Shayne Holt and Matt Alcock started this cosy Parkmore gem at the end of March this year. Not content with managing someone else’s restaurant, Holt and Alcock begged, borrowed and probably stole enough money to convert an old car workshop into a place they could call their own.
After a few weeks hands-on DIY, the young restaurateurs (with help from family and wine-bribed mates) had transformed the space intoa New York-style bistro café. Complete with exposed brick walls, screed floor, open kitchen and an enormous chandelier playing the hero in the stylish and well-executed décor, Eatery JHB feels cool (the colloquialism) and warm (the temperature) all at the same time.
Because they are new to the biz, Shayne and Matt are still optimistic, principled, excited, keen and open to suggestion. This is a welcome change of attitude, when compared to the bored, cynical, ‘over-it’ vibe you sometimes get from the old guard. This eagerness transfers onto the staff who are professional, friendly, attentive and really contribute to a pleasant dining experience.
On this note, there is bit of a contentious issue around the automatically included 12,5% service fee you’ll find at the bottom of your bill. Some patrons are outraged, others unfazed. Personally, I don’t mind paying the 12,5% at all, as I said before; the service is always of a high standard. At the same time, I do understand people’s apprehension around the inclusion of the service fee.
People don’t want to be told what to do – the ability to choose is one of the few shows of power we have left. Taking away our choice to give a tip is emasculating. But so is going to a hairdresser if you’re going to be so petty. I think it’s reasonable. It makes the maths at the end of my meal easier and I never have a problem with tipping when the service is good. And let’s move with the times peeps, the 12,5% ‘discretionary charge’ has been happening abroad for ages. In some countries, like la belle France, for example, it’s not even discretionary.
Onto the food, the boys keep things simple with three options per course with a menu that changes monthly or as new ingredients come in. Preferring to use local produce, Eatery JHB are committed to sustainable cooking, sourcing caring suppliers and they aren’t afraid to throw some rabbit or goat onto the menu (Much to the chagrin of a certain web-harassing rabbit crusader named Linda Thompson.)
Having a small ever-changing menu has its pros and cons. On the plus side, three options per course allow the chef to focus on each plate – preparing a dish that has been created with thought and care. Ingredients are seasonal and fresh and each dish is considered for weeks before making its way onto the menu. This is evident in the quality of vegetarian options available – as a hardened meat-fiend, I have more than once found the veggie option to be the tastiest – when it is often the afterthought at other establishments.
Also, you are not bombarded with a phonebook of choices (known to give the indecisive anxiety attacks) and the process of deciding on what to eat is made relatively painless with minimal order envy.
The danger of a concentrated menu is that every dish has to be fantastic. If the fish course is terrible, that’s one third of your mains’ options tasting like the North Beach Pier smells. You see, restaurants with big menus use the shotgun approach, spraying you with options. When one dish isn’t working (and every restaurant has their bad day) the chances of a punter ordering that specific dish are statistically reduced by the number of alternative options.
Luckily, the stats have been on my side and I am yet to order a dud at Eatery JHB. Positioning themselves as a three-course establishment, it is advisable (and recommended) that you order starters, mains and desserts. In order to keep prices nice and low, the portions aren’t as big as the ones you help yourself to at wedding buffets, but with all three courses in the belly, you are sated without feeling uncomfortable.
Shayne and Matt are passionate about food and excited about feeding you and this shows when you are lucky enough to get a table at Eatery JHB. Their natural charm and easy-going attitudes make eating here a relaxing, sociable and enjoyable experience.
And people are talking: Andy Fenner AKA Jamie Who, tweeted recently “Had an awesome lunch… really, very properly stoked with the fish curry from Eatery JHB. That’s what I needed right there.” High praise from the Cape Town-based food blogger.
Eatery JHB is open Monday to Saturday for lunch and dinner service and rumour has it they are looking to open up a wine slash artisan beer bar on the west facing second floor, just in time for summer sundowners. Nice.
You’ll like this if you like seasonal produce, a warm reception and ‘New York, New York’.
Eatery JHB was reviewed by Like Father Like Son.