Finding Coobs is easy. It is on 4th Avenue Parkhurst. Keep on going north until you are convinced you’ve missed it and there it is on the right. On the corner of 14th Street. 38 4th Avenue, Parkhurst. I arrived early and had a choice of parking spaces. The building is contemporary chic.
Some of our party were outside. Our waiter for the evening, Lovemore, offered me the choice of drinks inside (alone) or outside with the rest of the party. Anti-socially, because of the slight chill in the autumn air, and because I don’t smoke, I headed inside. I was soon joined by the rest of the party.
The restaurant has several sections. I was ushered to the inner sanctum, a private area partitioned by glass on the one side and concrete on the other. The concrete area had books against it, which cuts some of the general restaurant noise, but not all. Sound bleeds into the venue and at one point I became aware of it. Then my awareness was gone again. This is not so much because the sound subsided, I think, but because I was having a good time. Anyway, back to the room. The room seats 12 comfortably, 15 at a push. It is open to the restaurant area with the kitchen to the left.
I am not going to dwell on the the wines in any great detail, but the owner/chef, James Diack, started out studying in the wine field before switching to food. He knows his wine. We started with a dry local MCC, Le Lude. Lovemore talked me through the choice of a white wine (Haarlem to Hope), a light red wine (Eenzaamheid Cinsaut) and a heavier red wine (Gabrielskloof The Blend). Later in the evening Chef James Diack went through them again, explaining why he had chosen these wines for his restaurant (and for these meals).
We, members of the social media, were invited to preview the new winter menu and we were not eating off the regular menu. There were menus outlining our four choices of starters an mains and two courses of dessert on the table. I studied mine. I made my wine choice accordingly. The light red, the Eenzaamheid Cinsaut would do very nicely for all three courses. Eenzaamheid is a multi generational family operation. The winemaking is handled by Janno Briers-Louw. Cinsaut is not a common varietal in South Africa and this wonderfully friendly, crisp wine delivered all I expected it to, and I enjoyed it. It is not impossibly expensive either.
One goes to restaurants to eat, of course, and the most important thing is the food. I have sampled Coobs food before at the Taste of Joburg events (which I understand may not be happening anymore?) and I knew I wanted the pork belly as a main. I remembered from Taste of Joburg that Coobs is one of the restaurants that sources most its food from the chef’s family farm, Brightside, in the Magaliesburg, farmed by his mother. Every animal is raised as a free-ranging animal until it is ready for ethical slaughter. The pigs used are a cross between wild boar and domestic pigs which makes the pork less fatty than normal pork. The vegetables are also organically grown. Later this discussion led to the issue of the American chicken imported into South Africa. Most of this is being sold to markets who are largely unaware of the storm of protest and who do not have the luxury of being financially able to select products based on their origins.
Right. Back to the food on the menu. I often have to ask what the item on the menu actually is. This was certainly the case at Coobs.
The first option for starters was “Slow braise suffolk lamb shoulder serve with a truffle infused arancini, minted broad bean puree and radish and micro leaf salad. Arancini are stuffed rice balls, coated with breadcrumbs, which are fried, in case you, like me, were wondering about this.
I ignored the second choice, a bouillabaise because I am allergic to shellfish. After we all had our starters in front of us, there were some raves about this being the best selection.
The vegetarian option was “Crispy coated creamy polenta served with a charred aubergine puree, tahini yoghurt pomegranate, swiss chard and pine nuts” No one selected this.
My choice was “Chicken liver parfait served with port braised red cabbage, candied watermelon, warm chutney and homemade melba toast”. This turned out to be chicken liver pate with preserves which is more or less what I expected. I make killer chicken liver pate and this was as good as mine, smooth and not overly offalish. The port braised red cabbage was good, not too crisp and not too soggy. My late father always said one had to have eaten well to be able to cook well and I certainly would take lessons from this starter back to my home kitchen. For me the crowning glory of this dish was the candied watermelon which was gingery and crisp, contrasting perfectly with the smooth blandness of the pate, It was the taste sensation of the evening for me.