Saints on Kloof Street is Cape Town’s newest burger joint. This Gardens portmanteau of rock ‘n roll, bike culture, Camelthorn beers and endless varieties of hamburger, replete with tattoo ceilings and a staircase printed with the lyrics from the last stanza of Stairway to Heaven, is well considered, exquisitely styled and, perhaps surprisingly, has its act together - especially so for a place that’s only been open for a week.
The place might seem familiar to some: Saints was once known as Angels, a bike and burger bar named after the father of the owner, a man by the name of Angelo who had a vowel lopped off his name in a mix-up in immigration. It was serendipitous, a lucky pun that cashed in on decades of biker folklore.
That was, however, until a group of Hell’s Angels came into the semi-eponymous bar one evening and threatened it with a trashing if the name wasn’t changed. Cue a renovation, a renaming and a reopening.
Happily, the rebirth of Angels seemed to had quelled the tempers of real life Angels. On Friday night they decided to turn up and show their support for Saints. The backfire of hogs echoed around upper Kloof. Residents leaned out their cars to take photographs of Harleys, beards and gloriously grimy leather vests. A good burger in Cape Town is becoming a dime a dozen, but a story like this certainly isn’t.
Happily, Saints’ burgers are very good, too. A menu of Jukebox Classics offers recommended pairings of patties, condiments and toppings under riff-heavy titles like Smoke on the Water and Heartbreaker, but potential permitted burger and topping combinations range literally in the hundreds. (Probably as numerous as the amount of songs on the free jukebox next to the main downstairs bar.) Saints currently offers half a dozen different bun varieties, but that will likely change as the menu is refined over the next few months.
Saints are the only pub in Cape Town to host a bank of taps full of brews (seasonals included) from Camelthorn, Windhoek’s (and Namibia’s) only craft brewery. Custom-made craft taps like the ones here seem to be coming into vogue in the city, adding personality to bars too long characterised and cartoonified by hulking SAB taps encrusted with frost and gaudily advertising. The taps may be from Italy, but the beer is closer to home.
Camelthorn’s Schwartz, which I had never tried before Friday night, is an excellent opening beer, sweet with touches of toffee and burnt sugar, medium feel and easy drinkability. Although the Helles (under the name of Saints Lager here) has been my go-to Camelthorn for months, the star of the show here is definitely the Weizen. Probably Southern Africa’s darkest weiss, it’s lacy, tart and satisfyingly fresh. Although one would probably say the bottled version of the Weizen is merely a decent example of the style, fresh from the tap it’s a much lighter being, making it perfect for pairing with heavy burgers.
Another good pairing option – and possibly Saints’ greatest asset – is their chipotle chili ketchup, manufactured for them to their own recipe by Bushman’s Chilli Co. Don’t let the label fool you. It’s more tangy than in-your-face hot, but resisting pouring lake-like puddles of it onto your plate is a struggle nevertheless.
Saints won’t likely change the world, but it’s a bike and rock ‘n roll bar with just the right amount of cheese and just the right amount of refinement - something that holds true for their burgers, too. Although it still has its kinks to work out - kitchen staff mixing up orders aplenty so far - initial signs are very good.
Hell, if the Angels like it, I’m in.
Saints Burger Joint
84 Kloof St (opp. Hoerskool Jan van Riebeeck), Gardens, Cape Town