A year ago I was introduced to the Rare Grill in Kenilworth, after it was named Best Steakhouse in the country in the Wolftrap Steakhouse Championship, as well as Eat Out Best Steakhouse in the Cape in its Everyday Eateries awards, the latter accolade repeated this year. On Saturday evening I spontaneously popped in at the steakhouse, and found its service and steak to be as good as a year ago, and its desserts even better!
Sadly owner Greg Bax was not in the house, having a date night with his daughter, but he stayed in touch with me via What’s App, when he saw my photographs on Instagram. Greg is a dedicated steak man, as his background shows in my story about Rare Grill a year ago:
I used my Google Map App to find Fat Harry’s in Kenilworth, to attend a farewell drinks function for my friend Eugene van Eck, and it led me to the building next door to the Rare Grill. I spontaneously went inside, and asked Sam Kutcher, Manager and waitron, for a seat, not thinking there would be any. But she found one, by chance the same table at which my friend Stuart Bailey and I had sat at a year ago, and she welcomed me by name, I only having met her that night. What a good start. I told her that I would be back an hour later.
I settled in at my table, ordered a glass of water and a glass of Porcupine Ridge Shiraz, which Sam told me was a 2017 vintage. It was dreadful, far too young, and most amazingly, Jill and Nick at the table next to me offered me a glass of their Alto Shiraz 2013 – oh wow, what a difference. Sam had not allowed me to taste the wine, bringing it to the table poured in a carafe, so I did not feel too bad when she removed it from the table, and was grateful that she did not charge me for it. I chatted to Jill and Nick a little, and Jill asked if I am a writer, seeing my notebook. She then told me that she writes for a local Food Blog.
The table is wood-topped, with black metal frame Bistro chairs. It had a pepper grinder and a small bowl of coarse salt, as well as a glass bowl with a tea light, but the light was not enough to photograph the dishes, so I went to the bar counter to photograph there, Sam turning up the light for me to do so. There is a gauze napkin, a stainless steel fork and a Regent steak knife, and a wine glass.
I declined the starter options, most non-meat, which was a surprise, not remembering this from last year. They offer mushroom bruschetta (R62), fried Camembert (R80), baby calamari (R70), sticky chicken wings (R65), bone marrow (R52), wafer thin carpaccio (R80), garden salad (R42), and Greek salad (R55).
I chose a 200 gram fillet steak (R155 for 200g, R175 for 300g), with which I could order one side, and Sam described the side salad, which I ordered but minus the red onion and vinaigrette. It consists of various lettuce variety leaves, cherry tomatoes, and shavings of Parmesan cheese. The steak was juicy, perfectly Medium Rare, and I savored every bite, eating it slowly, and taking sips of the Alto wine with it, an amazing pairing.
Sirloin and rump cost R120 for 200g and R140 for 250g. The menu describes the steaks as ‘wet aged for up to 4 weeks.’ Greg writes on the menu that he meets with his butcher regularly to choose and discuss the best meat available.
Other main course options are baby calamari (R140), peri peri chicken (R130), steak roll (R98), and pork ribs (R165). A blackboard hanging on the wall informs the Specials of the day, with prices: Peri Peri chicken livers (R52), Nguni Ribeye (R250); Blackened Sirloin (R165); Dry-aged T-Bone (R220/R400); Chocolate Chili Fillet (R195); and Hollandse Biefstuk prepared with brandy, I overheard Sam explain to a neighbouring table (R195).
The desserts are not on a menu, and Sam explained each to me at the table. I loved the Chocolate ‘Sterri-Stumpy’ Mousse, made eggless in using marshmallows, served with fresh cream and mini marshmallows, and topped with a mint leaf (R56). It was so delicious, that I had to have another! Sam showed me two other desserts, inviting me to photograph them too: a Crème Brûlée with a berry compote; as well as a Hot Chocolate Magnum Pot, which had a mini almond and white chocolate Magnum inserted in the fondant. I ordered a dry cappuccino, and it did not surprise me that it arrived perfectly made, compared to the Fat Harry’s one, which had to be returned, replaced with a reasonably good one. Coffee is supplied by Terbodore, as the branded cup informs. Sam brought me a complimentary chocolate vodka shot, which paired well with my chocolate indulgence. They also make a Malva Tart, served with a white chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream. I forgot to ask her how much the other desserts cost.
I was impressed with how well Sam single-handedly ran the restaurant. The grill section and the kitchen generally knows exactly what to do. Her service was exemplary, and also from Greg, when he allowed me to pay by bank transfer when their credit card machine would not accept my payment four times in a row, despite having sufficient funds. Rare Grill looks like nothing outside, is tiny and unpretentious, but is dynamite in its focused food offering, personalized service, and an amazing playlist compiled by Greg, with a lot of songs of the ‘Sixties and ‘Seventies. The only disappointment was drinking the lovely Alto wine in a glass with a chipped stem.
Rare Grill, 166 Second Avenue, Kenilworth, Cape Town. Tel 076 460-0423 Facebook. Twitter: @ RareGrillCpt Instagram:@raregrillza
Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein Instagram: @Chris_Ulmenstein