Last week I tried the week-old Roast & Co. on Heritage Square, created by new owner and adjoining restaurant HQ Restaurant. The two restaurants share an outdoor patio and a brand new bar!

As I will be out of town later this week, I am unable to attend the media launch of Roast & Co., and hence spontaneously decided to have lunch at the new restaurant on Friday afternoon, located on Shortmarket Street, and which was previously Bistrot Bizerca. I was lucky that HQ and Roast & Co. Operations Partner Matt Mulholland was in the house, and he was very helpful in answering my questions, and in showing me around inside and outside! Matt told me that roast chicken restaurants are an international trend. 

The decor is special, in that the walls are all rough brick work, adding a rustic feel. The lighting is clever, at the logo in particular, giving a range of colours to the brick wall. On the far wall is the Roast & Co. logo (left), while a similar one is on the wall outside the entrance door (main photograph). 

Different seating styles run throughout the restaurant, with light wood chairs and black top wood tables on the two outer rows, while high tables and chairs run in the middle of the restaurant, and near the open kitchen. Outside the entrance door are high tables too, and patrons sitting outside will be a good invitation to eat at the restaurant. There was no outside seating towards the street previously at Bistrot Bizerca.  Beautiful tan leather banquettes add a touch of class to the restaurant. Greyish floor tiles are in the seating area near the kitchen, while the main restaurant section has wooden flooring which has been decorated in a geometric pattern in white and light and dark grey. In one section of the restaurant the lighting is calabash-shaped, designed by hot designer Porky Hefer. Matt told me that counting all the seating, outside to the street, inside the restaurant, and sharing with HQ in the square of Heritage Square, will total 150 seats. 

A brand new bar has been created in the Square, with tan leather bar stools, and a fresh green tile for the bar wall. Having another bar outside will ease up the pressure on the waiters serving drinks, and on the inside bar and its barmen. On the wall in the square is a cheeky sign ‘Chicken or Beef’, but no Beef is served in the restaurant at all. All starters and main courses are chicken based if they are not vegetarian or sides. 

Stella Artois branding is on one wall, and a specialist branded fridge advertises the beer brand too. Tables have a sideplate with a grey check napkin, and steak knifes and forks by Tramontina. Salt and pepper grinders are brought to the table when one sits down, as are three home-made sauces: peri-peri sauce; a divine smoked hickory mayonnaise, which was my favourite; and a lemon and herb sauce. Wine glasses are branded.

Two major sections in the restaurant have storage for wines, behind secured metal doors. Matt told me that the winelist was compiled by Warwick Wine Estate, and its wine brands dominate the winelist. Some of the wine brands listed on the winelist also appear on the menu (see two paragraphs down).  The wines not duplicated on the winelist and the menu are Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label non-vintage (R1350), Trizanne Sauvignon Blanc Semillon Blend (R350), Hogan Chenin Blanc (R600), Paul Cluver Chardonnay (R400), Warwick White Lady Chardonnay (R500), Glenelly Merlot (R270), Warwick The Blue Lady Cabernet Sauvignon R625, Intellego Kolbroek Syrah (R370), Warwick The Black Lady Syrah (R350), Seriously Old Dirt (R500), Warwick Trilogy 2006 (R1300), and Warwick Trilogy 2013 (R450). A weird and wonderful list includes pricier wines: Alheit Cartology (R600), Bosman Fides Grenache Blanc (R350), Leeuwenkuil Cinsault (R270), David & Nadia Sadie David Elpidios (R625), and Warwick Cabernet Franc (R625). 

Chickens used for all the starter and main course dishes are from Elgin Free Range chickens, prepared on a rotisserie imported from Italy, which consists of a combi oven, and then the chicken goes through a brown roast cycle with an open flame, to give the piece of chicken a crispy chicken exterior, as locals prefer to eat their chicken. 

The menu is an A4 sheet, with the food, cocktails, beers, and wines by the glass and bottle listed too. Warwick First Lady Chardonnay, Rosé, and Sauvignon Blanc costs R50 per glass and R190 per bottle. Joostenberg Chenin Blanc costs R55/R220. Villiera Brut and Rosé MCC cost R65/R295, Warwick  First Lady Cabernet Sauvignon R55/R210, Villiera Merlot R60/R220, Paul Cluver Village Pinot Nour R60/R265, and Warwick Three Cape Ladies R60/R265.

Matt explained that the cocktails are premium, but are charged at a reasonable cost: Raspberry Julep (with Bulleit Bourbon), Grapefruit Tommies Margarita (with Don Julio Reposado), Mai-Zacapa (with Ron Zacapa Rum), Heritage Sunset (with Tanqueray Gin), Smoked Mule (with Ketel One Vodka), and The Shortmarket Manhatten (with Johnnie Walker Gold). Beer on tap is Stella Artois (R30 for 300ml and R40 for 500ml). Bottled beer offered is Stella Artois (R36), Newlands Spring (R62), Corona (R40), Flying Fish (R34), and Devils Peak (R50). 

The menu is attached to a wooden board with a clip. Menu starters are described as being ‘to share‘, and I ordered the Elgin Farmhouse Liver Paté, with chicken terrine, duck fat shortbread, orange gel, served on a branded wooden board, and toasted brioche served on a plate (R58). It was such a large portion that I took some of mine home. The orange gel had a prominent taste, and was an interesting combination of flavours with the pâté. Other sharing plates are Mzanzi Fried Mac ‘n Cheese (R56), baked Camembert (R76), chicken Caesar croquettes (R58), Onion Bhaji (R48), and tenderstem and baby spinach (R48).

The chicken can be ordered by size, and I chose the smallest, watching my figure, being the quarter (R65). Half a chicken costs R112, and a whole one costs R210. A bowl of gravy and a slice of lemon is served with the chicken. One can order sides, and I was smitten with the pumpkin fritters, which Matt described as being made with yeast, making them light and fluffy, and topped with lemon sherbet, costing R38. The waitress brought a finger bowl to the table. Brioche costs R28, house pickled slaw (R48), roasted potatoes R32, corn R44, lettuce and avocado salad R44, and pap costs R32. 

Last but not least was desserts, and I selected the Churros, which are served with a small tin of dipping caramel. Two alternative dessert options are Rocky Road Popsicle, and Banana split vs cheesecake. Each dessert costs R38. I ordered two dry cappuccinos, which were perfectly made. 

I met a busy Head Chef Odette Olivier, and Matt told me that she had previously worked at the Two Oceans restaurant at Cape Point, and was the Sous Chef at Bistro 1682. She has responsibility for both the HQ and Roast & Co kitchens.  

Disclosure: When I asked the waiter for the bill, I was told that Matt was taking care of the bill. 

Roast & Co., Heritage Square, 98 Shortmarket Street, Cape Town. Tel (021) 424-6372. www.roastandco.co.za Twitter: @Roastandco Instagram: @roastandco

Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein Instagram: @Chris_Ulmenstein