The breakfast menu at 1855 offers such quirky options such as putu pap made with mascarpone and served with biltong shavings or an ‘almost’ healthy breakfast – a panna cotta with granola and fruit. They also have a Madame or Monsieur Croque, eggs Benedict with either gypsy ham or salmon, French toast or a breakfast quiche for those less inclined to have creamy chicken livers with eggs for breakfast.
For later in the day, there are some traditional offerings such as superbly grilled portions of meat (250g fillet, 250g sirloin, 300g rump and 500g T-bone) served with chips or a side salad, and blue cheese and vodka sauce or pepper sauce. In addition to this carnivorous offering, there are 10 different burger options, all well-made and delicious.
For lighter fare you could opt for the 1855 house salad with lettuce, rocket, pine nuts and cocktail tomatoes; a biltong salad with dill cucumbers and cottage cheese; peanut butter chicken salad with a peanut butter and lychee dressing, or a steak and Nachos salad with corn and avo.
Very few restaurants serve jaffles, but 1855 does, filled with bobotie; chicken and spinach; or chicken, feta and pesto and accompanied by chips or ‘pampoenkoekies’, which are so typically Pretoria. The desserts are a baked chocolate pudding or a ‘deconstructed’ milk-tart.
Apart from a fair selection of local and international commercially produced beers, they pride themselves on serving an array of craft beers such as Cape Brewing Company Amber Weiss, Imperial IPA, Krystal Weiss, Darling Brew, Jack Black, Stellenbrau and Liefmans. The wine list is short, with four white and four reds including Van Loveren Sauvignon Blanc, John Block SB and a Riesling and Merlot from Darling Cellars, all of which are available either per bottle (and at the time of this review, none priced over a R100) or per glass. No bubblies were listed.
The waiters at 1855 are friendly and helpful, whether providing menu suggestions, checking discreetly if one requires anything else, or operating the espresso machine like real pros. They make some really good cappuccinos – even though one is still offered the option of froth or cream, just so you won’t forget on which side of the boerewors-curtain you are.
Situated in Lynnwood Bridge, with its public artworks and fountains that kids find irresistible, 1855 is the undiscovered little gem taking up half the space of what was previously the much larger Famous Fishoek Restaurant. A cloth map of several meters hangs looped like the roof of a desert tent from the ceiling over the bar, while the rest of the space has a reed ceiling, showing that careful thought went into the décor without opting for the usual clichés. It’s these small touches of clever décor that suggest Pretoria as a multicultural city far removed from its troubled past. A collage of historic photos (1855 was of course the year when Pretoria was established) including stalwarts like the Union Buildings and various historic figures, but also photos of modern Pretoria city centre high-rise buildings and the outstretched arms of Madiba. A few tables outside allows one to revel in the wonderful weather and people watching, while enjoying easy dining.
Jacarandas are to Pretoria and Johannesburg what Pavlova is to Aussies and Kiwis – there is an ongoing rivalry about whose city streets carry their joyous purple velvet hazes to best effect. Pretoria will always remain known as the Jacaranda Capital, and they were particularly beautiful and lush this year – perhaps due to the hot and dry weather. It is therefore laudable that a modern restaurant managed to reflect Pretoria in its ambience, menu and style without resorting to the usual boerekos, game, monuments, fallen heroes or ox-wagons. With a little adaptation and expansion, they could easily establish a Pretoria cuisine that steers clear of all these hackneyed symbols and that would appeal to a younger, more representative audience.
Eat Out critics dine unannounced and pay their own way. Read our full editorial policy here.