Savoy Cabbage is one of those places where, as you sit down, you just know everything’s going to be fine. OK, by then, your taxi has dropped you off at the door. And, by “door”, I mean a locked security grill which you have to be buzzed through. You’ve also clocked the guy lurking near the door and wonder if he was a mugger or what.
So, once sat down, menus are proffered, aperitifs ordered and brought, a little canapé presented (tomato & aubergine puree on a blini – and very nice too) – all in quick succession. As experience has shown us from the previous two weeks in South Africa, almost every dish on the menu would seem familiar to North European diners and would happily translate to Antwerp, Bolton or Cork, although, of course, the antelope dishes would be deer in the north. Once orders are taken, you can draw breath and look at the room. I loved it. Most of the tables are on the ground floor, as is the open kitchen. Above is a mezzanine floor with a few more tables, where we were seated. I liked the unplastered brickwork, the quirky lighting and the exposed air conditioning ducts. And I liked the food even more.
Starters were OK. Nothing earth shattering. Just pleasant openers to a meal. Cheese soufflé wasn’t any soufflé we’ve come across before. It hadn’t risen and, served in an almost flat bowl, clearly wasn’t intended to have done so. Tasted good though.
The other plate, described as a “salad of beetroot, fennel and orange” simply wasn’t. It was a large handful of rocket with a couple of chunks of beet, a couple of segments of orange and some fine strips of fennel. And a few blobs of home made labneh. Pleasant enough for what it was.
Mains were much better. Rack of lamb was served suitable pink with one of the four chops bordering on being too rare for pleasant eating. It came accompanied by polenta which was a good texture, if a little underwhelming in flavour. And a smoked garlic “flan” – actually a sort of pannacotta which had little evidence of garlic or smoke. On the other plate, two ways with pig. A decent piece of loin, cooked perfectly to medium. Some slices of smoked fillet were less successful – nice meat, properly cooked but no discernable smokiness. Accompaniments were very nice – a pea puree, fondant potato, a date puree and a cider gravy.
We then shared a serving of six South African cheeses. These varied from the bland to the not-very-interesting. On the plus side, they were properly served at room temperature.
Desserts were good. A cardamom crème brulee had a nice hint of spice which was offset by a scoop of ice cream .Cape Malva pudding was on the other plate – a classic local dish and rightly so. A delicious syrup soaked sponge, surrounded by a light custard. Really nice.
We finished with decent espresso.
As we were leaving, we were able to suss out that the guy who had been lurking near the door was not a mugger but a security officer there to deter beggars from hassling customers leaving the restaurant. He’s probably kept quite busy – being hassled by beggars seems almost a given in the city centre.