HQ (Sandton)

24 Central
C/O Fredman Drive and Gwen Lane

Sandton, Johannesburg
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HQ (Sandton) 2out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 0 user reviews.
Price Range: Mid
Seating: 30+
  • Licensed
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HQ (Sandton)

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Food24 eats at... HQ (Sandton)

by: Like Father Like Son


Oxford philosopher Isaiah Berlin once wrote an essay in which he famously distinguished foxes and hedgehogs. A fox, he said, knew many things. A hedgehog, on the other hand, knows one big thing. Berlin was drawing a distinction between those who view the world through the lens of a single idea, and those whose philosophical outlook is more expansive.

The idea of knowing one big thing is a principle that is eminently suitable for broader and more practical application. Restaurateurs, for example,  like hedgehogs, can do one big thing or like foxes, they can draw on a wide variety of influences and experiences.

The menu is the giveaway. Hedgehogs typically sport limited menus, offering seasonal produce in a defined genre. Foxes, on the other hand, are happy to offer an eclectic menu, as large and pretentious as a politician’s memoirs, featuring the equivalent of a Cook’s tour of the world’s cuisine.  The hedgehogs, more often than not, get it right.
This brief reflection on the virtues of hedgehogs reminded me of a meal I had some years ago at the Café de Paris, in Geneva. This establishment has been around since the 1930s, and is to be found on Rue du Mont Blanc, just past the railway station where Switzerland’s dozen or so registered juvenile delinquents tend to congregate, opposite the purveyors of Swatches, cuckoo clocks and Swiss army knives.

Café de Paris
A meal at Café de Paris is ranked as the 19th best thing to do in the city. This ranking might suggest that there is not terribly much to do in Geneva (there isn’t, especially on Sundays), or that the food at the Café de Paris is spectacularly good (it isn’t). The Café de Paris, if nothing else, was my first encounter with the concept of a single item menu. On offer is entrecote, fries and a green salad, with the entrecote served on a chafing dish, placed on a trivet and kept warm by a burner. The beef is smothered with a butter-based sauce that slowly melts over the steak before splitting. That’s all, lunch or dinner. Don’t ask for raclette or fondue. Take it (steak cooked to order) or leave it.
For those who have neither the time, inclination nor the money to do 19 things in Geneva, the Café de Paris has spawned a number of legitimate heirs in the form of the associated Entrecotes de Paris restaurants that have sprung up, like asparagus in spring, across the globe. HQ Sandton shares no association with any of these, (nor does its parent in Heritage Square, Cape Town) but its owners no doubt thought that the Café de Paris was onto a good thing. So HQ offers mains of salad, sirloin, and chips. That’s all, lunch or dinner. Don’t ask for bunny chow or bobotie. Take it (steak cooked to order) or leave it. We took it, medium rare.
The one-item menu
The menu (such as it is) is to be found in the form of a stamp on the brown paper table overlay, and suggests that if you are after anything more than a green salad, sirloin and chips, you should take your patronage elsewhere. Orders (i.e. instructions on how you would like your steak prepared) are inscribed on the overlay.
The salad arrived first. It was excellent – cos and iceberg lettuce, served with a generous helping of parmesan shavings and lightly toasted pine nuts, were generously coated with a classic vinaigrette.
The steak that followed was 250g of grass-fed, organic Namibian sirloin, cooked to order and lifted by the sauce, which melted gently over the steak. HQ’s sauce is apparently a version of that offered at the Café de Paris (the composition of which is a trade secret, passed from one generation to the next) but just as good. It was the consistency of a good béarnaise; all butter, garlic and herbs. Extra lashings of sauce were offered, as were additional helpings of chips.
In keeping with the theme, a limited dessert menu is available, with standard offerings of crème caramel, crème brûlée, chocolate fondant, malva pudding, lemon tart and apple tart tartin. We opted for the crème brûlée and the fondant. The perfect fondant is dependent on perfect timing and is best served by a chef with balls, confident enough to turn out the fondant onto the plate so as to hold its shape without haemorrhaging the chocolate lava inside. The fondant was served in a bowl, ever so slightly overcooked, with a helping of vanilla ice cream. The crème brûlée was well-flavoured with the perfect consistency, topped with a thin film of amber-coloured caramelised sugar rather than the more traditional brûléed finish. But both desserts were entirely satisfactory.
The service was friendly and attentive, if not a little familiar. The bill for two, including a bottle of mineral water and two glasses of Quoin Rock Merlot, excluding a tip, came to R480.

You’ll like this if you prefer hedgehogs in the kitchen. Eating a steak, chips and salad here with a glass of good red wine may even be the 19th best thing to do in Johannesburg. You won’t like this if you’re looking for a steak well done, served with chips, pepper sauce and a Klippies and cola.
HQ Sandton was reviewed by Like Father Like Son.

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