Any activity on Bree Street gets tongues wagging, and when we heard that food importer Rialto would be opening a three-storey restaurant complex on the Mother City’s most buzzing restaurant road, we were understandably excited.
After teasing us with laid tables on the street-side deck for several days, Locanda, the relaxed Italian bistro that occupies the ground floor, finally opened on Monday. Unable to contain themselves, Eat Out’s resident redheads popped in for breakfast.
(Our waiter tells us there are plans to open an Asian-Italian tapas bar on the second floor in the next six weeks or so, and a fine dining restaurant on the top floor after that.)
It’s only day two, but we are happy to report that the eggs Benedict is exemplary. It comes with an option of salmon or Italian pancetta – we recommend you go with the latter. Fried to a crisp, it’s rich and salty and pairs beautifully with the creamy hollandaise, pleasingly oozing poached eggs, spinach and rye bread.
The croissant with scrambled eggs and chorizo is a well balanced bite of golden eggs and spicy sausage, all brought together by the buttery pastry. It’s a winner, but a pricier option than your average breakfast roll.
There are a few other variations on the egg, charcuterie and toast theme plus one fruit-and-muesli bowl to round off the breakfast offering.
Locanda’s lunch menu offers baguette paninis (R60 to R85) and toasted wraps (R45 to R65) loaded with Italian and French ingredients (buffalo mozzarella, prosciutto cotto, brie). There are also cheese and/or meat platters (from R80 to R300), boasting toothsome treats like mortadella, Italian gorgonzola, Milanese salami, green olives and caper berries.
The dinner menu (also available at lunch) includes options like beef or octopus carpaccio, authentic pastas and risotto. We return to try the beef burger with sriracha mayo, which is flavourful, thanks to the inclusion of pork mince in the patty. We also try the saltimbocca – veal with prosciutto crudo, sage, white wine and polenta, which is rich and toothsome. Our neighbouring table – positioned very close to us – report that they are very happy with their seared tuna, which comes very lightly seared and beautifully pink inside.
As it’s 9am on our first visit, we sip on tall fresh juices. The Ginger Sling with ginger, apple, lemon and carrot is particularly refreshing, and the Immune Booster, with beetroot and baby spinach added to the abovementioned base, is a dark gem-coloured glass of goodness. The coffee is strong and good and the restaurant is open from 6.30am on weekdays – good news for Bree Street early birds.
Locanda’s team of waitrons is newly trained – in Italian pronunciation, too, according to our waiter – and full of keenness and energy. A couple of front-of-house managers are very visible and welcoming. It’s fun to see the chefs bustle about in the open kitchen in their smart striped aprons.
A small deck offers what will likely be sought-after tables on Bree Street. Glass doors fold back to reveal a light, breezy interior fitted with hip angular wooden furniture, cream walls and pretty globe lighting. Tiles feature on some table tops, mirroring the sleek, edgy feel. A glass-fronted cheese and charcuterie room conjures images of bygone butchers and cheese-makers, and paper tablemats educate diners about some of the products Rialto imports. It can become a little noisy inside when busy – especially as some tables are very close together. Perhaps some sound proofing would be a good idea. In the mean time, the deck is a great option.
As a rule, we love local. We love all our local charcuterers, our local cheese fermenters, and our local beer, cider and gin makers. And at first glance, a restaurant whose claim to fame is imported ingredients might strike the wrong note.
But even we have to admit that there’s something glorious about a hunk of nutty Parmigiano Reggiano – which necessarily comes from Italy, thanks to a protected designation of origin – or a piece of expertly crafted Italian pancetta. And as the Euro is a little strong for our tastes right now, we’re quite pleased to have Locanda transport a little bit of Italian flavour to Bree Street.
Eat Out critics dine anonymously and pay for their meals in full. Read our editorial policy here.