Dining in Joburg – Steamworks Gastropub
When I original conceived this blog, the focus was intended to be on food and the memorable to middling meals eaten with the people you encounter while traveling – hence the name of the blog, sharing a table. Between conception and execution, I moved to South Africa and fell in love with going on safari and exploring my adopted country. The focus of the blog naturally shifted from food to more of a travelogue with safari tips. And, despite living in the most cosmopolitan city on the continent, Joburg is woefully underrepresented on my site. With six uninterrupted weeks in Johannesburg, I decided it was time to start exploring Johannesburg and ticking off the restaurants I have been meaning to try.
While it’s no secret that Johannesburg lacks the sophisticated food scene that has developed in Cape Town and the surrounding wine lands, there are some notable standouts – namely Five Hundred and DW Eleven-13. For the most part, I have found most restaurants’ menus to be unimaginative, lacking in quality and variety of produce, and poorly executed. Then there is the appalling service. On more than one occasion I have had to stop the server and ask to place an order. Convinced that dining gems exist beyond my limited forays into the Johannesburg food scene (which admittedly are often for business), I am on a search for good food. This is the beginning of a series of posts about dining in Joburg.
The northern suburbs are dotted with strip malls, clogged roads, and large gated communities. It’s not the kind of place where you anticipate finding anything as quirky as a steampunk themed bar with a lengthy beer and cider menu and interesting sounding nibbles. While the location in a strip mall behind Fourways Crossing Mall – the view is of a parking lot with a busy car wash – leaves little to be desired, the interior is a touch more urban without being uber trendy and putting off the manly suburban daytime crowd it attracted while I was visiting.
I managed to eat at the Steamworks Gastropub twice in one weekend. Once for for a solo lunch after running my weekend errands and then the following day for lunch with my co-worker and his fiancé. All of us live in the neighborhood and the fact that I consent to go twice in two days and they wanted to go back for a second visit as well is a testament to this being one of the best food and drink options in Fourways.
My first visit was a bit of a disappointment one because the service was truly horrendous and because my food, although tasty, was not what I had expected. First the service. I had to flag down my waiter to order water, place my meal order, and request the check. At one point while I was ordering, he put his hand on my back which was not only highly unprofessional but almost caused me to walk out. As for the food, I ordered the pork belly burger with pickled cucumbers and chips (fries) and in my mind I was expecting a slab of pork belly dripping with hoisin sauce so I was a bit sad to see a pork burger. That being said, it was good – just not what I had expected given the menu description.
The second visit made me decide that I will return and often. Not only because it is 10 minutes from my house, but because the service was warm and attentive and the food was delicious. We ordered everything to share – an Asian inspired duck pizza with pickled ginger and loads of cilantro and a tostadas platter which consisted of two meats, guacamole, fresh cheese, adobo sauce, sour cream. For Americans craving a bit of mexican food, the tostadas platter will do in a pinch and the pizza was truly delicious. As our friendly waiter commented, the Italians would hardly call it pizza, but it is mighty fantastic. We all washed down our food with the beers on tap. I ordered an amber ale and I while I forgot to write down the brewer, I don’t think it was nearly as good as my favorite South African amber, Jack Blacks LumberJack amber ale.
The other thing that I love about eating out in South Africa, the prices. A meal for three with beer came to $40. Name a place in DC where you can get food and drink at that price. It is hard passing up sitting outside in summer, but I envision returning in winter and sitting inside which has more ambiance because of the large steampunk inspired clock behind the bar.
On another note, while I think my landscape photography leaves much to be desired, clearly my food/restaurant iPhone photos are even more horrific. Apologies if the photos don’t accurately capture the food.
*Steamworks Gastropub’s website is under construction, but they do update their FaceBook page regularly.
Check out all the good spots for our next trip.