Cape Town’s established watering holes are no slouches when it comes to offering decent grub. From fabled stalwarts like the chicken livers at Vasco da Gama Tavern to gems like the Asian-style pork belly at The Foresters Arms, we do not go hungry into that good night. But the Crazy Horse has raised a flag with its ‘gastro pub’ label.
The Crazy Horse revels in its Britishness (both owners are Brits) so the menu – which was designed by One Ingredient conceptualiser and culinary mercenary Matt Manning, and executed by head chef Bryce Carr – sports a distinctly traditional UK streak.
A pub’s snacks and starters are arguably more important than its mains. The flagships in this regard are the Scotch eggs, which come coddled in sausage and served with home-made tomato sauce. There are also hash browns (with Hollandaise), strips of battered hake, and black pudding to soak up those first few post-work beers. A highlight is the portion of pork scratchings – several generous slabs of crumble-in-your-mouth crackling that come with a mustard mayo that will have you dabbing the plate clean with your fingers.
For mains, look no further than the beef Wellington. At R190, it’s not the cheapest meal on Bree Street (nor the most expensive, for that matter), but it’s one of those things you need to experience at least once in your life. Served with all the trimmings, this tender piece of fillet is surrounded with greens before being baked, and comes with two Yorkshire puddings and sweet baked vegetables, as well as a side of potatoes.
A surprising highlight is the gravy – one of the best sauces I have ever had the pleasure of pouring over my food. Rich, beefy, thick, succulent. This is one serious gravy. A gravy of and for the ages. A be-all and end-all of a gravy.
Other mains include pan-fried kingklip, a traditional ale pie with mash and gravy, and cheddar-and-onion risotto, and we will go back to taste the gammon, which is topped with pineapple and an egg.
The prominent glass wine cellar upstairs indicates that The Crazy Horse takes its wine and bubbly selection seriously, but it’s the beers that really draw our attention. A pint of the house’s Horse Piss Lager is well worth a chug, but it’s recommended that you shell out an extra ten bucks for the Black Cab Stout, which is as rich and chocolately a stout as you’ll find anywhere in the world. The Black Cab is one of three Fuller’s beers available on draught, the others being the London Pride and the Jack Frost Blackberry Ale.
The Crazy Horse serves the Punk Dog IPA, which is not as aromatic as Devil’s Peak King’s Blockhouse nor as rich as Jack Black’s IPA, but it is an absolute winner when it comes to quaffability. The bubbles are larger and it has a slightly thinner finish, which is actually an advantage when it comes to IPAs.
The service is friendly, but we do need to get up a couple of times and go directly to the bar for another round. Towards the end of the night, one of the owners insists that we taste the Black Cab Stout, proclaiming, “What’s the use of owning a bar if you can’t give someone a beer on the house?” A charming gesture, but we are charged for it on the bill.
This is where the Crazy Horse falls short. The problem, fundamentally, is that the entire space is dominated by an enormous bloody staircase. This structure separates the booths from the bar, preventing a flow of atmosphere, and cramps the upstairs section, which already feels isolated and uninviting when we visit at 7pm on a weekday. We also get fed up with the brightness of the lights in the booths downstairs, to the point where we actually get up to dim them ourselves. Drinking holes require muted lighting, not a full-blast halogen inquisition.
The décor also misses the mark. Yes, The Crazy Horse is new and of course it takes any pub a few decades to develop the clutter and patina that makes such an establishment cosy, but the small section of wall with exactly four Toby jugs and some old books above the waiter’s station don’t quite cut it.
Did I mention the gravy?
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