Hyde Park’s EB Social Kitchen & Bar has a new head chef. Yohann Saumande, born in Périgueux, France, brings a new-French style of cooking to the restaurant housed inside an Exclusive Books. He has whipped the menu into something that makes the restaurant a destination instead of a detour. EB Social Kitchen & Bar is no longer an afterthought – rather, the books serve as a pleasantly surprising accompaniment.
Serves: Contemporary tasting and a la carte menus with a French influence
Best for: Dinner with a view
Cost: R170 average main; R480 for the five-course degustation menu; R580 for the seven-course menu
Star ratings: Food and drinks: 5, Service: 4, Ambience: 4
It’s not often that all three courses can be classed as standouts but this is the case here. The first course of a plate of duck breast carpaccio arrives as a beautiful study in pink and green. The almost meltingly transparent duck is topped with a walnut dressing and contrasting textures of thin red onion crisps, the tiniest fresh asparagus spears, glowing spring onion, crisp pine nuts and seeds. Its taste is elegant; its aesthetic pleasing in every way. It makes for the perfect summer starter.
The tiger prawn salad is a popular choice, presented with more finesse than usual, with lime leaves, Chinese noodles and sweet wombok cabbage. Another delectable salad features tomato confit, oregano dressing and grilled artichoke.
The main features pork cutlets that are thick and tender as butter, paired with a bewitching green apple soubise. Here again the vegetables are heroes, consisting of sweetly charred heirloom carrots and tender baby cabbage. The balance of everything on the plate seems perfect.
Dessert arrives as a melange on a square of glass. It’s composed of an orange-almond tuille, a scattering of pumpkin seeds, a fresh litchi sorbet and a rosewater-and-raspberry mousse. In a word, it’s bliss. Another tempting choice could well be the Valrhona Manjari fondant, served with tonka-bean granola and fresh violet ice cream.
Another good way of eating at EB is perhaps to start with tapas (a local goat-cheese croquette with cucumber-mint jelly and green apple would be very difficult to resist) with one of the fun cocktails at the bar before sitting down to dinner. Probably the finest treat would be to wander through the five- or seven-course degustation menu.
The wine list is not overwhelming and has fascinating features tucked in among favourites. There are some wines available by the glass. By day more coffee is likely sold here than in real coffee shops, but those cocktails are popular as well and have become a destination feature.
From arrival at the bookings desk at the restaurant section entrance, the service is polite and surprisingly swift. The same goes for the cocktail and tapas bar section. Various staff in members are involved in waiting on you, not just the same one all evening. You might even see the head chef delivering plates to tables.
The well-dressed frequent this spot. At dinnertime they vie with the beautifully thought out, almost extravagant décor. Details are engaging and you might find yourself marvelling at something new each time you dine, such as the groups of books in leather book straps around the fireplace. The tables are welcomingly wide and the generous dove-grey linen napkins are a nice touch. The fine glasses, those used for water included, deserve a mention too. The view, by night or day, is special.
This is the ideal spot for happily enjoying dinner for one (and a book).