For a sex maniac, the thrill is the next liaison; for the serial killer, it is the next victim; and for me it is the next new restaurant. I too often get set in my ways, and too rarely venture out to new places. It doesn’t help, either, that I am always broke.
So when my foolish corporate communications chum Axxx offered to make up for a cancelled meeting by offering me lunch in a venue of my choice, I drooled a bit, and then opted for Marble.
I had heard about it, as a trendy spot in Rosebank for the well-heeled, and had read a number of differing reviews of the place, which had almost put me off. However, I always like to see for myself how well a restaurant delivers.
Getting to it is a challenge. Unless I was missing something, there is no on-site parking, and the street outside the building had no space. Even though I circled the block, I saw no parking entrance, so dumped the car a short distance away. This was fine by daylight, but I would be nervous after dark.
After a short lift ride with a charming lady who did not allow my presence to disrupt her cell-phone call, I was greeted and shown to a very big bar area, with outside wrap-around smoking tables on the terrace. It is a good, vast space and I assume it throbs in the evening, as do many of the clientele.
The barrier between the bar and the restaurant proper is filled by a pornographic glass-sided wine cellar, and there was an excellent array of spirits behind the bar. No problems in choosing something brilliant, even if you might need to invite along a bank manager to fund it.
The service was attentive, as it should have been as I was the only customer, but the music was loud and unpleasant – putting the ‘din’ in dinner. I had not stepped out of an elevator to be tormented by elevator music, albeit with an African groove.
As Bxxx was late, I asked for a glass from the extensive offering of sparkling wines, would not risk funding one of the French champagnes, and settled for a local bubbly. It was not chilled enough for me, was a bit heavy, and not very refreshing or nice. It tasted like one of those drinks you get at a wedding or party when the hosts ran out of budget before they chose the booze. I did not finish it. Sorry Cxxx.
The attire of the clientele ranged from smart business suits to the clothes one would wear for a heavy session of gardening. There was a good mix of black and white customers, and people of several sexes.
Dxxx finally pitched, and we were shown to our table in a really vast space, a bit like an airport waiting lounge, or hotel lobby. However, I had a good view of the wine cellar, and was happy.
The waiter brought some bread for the table, and did not giggle when I jokingly asked into which orifice of the table I should insert it. The bread was indistinct. A bit naan-ish, a bit pita-like, and it was served with a pool of yogurt and a lump of butter. OK, but not memorable.
The chef came to say “hi”, seemed friendly, but was a scruffy bugger. Better that, though, than some so-called celebrity chef who is never in his restaurant, and instead wanders the globe making crap TV travel and cooking shows.
The menu was limited, but the choice was fine. I selected the prawn starter. The prawns were very well cooked, but they were overpowered by a spicy sauce and too much salt? Too much something, anyway. There was some lovely stuffed Indian-ish bread. I would happily have had that alone, but it really was FAR too salty. By far. A lot of salt. Too much. Heavy handed with the salt. An a-salt on the senses. You get what I am saying? Don’t chefs taste their food before they send it out?
My hoist Exxx had the tuna starter. There was again a reasonable quantity of food, with avo, some sort of jelly and cream cheese. He said he would order it again. So would I, from the look of it.
I, of course, demolished my starter in seconds while Fxxx lingered over his. Waiters twice tried to pluck away my redundant plate while he was still eating, but I put up a noble defence. I find this practice rude, but I know some customers don’t understand that polite service does not involve highlighting the greed of people like myself.
One five-star element to the service, which I wish one found more often when dining out, was the waiter approaching us after the starter to ask when we wanted him to serve the main course. Redemption. Brilliant.
As we were both driving, and there was no prospect of mutual seduction, we each had just a few glasses of wine. My white was perfectly chilled, and the red recommended by the sommelier was at a perfect temperature. I had asked for a few ice cubes just in case, but was able to send them back. I wish more restaurants had brilliant sommeliers like him. I wonder if he is available for adoption? Gxxx had a few glasses of a different red, and enjoyed them.
His main course was a superb ribeye steak, which he raved about. It was generous, and he had some to take home to the dog, or the wife. Not sure which.
I had some delightful seared tuna on a bed of thinly-sliced pineapple. It came close to brilliance, but again it was overpoweringly spiced. It was also not very warm, but I suppose if you hardly cook a lump of tuna it is going to stay cool. I, too, could not finish all that was offered.
I opted for the cheese board, as a canny way of getting Hxxx to buy us a few ports, or whatever the EU allows us to call our superior fortified wine. A real treat on both counts. Four slices of delicious local cheeses. The relishes were interesting, but really not necessary. And it was served with the naan-pita bread from earlier. Why? And why not a cheese trolley in a restaurant of this size? I know there are expenses in keeping a stock of perfectly aged cheeses, but the rewards are immense.
He gorged himself on desert, and purred with contentment.
So what do I make of Marble? I enjoyed the experience but there are flaws in the cooking. I suspect this could be because it is regarded as a place to see and be seen, not to eat and be eaten. Well, you know what I mean.
Would I like to return? Happily. If someone else is picking up the bill, and I can pick up the sommelier.