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Full-on Paarl charm at Back’s Restaurant and Deli – reviewed

Named for the winemaker Charles Back, Back’s Restaurant and Deli in Paarl is the latest offering from Fairview. Set in a lovely old Cape Dutch building, this stylish spot is serving robust bistro fare that is sure to find wide appeal.

Fast facts

Food type: Bistro fare
Cost: From R77 for the salads and sarmies to R155 for the cut of the day, with quite a few mains at R135
Best for: A long, lingering meal with friends or family – yet also ideal for a business lunch
Star rating: Food and wine 4; ambience 4; service 3

Food

This is an all-day affair. A short but considered breakfast menu leads the charge, with items like a variety of rösti Benedicts, and some blueberry-and-buttermilk flapjacks to tempt the appetite. Those looking for a light lunch might look to the interesting open sandwiches and salads, and – this being a Fairview-affiliated restaurant, after all – the choice of cheese and cured-meat platters. Throw in a couple of burger options and substantial mains like slow-roasted pork belly or trout fish cakes with carrot purée and a butter-dill sauce, and you’ve got something to satisfy every culinary whim.

The dishes emerging from the kitchen speak of a generous nature: the portions are ample; the flavours are robust and well thought-out. A special of the day of braised lamb shank with sweet potato purée is meltingly soft, a divine, wintery treat that will not soon be forgotten. The classic burger is perfectly cooked and presented. Aged cheddar cheese, a tangy tomato relish and pickled cucumber, and served with the best fries I’ve tasted in years – that’s it. There’s absolutely nothing I would change about this burger.

A smart menu for ‘the little monsters’ includes a burger, crunchy mac-and-cheese fingers, and a cheese-and-charcuterie board designed for young tastebuds.

And as for ending on a sweet note, there’s cake and pastries, but the most intriguing options can be found under the artisanal ice creams and sorbets. The latter selection includes what they are calling liquor sorbets, and some very alluring flavours you will find there, too: pink champagne or chardonnay fig, anyone?

Drinks

As you’d expect, the Back’s wine list is comprised of Fairview and Spice Route bottles – but then between the two of these ranges, you are rather well looked-after in terms of variety. A glass of Fairview Rose Quartz goes down very well on a sunny day in the Boland. Also on offer is the usual mix of coffees, teas and cool drinks, along with a range of healthy-sounding fresh juices and smoothies which can, from 11am onwards, be spiked to entertain the cocktail enthusiast.

Service

Staff are welcoming and laid-back. No mad rushing about here; it’s more of a friendly stroll. It suits the casual atmosphere and lulls you into very relaxed mood. Cleverly, members of staff swing by the table for a quick and informal cheese tasting. And why not? The cheese (sold in the deli) is excellent. I walk away with a creamy St Louis, which does not last beyond dusk.

Ambience

Based in a beautiful old Cape Dutch-style building in Paarl’s main street, Back’s is respectful of the site’s heritage, and very stylish. It’s all tall windows, gleaming wooden floors, intricate brickwork and beautiful wooden ceilings. A big space with plenty of seating in various areas, this is the type of restaurant that could become all things to all people, as it would be fit for any occasion – an intimate dinner, a roaring birthday bash, or even an after-school milkshake meeting spot for a bunch of giggling teens. There’s a well-stocked deli section, as well as a dapper little bar in one of the rooms, which is just begging for a nice pre-dinner aperitif.

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Eat Out critics dine unannounced and pay their way in full. Read our editorial policy here.

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