Father-and-daughter team Wehrner and Daniela Gutstadt have a philosophy that’s inspired by nature. All meat is free-range, sourced directly from farms and butchered in their own facilities, sauces are made from scratch, and many of the ingredients are grown in the garden on site. The menu covers salads and bowls, pasta and risotto, soup and sandwiches, gourmet burgers, and mains. If that sounds a bit straightforward, how about compost consommé with bread-and-ham dumplings and herb oil, roast lamb sandwich on home-made ciabatta, or the kabeljou tagliatelle. Meaty mains are mostly cooked in the Josper oven to lend extra-tasty smokiness and tenderness, often with heirloom vegetables appearing alongside. The short rib bibimbap, with beautifully juicy braised free-range beef, sticky rice, home-made kimchi, ribbons of cucumber, shaved radishes and a fried duck egg, is a rich and delicious taste adventure. Accompaniments to the dishes show the attention to detail here: caramelised whisky onions; home-made breads, pickles and mayo; smoked tomato relish. For dessert, the offering is no less exciting. Try your best to choose between a selection of top local cheeses, a date-butterscotch tart, home-made ice cream waffles, lavender crème brûlée or malva pudding.
A comprehensive list spans numerous wine varietals with plenty of options under each. Cocktails are made with fresh herbs such as basil and geranium. There are also craft beers, spirits, coffees and creative hot drinks, with some tipples to keep things even more interesting, such as green tea kombucha.
Professional and friendly.
The section with the bar that overlooks the terrace and garden is lighter and more bustling, but if you’re keen on seeing how things work behind the scenes (or just admiring the beautiful produce and products on offer), find a spot in the larger double-volume indoor section. Wooden tables with upholstered chairs are smart and comfortable. Before or after lunch, be sure to peruse the aisles of beautiful jars and gleaming bottles of sauces, spices and ingredients. Fridges of free-range meat and veg mean you can stock up for the week ahead. Just for a moment, indulge your dream kitchen fantasy by imagining owning the extravagantly priced mini and giant copper pots on display at the entrance.
Exciting food (and food shopping) you wouldn’t find anywhere else in the area.
We went for breakfast which was good but not spectacular. However, what really caught our eye on the menu was the shoulder of lamb roast which feeds up to eight people - ideal for family celebrations in a lovely setting. A bit out of the way but well worth the visit. We'll be back for the next family birthday !
We went for Sunday lunch with friends. While the food is good, the service leaves much to be desired. It seems most of the service staff are either new or untrained as even the most basic things seemed to be challenge.
My worst service experience of 2017!
We had lunch there on a Friday and then bought some stuff to take with us on for the weekend.
The yoghurt (at R51 for a small tub) and biscuits were well past their sell by date. Normally, I wouldn't have driven back all the way the next day to bring this to the attention of the manager but I did because this has become our regular stop for eats and some wine en route Harties for the weekend. Also, we'd bought some fois some time earlier and that was also expired.
So I returned the next day with the expired goods. I got this from management:
"oh. it happens sometimes with fresh produce" I said "should you not just apologize and find a way to compensate me for this mess?"
Management and staff refused to apologize and eventually gave me a voucher to be used in their own store again! What a joke! So I should buy MORE frot stuff? Eventually they gave me cash back.
I will never spend a cent there again. Shocking service.
Culinary Table: Not With a Bang but With a Whimper
My friend returns to the table looking a little harassed.
‘That lady at the till told me they prefer for customers not to take photos,’ she says. I’m mildly shocked because why wouldn’t they want customers to take photos of their wonderfully unique establishment? In an age of social media, customers posting photos of a restaurant online is a good thing, surely?
Culinary Table makes quite an impact as soon as you walk through the doors. It’s a culinary equipment store / deli / farm-to-table style restaurant with plenty to feast your eyes (and stomach) upon. The huge, open-plan dining area has tables scattered about surrounded by a cookbook library, a gorgeous little imported and local food store and an admirable deli (you can get fantastic, free range meat and dairy, and freshly baked bread).
Outside, there is a spacious patio where you can enjoy your meal in the sun and then take a stroll through the impressive vegetable and herb garden. Even in winter, everything is in full bloom and the scent of lavender wafts invitingly through the crisp morning air. There are two goats and a scattering of chickens pecking in the dust; the owner tells us that they do use the few eggs that the chickens produce but mainly the animals are there to amuse the younger patrons of the restaurant.
Breakfast on a chilly Sunday morning is a quiet affair. Myself and two friends bravely ventured out, keen for a hike out near Magaliesburg, and decided to stop off for some sustenance beforehand. The menu promised homemade hollandaise sauce with their eggs benedict, so of course I had to order it. My ‘they said I can’t take photos’ friend opted for the savoury mince on toast topped with a fried egg. And my second dining companion, who had never before tasted hollandaise sauce (?!) also chose the eggs benedict with crispy bacon and mushrooms.
We sipped on (very decent) coffee while we waited, and discussed all of the things we wanted to buy from the deli (fat pork sausages, streaky bacon, strong, hard Italian cheese and a loaf of rye for me).
The food impressed upon first sight: generous portions and colourful, fresh ingredients will always make a good impression! And it tasted, for the most part, as good as it looked. The hollandaise, though there wasn’t much of it, was zesty and delicious, as was the crispy bacon, perfectly poached eggs and freshly baked sourdough bread. The spinach was a little cold but well-flavoured. The savoury mince on toast was full of flavour and satisfyingly warming for a winter’s day.
‘Why don’t we stop here on our way home for lunch, too?’ Dining companion 2 posited. He had been enamoured with his breakfast: another hollandaise devotee was born. We all agreed that this was a fantastic idea and booked right away with one of the many rather unenthusiastic waiters. To be honest, the service was passable at best. We had to do the ‘drowning man wave’ to get attention more than once, and the service we did receive was lukewarm and uninspired (much like the spinach that came with the eggs benedict). However, we were impressed enough by the food and atmosphere to want to give the lunch menu a go.
And oh, how I wish we hadn’t.
I’ve had lunch at Culinary Table once before and it was fantastic. I’d had one of the best bowls of gnocchi of my life, and some truly delicious roast chicken. So when we saw that the roast chicken was on the menu again (a Sunday staple here, I’m assuming) we immediately put it on our list of menu items to order. We also chose a plate of spaghetti vongole (pasta with clams cooked in white wine and garlic and served with blistered cherry tomatoes), the confit duck and the moules-frites (mussels cooked in a white wine and garlic sauce and served with parmesan fries).
The pasta was a dream. Al dente, with delicately flavoured clams and tomatoes bursting with flavour. We lamented our choice to share one plate of it, but we eagerly awaited our main courses. In the meantime, we polished off two baskets of heavenly olive bread spread with herbed butter and earthy, homemade hummus, and sipped on a lovely, very affordable glass of Opstal rose.
Once again, the service was lacking. We couldn’t find our waitress when we wanted her, and the other waiters were loath to assist us. It also took about an hour for our main courses to arrive. The restaurant was very busy, fair enough, but I try not to use that as an excuse, especially when, I assume, the chickens are roasted in advance and the mussels should take only a few minutes to steam.
Anyway, the food finally arrived (luckily we had dulled our hiking-induced hunger with the pasta and bread) and then we almost wished we had left after that last bite of pasta passed our lips. From the start, problems abounded. For R160, I got a very scrawny leg and thigh of confit duck, sorely lacking in the signature crispy skin. The accompanying lentils were truly dreadful: dry and lacking in any flavour other than a faint aftertaste of dirty dishwater. The citrus and pomegranate sauce was so sour that my mouth puckered at just a drop of it. And please, don’t get me started on the sad, wilted green beans.
The roast chicken was pleasant, but the creamy mushrooms that came with it were almost ice cold, and the other trimmings (roast potatoes, roast veg) were all mediocre at best. And finally, bringing up the rear of a race comprising of thoroughly unimpressive contenders, came the moules frites. The ‘sauce’ that the mussels came in was essentially water with a faint hint of garlic and vinegar. I brought this to the attention of a manager who informed me that ‘the sauce is supposed to be a creamy white wine sauce’. I looked at him in utter confusion and replied, ‘Yes, so where is the cream or white wine?’
He couldn’t reply.
The parmesan fries that came with the mussels were fine. Yes, fine, and nothing more.
We decided to give Culinary Table one last chance to blow us away, or at least to puff pleasantly in our general direction. We ordered a plate of assorted little pastries that apparently came with a cup of coffee. The plate of pastries arrived with no coffee in sight, but that was the least of our problems. Before us was, essentially, a variety of soils. All five of the pastries were dry, tasteless and had the consistency of the dirt that seemed to nourish the vegetables outside so well.
‘What is this supposed to be?’ Dining companion 1 asked in reference to a very sad madeleine.
‘You don’t even want to know,’ I replied as I did the ‘drowning man wave’ one last time in an effort to acquire the lacking and much needed coffee.
The eating area is spacious, light and airy, inviting and gracious. There is something reassuring about sitting next to the garden where your food is coming from, and no detail is neglected. It is an art to present mince on toast with so much flair, and anyone should at least visit once for breakfast. It is an acceptable driving distance, and a good excuse to leave early for Lanseria airport. This has become my preferred mid-way meeting point for Joburg based business. It is easy to find, suited to all tastes, affordable with no disappointing eating experiences, a good kitchen shopping spot and the parking is safe.