Lamb ribs are so worth the trip to Fat Butcher in Stellenbosch


THE first time we went to The Fat Butcher was when we stayed at Roosenwijn Guest House, which just happens to be across the road from where I stayed this time, and a block from last time’s accommodation. Which means the restaurant was close to all those places.

In July, The Fat Butcher wasn’t open for sit-down dining, only operating as, well, a butchery. When I was there earlier in September 2020, it had been serving diners for just five days. It’s a beautiful venue, with a courtyard out back, illuminated by strings of lights, which grow prettier as dusk settles into darkness.

Protocols includes temperature-taking at the entrance, and a QR code for the standard form with all your details and sworn declaration you have not been coughing, or had shortness of breath. The body aches and pains question gets me every time though; at my age, I develop those simply by sleeping wrong.

Inside, at my corner table with my back to the wall – my perfect spot in any public setting; we can talk about trust issues another time – I found a napkin with three more QR codes for the main menu and beverages, wine, and dessert. These open links in your phone’s browser. The waiter attending me was Guiem, who explained the stylish touch-sensitive sanitiser on the table, and which deposited a generous amount of foam on my hand every time I tried to move it until he turned it off. There are far worse things in this life than having excess sanitiser on one’s paws.

The wine list is massive and excellent, and if you want to save time, the by-the-glass selection is right at the end. You simply cannot go wrong with Alto Rouge, and when in Stellenbosch it’s great to drink the wines of the region.

Starter options include things like bone marrow, steak tartare, beef short rib, skaapstertjies, and beef cheeks. Mains cover many beef steaks, obviously, as well as pork ribs, burgers, lamb, seafood…there’s an oxtail dish, veal schnitzel. chicken, and two types of risotto – one with butternut and sage, the other with mushroom. Those who don’t eat meat can have a couple of salads but that’s about it; frankly, this is not the place to come if you’re vegetarian.

A long-time enthusiastic devourer of steak, I’ve found for some reason lately, I’m not enjoying it as much as I used to. No need for concern. I wasn’t sure whether to have the oven-braised lamb shank with port jus, parmesan mash and pumpkin fritter or the lamb ribs. Guiem was of the opinion I should go for the shank although he allowed that the ribs were good too. After some discussion, he said he would ask the kitchen. As it turned out, the majority suggested the ribs, so ribs it was.

Described  on the menu simply as “tender lamb ribs, falling off the bone, served with herb salsa”, it was not a decision I regretted for a moment, and they lived up to their advertising perfectly. Those bones literally slid out of the meat and it’s not a stretch to say the meal was sheer perfection. There is a choice of sides, and the fresh, crisp salad was the ideal foil for the rich fattiness of the meat.

I’m so glad I discovered The Fat Butcher, and will insist on eating there on all my future visits to Stellenbosch. For more information, click here.


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