Thomas Maxwell Bistro

Monday, January 12th, 2015

Reviewed by Hennie Fisher

Those with a puritanical outlook on all things culinary may find some of the  flavour combinations a touch daring, but the dishes at Thomas Maxwell are well-prepared and tasty. Starters include duck and porcini pietettes (phyllo parcels with truffle porcini cream); zucchini chips and emmenthal salad with rocket and seaweed; ostrich carpaccio with red onion chutney, cactus pear jus and a blini; and it’s even possible to create your own salad from a list of vegetables and herbs (choice of six).

Daily specials may include a beetroot, ginger and star anise risotto; rabbit tortellini with feta and gorgonzola; crayfish pasta with thyme and chardonnay velouté, or a fillet of Scottish salmon with pea mash and a chermoula of ginger, coconut, lime, garlic and parsley.

Main courses are served with creamed spinach, creamed pumpkin and chips separately. Among the main options you’ll find porcini risotto; Monty’s fish cakes with wholegrain mustard; or Merguez sausage and rabbit on penne. For dessert, try the chocolate fondant with berry coulis and strawberry ice cream.

Start with the cocktail du jour, which could be something such as a coffee martini made with Patron Café. They have a separate Champagne listing that includes some fantastic choices and a great selection of MCCs. The Maxwell’s wine library offers wines of limited vintage and availability. But the nicest thing about the wine list is that there is a ‘shortened version’ for those that do not want to wade through the entire list, including such wines as De Grendel Koetshuis Sauvignon Blanc, Mullineux Kloof Street Chenin Blanc and Avondale Camissa rosè. Wine by the glass is served in a 250ml carafe.

The maître d' and waiters are obviously used to managing the demands of a packed restaurant; customers are never neglected and close attention is paid to everyone’s needs and desires. Soft light and lots of candles, decanters hanging from their own custom-made stands, beautiful parquet floors, sections of wall where the red brick shows through, large pots of lavender and a few fireplaces all contribute to a warm and welcoming atmosphere.

Over a period of ten years the restaurant has grown from one, then two, and now three adjacent shops that have interleading doors between the spaces. It is a busy, convivial space that features quirky décor touches. The first two spaces house kitchens at the back, and ambling around the restaurant one could view some of the action in the kitchen. The restaurant is located in a small street-front shopping centre behind Benmore Gardens Centre and, weather permitting, little sidewalk tables could allow you to sit outside like in a French bistro.

Thomas Maxwell Bistro offers private function facilities and hosts wine tastings and food and wine pairing dinners. They opened a daytime restaurant called the Red Rabbit in the Nicolway Centre, offering slightly more modern and accessible French-influenced food.

(July 2014)

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