Try the duck, and the ‘dirty’ wine

Roast duck in an orange sauce on potato rosti.

Roast duck in an orange sauce on potato rosti.

Published Mar 31, 2024


The Black Rabbit

Where: Lillies Quarter, 14 Old Main Road, Hillcrest

Open: Daily 11.30am to 9.30pm

Call: 031 765 3059

I liked the name - Seriously Old Dirt. We’re drinking a wine that is the special of the week at The Black Rabbit in Hillcrest.

Produced by Vilafonté, it’s a light Bordeaux style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, matured for eighteen months in French oak. It’s a wine that celebrates grapes from the ancient soils of the Cape, or so the blurb goes.

The restaurant was packed, and I literally got the last table. I’m with the Glass Guy and the Historian who have both been gadding around at a wine tasting function across the Old Main Road. So they were slightly better oiled than I was, but we all found the wine went down rather well, a pleasingly rounded, medium-bodied red perfect for any meat.

White truffle garlic bread with whipped ricotta and Parmesan.

The Glass Guy goes on to tell of his first experience of wine, as a very young boy. Gran and Gramps would make their own wine in the bathtub at home. After the fun of the stomping of the grapes, the wine would sit there for a couple of weeks for the skins to come to the surface. He soon discovered that with judicious use of a straw through the thick layer of skins you could get to a far better calibre of “juice”. Only you had to cover up the evidence of the straw holes later, or Gran and Gramps would get very angry. I’m sure they knew.

One of the interesting things the Black Rabbit does is offer a weekly wine and cocktail special, to encourage customers to try wines from their boutique, almost quirky, list.

Roast tomato and chilli soup with white beans.

We’re soon perusing the new autumn menu. At the start we were told they were out of snails done in garlic and parsley with Parmesan crumbs. Obviously a popular dish. There’s mussels in a tom yum broth, and tempura calamari with ginger chutney, lime mayo and coriander pesto. A Caesar and Caprese salad, and arancini balls make an appearance.

The Glass Guy went for the beef fillet tartare (R130) with tartare mayo, capers, gherkins, toasted baguette, and a bitter leaf salad. It was an enormous portion and we all liked the fact that the beef was left fairly chunky. I might have preferred the more classic version without the mayo, but enjoyed this very much.

The Historian looked no further than the white truffle garlic bread with whipped ricotta, garlic and parsley butter and grated Parmesan (R105). It’s something that’s been on the menu since inception and one can see why. Not only is it impressive with the garlic butter poured over everything at the table, but it’s so strongly garlicky, you sit up and take notice. Perhaps not best for a first date.

Steak tartare in a mayo sauce with bitter leaf salad.

I opted for a special of roasted tomato and chilli soup with white beans (R85) which was delicious, but enormous and very filling. I really liked a good spike of chilli livening all the flavours up.

For mains there’s a small selection of home-made pastas including a fettuccine marinara and rigatoni with prawn tails and smoked chicken. Pizzas feature from a proper Margherita to something with peri-peri chicken, caramelised pineapple, peppadews, feta and avo. From the grill menu there’s also a steak, and kingklip poached in garam masala, a dish I really enjoyed on a previous visit. There’s a lamb shank, a baby peri-peri chicken done in the wood-fired oven, and mussels done more Belgian style with parsley, white wine, garlic and leeks.

Gnocchi with duck and porcini ragu.

I went for another special, gnocchi with duck and mushroom ragu (R205). I thoroughly enjoyed it, and even though the gnocchi was nice and light, it was so rich I couldn’t finish it all. The Glass Guy had the escalopes of veal (R245) on a mushroom sauce, with rosemary roast potatoes and a side of creamed spinach. It was another enormous portion, the veal cooked perfectly, the mushroom sauce enjoyable and the roast potatoes excellent. I pinched some of the spinach so I could say I’d had my greens.

But the dish of the evening was the Historian’s roast duck (R315). The meat was succulent and the skin crisp. It came with a lovely bitter orange sauce spiked up with star anise, and was served on a good potato rosti. A man with a hearty appetite, even he couldn’t finish it - although the two of us were happy to help.

Veal with mushroom sauce, rosemary roast potatoes and creamed spinach.

Any attempt at dessert would mean having to undo buttons, we were all so full. There’s a classic creme brulee, which has always been superb, and a new carrot cake trifle. The thought of cake and cream cheese mousse with nuts and pineapple, sounded wonderful but would have us reaching for the liver pills. Another time definitely.

The Historian and I both managed an affogato (R58) - vanilla ice-cream topped with good espresso - while the Glass Guy had his “wafer thin after dinner mint” moment with a salted caramel martini (R90) which was lovely and boozy with a good hit of salted caramel.

Food: 4

Service: 3 ½

Ambience: 3 ½

The Bill: R1 685 for three.

Independent on Saturday