Location, location, location…..
Drive down 4th Avenue in Parkhurst and you can’t help but be struck by the number of appealing eateries which beckon you in. Andrea Burgener’s new restaurant, The Leopard, looks hugely sexy. Blue-ish (yet strangely warm) light illuminates an unlikely, yet extremely stylish and modern, assortment of tables and chairs which spill out onto the pavement. A blackboard detailing a small selection of specials tempts the diner further. On this basis, we decided to try it out. We had dinner at The Leopard on Worker’s Day, May 1st 2012.
Enjoying a cold beverage whilst perusing the menu and making a decision about what to eat gives one a prized sense of being ‘at leisure’. Thus, the wine list is often called upon before we have given a thought to what we are going to eat. The wine list at the Leopard did not disappoint. It is a brief list featuring some lesser-known but exquisite wines – inspired choices, says I. We were really impressed to see Tamboerskloof’s superb Syrah and Mullineux Family Vineyards Straw Wine on the list. Our La Vierge Sauvignon Blanc was served ice cold and delicious.
The menu at The Leopard is also brief. Whilst the dishes sound interesting and tasty, there seemed to be no common denominator to give the menu coherence. Our charming waitress did mention that all ingredients are locally sourced and organic, however it was not clear whether this is the philosophy behind The Leopard. With the number of Eastern dishes on the menu one might be forgiven for thinking that Burgener is harking back to her Deluxe and Super Bon-Bon days. However, the addition of a pesto and pea penne seems incongruent with this notion. So, you may be left feeling a bit uncertain as to what it’s all about – perhaps a sentence on the menu explaining the concept would be helpful.
We started with a Caesar Salad, which we shared, and really enjoyed. The vivid-green cos lettuce was coated in a delicious dressing with a generous helping of anchovies which gave the dish a pop! It was fresh, delightful and exactly what we felt like. It also boded well for our main course, which proved an unfortunate anti-climax. I had the pesto and pea penne which was quite uninteresting, with little pesto flavour, a random scattering of peas (I hope they were fresh and not from a packet!) and super-soft, overcooked penne. Of course, pasta is always a matter of personal taste. The general consensus is that it is best cooked al dente. I was surprised that a restaurant with such reputable and established roots would make such an error in an entirely simple dish. The other dish was slightly better: a black-bean quail dish (which was not on the menu and came as a really pleasant surprise) with fragrant steamed rice. The quail was well cooked and the rice white and fluffy. Unfortunately, all these lovely, gamey flavours were drowned by a heavy-handed dousing of a super-salty black-bean-soy-sauce affair – still, the dish packed a punch and was redeemed by its more interesting components. There is always a good argument for the chef tasting food carefully before it is served, and more careful attention in this department seems important for The Leopard. We did not stay for pudding.
It being a public holiday, we were both surprised at how empty the restaurant (and indeed the whole of Parkhurst) was. So the vibe was pleasant, but one can imagine it being downright festive when full of excited diners on a weekend – as I have seen it in passing many times. The service was friendly and any uncertainties about the menu, or the lengthy wait for our main course, were smoothed-over in an elegant and professional manner.
It was fairly priced though eventually expensive given that the food did not really live up to expectations. 1 salad, 2 mains and 2 glasses of wine came to R 380.00 (including tip).
You can contact The Leopard on +27 (0) 11 447 6012
Andrea Burgener responded to this review and said:
“Sorry that you got a less than al dente penne, that is certainly not how we usually serve it. Ditto the sauce with the quail; no excuses, I guess someone had a heavy hand with the sauce that day and I didn’t see the dish go out. It happens. But it shouldn’t. Re the ‘concept’; I never think about my menus as having a concept, but if it is helpful to diners, then I think global would be the term to use. That’s how our food is usually described. Thanks, Andrea”