What a pleasant surprise and great dining experience was Marble restaurant in Jozi, writes Irna van Zyl in her latest Accidental Foodie column.
It’s a Sunday night at Marble and David Higgs is everywhere. We spot him immediately where he stands at the kitchen counter, checking every plate of the 100+ diners before they go out.
“It’s a buzzy Sunday,” he says when he comes to our table for a chat, something he does throughout the evening, covering the whole restaurant in the process. We’re surprised to see him there at the end of what was a pretty busy week in the world. “I’m here every day; it’s so quick for things to go wrong and there’s nowhere to hide in this kind of restaurant.”
And what a special kind of restaurant it is. So unlike anything in Cape Town and yet as South African as can be.
As we sit down, both B and I have the same thought: it’s so different from what we imagined, in spite of having looked at the website, read the reviews on Eat Out and talked to people who had dined at Marble before.
To start with: It’s huge, easily serving up to 250 people a night, and is apparently full most nights.
Secondly, it’s pretty and stylish – understatedly so. One reviewer described it as a “hotel dining room”. For me that can’t be farther from the truth. It is big, yes, but with clever arrangement of the furniture and dining areas – pockets on the sides for private functions, seats at the kitchen counters, French oak diner-style seating between the kitchen and the rest, two-seaters in front of the windows and the wonderful uplifting and different angle of Johannesburg’s skyline – I think they’ve done well.
The top-to-bottom glass box that houses the 100 or so wines of the very special offering forms a gorgeous division between the lovely corner bar and the dining room area. This bar is so stylish that you should consider coming early just to spend some time in it.
And then there are the ceilings and the light fittings, the French-oak floors throughout and the pièce de résistance: the American-imported wood-fired grill in the centre.
Yes, there’s talk of the theatre of dining, but why not? Why not change the way we do things? Moving away from the sometimes slightly tedious tasting menus to something that is so true to our South African spirit – cooking on the open fire?
At Marble even the strawberries for dessert are grilled on the fire! The smokiness adds such a great flavour to the food.
Thirdly, and most importantly, our food is delicious. Every single bite. B has asparagus for starters and the sirloin special for mains. I have one of the signature starter dishes, the octopus, and for mains another steak, the rib-eye.
We wash this down with a glass – you can order really cool wines by the glass – of Iona sauvignon blanc (for B) and Springfontein chenin (for me). With our meat we are introduced by the sommelier to the Dorrance syrah 2013, which is not too pricey and exactly what we like in that varietal.
Just before our dinner we go have a look at the kitchen and the grill. I almost have order envy when I spot the king prawns on the fire, but in the end do not regret my octopus or steak – except to say that the portions were too big for me to finish all my food.
If I lived in the city of gold I would be a very regular visitor to Marble. It is so Joburg – and fabulously so.