I am a marriage officer. I am often invited by the bride and groom to join their nuptial celebrations at one restaurant or other after the wedding at home. I very seldom attend for two reasons, firstly the invitations are usually extended only as a matter of courtesy and I am not close to the bride and groom or their friends and family so I feel it is not fair on the bride and groom. Secondly, dining with strangers is usually a waste of my precious time which I would rather spend with my own friends and family. However, every so often I do a marriage for people who fall into the category “friends and family” and then I accept their invitation to join them in their celebration with pleasure. And so it was that I came to be invited to The Grillhouse in The Firs, Rosebank, in early December 2013.
The Grillhouse has a whole range of awards and accolades to its credit, not least of which is being named as one of the top steakhouses in the world and one of the top steakhouses in Johannesburg for several years running, the latter being more relevant to me because I happen to live in Johannesburg, not because I am mistakenly of the opinion that Johannesburg is more important than the world (well, it is to me, but that’s simply my parochialism showing). I suppose this is what made the bride and groom choose this particular place – the awards, not my parochialism.
The marriage concluded we sat at the house and had a quiet drink to allow the peak traffic to die down before setting off to Rosebank. We arrived to find a large number of people milling around outside. We were shown to our table for ten (also outside). The other, larger party, that was seated outside continued milling around after we were seated and as their numbers swelled they became intrusive into our space with their conversations mingling with ours. One of the waiters gently marshalled the guest who was virtually standing on me into her own space without her even being aware that she had been admonished. It was done with such class and finesse that I knew then that we were in capable hands with this particular waiter. Once the other party – which seemed to be a work year end function – was seated we had no further trouble with them as they were quiet, sedate and obviously on their best behaviour.
While we were outside we could see into the restaurant with its brick and wood finish and the beautiful art deco styled figurines and lighting shades. Plush leather seating finishes the luxurious feel to the restaurant.
The menus arrived. I found them to be comprehensive in relation to steakhouse items, with a few selections like chicken for people who are not so crazy about a thick chunk of meat. There were some salads and vegetables for vegetarians. There were also burgers for those who prefer burgers and seafood for those who prefer that. My eyes widened at the variety of sizes. There was a 200g fillet for the smaller appetite with the 300g rump being the smallest offering of rump. I prefer rump over fillet and, having a large appetite, I can put away 300g of rump providing I do not indulge excessively in other menu items. I find 500g and 700g and more as being conspicuous consumerism so I was surprised to hear the other guests ordering 500g of fillet and huge portions of ribs. However, later these people all went home with doggy bags tucked under their arms and they may well be brunching on last night’s dinner while I sit here merely remembering it.
The wine list was mind boggling – particularly the prices which shocked me a little – and I was driving (and had already had a single gin and a small glass of bubbly) so I stuck to soft drinks, but the waiter facilitated the choice of the person next to me who wanted some red wine perfectly. Seeing her slight bewilderment at being offered a variety of different reds he simply said, “Ma’am I’ll bring the merlot, it is delicious.” I gather it was. I mention that the glass was probably about two or three units of wine, so not a small glass of wine.
Huge round white bread rolls clearly meant to be shared by all on our side of the table were produced and mindful of the 300g rump I was planning to order I managed to restrict myself to just a tiny bit of one of these. It was delicious. It goes without saying that it was accompanied by real butter. I was intrigued to watch the waiters clean up the crumbs from the table before the main course. They have a little tool which does the job of picking up the crumbs and then holds these crumbs so that they can be deposited on the board or tray. Nifty.
The bride and groom checked if anyone wanted their own starter before ordering some haloumi cheese starter for the entire table. Accordingly I am not sure if the usual starter portion would be three big pieces of haloumi with a sweet preserve and lemon. I helped myself to one of the pieces of cheese and found it to be more than enough, again given that my 300g rump was looming in my mind.
When we placed our orders for meat I learned that these came with chips, mash, baked potato or rice. I settled for baked potato, which won’t surprise anyone who knows my usual steak order. I had my steak pepper crusted and resisted the urge to slather it with a sauce. Down at our end we decided to share a salad. I was hoping for the Caesar salad but that was vetoed and what we got was a Greek salad. The dressings were on the side and we could choose what we wanted. The waiter recommended the poppy seed dressing which certainly looked and sounded more interesting than it actually was. To be fair I am not a salad dressing fan. I tend to eat my salads without any dressing at all other than some lemon juice which I know is not the norm in South Africa. All the portions of salad, vegetables and starches seemed very generous to me.
Steaks or ribs seemed to be the general consensus although the person next to me settled on chops which looked amazingly delicious. Everyone enjoyed their food. I was particularly interested to see how easily the rib bones parted company with the meat and the enjoyment of the people eating them was evident. My own rump was cooked to medium rare perfection and it was a beautiful piece of meat meticulously prepared with very little visible fat and no chewy bits at all.
After dinner we were treated to a round of Don Pedros “on the house” as this was a special occasion. It was the most suitable end to what was a heavy meal for everyone, light enough to still be enjoyable but finishing the meal with that little something sweet and alcoholic (several hours since the last drinks and a hearty meal having rendered me able to legally still drive).
I was particularly impressed with the staff at The Grillhouse. The balance of being available without hovering is rare. At no stage during the evening did I ever “need” a waiter for anything. Everything was always there when it was required, although I did have to ask the waiter to clear the excess glasses off the table – a process he had started up at the other side and then simply got sidetracked into not doing down on my end. There were no undue delays between courses but we were never rushed either.
The Grillhouse is a premium steakhouse and while the prices reflect that, so does the superb food, the alcohol selection (whisky seemed to be a big thing on the wine list), excellent service and a very hospitable atmosphere. It all impressed me positively.
Their contact details (no, this is not a paid advert, but I thought you, the reader, might want to try this restaurant some time) are:
The Grillhouse (Rosebank)
Call 011 880 3945
Physical address: Shop 70, The Firs Hyatt Centre, Oxford Road, Rosebank
Cuisine: Seafood, Steakhouses
Ambience: Classic Elegance, Comfy & Casual
Lunch: 12:00pm – 2:30pm, Monday to Sunday
Dinner: 6:30pm – 10:30pm, Monday to Saturday
Note: While the rest of the restaurant is suitable for disabled and partly disabled access, the toilets are not. The Hyatt Hotel is close by for wheelchair access. The stairs do have handrails for those of us who need them.