Che is the newest addition to the ever-growing, ever-hip-and-happening Maboneng Precinct. The venue itself is sultry and seductive; dark grey walls with sexy murals, red curtains, high ceilings hanging quirky Edison bulbs, wooden tables with candles and mismatched chairs… all within an industrial, factory setting. The décor and ambience have been thoughtfully and strikingly executed so that, on entering, you feel invited to engage in something ever so slightly naughty, and I mean that in a good way.
The music seconds this; cool South American beats set the tempo for the animated, open kitchen, waiters striding between tables and couples lounging at the bar.
You’re welcomed and shown to your table; each simply set with wine glasses, menus, a candle and cutlery that includes a gargantuan steak knife. We were lucky enough to be served by Derek, a waiter who knew both the bar and the food menus exceptionally well, and who dealt with both with an impressive attention to detail.
The bar menu is made up of a selection of classic cocktails, local beers and wines and an assortment of imported Argentinian and Chilean wines that change depending on what’s delicious and available. We opted for beers to start and then investigated the wines; the local list was made up of Leopard’s Leap, La Motte, Fat Bastard and the like and could do with a push in a more boutique/diverse direction (although they did have 3 local Malbec’s which was great to see), the Argentinian collection included Malbec’s, Shiraz and Syrah’s, with prices ranging from R160 – R600. We wanted something midrange so went for an Alta Thierra Syrah at R290. Derek suggested we chill the wine for 10 minutes as it was a hot evening – a marvellous suggestion as there’s nothing worse than 28°C red wine, no matter how good.
The food menu is deliciously enticing with a selection of homemade cured meats, imported cheeses and empanadas to start (empanadas are Argentinian, stuffed pastries.)We ordered the homemade chorizo made with pork belly and served with their fresh Chimi Churi sauce, as well as 2 of the carne empanadas. The chorizo was moreish; flavourful, wonderfully homemade and well spiced (although I like mine with a little more bite), my only qualm was that it was served whole, so we had to slice it at the table – it’s a small detail but due to the size of the steak knives, they end up tearing the sausage rather than slicing cleanly through it. The empanadas are unbelievable: so delicate, with a thin, crisp pastry holding flavourful and juicy fillings. They’re served with a spicy lemon, almost ‘peri peri’ sauce that was just delish – I would honestly visit Che just to order a plateful of these.
The mains are meaty, in fact there’s no alternative – a problem for vegetarians, but the meat is so good here that I understand their not bothering to try to cater for everyone. All the meats are cooked on the open grill and served with their famous Chimi Churi sauce; the beef is grass-fed and is sourced from a reputable farm in the Midlands, so you can be assured of its quality.
We were recommended the Prime Rib, Colita (Rump Tail) and Rib Eye; other options include the short rib, sirloin, fillet, half a deboned chicken and pork belly, the Rib Eye tickled our fancy so we went with two of those. The sides are wonderfully fresh and different; an array of salads, roasted veg and potatoes that really work to counter the rich smokiness of the flame-grilled meat. The most enticing of these being the Rio de la Plata Salad: red cabbage, orange segments, cashew nuts, honey and sprouts and the Papas Fritas or ‘cheeky fries’.
The mains were outstanding – the crunchy, citrusy salad and crisp and fluffy fries proved superb accompaniments for the perfectly cooked and succulent Rib Eyes, add to that their unbelievable Chimi Churi sauce and I was in food heaven! There’s not much else to say other than it was fantastic. The full-bodied Syrah perfectly complimented the flavours and I was very close to ordering a second bottle, until sadly, sense kicked in.
We thought we were too stuffed for another bite, but Derek convinced us to get their famous Dulce de leche and cream caramel dessert. It arrived looking like a dream and, while it was an absolute sweet sensation, it came straight from the fridge and just too chilled meaning the spoon couldn’t cut through the biscuit – another small detail that could easily be solved.
And I think that’s the key to Che; everything is in place: the food, the service, the passion and the quality, they just need a closer eye when it comes down to the detail, give them a few weeks and they’ll be on their way to being faultless.
- Kate Liquorish