Restaurant Review: Knife Restaurant serves good cuts of steak!

Knife Restaurant is an American smoke-house themed restaurant, known particularly for its very tasty BBQ-sauce marinated and smoked ribs, and is a sister restaurant to Fork, a tapas style restaurant in Long Street, described as a “plateful on a fork”.  Knife opened three months ago in the rather kitsch looking Crystal Towers Hotel in Century City, with its magenta lighting, odd furniture, and even odder fisherman ‘fishing’ in a water feature in the Reception. 
It is hard to define what Knife stands for from the décor.  It is dominated by a central bar counter, with a hodge podge of interior styles, and different seating areas around it, accommodating about 100 patrons. Two walls are wallpapered with images of children of the owner Ed Saunders, to reflect that children are welcome to eat there.  Another wall has depictions of beef and pig cuts.  The music was very loud, but was turned down.   The lighting was on an automatic dimmer switch for the whole restaurant, reducing down to a very low ‘dull day’ light setting at 20h00, for which the manager struggled to find the switch to turn the lighting up again.  Raw cement columns dominate the space, and look unfinished, and seem out of place with the rest of the décor.  The décor is in strong contrast to the rest of the hotel.   There are wooden tables and chairs, and massive red/white dishcloth-type serviettes.  We chose a table close to a sliding door leading to the parking area, with a cold inflow of air whenever the door opened on the cold rainy night, so we moved around the corner to stay warm.   
 

I had invited my friend Sarah from Durban to join me for dinner, and our first reaction was one of uncertainty as to whether we would be happy there.  Everything changed when the charming then-Manager David Elsbury came to the table, and took personal care of us, entertaining us with his friendly and cheerful nature. He compared Knife to Carne and HQ as competitors in terms of the quality of their steaks.   David worked at Wakami previously, and helped set up the new bar for Knife.  He has left to move into a non-hospitality job, for the sake of better working hours to benefit his family.  JD Haasbroek is a partner with Saunders in the business, and compiled the winelist, making sure to add boutique wine farm brands.  The chef Jonathan Japha moved over from Fork.

David told us that the Knife at Century City is the first of a number of franchised steak and rib Knife restaurants planned, next ones to be in Johannesburg and Durban.  A Spoon restaurant may also be considered, concentrating on soups and desserts, which seemed an attractive concept, we felt.    

The menu is equally “mish mash”, reflecting the interior.  It offers starters, salads, burgers, fish and shellfish, steaks and ribs, and platters.  A selection of sauces, including creole mayo, wholegrain mustard, blue cheese, cumin and cream, and green peppercorn and bourbon sauce, costs R25 each.   Extra sides of salads and vegetables can also be ordered at R 25 each. 

A 400g portion of “smoked sticky BBQ baby back ribs” costs R 80, and a 600g portion R110.  The ribs are oak-smoked and marinated for 24 hours in a special BBQ marinade.   Steaks are cut from Chalmar beef that has been aged for 28 days before serving.  David explained that Chalmar beef is grain-fed, and has no added hormones. Sirloin and rump steak choices are offered, at an acceptable price of R95/R115 for 200g/300g rump, and R110/130 for 200g/300g sirloin.  Fillet costs R 135, but the portion size is not specified.  Both meat types are served with French fries and corn on the cob (for the American touch!), as well as a sauce of one’s choice.  David organised that my steak came with a boiled potato.  The rump steak was excellent, cooked medium rare perfectly, as ordered, and the taste of the marinade came through.  Sarah ordered the vegetarian sticky sweet potato stack with mozzarella and tomato relish (R40), and felt that there was too little vegetable and too much sauce, overpowering the sweet potato.  She indulged in a Rocky Road dessert (R50), finding the marshmallows quite hard, making them difficult to chew, whilst the rest of the dessert was soft, “melt-in-the-mouth”, in her words.

Starter options range from R 40 – R65, and include a  variety of choices, including Creole mussel curry and Cajun lamb ribs.  The Caesar salad costs R50, while a Nicoise salad made from seared game fish costs R70.  Burger choices included one made from chickpea (R55), and a bacon and cheese burger (R65).  On the seafood side one can order Creole fishcakes (R65), sole and line fish (R90), king prawn gumbo (R110), and crayfish tails at R180.   A Meat platter costs R220 for two persons, and contains a selection of ribs, chicken wings, rump steak, lamb chops and a sauce.  A Seafood platter for two persons costs R240.

The winelist has 16 wines-by-the-glass, and I chose a wonderful 2004 Stony Croft Shiraz from Stellenbosch, a Platter 4 1/2 star wine, according to David, which I had not previously heard of, and which was excellent value at R32.  The list is simply divided into “White” and “Red”, and then sub-divided by variety, and the vintage and region is specified, but there is no description of the wine.  Champagne Henri Giraud Espirit de Giraud NV costs R500, Krone Borealis R 40/R180, and Colmant NV R240.  Sauvignon Blancs offered are Badsberg (R23/R92), Reyneke Organic Reserve White the most expensive at R270.  Boekenhoutskloof Shiraz 2007 costs R400.

We paid R280 for a steak, a starter, a dessert, a cappuccino and a glass of red wine.  As Knife is too far away from where I live, I will only go back when next I go on a shopping trip to Canal Walk.  The steak is well worth a visit, and according to David, the ribs are too.

Knife restaurant, Crystal Towers Hotel, corner Century Boulevard and Rialto Road, Century City, Cape Town.  Tel (021) 551-5000 www.knife-restaurants.co.za . The website is functional, informative, has various menus – Christmas specials, kiddies menu, main menu, brunch menu, etc., lists all the reviews, and has a small gallery – more photographs would be welcome.  Monday – Sunday 11h00 – 23h00.  Weekend brunch 10h00 – 15h00.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio:  www.whalecottage.com  Twitter: @WhaleCottage

3 replies on “Restaurant Review: Knife Restaurant serves good cuts of steak!”

  1. darren says:

    This is a real find, love what Ed Suanders is trying to do, hope the general public appreciate it and only pity is its location.

    I tried the ribs and they are very good, the choc brownie is superb and when i complained that it was too small they brought me abother one at no cost, now thats service that you dont get anywhere else.

    Overall service is 100% and the vibe and style of the place is really comforting.

  2. MJ Swanepoel says:

    Worst steak ever!!!

    Visited Knife Restaurant on 8 March 2012 at Crystal Towers with business partners.

    Ordered a Rump and after 30 minutes got served an excuse for a steak. The quality was horrendous. Half was fat and the rest sinews; stringy and tough!

    I will not visit ever again, and will not recommend anyone to visit. An excuse for a restaurant.

    MJ Swanepoel

  3. Thank you for sharing your experience at Knife Matthys.

    Chris

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