Diane de Beer
What strikes you when glancing at a Zest menu is the innovation, ingenuity and individuality. From the Thai seafood bisque starter with avocado ice cream to the chicken breast and prawn satay served with basmati rice, broccoli, corn, mushroom and peanut nibs or braised beef short rib on the bone complemented by French green beans and mixed pulses, with a concluding sweet decadence of dark chocolate fondant and peanut butter ice cream. Every dish is about the contrasting flavours and textures and it says everything when the choice is made this difficult. It’s pure classical food, cleverly conceived.
The chef patron is hands-on with the selection of wine. Every dish on the menu has a wine pairing, so you can opt to do that kind of meal. The accent is on wines that are meant to be drunk now.
The premises is intimate and the approach hands-on.
It has a cosy yet chic feel, with a gentle buzz that's always part of the dining experience. It’s like stepping into a friend’s stylish home.
They are thinking of larger premises, but that's still in the future.
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The menu conveniently gives one price per category for starters, mains and desserts (with some small variations here and there). Seared duck livers with Turkish fig paste and an apple tarte tatin, or roasted beetroot with goats cheese dressing, honey, prosciutto, basil, nuts, balsamic cream and micro greens are some of the four or five starter options available. Other starters include Thai red curry butternut soup, which might also arrive at your table as an amuse bouche. Main courses include grilled Moroccan marinated lamb leg with tabbouleh, courgette, hummus, tzatziki and a rosemary jus; beef & duck breast (should you prefer the confit option, there will be an additional cost), the beef shin braised with chocolate and pulled, served with a green pea smear. The bubble & squeak and carrot brunoise deserves a mention; while the slow-cooked five spice pork belly with ginger, coconut milk and sweet potato purée is a total must. Other main course options include seabass; Thai monkfish escalope; Loch Duart salmon; a chicken breast supreme or classic beef fillet with Béarnaise, demi glace, Mediterranean vegetables and fried onions. This restaurant serves some of the best sweets around, which is quite easy to sample by ordering a combination of three desserts to share – options include baked white chocolate and honeycomb cheesecake; lemon freak (burnt lemon tart, Zest creamy yoghurt, lemon confit and orange marmalade ice cream); a decadent crème brûlée or a dark chocolate torte. If you are not keen to share your sweet treats, order a simple bowl of three home-made ice creams.
A large cupboard lines one wall of the dining area, and apart from serving as a waiter station with additional glassware and paraphernalia, it also houses glassware and a good part of the restaurant’s wine stock. The staff members are well versed in the wines and the service thereof, so one is in good hands when it comes to selecting and savouring a good wine. MCC’s include interesting wines such as Groote Post Rosé and Nitida The Matriarch White, Saronsberg Brut or Nicolas Krone Marque 1. White wines are sourced from the likes of Jordan, Buitenverwagting and Nitida. Reds may come from Hartenberg, Vrede en Lust and Muratie.
Zest appears to have a regular flock of young, able and energetic wait staff from the surrounding area, so chances are good that regulars would already know them well or get to know them over time – adding to the welcoming atmosphere and continuity that one expects from a neighbourhood bistro. The Brooklyn theatre is close by, so often tables are packed by 18:30 and vacated again by 20:00, meaning that there is a healthy flow of energy and a good flow of tables.
The inside dining area is quite small, tastefully decorated and features nice touches such as exposed rafters. Easy listening music enhances rather than distracts from the food and the overall experience. In the warmer months, there is a lovely deck outside where one can enjoy the balmy Highveld evenings. Tables are set with quality white linen napery and wheat coloured runners, contributing to the feeling of understated elegance. In true bistro style, enticing smells often waft through from the kitchen to stimulate one’s appetite.
Chef Sydney Cousins has been at the helm of Zest for more than 13 years, consistently serving delicious fare to a discerning clientele and gradually building the reputation here as one of Pretoria’s best value for money restaurants. Over various visits in the past we observed that people eating at Zest invariably know somebody at a neighbouring table, not only demonstrating six degrees of separation in practice but also that Zest Bistro might just be the best kept secret that everybody loves to talk about.
Diane de Beer
Husband and wife team Sidney and Anchen Cousins march to their own drum. Those who have discovered their magic are loyal and regular diners who follow a menu that’s small, yet changes regularly. The secret lies in their interesting combinations, like the buffalo-style mozzarella starter with Himalayan pink salt, grilled aubergines, capers, kudu carpaccio and gooseberry smear. Another unexpected and delicate starter is the cauliflower and almond soup.
As for the mains, relish dishes like the grilled Moroccan marinated leg of lamb with rosemary potato risotto, aubergine and onion pulp, and cumin roasted carrots. A slow-cooked, five-spice pork belly with gorgonzola and pear risotto and a sweet sauce will lead your thoughts to dessert; this part of the menu presents difficult choices like their burnt lemon tart (a standard favourite they dare not tamper with) and a dark chocolate torte with peanut butter ice cream. This is the kind of place that always surprises, with a menu that’s fresh and original. It’s about clever thinking and crafty execution, and the perfect balance between quality and a bit of adventure.
Chef Cousins is a wine aficionado and likes supporting the smaller and younger wineries. The wine list is constantly changing as he travels to seek out the new.
It’s a family-run establishment, so it’s all hands on deck, by a watchful staff who really know their stuff.
Even though Zest bistro has become part of the city’s dining repertoire, it still manages to feel like a hidden secret. The interior remind of a classy winery, with dark tables and chairs, linen tablecloths, glass and silver completing the picture. There’s also an enclosed outside dining area, and the eatery has a gentle and warm buzz that makes for a very comfortable experience.
Keep an eye out for their regular food and wine pairings.
Average food, but the price charged certainly is not average. Will not recommend it.
Won't see us again soon. Poor service and overpriced.
This was my second time at Zest Bistro and it was even better than the first. It is a small romantic setting and the owner takes absolute pride in each plate of food that he serves. The taste of each dish was unique and new to me. Thanks for the great over all experience!
Unassuming venue which makes the experience all the more delightful! The Morrocan lamb was pure bliss, and the Asian inspired pork was a blend of great flavours. Baked Camembert with nuts, berries and honey finished off one of the most memorable meals we've had in a long while. Service is good and sitting on the terrace on a lovely highveld day is always a treat. We'll be back!
Great food! Have a look at the menu on their website, www.zestbistro.co.za
I was pleasantly surprised by this restaurant. It has a nice quiet intimate atmosphere, ideal for romantic dinners or informal visits with friends. They are reasonably priced and the service was very attentive. The food was of exceptional quality and very unique. We enjoyed our evening tremendously!