Winter is somehow synonymous with oxtail, as the colder season fills many of us with a yearning for rich, hearty, slow-cooked and meaty meals which feed the stomach and the soul.
But oxtail is somehow not so easy to find in Johannesburg restaurants. Often when my partner and I ask for it (admittedly, he is the bigger oxtail devotee between the two of us), we are often told that the homely meal is just not that popular and has either never been on the menu or has been discontinued due to lack of popular demand.
So it was with much delight that my partner and I happened upon oxtail on the menu of the very lavish Bife on 14th restaurant. A newbie in the buzzing area of 14th Avenue, Northcliff, Bife is quite hard to miss, with its prominent glowing yellow sign atop the front of Mountain View Shopping Centre. It looks like the owners have invested quite a bit of money in the decor: the interior is tastefully decorated with exquisite attentions to detail, from the mural on the wall to the elegant cutlery and seats.
While the restaurant seems to cater for the higher end of the market, the dishes are surprisingly reasonably priced. My partner had oxtail for R180, and I had lamb shank for R139. The presentation of the meals is superb and the meats tasted like they had been slow cooked with great care. The side dishes were pleasing to the eye and taste buds: mixed vegetables for me (cauliflower, broccoli, carrots and red pepper), and creamy spinach and mashed butternut for him. The Portuguese-style oxtail also traditionally comes with white rice, so it was quite an elaborate fare that arrived at our table, leaving us feeling as though our eyes had been bigger than our stomachs. Luckily, we’d skipped starters.
Bife also has a wide-ranging drinks menu which seems the be priced as expected – neither too high nor too low. For dessert, we ordered cheesecake to share. When the dessert arrived, there was much confusion as it did not look the way we expected. While the taste was that of carrot cake, it had a fridge cheesecake-like texture which grew more delightful with each bite. We were told upon enquiring that it was a Portuguese speciality. Illuminating.
The restaurant also reportedly has live music, which we missed, unfortunately, although we could tell that they were setting up in the stage area as we were leaving. According to the hype, it’s worth going back for. Next time, I will probably order one of their juicy burgers, seafood meals, or meat combos, which are all very decently priced. For instance, you can get spare ribs and a half spring chicken for R149, lamb chops and half chicken for R154, or surf and turf (200g rump steak and calamari or five medium prawns) for the same price.
Bife on 14th is a delightful little corner to discover in Northcliff. And for these cold days and tough economic times, is certainly a welcome addition to the city’s top-drawer grills.