When we heard that Goffe-Wood (with backer and Hout Bay enthusiast Iain Anderson) had opened a bistro in the old Comida spot next to the Chapman’s Peak Hotel in Hout Bay, we decided to review it as a tribe.
After all, Pete is the Kitchen Cowboy who corrals boys into the kitchen to learn how to make a proper bord kos, when not creating menus for half the shiniest restaurants in the Western Cape.
It seemed inappropriate to review such a rib-sticking food-type joint as an elegant twosome. So it was in a gregarious four that Cath, Cathy and Caro and I piled into Wild Woods one warm March evening.
Firstly, there’s a fabulous sea view from the deck where we had a quick sundowner, before heading inside to beat the nip in the air. I wasn’t wowed by the decor (in fact, bits like broken light fittings, I found a little shabby) but clearly the emphasis here is on honest, flavour-focused cooking rather than cunning dimmer switches.
Which is great... as long as your food can deliver. Which it absolutely did.
(It also made me think... I actually PREFER a more comfortable bistro than a snooty, zooty one. Take Bizerca for example... is it just me, or should you be able to relax at a bistro – not worry about whether or not you are ‘appreciating’ the food enough? It always sounds alarm bells for me when written-up reputations overshadow the experience.)
We each had 3 courses, so we sampled about three-quarters of the menu, which changes seasonally, according to Pete’s whims or depending on ingredients in hand, and relies on some cheaper cuts (like hangar steak, pork belly and brisket)... all of which clearly help to keep overheads down, and the mains all under R100.
Be warned: the portions are hearty - if I wasn’t reviewing and contractually obliged to eat until my eyes hurt, I would have been happy with just a main, or a starter and a pud. (And I am notoriously greedy.)
Starter-wise, we all rated the steamed Saldhana mussels in a chorizo and tomato sauce, as well as the sautéed chicken livers and bacon, and enjoyed the duck breast and Caesar salad. We didn’t try the Spanish-cured Jamón Lucas ham, the bar’s centre piece, which is a nice touch and by all accounts, delicious. (Unfortunately, I married into a family of German masterbutchers, so couldn’t stop thinking: ‘Gaah! Someone’s left the gammon out!’)
The chalmar rump steak ‘Bordelaise’, with its hefty roasted marrow bone, made me very happy, while the yellow tail was very well paired with roast baby fennel. I didn’t think the sweetcorn salsa was exactly the right accompaniment to the deliciously spiced pork belly, but that’s just a matter of taste. (I see that they have changed the look of that dish since we were there... check it out in our gallery.)The slow-cooked veal brisket was seriously good.
It’s a testament to the food that while we were all groaning, we couldn’t pass up the delicious-sounding desserts... and then proceeded to polish them all off. GREAT cheesecake, fabulous fruity crumble and a very slurp ‘n lickable white chocolate and berry sundae.
Have a look at our photo gallery and see how wholesome the food looks for yourselves.
On the wine front, it’s a very personal list with lots of wines from friends of Pete – Flagstone, Newton Johnson – which we felt is a nice way of doing a list, although some very local wines (from Hout Bay or Constantia) might be a nice addition.
Wines by the glass were of a decent size, varied and good – Wine Editor Cathy was particularly impressed with the Newton Johnson Felicite Pinot Noir (gorgeous with the duck) and the Jordan Unwooded Chardonnay, while the Badenhorst Secateurs Chenin was a disappointment - perhaps the bottle had been opened too long? Nicely up-to-speed waiter though, who didn’t mess up the “each-glass-of-wine-is-paired-to-a-specific-dish-and-all-are-being-passed-around” game once... no mean feat.
All in all?
Sorry Paul Weller, but by the end of the evening, I didn’t want to find my way out of this wild, wild wood. In fact, I’m sure to be finding my way back.
Nice one, Pete.
Wild Woods was reviewed by Sam Wilson, Editor-in-Chief, Food24. Follow her on twitter.