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Review: Carne in Constantia delivers rapture for steak lovers

In December 2014, chef and restaurateur Giorgio Nava extended his empire to the Southern Suburbs. Linda Scarborough pays Carne Constantia a visit to see if it measures up to its city bowl sibling, Carne SA, a past winner of our Best Steakhouse Award.

Food

In case the name hasn’t given it away, you’re here for steak, glorious steak. But while you might think that ageing, preparing and cooking hunks of meat makes Carne better at the bold and hearty side of things, know that they are deft at the delicate, too.

The menu begins with a list of appetisers like steak tartare and Parma ham with melon, but the primi section below it is so appealing that we can’t help but ask for the Karoo lamb shoulder ravioli in a sage butter sauce (R80). Be warned: On first bite, the room might stand still for a few seconds. These tender parcels of lamb are embraced by silky homemade pasta sheets and golden, fragrant butter – a stunning preview of the skill to come.

Carne Constantia. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Carne Constantia. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

The Caprese salad (R90) is unexpectedly – but gorgeously – presented, departing from the usual humble layers of ingredients. Instead, a cloud of burrata mozzarella is placed on a tian of finely chopped tomato and topped with the smallest purple basil flowers. It’s as light as a summer’s breeze.

Now, on to the star of the show: the meat. Before you place your order, a strapping young waiter comes to the table, wielding a platter of the different cuts. He is a fount of knowledge on the flavour profile and features of each, whether it’s rump, sirloin, rib-eye, fillet on or off the bone, hangar steak, prime rib or even unusual cuts like the flat-iron steak or spider steak. The Romagnola beef, Dorper lamb and game all hail from Giorgio Nava’s own Karoo farm.

All the cuts are aged for at least 28 days (some for longer), and are served simply with a sprig of rosemary and a floret of grilled cauliflower, with no sticky bastings to disguise their flavour. Expert cooking and care is evident with each flawless mouthful of our 300g thick-cut ribeye (R175) and 450g flat-iron steak (R180).

You can choose one complimentary side with your steak; extra portions are a mere R25-R30 each. The shoestring fries are good, but we recommend the sautéed spinach with lashings of beautiful extra-virgin Morgenster olive oil to add some earthy tang to the proceedings.

If you can manage dessert, go for the sorbet of the day (R45), the signature chocolate fondant (R60) or the crème brûlée (R45) with intense vanilla-scented custard and that crackable crust. Perfection.

Drinks

There’s a very generous selection of meat-loving wines (both local and Italian) to keep everybody happy, including some bubbly. Those by the glass range from R45 to R90. If you want to try a lighter red, sip on the Paul Cluver Village Pinot Noir or the Terra Del Capo Sangiovese.

Service

Excellent. Waiters are efficient and personable when you interact with them, but don’t fawn or fuss at all when you’re (justifiably) focused on your mind-blowing food. Bottles of water are kept in nearby ice buckets and glasses are refilled without you noticing.

Ambience

The converted Victorian house has interleading rooms that create nice corners for conversation. You don’t notice any music and there is the gentle hubbub of chatter, but it feels very comfortable and effortless. Dark grey walls and organza curtains might seem a little dramatic, but they’re lifted nicely by crimson napkins and light wooden floors. The beautifully tiled deck overlooking a manicured garden would be a great spot during the day, provided there’s not too much traffic zooming past.

Carne Constantia. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Carne Constantia. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

And…

Do yourself a favour and order the roasted marrow bones (R50), which arrive with tiny teaspoons for scooping and spreading the rich marrow onto slices of toast. Heavenly.

Have you been to Carne Constantia? Let us know what you thought by writing a review.

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