DIANE DE BEER
Tshwane has become quite the foodie town in the new millennium and its playing power is diversity. There’s not much you’re not going to find in the capital city when talking cuisine.
The latest stomping ground, for the past two years at least but still growing and evolving, is an area called The Village in Hazelwood. There are many favourites starting with the Italian granddaddy, Alfie’s Italian Café in Hazelwood Road as well as its offshoot just around the corner, Alfie’s Pizzeria and Deli in 16th street.
On either side, there’s Salt that offers modern deli fare and Culture Club – Bar de Tapas that does a mean and very generous tapas menu as well as one of the popular Burger Bistros (the original is in Pierneef Street, Villieria).
The feel of The Village is modern, it’s young without being exclusionary, the prices are competitive, and the service is attentive overall. Parking is available and the mood is mellow especially on warm Pretoria nights.
The thing about The Village is the ambience. Starting in Hazelwood Road and turning into 16th Street, which is dedicated to different dining options, it represents smart pavement eating, which – with Pretoria’s fair weather – is simply the best.
In the past, because of some archaic laws, very few restaurants had an outside option, but it has become almost obligatory and suits this area to a T. The selection on all fronts is great, and you can pick something to suit your fetish for that day or night. Meals can be gargantuan or a light lunch, it’s all out there on a platter for you to sample.
Perhaps for the moment, it captures Pretoria’s strengths best. This is truly fine modern dining from hamburgers to pizzas to Portuguese balachau to Asian inspired cuisine, pasta and freshly baked breads and patisserie.
Two of the youngest kids on the block are the Portuguese flavoured Ozé Café & Bistro and Cowfish, which specialises in meat and fish.
Ozé Café and Bistro, 24 16th Street, Hazelwood, Pretoria; Tel: 012 346 0150
If Portuguese is your preference, the menu is modern with a good smattering of both fish and meat. It was a fishy day for us and we opted for the sardine starter and one portion of prawns to share. They didn’t have either clams or the tentacles for the octopus salad but perhaps the festive season played havoc with availability.
The sardines, a special on the day, were extraordinary with a helping of boiled potatoes and veggies. Everything seemed very straightforward with quality ingredients doing the trick. It was the perfect choice, followed by a half-serving of the smaller portion (250g) of prawns, grilled to perfection as the menu said it would be, served with a salad. But there was a choice if you favoured chips for example.
All we needed to conclude the meal was something sweet, and again their donuts weren’t available but that wasn’t a train smash with a serving of pastéis de nata (two mini pastries per portion) not to be missed. It was one of the best I’ve had and a sweet conclusion to a lovely lunch.
With a cocktail bar on the premises, their drinks menu is innovative and fun with a wine list that offers different by-the-glass options.
If meat is your food of choice, the delights are many with chourico, chicken livers, trinchado and buffalo wings on the starter menu and for mains, chicken or beef espetada or the usual steak options (300g) with a choice of either fresh cut chips, boiled potatoes, mixed vegetables, Pretoria’s ubiquitous creamed spinach, or Portuguese salad or rice.
I am also tempted by some of their sandwiches like the Portuguese bun layered with cured chourico and Terra Nostra cheese or the Portuguese French Toast (Rabanadas), buttermilk dipped, fresh cut strawberries, bacon, maple syrup and mascarpone cream. It sounds deliciously decadent.
Our bill with a tip was R400 which included two coffees (R40) as well as the drinks (wine R60, Bloody Mary, R40). That’s not a bad deal.
Cowfish, 11 Hazelwood Road, Hazelwood, Pretoria; 074 111 8033
As the name suggests, Cowfish has a menu which represents a specific spectrum, with the accent on hamburgers, sushi, dim sum, signature plates and cocktails – arguably an odd mix and yet, it opens up a choice which in its quirkiness allows for a fun meal. It also encourages sharing, with, for example, a dim sum platter (R165) which was our first choice with the possibility of something else to follow.
We selected the 9-piece platter with three flavours of our choice which included beef, lamb potsticker, pork and shrimp, prawn and cream cheese, chicken, coriander and cashew nuts or chicken, ginger and spring onion or a dim sum classic, sui mai (prawn, chicken and tobiko). For vegetarians, they have spinach, cream cheese and spring onion. It’s a broad selection and will take a few tries for you to find your favourites.
It was a great start to the meal, but we were ready for another small bite with the prawn tempura (three crispy prawns served with Teriyaki sauce, creamy spice and mayo, R110) a winner.
They were almost too pretty to eat and a smart accompaniment to the dim sum.
But we had only sampled a minor selection of a menu that is as intriguing as it is imaginative. Their signature plates, for example, include a tomahawk steak (ribeye on the bone – 600g – which offers great presentation and bulk), ribs (wok-grilled pork ribs served with a chilli soya barbeque basting), chicken Katsu (crispy fried chicken strips in Japanese breadcrumbs and plum sauce) and a Teriyaki salmon steak.
The hamburger menu is also enticing with a Kaizer cheese, Ravenous Pig and Belfast Boy all begging for closer inspection as do their salted prawns and squid salad or their Vietnamese calamari.
On the sweet side they have Kawasura rolls (spring rolls filled with strawberry, hazelnuts, dark and white chocolate served with ice cream), deep-fried ice cream or chocolate meltdown. They specialise in cocktails but also have a fair selection of wine and beer which is good to go with the hamburgers.
It’s a laid-back, easy vibe, the staff are friendly and attentive and with both these options, I’ll return for more foodie adventures.