The steakhouse brand Turn ‘n Tender has grown to number five outlets in the greater Johannesburg area but with their recent Famous Brands alignment, this should grow into a national brand pretty soon. And that’s great news for those of us down south, because all my meals at any of the outlets over the last years has been very satisfying. Indeed, Turn ‘n Tender is one of the reasons that I have long felt Johannesburg has the edge on the rest of the country in terms of quality steak restaurants.
Of late, I have mostly eaten at the Illovo branch. It’s always busy and a walk past the kitchen during the height of service is an education in the organised chaos that is a popular steakhouse. When its busy and full its also pretty noisy in this plainly adorned space, but the service has never lagged, overseen by Brian – one of the “four brothers” who started the chain 35 years ago. Business groups mingle with families and special occasion tables and its no surprise that loyal return customers are legion.
The red bibs on (mostly male) diners indicate they are getting stuck in to the fantastic beef and pork ribs, marinated in a sticky BBQ sauce with a side of “pap”. On this meatiest of menus (with biltong a starter staple) you can even sample lambs’ tails but for the more sedate you also get the classics: snails, calamari or curried prawns and at great value with most of the starters around R40.
An obligatory chicken and seafood section is there, but the heart of the matter is found in the “from the grill” and “four brother specials” lists. This is the place to eat “point rump”, the very tasty piece from the end of the rump cut with the fat layer; as well as any steak Argentinian-style – spiral cut (think of a spring shape, this cut creates a very tender “bite”) and served with chimichurri sauce. Then a detailed list of the more usual cuts in a variety of sizes as well as a fulsome list of combos like ribs and duck legs or steak alongside boerewors, the closest one can now come to the old-fashioned “mixed grill” (indeed they can even top your steak with a fried egg).
Throughout the menu, the value is very good indeed, for example a 500g T-Bone costs R125 and a 300g sirloin R125. The quality of the meat is consistently high and the sides are good. Desserts really delve into the South African “comfort” zone – Bar-One chocolate-sauced ice cream, milk tart or Italian kisses, or choose from the list of Dom Pedros or the modern sinfulness of full-fat milkshakes. To round it all out, the hearty and no-nonsense service ensures that you feel like you are in good hands.
For: Quality steaks and more in an energetic environment.
Against: Hard surfaces and full, happy tables means noise.