Eat Out critic Kate Liquorish indulges her carnivorous side at The Braai Room in Fourways, Johannesburg.
Serves: Grills and South African braai cuisine
Best for: Great steak in a laid-back environment
Parking: There’s plenty in the adjoining parking lot
Price: Average mains are between R75 and R150
Star ratings: Food 4, service 3, ambience 2
This eatery is owned and run by the adjoining Country Meat butchery, so you can expect only the best, hormone- and antibiotic-free beef, lamb and pork as well as beautiful, free-range chicken. The Braai Room gives meaning to the term ‘traceable’, as all the meat is sourced either directly from its farm, or from trusted neighbouring farms in the Free State. The menu is unapologetically carnivorous. Aside from a Greek salad and a crumbed mushroom starter, every dish is wholeheartedly dedicated to animal protein. Starters include roasted marrow bones with toasted ciabatta, crispy fried chicken livers served with a spicy tomato dip, hot buffalo wings, and pork nuggets, which are mouth-wateringly succulent pieces of slow-roasted belly that are crumbed, deep fried and served with an incredible home-made mango chutney. I would honestly recommend just ordering bowlfuls of these to start; they’re extraordinary.
For mains there’s an all-encompassing list of well- and lesser-known cuts of steak that have been either wet or dry aged. The most common form of maturing is wet ageing, which occurs by using specially designed, porous vacuum bags for 21 days. Dry ageing, on the other hand, is far less common as it requires special temperature-controlled environments that allow the meat to lose excess moisture, shrinking it in size and intensifying the flavour. It must then be trimmed of its dried exterior, meaning it’s far more costly to make, but you wouldn’t think so from The Braai Room’s prices.
To call this place a bargain would be an understatement. You’ll get a 400g wet-aged rump for R90, and the same size rib-eye for R120; you can get a 350g dry-aged pichana for R120 and 750g prime rib for R210. All the steaks are braaied over wood and served with a roasted herbed garlic butter and freshly made chimichurri sauce. Sides cost extra, but are very reasonably priced; think braai broodjies, pap, samp, hand-cut chips, sweet potato and salads. There’s also an array of dry-aged gourmet burgers and a selection of mains, which include a very popular shisa nyama platter, spatchcock chickens and potjies.
We order the 400g rib-eye and the 350g pichana with hand-cut chips, roasted veg and onion rings. Robust and delectable, the pichana is not as tender as a wet-aged steak, but far more flavoursome. The perfect rib-eye is a knockout – one of the best steak experiences I have had in a very long time. The subtle chimichurri is a wonderful addition and the garlic butter seals the deal. My only gripe is with the sides, which need attention. What are billed as roasted veg are actually boiled; the onion rings are a bit stodgy and needed seasoning; and the chips need more time in the fryer. (We send them back and they are beautifully crisp upon their return.) However, these are small details that are easily rectified and will take this place from a seriously casual dining spot to a sensational grill house. For dessert there’s a selection of simple and very sweet offerings: malva pudding, ice cream and chocolate sauce, milk tart and Nutella chocolate brownies… We hear the brownies are a firm favourite, but chances your appetite will be conquered by the steak.
The variety is very much geared towards craft. Lesser-known wine farms like Lynx, AA Badenhorst, Albert Ahren, La Vierge, HPF and Almenkerk take up most of the menu, with some easier-drinking options available for those less-adventurous types. There are two locally produced craft beers on tap (Copperlake and Fransen Street) as well as Castle Light.
The focus is on the meat rather than the atmosphere. The Braai Room is rudimentary, with black tables and chairs surrounding the open kitchen and a wood-fired grill. It’s very casual and definitely not a date kind of restaurant. Like so many Joburg spots, the outside seating leads onto an open parking lot.
The service is laid back but considerate, and the waiters work well as a team. The wonderfully warm manager, Lizzie, definitely makes a lasting impression.
The adjoining butchery and deli really are quite something. You need to go for a wander after your meal to buy some of the beautiful produce and artisanal goodies.
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