Country dining for city slickers……
Even the most ardent city-lover may occasionally crave a meal in a simpler, ‘out-of-town’ setting which is still sufficiently chic. Burnside’s Café delivers in bags. It’s something of an oasis. A cool, country-style restaurant in a popular area of Johannesburg. This is the perfect place to enjoy a long, leisurely lunch. Spring is in the Joburg air at the moment, prompting us to make our second visit to Burnside’s with a group of friends last Sunday.
The restaurant itself is contained within a classic, old-Johannesburg house, set in a pretty garden. The lawn is beautifully manicured and a few well-placed flower boxes add splashes of colour. The stone water feature exudes calm. The interior is sparse, benefitting from a neutral palette and a soft touch, making it warm and welcoming. There is a large, terraced outdoor area which boasts premium tables for sun-seekers. One wing houses a small art gallery showcasing some really talented and interesting local artists.
As it was a warm afternoon we stuck to white wine throughout our meal. We loved the icy cold La Motte 2010 Sauvignon Blanc and the Springfield ‘Life from Stone’ Sauvignon of the same vintage. The wine list at Burnside’s is exclusively South African. Some favourite easy-drinkers will surely add to the festivities, and those seeking something more sophisticated will also be satisfied.
Although we were planning to settle in for the afternoon, we didn’t order starters. Whilst the menu is full of tempting dishes, the only starters available are salads. Granted, these are generous, creative and tasty – but those not partial to the greens might be disappointed. We felt that Burnside’s could benefit from adding some other starters to the menu. Otherwise, there is a great selection of wholesome, classic café food. A range of exciting sandwich options is available. The delicious chicken pot-pie with mushrooms and infused with garden herbs is a favourite, as are the hand cut chips accompanying it. There is also a good vegetarian variety. I’m told that the veg tart, with a filling of roasted veggies and thyme, topped off with creamy, melty camembert is a must. The menu is not particularly long, and the dishes are seldom changed, which could eventually prove problematic for those in search of variety.
Between the six of us we really enjoyed the pickle-y beef burger (served with those famous hand cut chips) and the fillet – cooked perfectly to order. The linguine tossed with grilled zucchini and a lemonish vodka-cream sauce was wonderful. The pasta was cooked just fine, and the balance of flavours was fantastic. The lemony tastes really added depth and complexity to the dish. A generous helping of parmesan brought delicious decadence. It went well with a green side-salad pepped up with gorgonzola, pecans and grapes (not the standard side salad, but they are so accommodating that it was no problem to make a more exciting variation). The seared salmon served on a bed of lentils and draped with cucumber ribbons was a treat in the heat. It was super-fresh and beautifully cooked; enticing with numerous complimentary flavours and textures. Crunch from the sugar-snap peas and tangy acidity from the crème fraiche dressing brought the dish together beautifully.
We also sampled some of the mouth-watering desserts. Burnside’s mascarpone cheesecake with ginger biscuit base was soft and silky – the texture rather more pleasing than the standard cheesecake one encounters. Served with a delicious, refreshingly acidic berry coulis, the flavours were heavenly and we had no trouble polishing-off large slices.
The crème brulée satisfied the palettes of the most discerning amongst us. All components were declared of a high standard, with the soft vanilla custard and perfectly caramelised top rivalling some of its French counterparts. The mini mascarpone berry pavlovas were pretty in pink and highly enjoyable.
Burnside’s is not the kind of place where you would rush through a meal. The idea is to take your time, and enjoy yourself at your leisure. The service is equally relaxed. This is not to say it is bad, or that it is slow. Rather, the service is sedate, unobtrusive yet still necessarily attentive. Our waitress was affable, with a real sense of humour and a love for cricket. The staff were helpful and all food requirements were accommodated with the greatest of ease.
Burnside’s is open for breakfast and lunch every day except Monday and it also opens for dinner from Tuesday to Saturday. You cannot make reservations for breakfast or lunch – so on a busy day you may have to wait for a table – and do enjoy a bottle of wine in the sun whilst doing so. It is recommended that one make a reservation for dinner.
If you tend to suffer from the Sunday Blues, as I do, Burnside’s is the Sunday lunch spot for you. The atmosphere is conducive to relaxation, good times with friends, laughter and that general merriment which makes our lives so much richer. Any thoughts of the Monday-looming are quickly put out of mind, where they remain. Children are welcome and made to feel at home. Families enjoy long lunches and this is the perfect place to catch up with friends whilst soaking up the summer sun.
1 salad, 6 main courses, 5 desserts and 3 bottles of wine cost us R 1500 including tip.
You can contact Burnside’s on + 27 (0) 11 326 3970
This review was sent to the restaurant on 27th August 2012.