Just under three years ago, popular day-time eatery Concha Café opened its doors. More recently, an expansion saw the bustling Ballito beachfront spot increase it’s offering to imported Mediterranean deli retail goods, and an increased capacity bakery churning out hot pastries and breads.
Within the first five minutes of sitting down with Diogo Barendse, one recognises the sheer volume of customers stopping for a handshake or a hug as testament to his hands-on approach at his popular beachfront eatery, Concha Café.
“Ballito is largely about three things,” comments Diogo; “family, fitness, and fun, and we want to cater to all of those things,” and cater, they do.
Concha has always been about community; surfers and joggers alike happily leave their keys in the Concha staff’s trusty hands while they head off on their morning fix. On their return, Diogo has ensured a private hot shower around the corner from the café is readily available to freshen up before heading back to work, cappuccino and freshly baked pasteis de nata in-hand. Even your pooch is catered for, with special menu items and fresh water bowls dotted around.
The family are well known in Ballito circles, having holidayed here for many years before finally deciding to pack up their Joburg lives and go coastal for good. Diogo’s sister Sara married into the Durocher-Yvon family: Patrice, wife Cynthia and their son Fabien, owners and founders of Coco de Mer Boutique Hotel, housing the exceptional Fiamma Grill. Diogo even helped build the entire pool deck of Fiamma, and it wouldn’t be the first time he was happy to get his hands dirty.
Driving frequently between the business and the family’s residence down the road in the Ballito village meant that they passed the pre-existing corner diner daily, and when opportunity arose, they didn’t hesitate to take over the property, but it required an extensive, hands-on, overhaul.
“We’d already done the hard yards at Fiamma,” explains Diogo, suggesting they’d already established a loyal customer base, and learnt the ins and outs of business in Ballito, “so opening Concha felt like a natural progression.” They did a soft opening in October 2016, and from the start captured the beachfront breakfast and lunch trade with their Portuguese-inspired fair and freshly baked goods.
It’s evident that Diogo cares very deeply about restoring the Ballito village to its former glory, and he is heartened by the influx of new businesses to the area, along with other newer owners who recognise the importance of genuine customer care, and delicious, quality food.
“We also have The Big Blue!” he gestures, waving his hand toward the spectacular coastline in front of Concha. In addition, Concha has created a European, al fresco-style dining experience on the sidewalk, but it wasn’t without its constraints – it’s hard to believe Diego and his team push out so many meals and baked goods from such a tiny kitchen.
“It’s 22 of the most awkward square metres you could work in!” he laughs, and a few short months ago, Concha Café realised their dream of expanding into the space next door, (what used to be The Beach Hut, and then Kelly’s).
“We did everything ourselves,” he explains, “working 18-hours a day, from the plumbing to the electrical boards.” Did we mention these guys are not afraid of hard work?
With their increased storage facilities, larger bakery, and now a foodie retail haven of imported European produce, Concha have also started catering from their new space, offering both sweet and savoury platters. Stuck for a dinner idea on your way home from work? Pop by and grab a fresh sourdough loaf, and an array of Mediterranean delicacies to accompany your rustic meal. He credits his aunt, Xandra, for the Portuguese influence the food adopts, and her repertoire of rissoles and croquettes are an echo of his family’s heritage; as they say, the proof is in the pasteis de natas.
Get in touch on Facebook @conchacafe, call 032 815 2992 or visit concha.co.za