Smaak is an Afrikaans word meaning to taste or crave, so it’s fitting that this little eatery in Hazelwood, Pretoria, is all about pleasing the palate, says Eat Out critic Hennie Fisher.
Pitas are filled with spit-roasted lamb or chicken, romanita tomatoes, red onions, homemade aioli and herb oil. Sandwich ciabattas emerge from a wood-fired oven and have lovely fillings such as parma and brie with green figs and rocket, or salami, boerenkaas, sundried tomato pesto, tomatoes and red onions. The handmade pies and salads are all equally delicious.
The Smaak menu also offers a ‘build a box’ option, which is almost like a charcuterie platter, with a selection of cheeses, parma ham, cervelat sausage, chorizo, breads and preserves. Daily specials are written on a board, and may include the Pig’s Dream, slow-roasted pulled pork shoulder with ginger, served on a soft bun with cheddar and with a little pail of fabulous French fries and aioli on the side.
A liquor licence is in the pipeline, and they expect to have it in their hands any day now. In the meantime, they do offer interesting drinks such as Australian Bundaberg ginger beer or sparkling peach, Socks tonic, a number of other craft drinks and mixes, and some superbly made espresso-based coffees.
The Smaak owners are very hands-on, but still allow staff to operate on their own. On a previous occasion, when there was a lamb roasting on the spit outside, the roaster was able to explain that they often sell two lambs in one day so there is always a supply of fresh hot meat to serve on soft buns.
Atmospheric music fills a small room that feels much bigger because of the large veranda in front and to the side. The décor is simple, clean and upcycled, which also increases the sense of space. Although they prefer guests to order at the service counter, on slow nights you might be lucky enough to engage the owner in a chat about their concept and philosophy, and get an explanation of which sweet items are still available (they change daily).
The current brick-and-mortar business evolved from a catering business that was called d.o.u.g.h (082 716 8869/8, 072 349 9569), which offered everything from a spit braai to family dinners. Family meals include such delicious items as pork belly with sweet-potato mash and fresh greens; lamb shoulder with vegetable poêlée and potato mash; mussels in white wine with garlic, leeks and sweet-potato mash; great beef or chicken lasagne with homemade tomato sauce; and a seasonal vegetable quiche. They also sell comfort-food pies filled with the likes of sweet-chilli chicken, butternut, caramelised onions and feta; lamb roasted on the open coals; shredded barbecue pork shoulder; and hake.
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