Social Kitchen 2

EB Social Kitchen & Bar

Cost
R125 avg main meal
Ambience
Contemporary cool, Hip & happening
Food
Modern
Payment
Mastercard, Visa
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Critic's review

Mokgadi Itsweng

Food
Nestled inside Exclusive books in Hyde Park shopping centre, EB Social Kitchen & Bar is a new addition to the dining scene in Johannesburg. The delicious menu created by Russell Armstrong, a chef who has experience in Michelin-starred restaurants, is designed for sharing.

Try the spiced ratatouille and local cheese arancini and the smoked-salmon mousse with lemon and ciabatta wafers to start; then move on to the more substantial dishes like slow-braised duck leg with grilled radicchio, Spanish onion and fondant potatoes. A lot of care has gone into the preparation and presentation of the dishes. The food is served on beautiful black plates, which allows the food to shine.

Drinks
The extensive wine list, which has been carefully curated by Michael Fridjhon and Carrie Adams, includes local and imported wines and special and rare bottles. The bar offers a wide range of craft beers, ciders and cocktails named after famous works of literature like Vanity Fair and Pride and Prejudice.

Service
The service is on point. Waiters are well versed on the menu and make very good recommendations. The maître d’ is very welcoming, friendly and accommodating.

Ambience
The space is relaxed and unpretentious, with incredible views of Joburg. The décor is in a simple Nordic style with the industrial beams. The restaurant attracts trendy foodies, families and business people for lunch, but is perfect for a night out with the girls or a romantic dinner for two.

And…
The open kitchen pulls you into the theatre of food preparation and plating. Watching the show is really exciting and adds to the culinary experience.

(September 2016)

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

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  • Hennie Fisher

    Food
    When we hear of the credentials of the chef at EB Social Kitchen & Bar, the new restaurant linked to Exclusive Books in Hyde Park Corner, we have high hopes. Australian executive chef Russell Armstrong has experience at three-Michelin-starred restaurants in France and the UK, including Le Gavroche.

    Things to nibble on – the menu lists these under ‘small plates’ – include charred sourdough with a brandade (salt cod) butter; goose-liver parfait served with brioche and sweet-sherry foam; and Swartberg Mountain olives, smoked garlic and roasted nuts. Other small plates include crisp bagel wafers with burnt brinjal, aïoli and olive cheeks; a selection of Neil Jewell’s charcuterie with pickled pepper and sourdough; shaved hand-cured bresaola (they use separate carving machines for pork products, in the interests of Jewish and Muslim customers) served with warm potato salad and watercress; and a spinach, feta and lemon spanakopita. Alternatively, you could order a few freshly shucked oysters with salt water dressing to enjoy over your Sunday morning newspaper.

    ‘Plates to share’ include a warm Tuscan bread salad with roasted shallots and garlic, vine tomatoes, basil and olives; and quesadillas of spicy lamb and beef with guacamole and sour cream – at a whopping R115 for two smallish quesadillas. From the Josper oven comes slow-roasted pork rack, parsnips, fennel, roasted apple and onion soubise; rump cap with bone marrow crumble, a clever and quite delicious little sprinkle served with crushed baked potato and a ‘josperised’ tomato stew. Grain-fed hanger steak is served with grilled portobello mushrooms, caramelised shallots and farmhouse potatoes.

    Desserts, also sold as ‘small plates’ include char-roasted banana with lime syrup, crème fraîche ice cream, liquid ganache and almond praline or an ivory chocolate marquise with salted caramel praline and a clementine biscuit.

    Sadly, the food doesn’t quite live up to its descriptions and our – admittedly – high expectations. A little freshness and wow factor is lacking, and the prices are very high for the portion size and quality. It’s still early days, however, and perhaps the new kitchen is still settling on a menu and ironing out the creases.

    Drinks
    Before you do anything else, you should try some of their delicious cappuccinos, served in design-savvy silicone-grip glasses on rectangular wooden saucers, with sugar cubes in a little gold sack on the side. The drinks and wine selection is extensive, and encompasses a range of the best craft cocktails, beers, ciders, and draughts like Wild Beast Stout. There is also a comprehensive selection of Ronnefeldt teas, and considering that the restaurant shares a space with the Hyde Park Exclusive Books, the cocktails have been named after famous novels: think Breakfast at Tiffany’s; The Scarlet Letter or a Pride and Prejudice. Wines and sparkling wines are on the pricy side (such as Graham Beck Brut Rosé at R530) but by carefully considering the options, you could enjoy the 2013 Newton Johnson Felicité at R240 – a fresh wonderfully well-made wine with lots of classic pinot noir flavours and nuances. Other interesting wines include Delaire Graff Botmaskop, Tierhoek Grenache Noir and Raka Malbec.

    Service
    Booking a table, arriving and being escorted to the table was carried out with professionalism and enthusiasm. The structure of the menu, which categorises items as ‘very small plates and jars’, ‘more plates to share’, ‘from our Josper oven’ and ‘small sweet plates’ might result in the wait staff not understanding that five individual people might want their orders served simultaneously. Although the restaurant claims to be happy to serve any of the shared items as a single serving main course, it is not clear that the kitchen always gets the message that all dishes should arrive at the table simultaneously. Although there were a number of serving staff around, there seems to be a need for a floor manager to ensure clear communication between the service staff and the kitchen – and that mistakes are rectified soon enough for the meal to still be salvageable.

    Ambience
    The large, airy space is a delightfully quirky mix between a New York loft, a large bookshop and a warehouse kitted out with a lovely mix of mid-century and art deco furniture. Where previously the Hyde Park Exclusive Books was slightly poky, it is now an inviting open space with the restaurant right at the back. It has an expanse of large windows opening up to let in the fantastic Highveld weather and views over Johannesburg. The large open kitchen allows unobstructed views of the action, while a wrap-around bar with high chairs and a similar section along the large windows allow you to indulge in a coffee or quick bite while taking in the vistas. The cutlery, glassware and napery are simple and design-forward, if not always particularly user-friendly.

    And…
    One of the trademark characteristics of a great restaurant is its service. Even though our young waiter is extremely helpful and attentive, the proper way to deal with the misunderstanding would be to discreetly remove the two plates that arrive first, with an indication that they will be re-plated and sent out with the three remaining plates. Instead, the blunder worsens with plates arriving one after the other with intervals of as long as 6 to 7 minutes between – with the result that one of our party has already finished his plate and while somebody else is still waiting for their food.

    It’s still very early in this new eatery’s lifetime, so these niggles will no doubt be addressed in time.

    (January 2016)

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User reviews

  • What a surprise! Coming from Cape Town, where only a librarian would enjoy a meal in a mall and a book store, this dining experience was a great delight for the JHB restaurant scene known to me. Loved the fact that the cocktails were named after famous novels, the kitchen's aromas promised great culinary magic upon arrival and yes, the fish, risotto and quinoa were fabulous! The wine list was a little on the overpriced though, but certainly a place I would come to again, purely due to its proximity to its inherent understanding of good food - a true eatery in Hydepark!
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  • The reviews of this restaurant, both in the comments and the main text, really prove to me how lacking in imagination the South African pallet is. Just because they do not serve enormous individual plates of steak, egg and chips does mean that the food is not phenomenal. This restaurant beats The View and Five Hundred at the Saxon, by a very large margin. It is the most imaginative menu in Johannesburg, and creativity in this case does not come at the cost of flavour. This is the kind of food that should be approached with an open and experimental mind. The food is not overpriced considering the caliber of chef (arguably one of the best working in Johannesburg right now) and the extreme attention to detail in pairing flavours. The point of small plate dining is to share many little meals amongst diners, and this the ethos of the restaurant - which explains why so many people who ordered plates for themselves and not to share might have experienced some confusion.
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  • Not very good value for money. At those prices the portion should be bigger and taste MUCH better. Very disappointed. Also the waiters do not know the menu. The crockery very hip and interesting. But that is it!
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  • I visited EB last night, the view, vibe and decor was great! Our waiter was very helpful; though he left us for a while once mains were finished. The wine list was good, but very overpriced. The menu was interesting but overpriced for the TINY tapas plates available. So went for a main meal, which was not huge and had very small sides (mash and pea puree') but was delicious and very rich so wanted the remaining portion to take home. We were then disappointed to find that a 'no doggy-bag' policy exists, which is apparently on their menu. I found for that for R170 for a main I should be allowed to do what I like with that remaining food as I paid for it. There must be a lot of food wastage. The desserts were delicious, and should be for R90. Would not go back based on their ridiculous 'take-away' policy.
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  • Beautiful setting. Sat at the bar overlooking Hyde Park. Menu leaves a lot to be desired with little choice and high prices. Waiter only put through half of our order even though he took it all at the same time. The staff seemed very interested in the couple next to us and even though they came in after us, all their stuff arrived before ours and the waiters gathered around them chatting whilst we were ignored. When our incomplete order arrived it was burned. Highly disappointed. Will not go back and will not be recommending to anyone.
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  • Whats a suprise to find such a place inside a Mall. The high ceilings and beautiful decor is also complimentary to a food experience of note. This has to be in the top 3 restaurants in Johannesburg. It's a wow!
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  • I've done business with the Owners and Senior Staff at EB Social Kitchens, and they truly are very nice polite people... They go the extra mile to make sure everything is perfect and to the satisfaction of the Client. To top it all the Restaurant is stunning, I love the whole feel and ambiance of Social Kitchen. And the Food and Service is really good.
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Facilities

  • Accepts credit cards
  • Beer served
  • Booking required
  • Cocktails
  • Dinner
  • Food
  • Lunch
  • Parking
  • Serves food

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