Many restaurants have items which linger on their menu due to popular demand, year after year, often becoming anomalous along the way. At Quartier Francais
, it was the Lamb Burger.
Earlier this year, its creator, Margot Janse – the most highly decorated chef in South Africa – persuaded proprietor Susan Huxter that after more than a decade, its moment had come: the Lamb Burger didn't fit in with the direction taken by Le Quartier's restaurants (that's The Tasting Room, the only South African restaurant in Restaurant magazine's most recent Top 50 Restaurants list; and the more informal iCi).
Oh, and, Janse said, her own reputation was in danger of being eclipsed by that of the Lamb Burger, so she had to kill it off.
Early in May, invitations went out from "Goodforall & Filling" announcing the death of the Lamb Burger, and inviting family and close friends, including the butcher who supplied the thousands of lambs who over the years gave their legs for the burger, to a celebration of its 'exceptional life'.
An art gallery kindly provided wire lambs, referred to as the 'first survivors of the death of the Lamb Burger', which grazed peacefully in the crowd throughout the ceremony. The chef, feathered Forties headpiece bobbing dramatically, told the story of the Lamb Burger, in statistics and orders, from the time of its invention in September 1997.
The ceremony culminated in a farewell dirge to the tune of James Blunt's "Goodbye, my lover", conducted by Janse, her long, cerise satin gloves flashing in the sea of black.
We all got survival packs with song sheets and tissues, memorial T-shirts, and – oh, bliss! – a recipe card. So when nostalgia bites, I can make my own burger. If I have a couple of hours. This isn't a quick thing.
What was served? Well, sparkling wine, of course, and mini-Lamb Burgers.
Personally, I'm gutted. I'm going to miss Lamb Burger. And it reminds me that one should never take anything for granted. So before it's too late, may I urge you, if you're in the area, to seek out the following:The twice-baked cheese soufflé at Rosenhof restaurant in Kloof Street, Cape Town;
The chocolate croissants at Fournos, Dunkeld Centre, Johannesburg; and
The Angry Duck at any of the Wang Thai restaurants.
Heather Parker is the editor of Health24 and Bride magazine. She is one of SA's most respected journalists, and a serious foodie to boot.
What would you rate as the never-take-it-off-the-menu dish?