24 Central, 6 Gwen Lane and Fredman Drive, Sandton
I’ve heard countless wonderful reviews of Gugulethu Zuma-Ncube’s Sandton restaurant Urban Moyo – from the open and natural elements of the décor to the excitement that we finally might have an answer to African cuisine deliciously served in a fine dining experience. High praise was given, and so my expectations were quite high. But, of course, I should know better because if you get to eat at some of the country’s most celebrated restaurants on a regular basis and were raised not cooking but only tasting food made by goddesses in the kitchen – last-born luck – then it takes a lot to tickle and impress your palate.
While the décor lived up to the hype, I’m still trying to decide whether I liked the food. And I say this because it wasn’t terrible but I wasn’t greatly impressed either. I just expected more because, if there’s anything we know, then it’s how to “put our foot” into a pot. And for that I chose the Oxtail Potjie (R185), expecting it to be hearty and wholesome, the basic requirements for an oxtail dish. I was left with little to criticise and even less to praise. The meat was tender and succulent but lacked the key ingredient for what makes an oxtail dish great – an aromatic sauce. It simply didn’t hug me from the inside, like I hoped it would.
My guest, satirist Coconut Kelz, tried out the samoosas, cheese and beef, rating them one out of five because she expected a nostalgic taste experience of the cheese samoosas you could by from an aunty on the street corner that gave you the perfect mix of home (thanks to the gooey or mozzarella cheese) and guilt (because of the oil explosion you expose yourself to). Instead she had none of the fond childhood memories she thought she’d have because the cheese option was a little too artisanal and the beef samoosas tasted like they were drenched in oil a little too long and soaked it all in.
What would be something fun to play around with – and could also be dangerous – is taking a trip down its cocktail list that’s inspired by South Africa. Reflecting on and named after our diverse provinces, the cocktails are sexy, and some have an elaborate presentation. I tried out Mpumalanga, which has El Jimador Reposado tequila, Aperol, peach tea, naartjie juice and lime juice. It’s a little on the sweet side but was great to sip on slowly.
As part of the Moyo restaurant franchise, one of the greatest assets of Urban moyo is its warm and welcoming staff. They offer a kind and friendly service that makes you feel right at home. That’s enough to make me want to try out their next menu which launched earlier this week.