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Il Contadino

Il Contadino
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Cost
R145 avg main meal
Ambience
Groups, Local cuisine
Food
Mediterranean, Modern
Payment
Mastercard, Visa
Corkage
No BYO

Critic's review

Zanele Kumalo

Food
It would be silly not to start with what I feel is a core dish and popular starter. That if everything else were stripped and changed for a seasonal menu, they’d have to keep the bone marrow. A big chunky bone split in two serves a delicious, rich and buttery essence. Don’t skip it and share.

Lucky I’ve been enough times to know that the food isn’t always so but this visit, our favourite dish had been too generously doused with olive oil as was the beautifully cooked and tender pesto duck breast and mash with gremolata. Pleasing portions of pork belly, wild boar and other meats come from a sustainable and organic source.

The vegetarian though not vegan options are the most enticing I’ve seen from many restaurants – goats cheese souffle. pumpkin pancakes, spinach fritattas… For healthier indulgences the pastas and farm to table salads are still flavorful.

On a sweet note, ricotta stuffed chocolate and citrus beignets, home-made ice creams, tarts and sponges are a decadently worthwhile full stop to the meal.

Drinks
A job well done to feel challenged but not intimidated by a wine list but sample the cocktails too – all the currently prolific negronis and old fashioneds are there and expertly made along with some welcome surprises.

Service
The waiters are super friendly, knowledgeable and very attentive.

Ambience
An inviting and relaxing space but it can get really noisy when it’s full. The street side bar is a cute escape out into some fresh air.

Best for ...
a festive occasion or date night.

(2018)

 

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

 

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  • Marie-Lais Emond

    This is the fourth of chef James Diack’s restaurants. Though one door away from The National, it looks and behaves very differently. The idea here is for less expensive, healthy and appealing eating. Diack’s rustic food is inspired by his travels in north-east Italy and the countrysides of Spain and France. Also important: Il Contadino everything is sustainable, seasonal, and has a traceable provenance.

    Food

    Oh, if only breakfasts could always be the rustic sort! Make hay while the sun shines here with golden-yolked eggs, bacon from the boars on the farm, freshly baked artisanal breads and croissants with farm butter. Also noteworthy are the pumpkin pancakes with burnt-sage butter and farm ricotta.

    For day and evening meals, the eight or so starters will change, but hope you get to try the life-changing chervil sauce. It accompanies two pecorino-and-goat’s cheese soufflés. The dish that most impresses though is the spring onions wrapped in bacon and served with confit beef cheek, crispy trotters, and fine leek ‘hay’. The homemade gnocchi is extraordinary, with tomato mixed into the potato dough. The pesto bursts with freshness and flavour, as well as the
    confit tomatoes. It’s all served with local buffalo mozzarella. The pasta comes from its own section on the menu and exciting salads are seen on neighbouring tables.

    The five mains will change too, so rush for the roasted pork belly that comes with an aniseed-spiked pear, deliciously tasty carrots glazed in sherry, the famous duck-fat fried potatoes and a fresh fennel salad. Another dish off the pasta part of the menu contains the most perfect ravioli, enveloping deeply tasty ossobuco.

    The duck deserves high praise too – the confit thigh especially, but the slices of breast are good as well. It comes on a bed of truffle-infused parsnip mash with wild mushrooms; a mange tout and citrus-juice salad; and bitter-sweet naartjie pieces.

    On the menu is also a selection of six thin-based pizzas and there are some other wood-fired dishes, including short ribs and a delicious-looking vegetarian dish. Though the menu is nice and short, there are also quite a few vegetarian options, thanks to the prominence of farm-grown supplies.

    You may fall into the same trap of trying the homemade gelatos (with flavours like mulberry-and-basil or fig-and-ginger) and forgetting about the actual desserts. However, lemon-and-vanilla tart is unforgettable. Else try the dark-chocolate and citrus-zest beignets stuffed with ricotta.

    Drinks

    After you’ve torn yourself away from the Aperol Spritzes and Black Jack beers on tap, there’s a wealth of interesting wines. If you’ve grown bored of sauvignon blanc, try the Trizanne version. And if you never touch red blends, look beyond the oddly amateurish label of the Swartland Kedungu and get a grasp on the magical mouvedre-cinsaut. Many wines can be had by the glass.

    Service

    Diack’s restaurants are always over-staffed and everyone on the floor is well-trained and interested in your experience. Malcolm Rutstatsa is hard to beat. He’s the ultimate service wizard and adviser of the most interesting wines to pair with the dishes.

    Ambience

    The food may be rustic and hearty in style, but it is very appealingly presented. The way it looks is how it tastes – treated with impressive care.

    There is outdoor and indoor seating. Inside you’ll get a great view of head chef Rausharn Griffin and his team at work in the open kitchen. James Diack’s mom, an arty farmer herself, is responsible for the décor. The napkins are tea towels and the plates are those highly collectable enamel ones with stencil patterns. The tables and chairs are intended to look rustic, as is the bar suspended on chains. The restaurant is on a great but very busy corner, so it isn’t necessarily a quiet getaway.

    And…

    The attention to detail and celebration of natural profound flavours is astonishing and sure to lure you back.

    (November 2017)

    Eat Out critics dine unannounced and pay their own way. Read our full editorial policy here.

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User reviews

  • Such an amazing little hidden Gem.
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  • The best butternut gnocchi in town!
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  • Really good evening. Excellent attentive sevice. We had a wide variety of the menu and no-one was dissappinted. Souffle was a close second to the wonderful Beignet for dessert. The vegetarians in the party were well catered and not an afterthought. Highly recommended
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  • I am a big fan of Il Contadino. It's really just ticks all the boxes for a Friday night dinner. The ambience is great and the staff are really incredible. And importantly, the food is great. The menu proves to keep everyone happy with a nice varied selection (covering your basics and catering for the more adventurous), as well as a daily menu included to keep things innovative and exciting. I'll be there on Friday night for sure!
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  • Yummiest steak I've had in a while!
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  • Had breakfast on Saturday morning. Waited which felt like forever, for a waiter to attend to us, eventually called someone that took our coffee order, half an hour later our designated waiter eventually arrived, and when we indicated that we had ordered coffee, he left and returned about another half an hour later just to inform us that he could not find the person that had taken our coffee order! We requested the full breakfast without tomatoes, needless to say the tomatoes were included. My order of french toast, tasted horrible. Perhaps I should rather have asked for two slices of bread brushed with egg, it had the smallest quantity of berry sauce (which tasted horrible), and I think it was meant to be a knob of mascarpone, but this was also just like a smear of cream on the bread. We were constantly looking for our waiter, I had to ask for a glass of water twice, and then i pushed my luck to order another cup of coffee, as this never arrived. The host came to ask if the food was good, and also did not even wait for us to reply, and was clearly not interested in a comment. I really don't know why this place "seems" to be so buy, we will not be back.
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  • I was excited to try this new restaurant last night. It really has a great ambience and it was buzzing. Unfortunately my food was a huge disapointment!! I had the vegetarian main course. It was literally sauce and a crust with one spinanch leaf. They failed to put enough spinach into the dish. When the host came around to ask how we were enjoying the meal she didn't even wait to hear us respond - clearly she was so not interested in our experience when she didnt even wait for my response. So I diagree that they are so interested in your experience. There was not really an apology about the food - just that they didn't add enough spinach and would make me another one. I think they should have handled it better. I won't be back!
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Facilities

  • Accepts credit cards
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
  • Food
  • Lunch
  • Parking
  • Serves food

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