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/

 

Coobs, Parkhurst – Restaurant Review Revisited and a New Menu – 20th February 2013

Four days ago the talented team at Coobs released their Autumn 2013 menu.  Excited about sampling the new offerings, we headed there last night with a friend from abroad.

I have already reviewed Coobs in detail, and have now eaten there several times.  Each meal has been excellent, charming staff and the situation of the restaurant is very pleasant indeed.

The new menu boasts some exciting, original dishes and – importantly – retains those old favourites that many have come to expect.

Starters introduce autumnal spices like vanilla and curry, as well as traditional comfort food: melanzane in a tin.  I ordered the pan-fried porcini served on chargrilled ciabatta toast with parmesan shavings and mange tout shoots.  I loved this dish, the mushrooms were meaty and flavoursome, and that perfect chargrilled crunch from the ciabatta was excellent.

Pan-fried porcini served on chargrilled ciabatta toast with parmesan shavings and mange tout shoots

Pan-fried porcini served on chargrilled ciabatta toast with parmesan shavings and mange tout shoots

Another in our party really enjoyed the free-range chicken liver parfait served with homemade fig preserve, a ginger syrup and melba toast.

Free-range chicken liver parfait served with homemade fig preserve, a ginger syrup and melba toast

Free-range chicken liver parfait served with homemade fig preserve, a ginger syrup and melba toast

The pasta dishes and mains on the new menu retain many of the flavours and ingredients which were used previously.  Some of the dishes have been overhauled – more spice, and winter vegetables have been added.  Culinary components have been adapted and there are exciting new choices to be made.  In terms of the old favourites, I was delighted to find that the farm-reared, organic, acorn-fed wild boar ragu (now with parpedelle) is still on the menu.  Pork still features prominently too, as does fish.

For mains, I ordered the pork bolognaise with white wine, red onion and fresh basil, served with millirighe.  I must commend Coobs on the perfectly al dente pasta – they always seem to get it right.  As for the sauce, it was scrumptious, with the red onion adding a crunchy tang I enjoyed very much.  The pork is sourced from the Coobs farm – Brightside, so it really delivers in terms of freshness and flavour.  Another new dish we tried was the acorn-fed pork cutlet, served with quince paste, scented pomme croquettes, apple puree and a brandy butter glaze.  This dish starts to hint at winter, and delivers that comfort-food feeling without being too rich.  The pork was tender and tasty, apple puree was quite fabulous and the dish well balanced.

Acorn-fed pork cutlet, served with quince paste, scented pomme croquettes, apple puree and a brandy butter glaze

Acorn-fed pork cutlet, served with quince paste, scented pomme croquettes, apple puree and a brandy butter glaze

The pudding menu also features some new additions.  Amongst these is a rhubarb tart with honeycomb and homemade vanilla bean ice-cream.  I sampled one of the new puddings, lemon verbena syrup cake with Cointreau ice-cream.  This dish is rather like the Coobs Japanese cheesecake in composition, but replaces it with a denser sponge and stronger flavours.  It was accomplished, and – a little tip – it goes beautifully with the homemade limoncello (not on the menu)!  The others had the churros – excellent as always.

In my opinion, the new menu at Coobs is bound to be a great success.  The subtle interpretations of dishes and use of ingredients as the seasons change are all good signs – evidently, James is a chef who really puts a great deal of thought into what goes onto your plate.  Furthermore, I always feel privileged when eating dishes the origins of which can be so definitively traced.  It is a pleasure to know where ingredients come from, and to know that they have been raised or grown with care.

All-in-all, this new menu is not to be missed.  As the days get shorter, it is sure to delight and excite as much as ever.  Just writing this review makes me feel hungry – and I can’t wait to go back.  Highly recommended.

Prices:  Much the same as previously.

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

James Diack replied and said:

“Hi Harriet,

Thanks so much coming to try our new menu and thank you for the review.

We are so glad you guys enjoyed it……
Look forward to having you again to try some other things on the menu.Regards,

James”

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.

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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

Simply Asia, Parkhurst – Restaurant Review – 13th December 2012

Simple yet scrumptious.  And a steal into the bargain.

As the Parkhurst restaurant boom continues booming, Simply Asia ups the number of oriental eateries on 4th Avenue to 3 (Ruby Sushi and Yu Me being the other two).  So, when considering these establishments, one finds oneself wondering how they are going to remain original, and provide variety for the eager eater.  Simply Asia is a chain restaurant (yes, another) which serves exclusively Thai food.  We went for a quick dinner a few weeks after it opened its doors.

Simply Asia is certainly simply decorated.  The interior is quite generic, and there appear to be few original or interesting touches.  The open kitchen – where one can see the Thai chefs at work – is a redeeming feature, but you have to be seated inside to enjoy this experience.  The outer terrace is a great place to eat during summer months.

Simply Asia, like many of the other new restaurants in Parkhurst, is having some regulatory teething problems.  The restaurant is still awaiting its long-anticipated liquor license.  So, for the mean time, remember to bring your own wine or other beverage.  There is no corkage charge.

The menu at Simply Asia is funky and brightly coloured, peppered with interesting facts about Thailand and Thai cuisine.  There is a really wide and interesting range of authentic Thai food on offer.  This includes a vegetarian section.  There is also the option to pick the heat of your dishes, and you may come across some Thai specialties which you have never heard of before.  Having all the food prepared by genuine Thai chefs serves to enhance the authenticity of the food.

For starters, I ordered duck springrolls (Po-Pia Ped) which were served with a sweet chilli sauce.  The fragrant roasted duck filling, scented with a touch of star anise, was delicious.  Unfortunately the pastry casing was thick and undercooked.  It wasn’t golden and crispy, but rather doughy and chewy.  I think I could do better on my stove at home.  My dining companion ordered a Khong Waang Raum Mitr, a 6 piece combo platter consisting of springrolls and some “chewy sweetcorn cakes.”  These springrolls were better than the ones I ordered, and the sweetcorn cakes were exactly as you’d expect them to be given the name….. Chewy.  Happily, the mains were much better than the starters.  I ordered an old favourite, Prawn Pad Thai (Phad Thai Goong).  It was really a treat, deliciously nutty and the prawns were cooked beautifully.  I simply love Asian noodle dishes, and this was comforting, filing and satisfying.  Nothing complex, just what I had expected.  My fellow diner ordered roasted chilli paste and cashew nut noodle with chicken (Ba-Mee Prik-Phao).  It really packed a punch, but was very enjoyable.

The service at Simply Asia was simply ordinary.  Not immaculate or particularly attentive and gracious, but fine nonetheless.  Food arrived quickly and we were given ample time to finish it, but we had to keep asking for things:  chopsticks and soy sauce, for instance.  This may just be a matter of inexperienced waiters, and I’m sure it will improve with practice.  Our waitress was generally pleasant and the service did not detract from the meal.

The great thing about a restaurant like Simply Asia is this:  What you see is what you get, and what you get is what you expect.  The Thai food is tasty, spicy, a feast for the senses.  It is interesting and unfussy.  You could pop in and have two courses within the hour, or you could have a casual yet festive dinner with friends.  Simply Asia offers something for everyone, and it is sure to become a popular local spot for a pleasant, simple and tasty meal.

2 starters and 2 mains cost R 200.00 including tip – this is real value for money!

You can contact Simply Asia Parkhurst on + 27 (0) 11 447 3037.

The review was sent to the restaurant on 24th January 2013.

 

Parea, Illovo – Restaurant Review – Monday 5th December 2012

A service shocker…..

After months of phone calls, a friend eventually managed to secure us a table at this popular Greek Taverna restaurant.  A large group gathered, looking forward to an evening of authentic Greek food and pre-Christmas catch up. 

Parea is modeled on a traditional Greek taverna.  The interior is simple and unassuming, with a few touches of Greko-South African interior décor and an impressive grapevine creeping the exterior.  It has a following in Johannesburg, known for festive dinners, ouzo shots and of course the Friday night belly dancers.

We sat down to a few glasses of wine, selected from the wide range on offer, and considered the menu.  It is typically Greek, featuring the likes of veg and meat meze, a wide selection of dips, authentic main courses, salads and desserts.  Amongst our favourite starters was the selection of 6 dips served with warm pita bread.  These were full of flavor, and the portions were generous.  When it came to mains, the quality of the food varied greatly.  Most disappointing was the dried-up lamb souvlakia, which was a bit like eating cardboard.  I had the deep fried calamari, which was average, nothing to write home about.  Another diner had the T-Bone, which was very disappointing as it “turned out to be a Sirloin with a big bone in it” – no sign of the fillet portion of the cut.  By far the most appetizing main course was the slow-braised lamb shank with mashed potatoes.  It was delectable, the meat really soft, falling off the bone.  Fortunately the portions were huge, and those who ordered it were kind enough to share theirs with the poor dears who ordered souvlakia.

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The haloumi salad

According to their menu, the word “Parea” is generally thought to refer to a “group of people who derive great pleasure simply being together.”  This may be true of the diners, but it does not appear to be the case with the waitering staff.  We were all dismayed by the disinterested, bolshy service.  So much so, that I have asked some of my dining companions to give me their views of the meal:

Chris says: “I am still waiting for my rice”

Jess says: “Service in terms of drinks and serving was good – all the drinks and food came out together and within a reasonable time frame. Having the manager greet people as they arrived was nice, but in terms of the waitering staff, they let themselves down. Our waitress lacked basic etiquette – she was disinterested and unfriendly from the onset and it seemed to get worse as the evening progressed: banging glasses and dishes down in front of people in a “drop and run” attitude, questions were answered abruptly and in as few words as possible, reaching across people whilst they are trying to have a conversation and forcing them to move out of the way to avoid being hit in the face and just generally acting as if serving us was asking a bit much of her. Perhaps she was having a bad night, but overall the service wasn’t very pleasant”

Claire says:  “The lamb was amazing, the service was appalling, so sadly my overall experience was average”

Victoria says: “The Calamari was good, service terrible but the vibe was good”

I suppose it is important to remember that Parea is not a fine dining restaurant, so one cannot expect too much from the service.  However, a good measure of public-spiritedness is a job requirement for waiting staff.  And the staff at Parea just did not deliver.  The service tainted our evening, leaving us feeling dissatisfied and irritable, ready to smash plates!

If you want to try Parea, it probably best to go on a weekend night.  Though I can’t vouch for the service, the ouzo will hopefully lend a beneficial rose-tint to the experience, and you may have a better time than we did.

The meal was reasonably priced, with starters, mains and a few glasses of wine costing about R 200.00 per person.  We were not inclined to leave a tip.

You can contact Parea on 00 (27) 11 788 8777.

This review has been sent to the restaurant on 9th January 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.