Owners and management team Yvette and Duncan Barker, along with their executive chef of 27 years, Nesberth Nhambura, run a tight ship. Together with their team of dedicated staff, they have devoted themselves to finite detail; creating an upmarket dining experience that celebrates the finer things in life. They recently closed the beautiful wrought iron gates to their Parktown North establishment to open an even more luxurious and considerably more sizeable Wombles Restaurant in Bryanston.
At Wombles you can expect a showcase of the best of what Southern Africa has to offer, with an emphasis on superb, quality beef and venison. The menu is a classic affair; they’re not interested in foams or deconstructions, but prefer to keep things simple and, in so doing, aim for perfection in that simplicity.
To start you’ll find a wonderful array of traditional, French classics with a South African overtone; the duck-liver pâté, presented in pretty quenelles and served alongside black cherries and toast, is the epitome of decadence. The fresh oysters are always meticulously shucked and served on a bowl of ice, and the escargot and avocado Ritz are just as they should be.
You won’t find many people ordering anything but steak for their main, although they do offer a fine range of other delectable dishes including their springbok shanks in a green-peppercorn sauce with stewed fruits and their famous steak tartare: fillet seasoned with fresh herbs, Tabasco, Worcestershire sauce, cognac and olive oil and served with all the trimmings.
The steak selection includes the usual suspects: fillet, rump, sirloin, T-bone and prime rib, but there are always speciality steaks on the specials menu, including a succulent fillet on the bone and rib-eye, when available. The rump steak and the fillet on the bone are outlandishly good – succulent, tender and flavourful. The steaks vary from 200g to 1kg, and I would warn those who don’t think they can finish a 350g or 500g steak that they’ll most likely surprise themselves.
The chefs pride themselves in cooking every steak to perfection and will go as far as asking which side of medium-rare you’d prefer: the bloody side or just the rarer side of pink…and you can be guaranteed they’ll get it just right every time.
Each main is served with an assortment of complimentary vegetables including roasted baby onions, garden peas and a pumpkin mash, which your waiter will serve you in silver service fashion - a lovely touch.
The desserts take us back to the old classics once more with crème brûlée, crème caramel and crêpe Suzette being among the favourites. However, the rosewater ice cream, filled with Turkish delight, nougat, chocolate, rose petals and topped with a raspberry sauce is just enchanting.
It’s an extensive and all encapsulating list with something for everyone and, if you’re in the mood to spoil, it’s simply fantastic! The reds are in the range of R190 to over R1000 for your serious winos; expect to find Ernie Els and Iona alongside heavyweights like Idiom and De Toren.
Superb. Doors are opened for you, chairs pulled out, napkins laid on laps and wine glasses constantly refilled. The staff are polite and congenial and more than happy to go the extra mile. Yvette keeps a constant eye on the floor and visits each and every table at least twice during the evening to ensure all of her customers have everything they need.
The décor is just sensational. Styled as an ode to the stunning colonial, African-safari-lodges of old with maroon walls decorated with trophy heads, pictures of flora, fauna and wildlife, candelabras at every turn, ferns and orchids bringing life to each corner and the most sumptuous of chairs – it’s an absolute marvel. There are also fire pits outside surrounded by chairs and a bar so enticing it almost begs you to stay for one last drink.
There is a minimum charge of R300 per person.
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It seems strange to regard Wombles as a steakhouse when it is a fine dining restaurant that specialises in beef and venison. The Barkers, Duncan and Yvette, opened the doors to this Wombles 14 years ago. Many of the people who make up the Wombles team came along from their former restaurant in Zimbabwe to join the South African one, including chef Nesbitt Nhambura. The success of this restaurant owes much to the interest and active presence of the owners. The apparent style of the food is almost classic-hotel, but a glance at the plate tells you it’s more special than that, with loads of attention to detail and care. Vegetables are served with all the main courses, but they are really delicious in their own right. Butternut is honey caramelised, peas are garden fresh and baby onions glazed in wine. Steak tartare here is famously fresh and faultless, and includes the added enjoyment of seeing it prepared by a maestro at your table. Tableside attention is another key Wombles feature. People have questions and the staff have knowledge, not only about food. There are some real retro items on the menu like avocado ritz but, after half a century, this one and the old version wouldn’t recognise each other. The beautifully fresh, homemade, slightly alcoholic sauce and the freshly crisped prawns will convince you of that in no time. You have to try the perfect rumps, sirloins and fillets. The chef’s fillet on the bone is so popular they can never risk taking it from the menu.
There is always a tenderly treated dish of venison, like the springbok shanks, interestingly delivered with stewed fruits and green peppercorns. There is very often a sophisticated duck dish (for example one roasted in madeira and red wine) as well as servings of salmon and quail. Vegetarians can choose between excellent starters and delicious, freshly-prepared vegetable pastas. The desserts also fall into the classic domain, but always served with something extra. A crème caramel has an extravagant whorl of spun golden caramel atop, and custardy ice creams in seasonal fruit flavours are clustered on a fresh fruit coulis, sometimes with violets. The avid bookings and satisfied guests testify to the willingness to pay fine dining prices for this food.
The wine list features all the grands of the local scene, as well as up an coming producers from the Swartland and Greyton. The markup is good and the list offers good value for money. There’s also a wine list for by the glass pairings. Sommelier and manager Graeme Marshall really knows his stuff. Fine whiskeys and brandies also come into the limelight here.
The service here will outshine most fine-dining restaurants. Many of the staff are ‘lifers’ as in many French and Italian restaurants.
The wide, cool verandah has that old colonial feel, without the silliness of game lodge décor. The interior of the restaurant is grand; the outside area features a bamboo garden with chairs and tables around a boma fireplace.
Note there is a minimum of R250 per person.
If the carnivorous side of life is what you’re after, Wombles will see to your culinary needs with a friendly smile in a plush and quaint setting. It’s the kind of place where avocado still appears alongside a decent fillet and the word 'Ritz' on the menu adds a hint of old school glitz.
The guys at Wombles know their winning formula and stick to what works for them. Starters include escargots drenched in a garlic, lemon and parsley butter, and 'Gypsy Spits', which are button mushrooms wrapped in bacon, crisped under the grill and topped with garlic butter. The glamorous avocado Ritz really impresses, with its sliced avo, plump prawns and homemade cocktail mayonnaise – this must be what the 70s tasted like! For those who can handle something a little more indulgent, the marrow bones looked delicious.
For mains, steak is what’s recommended by Wombles staff and anybody who's eaten here before. A choice of fillet, rump or sirloin is on offer, along with a host of classic sauces. (The 200g sirloin took my fancy for R140). The master of the grill knows a thing or two about how to cook steak. You can choose from sauces like black or green peppercorn, monkey gland, mushroom, blue cheese, Dijon mustard, cheese, barbecue or crispy garlic, all for R30. No good steak is complete without a side or two, so decide between chips, mashed potato, pap, roasted rosemary potato wedges and roasted sweet potato (R15 each), or add other classics like fried mushrooms, onion rings or creamed spinach (R32).
The steak tartare is another winner. All necessary elements make their appearance in this classic dish – egg yolk, capers, chopped onions, anchovies and perfectly seasoned, chopped, raw fillet (R180). Venison, a range of chicken dishes and pasta are also on offer, including one or two options for vegetarians.
Sticking to the retro theme, the dessert menu offers crêpe Suzette, which are light and airy, simmered in a fresh orange and Cointreau sauce, then flambéed with brandy and served with vanilla ice cream.
There’s a good selection of wines, including wines by Rupert & Rothschild and Babylonstoren. Some whiskies, cognacs and dessert wines are also available.
The spot is run by knowledgeable service staff, who’re on hand to encourage good wine pairings with the meal, and make sure that the table gets to share something sweet to finish off the evening properly.
Over-sized armchairs, candelabras and Colonial décor add a plush, old-school feel to the restaurant.
Nothing quite beats sitting on their patio with something cold in hand on a warm summer’s evening.
This establishment is well located with a good warm feel. Steaks were great and service was good. The wine menu is disappointing for a fine establishment although there are some gems available. The "wine" glasses are more like beer glasses - completely unaccpetable!
Fantastic food. Excellent service. Great ambiance. Wombles definitely stepped up their game since our last visit about 2 years ago.
What a fabulous time we had. Thank you team-Wombles. I can definitely recommend!
Beautiful restaurant, attentive service and great atmosphere, but the food is disappointing, found it very bland and not good value for money at all.
What an experience! It's like stepping into a completely different world...excellent, attentive service and exquisite setting. Yes, the food might be "middle of the road" fare, but my friend's sirloin was grilled to perfection and my duck l'orange memorable. Good starters as well, and the home-made rosewater-chocolate-nougat-turkish delight won hands down! By 20h00 the place is packed, which is no surprise, even on a Thursday evening. Will return with my wife soon!
Lovely atmosphere and setting, service slick but oddly cold, and the food was so disappointing - mediocre at best! The sirloin steak, ordered rare, was about 80mm thick and cooked well past medium, criminal for a restaurant that bills itself as a steakhouse. The meal was priced far beyond its quality.
My husband and I celebrated our 8th wedding anniversary at Wombles last night, and I would just like to say a very big warm thank you for making it such a special evening. The food, service and special touches (rose petals on our table) were lovely! Truly one of our favourite restaurants! Thank you.
What a nice experience! We decided Tuesday afternoon to go to the restaurant, phoned, found out that it was fully booked, but Graeme phoned me with a spot just before 8. We were greeted at the door on our names, taken to a table with very comfy chairs, had a bottle of De Toren Fusion V, and the most beautiful steaks ever! The place has a great atmosphere, service was excellent! Definitely a 10!
Never disappoints. Great service, outstanding food quality and reasonably priced wines. The Veal Chop special is legendary! Atmostphere can be a little stuffy, but great all the same.
Lovely food, excellent selection of wines, attentive service and a timeless ambience. A very enjoyable experience.
A mind and tummy blowing experience - a complete gastronomic delight.