Despite the wealth of the area, Sandton is not known for its restaurant options. Until now, that is. Thando Ndabezitha does some power lunching at Wishbone Café and Bistro.
Café and bistro dining get a swish twist at Wishbone, a new restaurant and flagship store of the swanky 11 Alice Lane. Set to be primarily a destination for those working in this affluent part of corporate Johannesburg, the menu comprises unfussy, quick, yet world-class and healthy food for the sophisticated palette, created by executive chef Peter van Schaik and his team.
Have a quick breakfast brainstorming session before a meeting? Zucchini and parmesan fritters, served with poached eggs, tomato and chilli jam and hollandaise sauce; or a haddock Thermidor – poached egg, bacon, tomato and Thermidor sauce on whole-wheat bread – will give you the early morning kick you need.
Quick healthy lunch that’s not depressingly leafy, but won’t leave you feeling full and sluggish for the rest of the afternoon? Moroccan chicken salad made from spiced and charred breast, ruby grapefruit, chickpeas, green olives and Tahini dressing; or an autumn roasted vegetable salad, comprising balsamic-roasted beets, parsnips and carrots, as well as seeds, nuts and drunken pecorino. It’ll leave you satisfied and energised.
In addition, there are a number of starters which can be ordered as tapas – from curry and parmesan calamari and quiche of the day to steak tartare and salmon gravadlax. Burgers, sandwiches and pizzas are also available, gourmet-style. For example, there is venison burger made from a venison patty, caramelized onion, brie, mushrooms and truffle oil – not your average bistro grub.
For a working dinner, try the dhal makhini, a delightfully spicy and creamy, yet light meal comprising black lentils and seasonal vegetables served with plain yoghurt, fragrant jasmine rice and poppadums. Alternatively, a good old slow-roasted shoulder of lamb, served with crushed potatoes, aubergine, green beans, confit tomatoes, herbs de province and jus makes for a sumptuous evening meal. There is also a sushi menu, as well as seafood.
For dessert, the apple tarte tatin is highly recommended, served with a delightful salted caramel and vanilla ice cream.
Sommeliers Pieta Dreyer and Johannes Jacobs will recommend wines to perfectly complement the excellent fare from their comprehensive and impressive wine list – from Meerlust’s Rubicon red blend, Paul Cluver’s Elgin Estate pinot noir and Rust en Vrede’s cabernet sauvignon to Buitenverwachting’s Constantia chardonnay, as well as French bubbles Billecart-Salmon’s Brut Reserve and Brut Rosé. The featured wine is the The Kitchen Sink red blend. Cocktails are also available.
From finding safe and secure parking underground – which is free for restaurant patrons – to a most warm and effusive welcome from the staff at the door, Wishbone Café & Bistro Bar sets a standard for hospitality which many establishments in Johannesburg – casual and fine-dining alike – are lacking. The attention staff devote to guests throughout their patronage is unwavering without becoming overbearing.
Chic and equally conducive for a lunch tête-à-tête or power lunch, the design style reflects the refined glamour of Sandton. Think lots of wood, exposed pipes, navy walls and statement lightbulbs. Contemporary art adds to the feast for the senses. There is also a great music selection, which is pleasant and unobtrusive.
Some people, when they discover a hidden gem, like to keep it to themselves for a while like a juicy secret. I however, am always beyond excited to share the joy of new and fabulous restaurants with everyone I know.
Wishbone has been open for a month now and it seems to be one of those truly rare finds: an all-day eatery that actually does breakfast, lunch and dinner equally well
Before I launch into a love poem about this trendy spot, I'm going to give you some directions.
Yes, literal directions on how to get to this oasis hidden in the middle of the bustling Sandton business centre.
Drive down Sandton Drive with Sandton City on your right. At the first robots you get to, turn right into Alice Lane. At the very next robots, turn left into 5th Street. Then drive slowly, because the entrance into the underground parking for 11 Alice Lane comes up fast on your left.
Drive in, park, go up the stairs and then up the escalators into the Piazza, and there you will find Nirvana. Or, as I like to call it, "R165 four course champagne brunch". Yes, you read that correctly. And yes, it is as magical as it sounds.
I decided to have both dinner and brunch at Wishbone before I wrote a review so that it could be more accurate and well-rounded.
Firstly, the decor is stunning. Unique, classy and brimming over with special little touches like vases of fresh flowers and interesting sculptures and artwork. The light fittings alone are captivating.
This is a perfect venue for a business lunch, a formal dinner or a birthday celebration.
Secondly, the staff are super friendly and accommodating. There are still a few of those "only been open for a month" issues, but they fade away when you're confronted by an otherwise stellar dining experience.
For dinner, we started with wine, obviously, but then we opted for the Thai chicken wontons and the mussel pot. I've had the mussel pot before and loved it but needed to check up on the consistency as others have said they found it lacking. Lacking in what, I don't know, because that dish is a winner and a half. The mussels were so fat and juicy that they actually were a little intimidating. And the lemon grass-infused cream and white wine sauce- well, we ate the mussels and then used the shells as spoons to slurp all of that saucy goodness up, of course. The wontons were tasty too- mainly because the sauce they come with is once again out of this world. The actual wonton filling wasn't to die for but I often find that to be the case with dumplings of all kinds.
Onto mains and we decided to share the confit duck and the butter chicken curry. My friend, upon digging into the duck, looked a little concerned and said "I'm not sure if this tastes so good because I'm tipsy or because it is actually THAT good?" A valid concern generally but actually the duck was fall-off-the-bone tender and delicious. This restaurant is the king of sauces, apparently. The only downfall was the lack of the beans mentioned on the menu description for the duck but really I only noticed this afterwards.
The butter chicken was nice and spicy, and paired perfectly with the fragrant jasmine rice and crunchy poppadom. Usually I shy away from ordering curry outside of a reputable Indian restaurant, but this was actually really decent.
Finally, dessert. I don't even like chocolate that much (there! I said it!) But this chocolate fondant won me over in the end... The middle was a molten mass of berry compote and melted dark chocolate- heavenly.
The apple tarte tatin was made unique and extra delicious by a crust of homemade all-butter shortbread instead of the usual short crust pastry. The apple was just tart enough to cut through the richness of the shortbread and the vanilla ice cream brought it all together.
On another dinner occasion at Wishbone, I tried the pan-fried line fish which turned out to be a beautiful piece of golden kingklip. Perfectly crunchy on the outside and tenderly flaky on the inside. It came with smashed lemony baby potatoes and seasonal veg- delicious! The beurre blanc sauce was hardly even needed because the individual components were so well flavoured.
Now onto the main event. My favourite meal of the day. The spring in my step.
More accurately, R165 brunch which involves 4 generous (and scrumptious) courses as well as a champagne beverage of your choice. This kind of value for money just isn't seen any more, folks.
I'm going to sum up this joyous meal in point form or else this could turn into a 7 book epic fantasy series.
1. Order the mimosas. They are perfection. But you could equally drink your champagne as is or in a kir royale.
2. The coffee here is fantastic, and worth the extra charge on top of the brunch cost per person.
3. Course 1 was a "muesli martini". They make the muesli themselves and it is to die for. Crunchy and filled with a million delicious treats. The yoghurt was thick and the fruit compote was perfectly tart.
4. Course 2- Salmon gravalax with all the trimmings. My least favourite of the 4 courses and still delicious which should tell you something. They give you a generous amount of lovely smoked salmon!
5. The show stopper: REALLY good eggs benedict. Homemade lemony hollandaise sauce. Freshly baked English muffins. Generous smoky strips of brisket, plus bacon and crunchy onions. Just so yummy.
6. The chocolate sensation! Brioche bun slathered in what seems to be homemade dark chocolate spread! This is like Nutella's more charming and attractive cousin. Served with freshly whipped cream and strawberries.
Yes, all that deliciousness for R165 a head, served all weekend. Plus, our waitress, Nozipho, was the loveliest lady and made our whole experience extra special.
I would happily recommend Wishbone for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner (or all four in one weekend if you’re feeling extravagant). Give them a try the next time you’re in Joburg and you will not be disappointed.