Vanessa Marx made a name for herself as the chef at Dear Me and the now-closed White Room in Cape Town, so it was with excitement that Port Elizabeth greeted news of her plans to open a home-style brasserie.
Savages’ small menu is all about the lavish luxury of top quality ingredients being allowed to speak for themselves. Wagyu and Angus beef, free-range chicken and lamb are used for the burgers, sporting local names such as St George, Settler Park and Baaaakens Valley (the lamb burger). The meat is served on freshly baked spongy rolls with comforting sauces and toppings, accompanied by rustic fries. And if you want to have your burger carb-free, you could have it as a crispy salad wrap instead. The hearty portion of risotto changes daily and celebrates seasonal produce with great gusto.
The home-style pie soothes the soul, especially when accompanied by delicious creamy roasted garlic mash. Savages also does amazing flatbreads, served on little wooden boards – The Spicy Lamb being a favourite, with hummus, tzatziki and tomato and herb salad.
Cheese lovers will go gaga for the Savage: melted mozzarella, cheddar, feta, bacon and sticky caramelised onion. Classic salads hold their own – both the Waldorf and the Caesar are done just as we love it. The Roots and Shoots salad is a vegetarian delight: caramelly roasted carrots and beetroot, goat’s cheese, sprouts and balsamic reduction. And for a fitting finale – or the main reason for a visit – a heavenly slice of blueberry and vanilla baked cheesecake. Swoon.
Right now – Savages opened just five days before our visit – there are quite a few teething problems. The asparagus is a little gritty and our burger more than a little bleu. So it might be worth giving the team time to find their feet.
Savages does not serve wines at this stage. However, we were afforded a peep at the waiter’s copy and it features a long list of local bubbles and an extensive list of single varietals and blends. Nice to see is a few of local Port Elizabeth surgeon Andy Hillock’s wines from Ladismith.
On the non-alcoholic front, freshly squeezed juices, seasonal pressed juices and smoothies shouting “healthy!” are served in delightful glasses. Water is served in elegant bottles sporting the classy Savages logo. A marvellous range of coffees and teas (some made of freshly picked garden herbs), Valrhona hot chocolate and steamed almond milk are just the sustenance to cup your hands around on a blustery day. But the milkshakes, oh the milkshakes! The Turkish Delight Snickers should have patrons coming back again and again.
As this is still early days, the service is not a hundred percent yet – technical glitches and a lack of training, product knowledge and confidence are taking their toll, but can certainly be improved on over time.
A lot of thought and effort went into creating this beautiful space; it’s evident no cost was spared to create an ultra-luxurious spot to enjoy the finer things in life. The soft gleam of wood patina and luxurious sheets of glass are offset by velvety grey walls and a fuchsia wall at the entrance – a touch of fun. Just walking through the glass gate, around the pond and the mini stage that is still being constructed towards the gracious building with its wraparound veranda is a treat in itself. The restaurant with its widely spaced tables and the decadently glamorous restrooms are super wheelchair-friendly.
The playlist could do with some attention, though – some classical or world music might be better suited to the venue than the safe, slightly boring tunes playing at the moment.
There’s a beautiful gift shop on the premises, and PE can look forward to many food-and-wine-pairing and music events once the building of the stage is completed.