Willoughby & Co is a fish restaurant in Hyde Park. It has a sister restaurant in Cape Town. I have never been to the Cape Town one and this blog post relates to the Hyde Park restaurant.
Regular readers will know that I have reason to be at Hyde Park Shopping Centre, one of Johannesburg’s most expensive and exclusive malls, from time to time when I preview movies which are screened there. Thus it is that I occasionally have a cup of coffee or a light meal at one of the restaurants.
Over the Easter weekend I had the opportunity to enjoy a leisurely lunch at this famous restaurant when I chatted to restaurant manager, Andrew Gaul, about the restaurant. This is not a standard review of the restaurant as I was not there as a paying guest, but rather as one specifically invited to write a feature article on the restaurant.
The ambiance of the restaurant is “chic mall” with a classic, understated feel. It is wonderful to sit there and watch the rich and famous traipsing past on their way to the movies or to one of the other exclusive venues in the mall. I got to wave at some friends in the process. So, this is the kind of place through which friends, acquaintances and public figures walk. Some of the public figures sat down to dine, and the manager shared with me an impressive list of dignitaries who enjoy meals at Willoughby & Co from time to time.
I get the menu. It is not a particularly large one – even for fish dishes – and the manager explains the thinking behind it. “Superb quality ingredients prepared simply and well”. We settle for sushi. I explain my fussiness about how I like my sushi. This is conveyed to the sushi chef and the resultant platter for two is just to my taste. The starter platter for two is fairly generous.
I am allergic to shellfish, so that removed all the non-kosher fishes from my personal choice.
The manager makes a recommendation about the kabeljou which is just in, fresh and perfect, and I decided in favour of that. My friend decided on the lowly fried hake – a staple in the diet of many a fish eater. The manager wanted to show us the Scottish salmon which is the house specialty, so he ordered that for himself. He did point out that the salmon is the most expensive of the fishes.
Kabeljou (Argyrosomus inodorus) is one of those tricky fishes, because farmed, it is a sustainable food source, but fished from open waters it is not quite so good because this excellent table fish is being overfished. Willoughby & Co only use fish on the SASSI (South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative) green list. None is taken from questionable sources. SASSI has an SMS line to which one can send a message with the name of a fish and get information on its status. 079 499 8795. Fish on the green list can be eaten without guilt. Feel guilty about eating fish on the yellow/orange list. DON’T eat fish on the red list and report any establishments which offer such fish.
Each of us enjoyed our main course very much.
Once again, the choice of desserts is not large, but then neither was the place left for dessert. We both settled on the ice cream with Bar One sauce. Andrew Gaul had some carrot cake. We all had our coffees.
I learned a lot about Hyde Park Mall, and about Willoughby & Co and about the restaurant trade during the lunch. This little restaurant is a trendy higher end place with stellar service and an easy-to-read menu. It is a perfect place for a long, lazy lunch like the one I enjoyed, or for special occasion dining, or for entertaining.
Don’t tell Nemo that I ate his (green-listed) relatives and found them to be delicious and that I recommend that others who find themselves at the Hyde Park Shopping Centre try this relaxed, unpretentious, although high end restaurant for themselves.