THERE is something so comforting about a restaurant that doesn’t change its menu. The ones that create new seasonal dishes certainly have their place, and I love them too, but when I visit one of Giorgio Nava’s restaurants (past and present) it’s good to know I can always have the butternut ravioli.
This last Saturday, we went to Carne On Kloof, where Giorgio remarked that we have known each other for 23 years. That’s quite a history, dating all the way back to Rhodes House, the renowned 95 On Keerom where I had “my” table and Giorgio decided what I would eat; Carne SA, 95 At Parks, and of course, Carne On Kloof. I’ve even been most recently to Botanik Social House in Queen Victoria Street for a party. Yes, me. I went out at night. It was before Uber stole the cash in my Uber Wallet when I changed phones, but that’s another story. Caffe Milano in Heritage Square is a bit harder to find online but it’s a tiny place in the city centre to get a coffee and an Italian pastry.
Giorgio has weathered the past three years, although not entirely unscathed. 95 On Keerom closed, sadly. 95 At Parks has some of the familiar dishes, and pizzas. Oh my word, pizzas. I’ve had the fried dough one and have never forgotten it so I think a visit there is foreseen in the not too distant future.
Carne On Kloof, like Carne SA, specialises in steak – meat really. It’s in the name. Both restaurants have the same menu and same prices so you can decide what sort of ambience and vibe you want. I’d say the Kloof Street one is a bit more casual; I’ve been a frequent diner at both. We went for an early dinner, with the intention of not having to drive home in the dark because I have that condition with my eyes that makes all the lights so pretty but it’s not exactly ideal for road safety.
The menu of course is as familiar as it ever was so I knew right away I would start with the butternut ravioli with ricotta, topped with sage butter and parmesan cheese. Not only do the dishes remain a constant but so too does the execution thereof. If you had butternut ravioli last week, or last year, it’s still going to be just as good. My friend ordered the L’Insalata di Manzo – salad of seared beef, rocket, cherry tomato, radish, cucumber and
balsamic vinegar dressing to begin.
For our main courses we both had beef flat iron steak, aka butlers’ steak, feather blade steak or oyster blade steak, a cut with the grain from the chuck, or shoulder of the animal. Carne offers this, as well as some other less-seen cuts like hanger and spider steaks, which is great because they shouldn’t be overlooked and have great merit when cooked correctly. The usual suspects – rump, sirloin (on or off the bone), fillet, ribeye – are available, as is the famous La Fiorentina – 1.2 kg beef T-bone (ostensibly for two although I used to know somebody who would have it for one), as are lamb, game, pork, chicken…and a burger.
The flat iron was prepared medium rare (and I had to smile at the menu description of temperature which said “medium well: Dull Pink Centre, and well done: Dull Gray, because that sounds so unappetising and shouldn’t even be allowed) and sliced. We ordered sides of spinach and delicious little Le Patate Fritte Carne – fried baby potatoes. Our waiter explained they were cooked, squashed flat, then fried until crispy and that’s exactly what they were, and so so good. There is a choice of classic steak sauces from which we chose salsa verde and mushroom and brandy. a few simple elements, prepared perfectly: it’s what I love most about food in general and Italian food specifically.
Naturally, we could not leave without having the famous II Fondente al Cioccolato – dark Italian hot chocolate fondant with a delectable liquid chocolate centre. You can get a version of this dessert at many restaurants now but it was Giorgio who paved the way when he introduced it all those decades ago. Again, this was precisely as it has alway been, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side.
I applaud the consistency, and the reliability. Grazie mille, Giorgo, don’t ever stop.
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