Expectations were high for the first Cape Town Steak Night of 2015 at Cape Town’s newest steakhouse - The Butcher Shop & Grill in Mouille Point.
The restaurant is the latest in a small chain of steakhouses, with its roots in 1994 Sandton Square. They have quite a big footprint in the Middle East with 3 restaurants in Dubai, and one in Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait. This is their second South African restaurant.
The Cape Town version has a lovely ambiance: solid, modern steak house vibe, all glass and leather and white table cloths. Beautifully located on the Mouille Point promenade; it was a great place to be on a stinking hot day.
Patrons are able to order off their comprehensive menu or can order a hand-picked choice from their in-house butchery. They have a wide selection of beef at standard prices.
A week prior to our evening, I visited them and introduced Steak Boyz to the manager. He didn't seem that interested but he did give me a tour of the restaurant and wine cellar, discussed some table locations and was happy to accommodate us. He said they have been packed every night since they opened which may explain his indifference to Cape Town’s most comprehensive specialist steak house review website.
They had some of that New Restaurant swagger about them, the arrogance that they are the latest and the greatest thing this side of the Beef Curtain. In addition, a few things seemed a bit, well, arsey: they wanted a deposit of R100/head and their menu spoke of a ‘basic minimum charge’ of R200/head and gave strong hints of a dress code. And they don’t allow corkage. All of these things left a bit of bad taste in our mouths before we had even arrived.
Most of the table were sold the Australian Wagyu (@R600/kg) from the passionate in-house butcher and reviews varied from “damn good but not as good as the buttery, tender, tasteful and flawless I had in Bangkok” and “more like an Argentinian ribeye – heavily marbled, full of flavour, but with ribeyes texture and chew, not the buttery smoothness you should get with Wagyu” to “over cooked” and a few comments that it tasted like it was cooked on a dirty grill. The fillet was dismissed as being "dry and tasteless" and the sirloin on the bone was “cut was too thin, overdone, had way too much fat, lacked flavour. One of the worst steaks I’ve had.”
One of our crew had a distinctly awful steak experience. Well, three steaks, all of which were awful. The first wasn’t the one he had selected at the butcher and “was so burnt in places it had a crust of charcoal“ and looked like it had been “hacked off a cow with a machete”. He was then promised a replacement steak and (to the restaurant’s credit) given a small steak to tide him over until it came. The small steak was quite tasty in places but mostly raw; but the replacement steak was also raw, full of sinew and tasteless.
The sides - particularly the onion rings and to a lesser extent the chips and the relatively wide selection of side vegetables - all received good reviews, but the desserts were not well received. The brownie in particular was panned, described by one as “dry as a dead dingo’s donger”. The creme brûlée as described as “average”.
Hein’s service was very, very good - enthusiastic, present and professional, with an overall rating of 8/10. The butcher came to check on whether we were enjoying the steaks but their system of ordering from the butcher needs work. Despite everyone receiving a numbered tag after they had selected their cut, the delivery seemed to get muddled when the steaks arrived.
They weren’t as arsey as we feared but one moment ground my gears: during the meal, a few glasses of tap water were ordered and we were told that the restaurant does not serve tap water. Which restaurants apart from the most stuck up won’t serve you a glass of tap water?
The bill - which included 3.5kgs of Australian Wagyu and 4 bottles of 2009 Thelema Cab Sav and a 10% tip - came to R606 each, making it the most expensive evening we have had.
So were they able to deliver on their own hype? Well, it depends on who you ask. As one of our 13-strong crew said they have “thrown some money at a problem that Cape Town didn’t really have, and they’ve come out of the blocks competing with the best of them” while others laid into them for overcharging for very average, badly cooked steaks.
If you are going to charge top dollar, then you really have to deliver and to too many of our crew, they didn’t. Too many people at our table had really bad steaks and that's just not acceptable for a specialist steakhouse. For some though, The Butcher Shop & Grill lived up to the expectation and delivered an excellent evening. They seem to have the location, ambiance and service sorted. Perhaps, in time, they will be able to deliver more consistently on their promise in terms of quality and value.
Overall: 6.8 (average of scores)
125 Beach Road, Mouille point
Tel: +27 21 434 0813