The Royale, a new loosely Cuban-themed restaurant and bar, has taken the place of Warm & Glad in Craighall, with chef-patron Marcel Cronje already offering really delicious food, with drinks to match.
Serves: Tasty food with a Cuban theme
Best for: That party feeling
Cost: R95 average for main course, R35 for sides
Star ratings: Food and drinks 4, service 3, ambience 5
Forget about real Cuban food and the flavours and ingredients you’ve tasted there. The Royale is Cuban-ish in the widest sense, but it’s such fun feasting in this cool place.
The menu is short and confident. A bowl of crisped, spicy potato skins arrives as a table snack at menu-reading time. There are no starters as such, but you could have the house salad or the cheesy beans and rice to begin. The mojo-rubbed pork belly sports lots of fat that has been slowly rendered and slow-cooked, with orange juice to caramelise and crisp the skin. It’s utterly delightful by itself, or with the coleslaw.
The Cuban Sandwich, a USA dish, delivers a satisfyingly savoury combination in fresh, crispy bread, good-quality ham, cheese and a sweetish mustard sauce. It’s drippy and good; quite a meal.
On the bar part of the menu are snacks like sliders, skewers, sticky riblets and cheesy jalapeño fries. The Sloppy Joe empanadas are treats, too: little pastries of beef and caramelised onion with a superb chutney. The croquettes also make hearty snacks.
There are three desserts, an almond waffle, banana bread and fried ice cream. You can’t go wrong with the aromatic waffle, served with rum and wickedly sweet caramel. The fresh banana bread is served with a rum-caramel dip.
The Cubans are fussy about their rum, but this is not Cuba and Bacardi does the trick in all its different hues. The Royale mojito is excellent; the Tormenta Negra features the dark Bacardi with bitters and and ginger beer; and the El Floridita 3, named after Hemingway’s favourite Havana bar, where a bronze version of him is ensconced at a table, features pale Bacardi with maraschino, grapefruit and lime. Maybe more to your liking would be a strong Rum Martinez, classic Daiquiri or Cuba Libre? The Espresso Martini looks good, too. There are eleven wines available, three of them by the glass.
The service is as pleasant and easy-going. Marcel visits tables to make suggestions.
The mix of pastel walls, lamps, and even the entrance desk are reminiscent of paladares (restaurants run out of Cuban homes). Steps lead down into the main room of The Royale, an evocative space, and the outdoor patio is charming. The very best, however, is the bar itself. It’s a tall, wooden, old-fashioned affair styled with typical and even not-so-typical bottles. The Cuban-inspired music is perfect for this setting and its people.
Pssst – there’s a secret speakeasy bar being constructed on the premises. It will be suitably tricky to gain access.
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Brought to you by Retail Capital, sponsors of the Eat Out Retail Capital New Restaurant of the Year Award.
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