Four of the best-known steakhouses in Joburg sit more or less in a row on the last block of 3rd Avenue closest to 7th Avenue Parktown North, all with their own ways of producing the sizzlingest steaks. All four are regularly packed with fans, so we had a look to see who does what differently – because how else do you choose?
Wombles Steakhouse Restaurant
Starting at the bottom of the row at 178 3rd Avenue, behind high bamboo and impressive metal gates that swing open to admit the fortunate is what looks like a game lodge with a huge, cool veranda. You can tell by the quiet, swift service this is no cheap paleo joint. Internationally renowned Wombles does two things really well: attention to detail and exquisite service. That’s apart from the steaks, of course, not proposed as well done. But ask for the impossible and the head waiter will nod sagely and agree, “Of course!”
Different steak cuts are sourced from different trusty suppliers “and have to be perfect”, says manager Graeme Marshall. Order by the weight, with fillets of 260g, 500g and 700g, rumps being 350g, 650g and the popular Ikg, sirloins 200g, 350g and 500g, then T-bone and another popular order, a 700g prime rib, with any mustards and sauces (even blue cheese), and any side order. The steak of the moment is the yummy fillet-on-the bone.
There are certain quite comforting reminders of yesteryear, like three-veg being brought around to accompany your perfect steak. However, the way Wombles’ vegetables are cooked and flavoured is much more today.
Turn ‘n Tender
Next to Wombles is a small centre called Parktown Quarter, and unmissable on its street front is Turn ’n Tender. That “’n” gives the late ’70s marketing age away. Any predemocracy-age Joburg businessman still around has a Turn ’n Tender Braamfontein memory, concerning wild excesses and business deals. The Aaron brothers used to rule the steaks. Some of them still do, even though Famous Brands has bought into their steak empire. This branch is Brian Aaron’s, and Mervyn runs Turn ’n Tender’s own butchery, because the cutting and wet-aging of the meat are a vital part of their success. Anyway, it looks just so contemporary in décor and vibe, it’s impossible to slot it into the past.
The basting was always key, and still is. Then there’s the dry pepper coating or “fresh herbs ’n spices”. Steaks can be plain-grilled, of course. Fillets are 200g, 300g or 400g; and the sirloins, rumps and point rumps come in three weights as well. The most-talked-about steak at the moment is the amazingly delicious rump steak, whatever its size. Then there’s a picanha-style sirloin or point rump carved at the table, for two, the ever-popular T-bone and a juicy 350g entrecote. You can have any steak spiral-cut, Argentinean-style, with chimichurri, popular with a whole new generation of businessmen. The sides are interesting and contemporary.
Operations manager Dayne Gootte says they have to do something different, and they already do it: They enjoy and create personalised relationships with the customers, on top of serving outrageously good steaks. The manager would say, “I haven’t seen you for just over two months now – how’ve you been?”
The Foundry was always intended to be a place that sold interesting craft beers first and helluva good food with them. But, guess what, people come here for the steaks. Chef Kylie Debbo has raised the standard. Over weekends and in the evenings after work the outdoor area is packed to the edges, with groups mostly, the huge bar inside with more groups, and the interior picking up everyone else. Service is extended, stretched but surprisingly accurate. There are more noisy male groups than female, and the steaks keep coming out, with fantastic chips and really good accompaniments.
The Foundry’s steaks are trendily prepared and served. An example is a 250g fillet steak with bone marrow, pea purée, a slab of potato and Parmesan, whole spring veggies and a red wine jus. But the most demanded steak dish seems to be the steak, egg and those chips, using a 300g sirloin rubbed with chimichurri butter.
The Local Grill
Despite being 13 years old, The Local Grill has not aged – though the meat is perfectly, perfectly aged. In fact, the kitchen has taken steak pre-preparation to a kind of art and educational level. People come here to find out about the sources of beef, whether it’s grain- or grass-fed, and about beef bones – and they appreciate their steaks even more for it.
In the open, airy and clean-lined restaurant are information boards on the walls among the bovine pics. Seated are more serious families and business groups. It’s a completely different crowd from The Foundry’s next door. The many awards have not hurt, and there’s deserved respect for The Local Grill’s “beef from field to fork” ethos.
The various kinds of beef are dry- and wet-aged right here and the meal can begin with a tour of the meat locker and even of the enviable kitchen. There’s also a very serious wine aspect here, with an adjoining room for wine and meat tastings. Apart from the variable of suppliers – Chalmar, Karan and Greenfields – for ordering off the menu, the variables of weight are the usual and then there are ageing styles. When you order your steak, it’s cut for you, rubbed with spices or herbs or both, and just brushed with butter on the grill. Once diners know about it, what they seem to desire the most is The Local Grill’s well-matured dry-aged sirloin on the bone. And having your steak cooked on a salt slab is trending.
The sauces are appropriate, including béarnaise, a port-and-cranberry, and a blue cheese sauce with Peppadew. The bread is freshly baked and varied, the salads are very good and… Well, it’s no wonder they’ve won all those awards!
Please note that although we take every care to get the details right, some dishes and prices may change without our knowledge.