ve had so many meals that were ruined by a disappointing coffee chaser. Urban Playground gets a 10 out of 10 for coffee, apart from everything else we ate today.

Now to the story I wanted to tell you before I got sidetracked by food and coffee. Urban Playground sits on a street corner on the same property as Sense of Taste Cookery School. The restaurant was opened during Covid when Peter discovered that essential service workers could get a hall pass, so he opened Urban Playground to cook meals for people who suddenly found themselves destitute. He gave 30% of the equity in Urban Playground to 2 of the chefs so that they could build their own source of income and invest in their own future.

Something we discovered in chatting to Peter is that he cooks 1500 to 2000 meals for the homeless every week. He gets some food donated by SA Pork and SA Harvest, but he covers the cost of everything else himself. I said at the beginning, there’s a real Angel beneath those tattooed sleeves.

Chefs working at Urban Playground come from his cooking school, Sense of Taste, where he takes only 20 students at a time. Some of the students who can’t afford the R180k fees for a 2 year Diploma are sponsored over a 4 year program where they work at the restaurant pro bono earning a stipend and tips, and get a chance to learn a skill they would otherwise never be able to acquire. I think what the owner is doing here is truly remarkable.

Bring your own booze, they’re not licensed, and bring a six pack of beers for the kitchen staff when you arrive. It gets a roar of gratitude.

You get the sense that the chefs have such fun while working (not because of the free beer) – something Peter created by design, not by chance, hence the name Urban Playground.

We’ll be back a lot with beer.

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