Aubergine Review

site: aubergine.co.za

I’ll keep the link there. For easy reference. To find the bit where they say you can only bring 2 of your own bottles. If you can. .

So, while I’ve been beaten there, no harm in regrouping and starting from the beginning:

The noble cause that is this club takes us to lots of very posh restaurants. It’s the paycheck celebration event, spending money is not the issue – good food, good ambiance with good friends is. We have been doing this for 10 months now, and – as jess said last night – we have either been:

  1. extraordinarily lucky in our choices
  2. living in a city with examplary, wonderful, restaurants where nothing ever goes wrong
  3. been total, easy to please lushes (worry), or
  4. had this coming to us.

d it is.

The first sign of worry was the hushed atmosphere, followed abruptly by the “only 2 bottles of own wine” rule* (not mentioned on their website in any obvious way). The “tap water, please” clearly wrote us off in the minds of our waiters as the “was McDonald’s fully booked, then?” crowd. It’s not just that it’s difficult to get actual tap water (ordered deliberately, for reasons of environmental consciousness – I repeatedly fantasised, over the course of the evening, of having had the foresight to bring a shiny visiting-card sized printed note with me denouncing the bottled water business in order to bring theĀ  waiting staff in line), it’s the clear downgrading in terms of respect in the waiter’s eyes that bothered.

The food, which could have redeemed this all, was not quite there. We invented a bunch of rating factors on our way out, and here are some i can recall, with my proposed scores:

  • Atmosphere: 6
  • Staff: 2
  • Food: 7
  • Value for money: 2

It could appear that we are simply not used to nouvelle-sized and intended portions, but to that i say “Ginja“! Which has been our best eat so far and is in exactly in the same thrust as Aubergine, but scores 10/10/9/8 on the same scale.

So, the food:

Pros:

  • the tiny little cold cucumber soup and the sorbet we got between courses. That was lovely, interesting flavours – the soup had a goats cheese and parma ham floater (better than it sounds) which made the whole thing lovely. The sorbet was apple/mint, which works.
  • The duck. Ask Extemp. That was good, unusual, curried duck. Mmmhm.
  • the Asparagus+tuna+Parma ham starter, which was a good balance of flavours and worked well.
  • Starters, for those interested, come in at R75-R100 each, which means value for money is difficult. They are tiny, but once again – a good place will do tiny but fill you up with intense flavour. This one fell short.

The not-good-enough:

  • the tiny, expensive steak was tough. I will (excuse the terrible focus on money here, but I breathe slowly when scuba diving to save money) pay R165 for a palm-sized steak (see Tokara, for example), but It Was Tough. No redeeming features.
  • The Tiger Prawn starter. R95, because of the rare Dwarf Tiger Prawns they have to catch for it.
    On Mars.
  • I vaguely remember the EL calling his rabbit “anonymous”. Or was it “generic”? Mind, addled.

We forewent deserts, on account of having run out of wine, patience, and the ability to give them any more money.

So, I do think they have a different “experience” planned for us. The key to that seems to be their extensive winelist**, which their ice-queen-sommelier explains to you on a sip-by-sip basis

(literally:

people at the next table: *sip wine*.

sommelier: *run* Can you feel the peachstones? don’t they just taste like summer? on a raft? Can you hear the little fishes?

people: *nod vigorously*

little fishes: *sploosh*

sommelier: *sidles off*

people at next table: *sip wine*

sommelier: *returns triumphant* note how it develops! Those fishes! Gone! Now, with the rising temperature and … global warming, it’s all … nutmeg! and polar bears! taste the bear? Earthy!

Bear: Raaa!

Fishes: *shuffle off*)

i guess we missed out.

______________________
* yes, 3 between 4 people seeeeeeeems like a lot, but who are we kidding? and it’s not about the amount, it’s about the restrictions.

** ooh, they had a transparent wine fridge. Which glowed. In slowly-changing, neon colours. Not redeeming.

3 thoughts on “Aubergine Review”

  1. Actually I think b is not far off. Sure, there is the occasional dud (evidently), but CT restaurants as a whole are outstandingly, world-beatingly excellent.

    I say this as someone who has gotten heartily sick of being told how great London is for dining out when frankly, I am used to better.

  2. *deep breath, begin rant*
    [I’ve highlighted key points for those who wish to skim read :-D .
    ROFLMAOBBQ @ the fishies, Jo!]

    In comparisons with Ginja definitely Aubergine definitely comes off the loser.
    With a capital Loo.

    • My biggest problem was the attitude of the waiting staff.
      When the waiter came back and looked down his nose at us and asked:
      “Do you have any questions about the menu?”
      it really felt like he was offering to explain the big words for us.
      Compare this to the guy we had at Ginja (David?) who used exactly the same words but pitched it much more nicelyer.

      Also: how many waiting staff does one table need?
      We must have seen about six different people.
      We, the SC club, decided that the ones that scuttled to and fro from our table dishing out the food and clearing the plates away were kept locked under the stairs somewhere in the restaurant.

      The lady at the door was nice enough, but seemed out of place.
      We decided she was sneaking the aforementioned slaves scraps of food to keep them going.
      Also – she smiled. Did anyone else notice that none of the other staff smiled?

    • I also found that speed of the service was a bit slow.
      We waited ages after the starters had gone.
      And the bread. Dagnammit, how hard can it be to be bring bread in a timely fashion.
      We came in, sat down, had some wine, scared off the people at the table next to us, had some more wine, had new people arrive at the table next to us, they order wine, they got bread, we had some more wine, then we got bread.
      I was about to call the waiter over and ask him to take away the mound of butter.

    • Also, from our “things that make us laugh at the time and forget to blog about later (although obviously not this one since: here it is” department: inventing new swear words.
      Get snibbed!
      Rumour has it that the table next to us was eavesdropping and chuckling.

    • The BYO wine issue was a pain.
      If you’ve got the cheek to charge R50 for corkage, it’s a bit off to also say you can only have one bottle.
      They weren’t happy to let us drink two whole bottles of our own wine, but they were very happy to charge us R100 for the corkage!
      The main problem was that it was handled so badly, and it was right at the beginning of the meal, so it soured the evening right from the get go.

    I was chatting about this with Jimbob and he says he’s been there before with Architect boss and other Archies, and that he had a good experience there, and that boss man goes there quite regularly and likes it a lot.
    I’m wondering if it’s a bit like the freemasons.
    I think that because we’re new there, and we didn’t get introduced (or, better, brunged there) by an existing secret-handshake-knowing member, we basically weren’t welcome.

    Interesting how this one bad experience has made us write lots, but we were relaitvely quiet on the good ones, no?

  3. I find it interesting that none of us have actually talked about the food much, it being basically overwhelmed by the negative experience. There were some good things about the food. The bread, when it finally arrived, was excellent – the wholewheat onion rolls were delicious. Likewise the iced cucumber soup, which, note to self, I seriously have to try and make sometime, and the apple/mint palate cleanser.

    I got incredibly lucky with my personal food choices, both the starter and the main were very good – unlike everyone else, whose experiences seem to have been uniformly meh (would love some details, actually). I have to say, though, I think I ordered the aubergine souffle mostly because it was the restaurant signature dish and by that stage I was desperately and subconsciously trying to curry favour with the management. Sigh. It was very good, though – very light, frothy aubergine with a centre of melted goat’s milk cheese.

    The duck was lovely – basically curried, with a sort of blackened spice crust, and falling off the bone. Surprisingly good flavour combination, actually, and not what one expects with duck.

    I have to say, the various sauces and reductions and what have you were good, but not as innovative and flavour-explosive as the Ginja versions.

    In fact, even if you can find it they won’t say you can only bring two of your own bottles. They’ll say you can only bring one of your own bottles for a table of four (the sommelier said that explicitly when she arrived to chastise us). The second bottle was a great and grudging concession. Ptooey.

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