Yesterday I was on the way to the airport and was recommended to eat at Bayleaf and Sage at the Blubird Centre on Athol-Oaklands, so stopped there on my way. As I looked at the menu, it struck me that the fish and chips here would likely be replicated at Bellagio, a restaurant across the same parking lot. So I devised a quick “taste-off” to test the two kitchen’s offerings for quality and speed of service (only because I needed to move swiftly to fit this in before my flight!).
So, tongue mostly in cheek, I offer the following “fish and chip” showdown between two establishments in the Blubird Centre: Bayleaf and Sage, and Bellagio.
Bayleaf and Sage is a busy spot. On this Friday lunch, it was full. It’s a casual café with a wholesome “country” vibe, plain tables and friendly staff; and a menu that offers a higher quality sandwich, wraps, burgers and a few signature lunches. One of these is paper-wrapped battered fish and chips. But first to the wine. From a small list, and even smaller by the glass, I ordered a L’Ormarins Pinot grigio, and placed my order for the food at 12h30. My fish and chips were in front of me ten minutes later, one fillet of hake prettily wrapped in paper. The chips were plentiful, of the “fast-food” stick variety. The fish was good and firm and the batter fresh and crisp. The tartare sauce looked and tasted very much like sandwich spread. The chips were fresh and cleanly fried but quite light (pale) and they brought All Gold tomato sauce to the table without asking (a good touch). So, a good result at a cost of R55 for the food and R36 for the wine.
Bellagio is a more upmarket-looking spot, with elegant furnishings, white tablecloths and tall-backed wicker chairs. Service was a touch more relaxed (read slower) than at Bayleaf, but not at all tardy. A basket of bread (good bread) arrived on the table, and the wine list was much more extensive than the last spot, with plenty by the glass. I chose an Ecology Sauvignon blanc (R55) and placed my fish and chip order at 13h00. The food arrived at 13h15, a wait of 15 minutes. The first thing I noticed was that, for price tag of R54, there were three fillets of hake instead of one. The chips, also, were thick cut and light golden brown. The fish was again well battered, fresh and clean fried. The fish was a touch less firm than previous plate, but a marginal touch. The fries were better, crunchy and satisfying, crisp but still moist and filling. The tartare was of a finer consistency, tangy and good.
So the winner of the shootout is clearly Bellagio. You get an upmarket ambience and good wine list, and as good or (on balance) better plate for a whole rand less! Plus there are plenty of other lovely seafood delights to tempt one… and having said this, Bayleaf and Sage is also a charming and highly recommended stop – but as the crowds prove, this is already well known.
Bay Leaf and Sage, BluBird Shopping Centre, Atholl, Johannesburg. Phone: (011) 786 0008
Bellagio: (011) 885-3938