The name puzzled us, until the helpful waiter explained that it was the chef/owner’s nickname. We were remarking on the poorly punctuated menu and its tautology “organic farm grown organic chicken lightly smoked…” when the waiter further explained the surfeit of the terms organic, free-range and “farm grown” on the menu – turns out that most of the produce and meat featured is sourced on the chef’s family’s farm in the Magaliesberg. However it was by this happy accident of the waiter’s overhearing us that we received this information, as the menu, curiously, does not make mention that a single farm supplies most of the ingredients.
It’s worth making more of, since Coobs takes the concept of “provenance” further than any South African restaurant I have come across. As a space, Coobs also strikes a “real” or “natural” note through the plentiful use of wood, mostly in rough-hewn form – as wall panels, tables or recycled as table tops. A “cow crossing” road sign takes pride of place to further enhance the agrarian tone, but at the same time it’s neat and new enough to comfortably host the society set – plus it is on the popular 4th Avenue strip in a rather eye-catching new building (and is therefore a step up in space to the many “holes-in-the-wall” here).
Service is personable and the chef was also on the floor to look over the tables, lending a sense of hands-on care, which amplifies the concept of “home-grown”. However, a poorly laid out and spelled menu does lead one to wonder about the quality in other departments, but in this case we were off to a good start with our panko crusted “jalepino” poppers, filled with a tasty cheese and accompanied by a very suitable gooseberry atchar (R58). The salad of “peas, avo, beans, cucumber ribbons, parmesan and sprouts” was also perfectly acceptable, if steep in price for what you got at R65.
As mains, the “farm grown organic acorn fed wild boar ragu with house made parpedelle” (R65) featured well-cooked boar and decent pasta with good “bite”, but the ragu’s tomato had been over-reduced leaving it far too acidic – and overwhelming the natural sweet flavour of the meat. Another main, the “organic free range” chicken as a pie with leek and pepper cream sauce (R85) was tasty enough, but not a pie as there was a puff pastry leaf below (thoroughly soaked) and placed on top. As dessert, the rhubarb tart with honey comb and home-made “vanilla bean” ice cream (R55) was altogether forgettable; the rhubarb cooked down too far, the ice cream granular.
There’s a fun wine list that showcases more interesting and up-and-coming younger producers and wine-making areas – also in keeping with the theme of the restaurant. In all, Coobs excites with its point of departure – we all appreciate home-grown in this supermarket age – they just need to sharpen up the details.
For: Produce-led menu of provenance; good wine list
Against: Needs to up the consistency and value.