The Big Easy, Dorp Street, Stellenbosch. Tel,,,,(021),887,3462,,,,
Progress is a delightful thing. Imagine trying to say, for example, La Gratitude if you are a tourist from Manchester or Milwaukee happening to find yourself in Stellenbosch. So renaming La Gratitude, one of Stellenbosch’s most gracious old manor houses to The Big Easy will surely find favour among the linguistically unadventurous.
The reason for the renaming is because this 17th century house now hosts a restaurant of gargantuan proportions. Big it is. But, as they would say in the States, Easy it ain’t.
Myself, culinary writer JP Bruwer and the Motorcycle Kid found ourselves at the Big Easy on a hot Friday afternoon. The air-conditioning was working well, so we did not have to break too much of a sweat patrolling through the rooms deciding where we could sit. Patrons could choose between al fresco (too hot), a well-lit garden kind of room, some fancy white linen-ed fine dining areas, or next to the bar under some framed things hanging on the walls that could have been paintings.
The menu was a bit heavy going. Here we were, three guys out for a lunch and a few drinks. But the menu was serious and solid. Springbok. Quail. Duck. Fillet steak. Roast kingklip. Pork neck in red cabbage. I mean, the latter may be just the thing for a late Autumn dinner in Gdansk, but not the kind of grub you want to tackle mid-day when it is forty degrees in the shade.
A couple of classy mezzes, some prosciutto, light pastas and uncomplicated seafood dishes would have been most welcome.
I ordered a bottle of Villiera Brut to get things going, and decided to cool things off with a Caesar salad. JP Bruwer went for a quail starter, while the Motorcycle Kid stared at the things on the wall.
JP’s starter looked like a Jewish gratuity: small, but beautifully arranged. He described it as follows: “Starter: quail done two ways”: two very small, yin-yang quail legs, one fried and one in a confit, on a big white plate; the fried leg was quite tasty; but the confit leg was so tiny that one had to order an appropriately-sized scalpel from the waiter to dissect the meat painstakingly from the bone, an operation which required considerable skill and concentration. The teeny-weeny salty scraps were not particularly satisfying.”
My Caesar salad was the second worst Caesar salad I have had in my life, the first being at that bastion of camp cuisine, Cuve+¬ Restaurant on the Simonsig wine estate.
Look, Big Easy’s foundations for the salad were not that bad. Green leaves. Shaved parmesan. Four tasty, small bits of roasted pancetta. But as every Caesar outside of Rome knows, it’s all about the dressing.
This particular Caesar had some white pasty stuff that looked like sports shoe cleaner. I requested an extra portion of dressing so as to analyse this further, and was presented with a small bowl containing stodgy white stuff you had to lift with a spoon. If it didn’t look unappealing enough, the taste of Hellman’s mayonnaise infused with anchovies did not make things better.
For mains JP Bruwer had some meaty salad which he wishes to say nothing about. The Motorcycle Kid had a roasted pork neck in some brownish stuff, which he eloquently described as “befok”.
Playing it light, I went for the ground sirloin hamburger. If I wasn’t going to get a good hamburger at a place called The Big Easy, I wasn’t going to get joy at the Shangri La.
Well, don’t you just love surprises?
The hamburger may have been made from sirloin, but it was not ground ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ it was pulverised into a smooth mush. Thereafter it was shaped into a patty and grilled. Topped with a tomato sauce and inexplicably accompanied by a morsel of guacamole on the side, I could have done much better at Steers or the Spur.
The chef is obviously trained in haute cuisine and such, as he has not had much experience at making a hamburger. But if that were the case, what was he doing when the,lecture on Caesar salad was taking place?
,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, Emile Joubert
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