In days gone by, lamb shanks were something eaten mostly on remote Karoo sheep farms. It was far more common for city families to enjoy a leg of lamb on Sundays, or a nice, safe stew. Eating whole lamb shank on the bone has only become more common recently, possibly due to the trendy nose-to-tail eating approach favoured these days. (Pork belly or beef brisket, anyone?)
Nowadays there are few restaurants in Pretoria that don’t serve lamb shank in some form, ranging from the more classical version to soups and pizzas. It seems most restaurants braise their shanks slowly and serve them with the accompanying sauce. (Your prized family recipe might involve stuffing some herby butter close to the bone and wrapping the shanks up in tinfoil parcels to make the most of all the juices.) Nothing beats the tender, tasty goodness of well-cooked lamb – especially when it’s a generous portion size. Here’s where to find the best lamb shank in Pretoria.
This beautiful day-time venue on Lynnwood Road offers a contemporary menu that features lamb shank cooked in a tomato and carrot base to create a deliciously comforting winter soup. It’s moreish, nourishing and an absolute bargain, served with a dollop of crème fraîche and a panini for only R52.
Baobab Café and Grill (Menlyn)
This modern restaurant in the Menlyn Centre serves flavours from the continent in an eclectic pan-African setting. Expect anything from sushi and quesadillas to eisbein, a Tanganyikan gourmet salad and biltong tempura. Their lamb shank is baked in the oven with tomato, garlic and herbs and sells at R164.
Carlton Café Delicious (Menlo Park)
This café-restaurant (which has a brand new food shop next door) prepares lamb shank in various guises. It costs R165 per kilo, and they prepare three different versions with the shank served whole: with a Moroccan curry sauce; a Thai green curry sauce; or in red wine with herbs. You could also opt for a divine Cape Malay curry, with the shank sliced across. Enjoy your shank with a range of wondrous side dishes at around R45 per portion, including sweet-potato pie with macadamia crust; roast winter veg with pistachio dukkah; couscous; soft creamy polenta; potato bake; parsnip mash; and delicious tomato tarte tatin.
Geet Indian Restaurant (Brooklyn)
Chef-patron Gita Jivan serves two versions of whole lamb shank at her glamorous Indian restaurant on the eastern side of Brooklyn Mall. Shikhandari Raan is marinated in Kashmiri chilli, ground coriander, yoghurt and garam masala, lightly smoked and slowly roasted overnight, and served with creamy black lentils at R160. The second option, Tak Ka Tak Raariyha, is prepared with marrow and chargrilled onions, and cooked with a stock rich in cloves, black cardamom and cinnamon for R160.
The Godfather (Centurion)
This multi-award winning restaurant, while more famous for steaks, serves its lamb shank with a choice of baked potato, deep-fried potato, chips, rice or mash. The more health-conscious could exchange their starch for vegetables of the day (creamed spinach, butternut or baby carrots) or a side salad. The shank is slow roasted with onions, carrots, tomatoes and seasoning and finished off on the grill, where it is basted with their traditional sauce of lemon juice, syrup and herbs. It’s somewhat sweet and sticky, but perhaps that’s what lamb shank should be. R180 for 700-800g.
Harissa Bistro (Hazelwood)
The name of this colourful restaurant down the road from the Pretoria Country Club in Hazelwood has been on everyone’s lips since opening. Situated right at the entrance of this rather glamorous new centre, it offers innovative dishes from all around the Mediterranean. Their lamb shank is served as a bobotie with kumquat atchar and basmati pilaf (R160) and can be accompanied by a huge selection of side dishes (add R20), including butternut polenta, paprika mash, carrot hummus or wilted greens.
Hillside Tavern (Lynnwood)
One of the oldest restaurants in Pretoria prepares a classic version of the shank as one of its house specialities. Cooked in wine and tomato with fresh herbs, the shank is served with a side order of vegetables or onion rings (550g for R 160).
Despite being known for its glamour and deluxe décor, Kream is not averse to serving the homely lamb shank. It’s roasted and braised with paprika, rosemary, red wine and vegetables, and served on cauliflower-and-potato mash with cumin-tomato lentils, minted lamb sauce, roasted seasonal vegetables and tzatziki for R169.
Laughing Chefs Restaurant, Venue & Tapas Bar (Rietondale)
This mom-and-daughter team of Maggie Gey van Pittius and Esrida Brit cooks lamb shank until the meat falls of the bone, and serves it Moroccan-style on buttery couscous, with slow-cooked ratatouille and seasonal vegetables for R170. Combining sweet, spicy and savoury tastes, the shanks are first pan-fried for a caramelised flavour and then cooked with carrots, onions, bay leaves, star anise and pink peppercorns. Once soft, into the oven they go, covered in sauce made from a rich lamb stock with a sugar syrup and lots of star anise. The entire process takes a full day and, accordingly, attracts diners in droves.
Prosopa (Waterkloof Heights)
The lamb shank at this modern Greek restaurant is roasted on the bone and classically prepared with a merlot-and-rosemary jus, crushed potatoes and honey-glazed carrots. This perfect version of the authentic Greek lamb will ensure your return. It costs R178, and owner Dino Fagas says a ‘proper’ 500g piece of meat goes into the oven, promising a generous serving.
Ritrovo Ristorante (Waterkloof)
The new menu recently introduced by Fortunato Mazzone and his team features Stinco di Agnello, an organic lamb hind-shank leg that’s slow-cooked in the pizza oven on a bed of root vegetables with roasted garlic. It’s then finished in a pot casserole with red wine, tomato, potatoes and wild mushrooms, and served on a mound of buttery mashed potatoes, seared spinach and quick-fried cubes of mixed peppers and aubergine on the side for R200.
Toni’s Fully Furnished Pizza Company (Rietfontein)
Toni’s Fully Furnished Pizza (which appears to expand by leaps and bounds) does a fabulous lamb shank pizza: the shank is slow roasted and then braised until the meat falls off the bone. The tender lamb is then shredded and the remaining cooking juices are reduced to form the base on the pizza. It’s topped with mozzarella cheese, olives, Greek yoghurt and the pulled lamb, and then baked in the wood-fired pizza oven and served with fresh coriander. R48 for a 15cm pizza and R115 for 30cm.
Villa San Giovanni (Wonderboom)
This iconic restaurant, which is known for its fabulous view across the air-strip tarmac, serves lamb shank with mashed potato and vegetables, the cooking liquid a classic combination of red and white wine, bay leaves, peppercorns, carrots, celery and stock. While the name might be a mouthful – stinco de agnello cotto el forno a legna e servitor con vegetali – this dish is done quite simply in the famous revolving wood-burning pizza oven, and then covered in the reduced cooking sauce. Selling for R145, it’s best paired with the Saxenburg Private Collection Merlot.
Please note that while we take care to ensure the accuracy of our intel about Mary’s little lamb, some prices and items may change without our knowledge.