Can We Toque? Review of Wombles, Bryanston.



Many centuries ago, when dinosaurs roamed the earth and I was a child, there was a TV show about the Wombles of Wimbledon, a bunch of rodents who lived in a burrow and spent their days processing trash.  Not quite the image I would wish to attach to a pricey steak house.  But what do I know?

Arriving for a Womblistic lunch at Wombles of Bryanston, there was a warm welcome to this vast area, opulently furnished in almost-tasteful African style (The restaurant, not me).

A sommelier came along and recommended a bottle of Vergelegen, and a very expensive bottle of Vergelegen.  I did ask him directly if he was a sommelier, and he modestly replied he was “in charge of the drinks”.  Possibly nobody gave him the proper title as they would then have had to pay him better.  I chose the slightly cheaper Vergelegen Cab/Merlot 2012, and with my arm painfully twisted, I upgraded from a glass to a bottle.   It was really nice.

I ordered some sparkling water which did not come in a commercial-looking bottle.  When I queried the waiter, he said they take tap water and insert the gas.  Is it free, then?  Nope.  Bloody expensive gas, if you ask me.

I was first to arrive and asked for some bread to match the three butters on the table.  Nothing arrived.  But then I saw them bring some to the next table.  And then they served their starters.  Still no bread for me.   It did arrive more than 20 minutes after I requested it, with surprise from the waiter that I had been so spurned.   I tried a mini-loaf with the garlic butter.  It had a good garlic flavour but was otherwise badly under-seasoned.   After I had eaten it, a chap in a white shirt came to apologise for the miscommunication.  I said I quite understood, as they were so busy.  (There were three of us in the section where I was seated.).  Sarcastic me.

As my dining diva Mrs P (who was late) was paying, I was able to splash out, and not just on the water.

I went for an old-fashioned favourite, the duck liver pate, at R90.  It was very good, if slightly under-seasoned, and the portion was so generous I was able to feed some to Mrs P, who had skipped her starter.

I then ordered a 260g fillet (as did my hostess), with mine coming with Béarnaise sauce. Chips were cheeky added at an extra R25. The waiter said there would be complementary veg, including fresh garden peas.  When I asked whose garden they came from, he checked with the chef, who said McCain’s.

The steaks were very fine, but Mrs P ordered a medium and got medium-well while my medium-rare was medium.  You would think that a steakhouse would have a better ability to cook steak to order, but maybe the chefs were distracted by their Wombling, sorting out the trash.  My chips were well prepared and tasty, but Mrs P’s sweet potato chips were overdone.

HOWEVER.  The Béarnaise sauce was a total disaster. There was a heavy taste of vinegar, none of tarragon, and the texture was so cloying that when I turned it upside down it stayed in the jug.  I wanted to hold it upturned over my head, but Mrs P told me to behave.  Had I wanted wallpaper paste with a nasty taste, I would have ordered it.  They took it off the bill, but too late.  My meal was ruined.  I ate a few bites of steak, a few chips, and sulked.

Pud (just for me) was Crêpes Suzette –  tasty enough, but sugar, rather than orange, was the dominant flavour in the sauce.  The theatre came with the waiter pouring a puddle of flaming brandy over the dish.  Not sure why he bothered, because all the brandy flavour appeared to have been cremated out of the final product. The ball of ice cream served with it thought it was an Arctic iceberg, and insisted on melting too fast.

The coffee was OK, and the bill case to just under R1 000, before the tip.  It included R28 for that tap water with gas.

My rating?  3.5*

Key to the Ratings….

1*    Dog food is nicer

2*.  Cat food is nicer

3*.  Not bad if Woolworths is sold out of ready meals.

4*.  I like it

5*.  I love it.  Not to be missed.

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