Digging deep at The Kove

24.com's Sam Brighton discovers The Kove and finds out why Chef Neil Norman is the perfect fit for this restaurant.

by: Sam Brighton: 24.com | 21 May 2009

Throw away all your common perceptions and misconceptions of a steakhouse. Chef Neil Norman is spinning tails around the traditional idea of a grill.

I’ve always employed the general rule of thumb that when it comes to dining out – never eat seafood at a steak house and vice versa. So how exactly does a restaurant succeed in providing the best of both worlds?

Neil Norman of The Kove in Camps Bay puts it succinctly: “This is a grill house. We only grill the best.” From the minimalist yet warm, musky decor to the chef’s easy-going character, it’s clear that this "Strip" joint lets its menu speak for itself.

This boereseun is so proud of The Kove and his flair for food is reflected in the meticulous detail of every meal. He describes the restaurant’s speciality Karan Beef dish as if detailing a love affair.

“It’s the perfect meal for two when shared on an S – shaped plate served with onion mash,” he whispers. But his delights aren’t wrapped in frills and spills. Neil believes the best quality meat should be served at its purest; naked and unmasked by other frivolous flavours.

This romantic rhetoric could have something to do with the fact that he’s a newlywed. While he confesses to being overly critical when eating at other restaurants, he’s spoilt with his wife’s home cooking. Neil is set on being a family man; not letting work interfere with home life. That’s a tall order for someone who spends his evenings creating a perfect night out for others.

I was surprised at Neil’s easy willingness to let me sniff around his kitchen. Small, but functional. It’s time for a bite to eat before the dinner-time rush so he slaps a fat, maroon T-Bone steak on the grill and lets the basting brush lick it with olive oil. Flames give the steak a goodbye kiss and voila! Dinner is served.

Here’s a chef who’s so confident in his abilities that he doesn’t need to season his dishes with swear words or fire someone on the spot for some street cred. Although he’s considered it, he admits.

Neil is so perfectly suited to the air of the restaurant; you’d think they modelled the design on his personality. He has the greatest respect for owner Paul Kovensky with whom he has worked for many years, and respects the carte blanche Paul gives him.

Will he start his own collection of restaurants one day? “No, I do what I do because I’m good at it. I’d consider being a consultant for restaurants, because sometimes they need help. But not an owner.”

Give The Kove a try and decide for yourself whether he’s really as good as he claims.

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