The Polo Bar at The Westcliff Hotel – Review – 19th February 2013

Pink-hued and perched on top of the Westcliff ridge, The Westcliff Hotel has become a Johannesburg landmark of luxury.  Most have visited at one time or another during the establishment’s illustrious history, and many have followed its fortunes over the years.  Formerly owned by the Orient Express Hotel Group, The Westcliff has now been sold to a private buyer.  Orient Express will officially vacate the premises around mid-2013.1   A group of us recently went to The Polo Bar – the casual bar and restaurant of the Hotel – for drinks and dinner.

In terms of aspect and situation, The Westcliff surely reigns supreme, with some of the most magnificent views to be found in Johannesburg.  We have spent many a balmy night sitting on the Terrace, overlooking the sparkling infinity pool and admiring the distinctive Joburg skyline – concrete eyesores and those little quirks which give it so much charm included.   As for ambiance, The Polo Bar is relaxed, with old school décor, soft lighting and a treasure of memorabilia relating to South Africa’s history in the game of Polo.  It all feels very colonial, darling.

We started off with a round of drinks inside the bar, lovely to relax on those worn leather sofas and catch up.  We had beer and wine, but there is also quite an interesting cocktail menu, and a good selection of fine whisky.  We then went through to our table, inside but overlooking the pool.  The waiter gave us menus, and I was unsurprised to see that these had not changed a bit (I last ate at The Polo Bar in 2009).  There is a selection of tapas for starters, with pasta, salads, seafood and meat dishes for mains.

Three of us ordered the smoked salmon and potato cakes for a starter – they sounded light and flavorsome.  What a disappointment.  Uniform potato cakes (like those you buy frozen from a supermarket) with only the tiniest hint of cooked salmon inside.  There was not a ribbon of delicious, fresh, smoked salmon in sight.  Stodgy, served with a bowl of Wellington’s Sweet Chili Sauce, I cannot find a reason to recommend this dish.  Our other friend ordered much better: fried calamari with homemade chili jam.  The calamari was gold and crispy, smoking hot.  The fish itself was tender and tasty.  However, the homemade chili jam had the distinct flavor of Wellington’s Sweet Chili Sauce.

For mains, I had the beef burger of prime beef with avocado, cheddar and bacon, served with chips.  The burger component of my dish was absolutely delicious.  The patty was rare, tasty, tender.  All the accompaniments, strong cheese, smoky bacon and the cold, refreshing avocado worked well as an ensemble.  The burger bun was a little charred and generously buttered.  I was surprised at how good this burger was, possibly one of the best I have enjoyed for a long time.  Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the McCain Home Fries which accompanied the burger – obviously made from frozen.  And oh, woe is me, this became much more evident when another diner received his fries and they were still freezing in the middle (admittedly the menu does not claim that the fries are homemade).  Others at our table had pasta and chicken breast burger.

For pudding we shared the ginger crunchie cheesecake with candied dried fruit relish.  It was very enjoyable, and the delicious, rich ginger and soft, creamy cheesecake was a pleasing combination.  Candied fruit added a burst of sweet and strong, complimentary flavors.  One of our table ordered the crème brûlée trio.  It was a little odd, three ramekins plonked on a plate.  When asked about the flavors, the waiter replied that the trio was mostly vanilla.  Nevertheless, the little custard bowls were said to be quite lovely.

In my opinion, the service at The Polo Bar has often been its downfall.  Several times I have been for drinks and waited thirty to forty minutes for service, and the same length of time for the bill.  Many have made this observation about The Polo Bar, and it could be the reason why some have stopped going at all.  On this particular occasion, the service seemed a little better than previously.  We didn’t wait an unreasonably long time for anything, and while it could have been improved in some aspects, the service did not taint the evening as it has in the past.

It seems unlikely that there will be much of a swansong for the Orient Express era, going out with a barely-audible fizzle rather than a bang.  It is also clear that very little has changed at The Westcliff over the years.  Efforts to mix it up with different chefs or dining concepts seem to have gone largely unnoticed – so the changes ahead have a great deal of potential – though little is yet known about plans for renovation and refurbishment.  If the Polo Bar, and indeed The Westcliff Hotel as a whole, holds fond memories for you, then it might be worth visiting again in the next few months.  For old time’s sake.

You can contact The Westcliff on + (00) 27 11 481 6000

This review was sent to the restaurant on 28th February 2013

  1.  Hotel and Restaurant Website.  2012.  Westcliff Hotel signs agreement to sell.  http://www.hotelandrestaurant.co.za/tourism/breaking-news-the-westcliff-hotel-signs-agreements-to-sell/

 

Overture Restaurant at Hidden Valley – Restaurant Review – 2nd February 2012

“In music the passions enjoy themselves” says Nietzsche.  “If music be the food of love, play on!” says Shakespeare.  If food is your passion and sheer enjoyment your pleasure, play at Overture, says I.  Yes, I have been quite utterly charmed by the overtures of Overture, the epicurean jewel in the crown of Hidden Valley wine estate in Stellenbosch.  An Eat Out Top 10 restaurant, we dined there recently with some friends from abroad, and what a culinary tour-de-force we enjoyed.

We arrived at Overture on a hot Saturday afternoon, our appetites whetted by a pleasant morning of wine tasting at the gorgeous Stellenbosch estates.  Happily ensconced at the prime table, we took a minute to appreciate our breathtaking surroundings.  Overture is best enjoyed on a fine day – the view is quite spectacular.  A baking landscape pock-marked with irrigated blocks of vines, destined to become the Hidden Valley wines.  The overhead sprays hissed gentle wafts of cold mist, and some ice cold mineral water a l’estate was welcome and refreshing.  There is not much ‘interior’ to speak of, with tables placed in an outdoor, covered courtyard.  Décor and table settings are simple and unassuming, clean and crisp.  It’s feels as if one has walked into an oasis.

Our enthusiastic host and conductor for the day was ushered onto stage by an ice cold bottle of MCC, with which we drank to health, happiness and the menu.  There are several menu options at Overture, and these change regularly.  We all decided to indulge in the eight course tasting menu with wine pairings.

Our first course was salted yellowtail with watermelon, garlic emulsion and watermelon pickle.  This was a dainty plate of food, with the pickled watermelon skin a particularly original touch.  The dish was paired with a 2012 Hidden Valley Sauvignon Blanc.  Bold, salted flavours proved a perfect ‘overture’ for the symphony to follow.  The next starter course was sweet onion tart with smoked feta, Huguenot cheese, rocket, walnuts and beetroot.  This dish was absolutely wonderful, beautiful flavours and textures, buttery pastry and a delightful treat for the taste buds.  It was paired with Hidden Valley Chenin Blanc 2012 – floral and sweet elements striking a harmonious chord with the food.  Our third starter dish was beef carpaccio with balsamic onion, pickled vegetables and puffed barley.  It was quite an exceptional creation, rather like a small reproduction of the Sunday roast one’s mother used to make – tasting just like home, but served cold and skilfully presented.  It was sensational and well paired with the Pepin Conde Pinot Noir 2011.

Beef carpaccio with balsamic onion, pickled vegetables and puffed barley

Beef carpaccio with balsamic onion, pickled vegetables and puffed barley

There followed two intermediate courses.  The first of these was vine-grilled, homemade pork sausage with mielie tart, sweet mustard and cabbage slaw.  In my experience of tasting menus, this dish is extraordinary and unprecedented.  The components were presented on large wooden blocks, and we helped ourselves.  It was a marvel, flavoursome, generous, I barely know where to start.  The pork sausages were pleasingly spiced, the slaw served to provide a cold contrast and the mielie tart added a South African twist.  It was paired with Hidden Valley Pinotage 2011, the spiciness of wine and food in perfect balance.

Vine-grilled, homemade pork sausage

Vine-grilled, homemade pork sausage

There followed gnocchi with pumpkin puree, pumpkin seed and parmesan cream – served with The Foundry Roussanne 2012.  Another excellent dish, gnocchi light, pumpkin flavoursome but not too sweet.

Gnocchi with pumpkin puree, pumpkin seed and parmesan cream

Gnocchi with pumpkin puree, pumpkin seed and parmesan cream

The first main dish we enjoyed was roast hake with pomme puree, courgette, gremolata and sauce vierge.  Sauce of the virgin.  Not an amusing play on words, but a legitimate combination of oils, freshest herbs, lemon and tomatoes.  The fish was beautifully cooked, aromatic and the sauce added a little touch of magic.  Light and refreshing, and cleverly paired with Mimosa Chardonnay 2011.  The main movement of the masterpiece was confit duck leg, mushroom risotto, brussel sprouts and celeriac puree.  This was paired with the Hidden Valley ‘Sectets’ blend.  The pairing was excellent and it was yet another superb dish.

It was then time for the grande finale – it was going to have to be something outstanding as the bar had been set so high.  And it was.  For pudding we had a vanilla and hazelnut praline soufflé with Tonka bean ice-cream.  Eating this soufflé was a joy – it looked so appetising, and there was something heavenly about the lightness and balance of flavours.  As for the ice-cream, it was a first for me.  Tonka beans are the seeds from the Kumaru tree, which is native to Central and South America.  They are small, wrinkled little chaps, but they have aromas reminiscent of vanilla, cinnamon and clove.  The Graham Beck Rhona Muscadel 2011 was a lovely accompaniment to this pudding.

Vanilla and hazelnut praline soufflé with Tonka bean ice-cream

Vanilla and hazelnut praline soufflé with Tonka bean ice-cream

The service at Overture was everything one would expect.  Waiters were all good natured, obliging and engaging.  There were no timing issues in terms of wine arriving after the food – something that seems to happen in even the very best restaurants.  Furthermore, we were delighted by the generosity.  We were given large tasting portions of wine, which made for a festive occasion.

As at the end of a perfect symphony, we left feeling uplifted and satisfied.  This is some of the most immaculate, creative and interesting food I have had the pleasure of eating in South Africa.  From the curtain raiser, to the crescendo and then the final movement, it was exquisite.  Standing ovation, says I.

5 tasting menus with wine pairing, 1 bottle MCC, water, a few glasses of other wine and coffee came to R 5250.00 including tip.

You can contact Overture on + 00 (27) 21 880 2721

The review was sent to the restaurant on February 26th 2013.

Clico Boutique Hotel – Restaurant Review – 16th February 2013

Boutique hotels and guesthouses are becoming ever more popular in Johannesburg, claiming to offer five star location, superior food and personalised service in a small, but beautiful and intimate setting.  Clico is one of the new kids on the block, and we went to try out their restaurant on Saturday night.

Clico certainly delivers on charm.  A gorgeous 1960’s Cape Dutch house in the heart of Rosebank, it’s all high ceilings, white marble floors and pops of interesting contrast and colour.  Our entrance was through the greenery of the front garden, and the views into the open house beyond were really inviting.  We were greeted with something bordering on enthusiasm – but not quite there yet – and ushered through to the small dining room (seating approximately 20 people at capacity).  Unfortunately this room rather disappointed me.  It was closed in by heavy curtains, and the televisions on the wall seemed an unnecessary eyesore – as if the room might double up as a sports bar.  I believe there is a fantastic courtyard garden outside, but we got no glimpse of that.  The soft candle light helped, and beautiful table settings with scented white lillies gave the room a romantic air.

The menu at Clico is short, and presumably the dishes are changed frequently.  The balance of meat, poultry, fish and vegetarian dishes ensures that there is something to please every type of palate.

We started off with glasses of Moreson MCC Rosé to go with our starters.  I had Mozambiquan oysters with a red onion vinaigrette.  The concentrated fresh-sea flavour that I love about oysters was there in abundance, and just a touch of sharp sauce complemented the dish very nicely indeed.  My fellow diner had the homemade butter and sage gnocchi.  This was a delightful dish.  The gnocchi were well made, light and fluffy, the butter rich and tasty.  Altogether flavoursome and generous.

For mains I ordered the T-Bone with vegetables and garlic polenta.  I am always a little hesitant about T-Bone.  It’s great in a steak house, but one needs to proceed with caution at a 5-Star establishment where there is a higher expectation of presentation and culinary execution.  My dish was as I expected but hoped against – an enormous slab of steak with barely enough space on the plate for the veggies and polenta.  I think it would have been better to prepare the steak and then remove it from the bone before serving – adding elegance and sophisticated presentation to an otherwise simple dish.  This notwithstanding, the meat was cooked perfectly, and it was very flavoursome.  My fellow diner had the duck breast.  Once again, I felt the presentation left something to be desired, requiring more finesse and technical skill.  Furthermore, the fat in the duck had not been rendered with sufficient care – making for a very fatty dish.  We had a Paul Cluver 2010 Pinot Noir with our main courses – the first time I had tried it, and it was rather good.

The pudding menu was also interesting and varied, with some creative dishes like the “chilled soufflé to share – keeping the Valentines spirit alive.”  We both opted for the chocolate fondant with crème fraiche.  The fondant was served in its ramekin, rather than turned out onto the plate.  The reason for this soon became clear.  This is one of the runniest chocolate fondants I have ever seen.  It was delicious though – not floury or eggy – just chocolatey and satisfying.

Image

Clico Chocolate Fondant

The service at Clico is friendly and smooth, with just one gripe.  The room is very small, and the waiters were talking to each other rather loudly – a bit distracting.  Apart from that, we felt well attended.

So, should you go and dine at Clico?  The food is good, and it will no doubt improve as the place starts to find its feet.  The same is likely true of the service.  The ambiance might be better during the day, and some access to the gardens would have added to this.  The problem is that it didn’t really have that *WOW* factor for me.  There wasn’t much history, much interest or much to make it stand out.  It was even a bit generic, almost that dime-a-dozen boutique hotel.  I’m sure there is a lot more to recommend Clico than I have mentioned in this review – these are my first impressions – and I intend to go back sometime to see if second sights change my first thoughts.

You can contact Clico on + (00) 27 11 252 3300

The review was sent to the restaurant on 19th February 2013

Roots Restaurant at Forum Homini, Cradle of Humankind – Restaurant Review – 4th November 2012

With summer has come longer days, hotter sun and better reasons to drive off into the countryside for leisurely lunches.  Although country restaurants in Gauteng are a-dime-a-dozen, I feel that top class spots, serving fine cuisine, are few and far between.  I had eaten at Roots numerous times, and it was high time to go and get reacquainted with this spectacular place.

Sprawling sedately alongside a large lake, Roots sits at the epicentre of Forum Homini, a boutique hotel which embraces the remarkable heritage of the Cradle of Humankind.  A subtle structure with grassed rooftops, Forum Homini blends into its natural surroundings.  Warm-hued woods pick out gorgeous vistas across the lake, and vast glass doors circulate light and veld-scented breeze.  Roots exudes understated chic; luxurious materials, simple cutlery and fine-cut glassware lend to the feel of country oasis.  Happily seated at one of the prime tables on the wooden deck, overlooking the glittering lake, we ordered G & T’s and got down to the menu.

Roots offers a uniform tasting menu which changes daily, depending on seasonality and ingredients.  They are very accommodating of dietary requirements and preferences, which will be noted when you book.  Sunday lunch is generally 6 courses.  The restaurant boasts a well-stocked cellar and there is the option of having “wine teasers” with your meal.  This is really worthwhile, giving one the chance to have a specially selected wine with each course.

We started off with roast pear and chestnut soup, prawn toast, orange puree and cauliflower.  It was cleverly presented, with all the components beautifully arranged in a large bowl, the soup poured over these at the table.  The dish was paired with a Weltevrede “Vanilla” Chardonnay, 2011.  I was quite taken with this wine – it had a rich, vanilla taste which complemented the fruity undertones of the soup.  The second course was roast monkfish and octopus, served with pea and mint, grilled cucumber, braised fennel, broad beans, liquorice and lime confit.  This was paired with a Bouchard Finlayson Blanc de Mer 2011 and was a light and appetising course.

Roast monkfish and octopus, served with pea and mint, grilled cucumber, braised fennel, broad beans, liquorice and lime confit

One of my favourite dishes was up next: A medley of quail, crayfish and pork belly with squid-ink jellies, verjus and roast parsnip, served in a smoked tomato and prawn broth.  The gamey-salty quail, sweet, tender crayfish and soft, buttery pork belly made for a luxurious combination.  The dish was gorgeous, a tantalising tease for the senses.  The accompaniments brought the individual elements of the dish together.  Squid-ink jellies were a particular touch of genius – black cubes adding colour and texture, their unique flavour serving to offset the richness of the other components.  With the quail we enjoyed a Thunderchild Red Blend, 2008.  Many probably haven’t heard of it – a well-made wine with a good cause.  Originating from the Robertson region, Thunderchild is the product of a community project established to raise funds for a local orphanage.  These orphans are the “Thunderchildren”, many of whom come from stormy backgrounds.

The ultimate was the meat course: Duo of springbok with red cabbage puree, capers and anchovy, parsley potato and mushroom mille-feuille and sauce charcuterie.  This dish was exquisite in every way, beautifully presented and utterly mouth-watering.  The springbok was perfectly pink and juicy, with the tastiest crust of capers and anchovy.  Vegetable components were prepared with skill, the flavour balance wonderful.  Topping off this succulence was a heavenly sauce – rich, meaty and with a real depth of flavour.  This is game at its best, a brilliant combination.

Duo of springbok with red cabbage puree, capers and anchovy, parsley potato and mushroom mille-feuille and sauce charcuterie.

The main course was proceeded by a tasting of goats cheese, served on brioche rounds with salted caramel, grapes and rose.  Salted caramel is high-fashion food at the moment, and it was interesting to taste it with cheese.  I found the combination a bit sweet but my fellow diner thought it was delicious.  The cheese was expertly paired with a De Krans Cape Ruby Port, the sweetness of the port balancing out the caramel and adding another dimension to the dish.  Desert was a Roots Chocolate Plate consisting of chocolate delice, white chocolate sorbet, mint, passion fruit, coffee, pomegranate and brandy snaps.  Once again, the presentation was immaculate and the dish a success, the brandy snaps a welcome textural contrast from the softer chocolate components.

The service at Roots was generally good.  Staff were attentive and accommodating, the wine stewards particularly interesting and knowledgeable.  I was a bit disappointed that some of the dishes were not explained to us as they were served – always preferable when there are several, artful components to any given course.

There are few things more pleasant than enjoying a good meal, delicious wine and great company.  Add to this fantastic, hot weather and a vista of raw, African veld.  One can almost see the heat swirling outside, yet Roots is cool, comfortable and inviting.  This is a most sublime environment in which to savour some wonders of country cuisine just outside Johannesburg.

2 aperitifs, 2 tasting menus, 2 wine teasers, 2 glasses of wine and 1 espresso came to R 1150.00 including tip.

You can contact Roots on +27 (0)11 668 7000.

This review was sent to the restaurant on 28th November 2012.

Coobs, Parkhurst – Restaurant Review – 18th November 2012

“‘It is a triumph,’ said Mr. Banks, laying his knife down for a moment. He had eaten attentively. It was rich; it was tender. It was perfectly cooked.” – Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse.

Another Sunday, another opportunity to try one of the new restaurants in Parkhurst.  This time we opted for Coobs, located in the new centre towards the end of 4th Avenue.

The interior of Coobs is double-volume, face brick, light and airy with bright prints giving a splash of colour. The fittings, tables and chairs are contemporary and sophisticated yet create a comfortable and relaxing atmosphere.  The outside area is also fabulous, offering any combination of sunshine and shade one might desire.  It was buzzing when we arrived and we were lucky to get a great table on the terrace.

The wine list at Coobs is exciting and changes regularly.  Keep your eyes open for the fine European wines imported and distributed by Great Domaines, these are trés elegants and refined.  They also have a fantastic list of lesser-known South African wines which are well worth a try.

The menu, simply printed on bond paper and bound between two wooden slats, is relatively short but offers a beautifully balanced array of dishes.  Everything was tempting, with well-chosen starters, interesting salads, some mouth-watering pasta, a good assortment of mains and unusual desserts.  The idea here is to let the ingredients, which are exquisite, locally sourced and of finest quality, speak for themselves.  Owner and chef, James Diack, has a farm in the Magaliesberg from which some of the ingredients are sourced.  Most notable is the wild boar which is rarely seen on South African menus and was a joy to behold on this one.  It is such a pleasure to know where one’s food is coming from, to be able to trace it to its roots and that Coobs cares about this so deeply.

For starters, two of us ordered the goats cheese and confit tomato tartlet with micro-basil salad.  The dish consists of three, crisp sheets of phylo pastry (rather than more conventional short-crust pastry), filled with salty-soft creamy goatsmilk cheese and sweet, punchy cherry tomatoes.  It was simple and beautifully presented, with the ingredients taking centre stage.  Another in our party had the steamed asparagus served with soft poached egg, black pepper and parmesan shavings.  This classic French combination is always a winner, and the asparagus at Coobs was utterly delicious.  Vivid-green, just the right amount of crunch, and really flavoursome, with the perfectly soft, yellow poached egg and the salty parmesan, this dish was a hit.

Goats cheese and confit tomato tartlet with micro-basil salad

For mains, the boys couldn’t resist millerighe with slow-braised wild boar ragu (think decadent ‘spag bol’) straight from the farm.  Millerighe is like an extra-large penne.  This dish was out of this world.  The boar had been slow-cooked, the meat rich, dark, soft and falling apart.  It was wonderfully flavourful, and delicious with the pasta – which was cooked perfectly aldente.  I had the linguine with scallops, spring onion, chilli and garlic for my main course.  This is an inspired lunch dish.  Like the rest of the Coobs food, it was simple and exquisite.  Scallops perfectly cooked, their delicate, mild-sweet flavour paired with just the right amount of chilli and spring onion.  The linguine was also prepared impeccably.  Really, my only criticism is that I would have loved a second helping!

Millerighe with slow-braised wild boar ragu

For pudding, the boys shared Churros covered in a cinnamon icing-sugar served with hot-chocolate dipping sauce.  Churros, sometimes referred to as “Spanish Doughnuts” are slim, deep fried choux pastry snacks.  Coobs churros were piping hot and wonderfully crispy, the pastry light and fluffy inside.  The cinnamon sprinkle and chocolate sauce brought the dish together – it was quite scrumptious.  I had the Almond crusted Japanese cheesecake with pistachio ice-cream and orange blossom crème.  I thought it was a triumph.  Not a conventional cheesecake, this version was more like a featherlight, orangey sponge with a subtle almond crisp.  The pistachio ice-cream was a superb accompaniment, and different sprinkles added texture to the dish.  It was rounded off beautifully with the orange blossom crème.

We were all very impressed by the service at Coobs.  The manageress was so graceful and accommodating – nothing was too much trouble.  Our comfort was obviously paramount – and we felt really well taken care of.  The waiters were pleasant, good humoured and engaging.  They also had an extensive knowledge of the menu and the ingredients, an accomplishment for a new restaurant.  This kind of service, which has real substance and grace, is something which South Africa sometimes lacks, and I raise a glass to Coobs for pulling it off.

As far as the new set of restaurants in Parkhurst go, Coobs is sure to become one of my favourites.  It’s fantastically stylish, yet easy and unassuming.  The emphasis on fresh, local produce and environmental sustainability is refreshing.  It is a welcome sign of the burgeoning interest in the source of the food we eat, and its journey from pasture to plate.

3 starters, 3 mains, 3 desserts and 2 coffees came to R 620.00 including tip.

You can contact Coobs on + (27) 082 057 0328 (Coobs contact number).

This review was sent to the restaurant on 20th November 2012.

Rocket, Parkhurst – Restaurant Review – 11th November 2012

At the moment 4th Avenue, Parkhurst, is booming with life.  Rocket touched-down a few weeks ago, in that prime spot which played host to “The Attic” for several years.  We decided to try it out for Sunday lunch, hoping for more of a starburst than a damp squib.

Rocket is the second in a restaurant chain, the first being in Rivonia.  It is sharply decorated, simple and light inside, with a large outside terrace.  The pleather chairs and plastic tablecloths are not all that chic, but I suppose they lend themselves to frequent use.  And frequently used they certainly will be, Rocket was nearly full when we arrived, really buzzing with life and happiness on a hot Sunday afternoon.

We ordered some drinks off the short, but interesting, wine list.  Some wine options include Cederberg Bukettraube and Thelema Sutherland Pinot Noir.  There is also a nice selection of champagne and MCC, and an interesting cocktail list.  The selection of Craft Beers is particularly appealing, with the likes of Jack Black Premium Lager, Darling Slow Lager and Mitchells Milk and Honey all served on tap.  It was a sweltering afternoon, so we decided to stick to cool, refreshing beverages.  I had a glass of Villiera Tradition MCC Brut Rosé and we also really enjoyed an icy-cold bottle of Delaire Cabernet Franc Rosé, a popular favorite and with good reason.

The menu is diverse, and rather like an upmarket take on Espressos – which is directly across the road – with a range of café food and a pop of Asian for good measure.  There are some tempting starters like oysters as well as some interesting main dishes.  Expect to come across red and green curries, yummy-sounding burgers, salads, fillets and pastas.  The food focal point is definitely the gourmet pizzas – which sounded too good to pass up.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Hungry Goat pizza.  A thin and really flavorsome crust, topped with a delicious tomato base, smothered in mozzarella and topped off with goats milk cheese, chicken, grilled aubergines, sundried tomatoes, rocket (surely a requisite) and rosemary.  I think this combination really is a winner.  The saltiness of the cheese and sweet sundried tomato are a perfect match, and the addition of rosemary added depth and a meatiness to the flavor.  It was absolutely scrumptious.

The Hungry Goat

My fellow diner had the Benefica Pizza, topped with goats milk cheese, fresh, bright-green avo, sundried tomato and chorizo. I was assured that it was as delicious as mine.

The Benefica Pizza

We were both full after the pizzas, so didn’t order desert.  The desert menu features only 5 options, but I’d think that all sweet tooths will find something that they fancy.

Unfortunately, the food rather eclipsed the service.  It all started off well.  We were warmly welcomed by the manager, and luckily snagged a prime table on the terrace.  Our waiter came over with the menus in a timely fashion, but he was rather curt and not very affable in his address and we found this a bit disconcerting.  Our food and drinks arrived in good time, but again there were some rookie errors which threatened the outcome of our mission.  Knives, forks and napkins were only brought to our table after we got our pizzas, the stem of my wine glass was rather sticky and a puddle of MCC – which had been spilt on our table while it was served – was not cleaned up.

Odder still, was the way our waiter seemed to turn into an attentive little comet whilst we were eating.  Naturally, when one is engaged in conversation, eating takes longer.  Occasionally, I would feel a little “tap, tap, tap” on my arm.  Surprised, and interrupted mid-sentence, I would whip around to find “mission control” had come to check whether I had finished my food yet.  This happened 3, maybe 4, times during the meal and it was rather frustrating.  The tapping was a bit unprofessional, and I felt hassled when it came to finishing my food.  My dining companion finished his pizza before me, and his plate was whipped off the table at break-neck speed – he barely had time to put his knife and fork down.  Following this, the service took a nose-dive, to such an extent that we had to ‘self-abort’ the mission – I went inside to seek out our waiter, ask for the bill, and then again to ask him for the card machine.  Of course, Rocket is a new restaurant, and the lacklustre waitering may be due to inexperience and those teething problems which invariably crop up during the first few months – let’s hope management can bring things back into orbit.

Rocket, like most of the other restaurants in Parkhurst, seems popular and is gaining a following.  It is as though the area can sustain ever more eateries – all so ‘in demand’ that they are seldom empty.  Some are worried that the appearance of several chain restaurants will blight the area, moving away from the ideal of small, local businesses.  It is possible that the Parkhurst restaurant bubble may burst, but for the moment it has a lot to offer, with Rocket being a definite must try.  It provides another option for meeting up with friends in a jovial and relaxed atmosphere, to people-watch and enjoy a long afternoon meal or a tasty dinner before you hit the local bars.

1 glass MCC, 1 beer, 1 bottle wine and two pizzas cost R 375.00 including tip.

You can contact Rocket on +27 (0) 11 880 6102 (Rocket Parkhurst telephone number).

Sean from Rocket responded and said:

Dear Harriet,

Firstly, thank-you for allowing a restaurant to respond to a review. It is fantastic that you have created a platform where the review can be interactive.

I appreciate all the comments you have made, both positive and negative. With regards to the food, we take the utmost pride in every meal that we send out. Everything is made fresh every day, with no corner cut on any ingredients, ensuring that our quality is of the highest standard. I am very happy that this was something that you experienced.

I must however say, that good food is nothing without good service. A waiter must have just the right amount of attentiveness. Too much or too little are equally aggravating. I don’t want to use the excuse that the poor standard you experienced can be attributed to teething problems as I feel that if a shop is not ready to open then it should not open. Our waiters are trained for months before they are put on the floor, and their training is continual. The fact that you had a waiter tapping your arm during your meal is mortifying, as is the fact that after your meal his attention went to other tables. I can assure you these issues will be addressed.

Thanks again for the feedback, and I hope to see you at Rocket Parkhurst, Rocket Rivonia, or Rocket Express in Sandton sometime soon!

Kind regards

Sean

Mishmash, Greenside – Restaurant Review – 11th October 2012

Getting *Mashed* in Greenside.

The main drag of Greenside has been a preferred destination of many Joburgers seeking a good night out for any number of years.  A group of us recently went to Mishmash, a casual restaurant and bar on Gleneagles Road.  It is very happily situated next to the bottle store, and we all know what that means…..  Really well priced wine!

The restaurant itself is set a little off the road, where the Spar used to be.  You have to walk through the dingy parking lot to reach it, but it gets a whole lot more charming when you get inside.  A large, greyish, cavernous space, with long tables and simple décor, it’s like walking into a sitting-room mid cocktail party.  A bar takes prominence and there are some unusual views into the fridges and freezers.  We arrived earlyish and it was already buzzing with a pretty hip crowd; most relaxing in this warm and inviting environment – some readying themselves to prop up the bar later in the evening.

Of course, our first order of business was to get the wine flowing.  The wine list is comprehensive; it boasts all your old favourites at retail prices – a fraction of those I have seen at any other restaurant.  We had some Diemersfontein Rosé which was selling for about R50.00 per bottle, and we sampled a large range of everything else on offer in terms of wine and beer.  All set with our value drinks, we set about deciding what to eat.

The menu at Mishmash features staple, wholesome cafe fare and the promise of fresh produce.  Nothing is particularly complex, and there aren’t that many options.  They have a range of pizzas, some pastas, salads, burgers, fish ‘n’ chips and steak dishes.  Whatever you order, you will surely be able to also get your hands on the perfect wine to accompany it.

The yummy burger

The most popular order at our table was the pizza.  These are crispy-crust thin with a rich, tomato base.  Toppings vary from bacon, feta, avo and rocket to prosciutto, peppers, mushrooms and olives.  The Meat Pizza, topped with a delectable slow-cooked beef was quite a hit.  Unfortunately some of the other pizzas were rather bland.

Bacon, avo and rocket pizza

Bacon, avo and rocket pizza

The fish and chips was also a top notch dish – it was served traditional-style, wrapped in newspaper.  The batter was really crispy and thin fries well cooked.  Another friend had the fillet.  A large portion in a rich sauce, it was cooked to perfection at a scrumptious medium-rare.  We were a bit disappointed in the potato wedges, though, which were quite soggy.

Fillet and chips

The service at Mishmash was friendly and the waiters knowledgeable about the menu.  However, our food didn’t all arrive at the same time, with fillet dishes getting to the table long after all the other food got cold.  It was a pity that this wait was so lengthy, and some of us had almost finished eating before others started.  Mishmash might be very chilled, but this kind of service really puts the “lax” into relaxation.  One redeeming feature of the service was that the Chef, Sean Ackerman did the rounds of the restaurant at the end of the evening.  This often only happens in fine-dining establishments, and it was encouraging that the food at Mishmash is considered as important as the vibe and the drink – so cheap alcohol is not all it’s about.

If you’re planning a party and want a great venue, which will not break the bank and promises to deliver all the festivity and fun you anticipate, Mishmash is a great option.  It has just the right mix of understated style and party vibe.

A main course and copious amounts of wine cost us R 150.00 per person including tip – a real steal.

You can contact Mishmash on + (27) 11 026 2915