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Review: The Stack in Gardens

Hotelier Nigel Pace and his wife, designer Sarah Ord, built their dream restaurant not once, but twice, after a fire that consumed the second floor of Leinster Hall within days of the 2015 opening. It took a year, but The Stack is open again, and triumphantly so. Eat Out critic John Maytham reviews.

Fast facts

Serves: Bistro-style food
Best for: A classic bistro meal in a stylish setting
Average mail meal: R140
Parking: Limited secure parking inside the gates of Leinster Hall
Star ratings: Food 4, Service 4, Ambience 5

Food

The menu is bistro simple, and very well done. It’s an art to honour bistro classics without being slavishly imitative – an art The Stack kitchen seems to have mastered. French onion soup is a case in point, a luxuriant combination of silky onions and an umami-rich dark broth. Rock oysters are from Saldanha Bay, plump and delicious, served with red-wine shallot vinegar and lemon.

Leinster Hall is an original Edwardian building. Photo by Katharine Jacobs.

Leinster Hall is an original Edwardian building. Photo by Katharine Jacobs.

There is a daily plat du jour: If it’s Monday, it must be the best coq au vin in town; Tuesday is for Toulouse cassoulet, and so on. The à la carte mains include bistro staples like steak frites and a particularly tender and juicy roasted baby chicken, served with nicely al dente root vegetables baked with thyme, and a tangy garlic aioli. The cassoulet shows evidence of long and loving attention: A braised shin of Black Angus with smoked bacon, mushrooms and lentils is fall-off-the-bone tender and rich with dark, earthy flavours.

No surprise that the desserts include a crème brûlée and tarte au citron, although rum baba – a brioche bun soaked in rum, and served with cinnamon-roasted pineapple and coconut ice cream – is a delight for those wanting a finish less obviously sweet.

Inside The Stack's dining room. Photo by Katharine Jacobs.

Inside The Stack’s dining room. Photo by Katharine Jacobs.

Drinks

There is a very good selection of international big brands and local craft spirits and beers in the bar across the passage. The Brasserie’s wine list is small, but carefully and imaginatively compiled. The few wines that are available by the glass are well matched with menu options. Stemware is of very high quality.

Service

Staff are amiable, professional and knowledgeable about both the menu and the story behind Leinster Hall and its current caretakers.

Owners Nigel and Sarah overcame a slew of challenges with the building - but at least, they say, the wiring should now be foolproof. Photo supplied.

Owners Nigel and Sarah overcame a slew of challenges with the building – but at least, they say, the wiring should now be foolproof. Photo supplied.

Ambience

The Brasserie allows the history of the house to dominate with the wooden floors and pressed steel ceilings softly accented by splashes of colour. Very cool and sophisticated. However, there’s a much more riotously eclectic approach to colour and form in the bar and in the rooms upstairs that comprise the Private Club. Sarah Ord’s bold flair is very much in evidence here.

And

Ask for permission to go upstairs and marvel at Flipflop Fred, a technicolor trophy head made from recycled flip flops.

Have you been to The Stack? Write a review to put them in the running for the bistro category for this year’s Eat Out Mercedes-Benz Best Everyday Eateries. Vote for them now by writing a review and you could win R1 000.

Eat Out critics dine anonymously and pay for their meals in full. Read our editorial policy here.

The private club area upstairs offers another beautiful bar, lounge seating and board rooms, for private members. Photo by Katharine Jacobs.

The private club area upstairs offers another beautiful bar, lounge seating and board rooms, for private members. Photo by Katharine Jacobs.

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