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.
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