The name for some may conjure up a rough, tough, smokefilled, meat-orientated eatery. But from the decor to the wine, Charcoal Dining is a relaxing place: a quiet, as yet unknown restaurant perfect for a date night or an evening out.
The name in fact reflects the lush charcoal exterior of the building, a converted townhouse complete with little outdoor tables under a towering oak – tables that, on summer evenings, are surely going to be in hot demand. The fact that there are no other restaurants nearby means there is ample parking and nothing else to clash with the mood.
The entrance is a set of aged and worn barn doors, a statement piece that belies a surprising interior: small and intimate but not cramped. The artwork is solely photography, yet its variety implies otherwise. From wallpaper-sized pieces to smaller prints on metal and wood, there is plenty to catch the eye. All artworks are for sale and change with the seasons. Currently, Charcoal Dining is exhibiting Guy Neveling, Francois Robert, Stephan Jouhoff and Oliver Heinemann. I particularly enjoyed Heinemann’s landscape view of Taipei, and Jouhoff’s infared image of a desert road in the USA.
The small menu reflects the variety and mood of the owner and chef Roy van Litsenborgh, and changes daily according to the availability of fresh, organic ingredients. On this particular occasion the selection ranged from Lamb Ragout (R 149), Homemade Gnocchi (R 99) to Grilled Ostrich Medallions (R 139) and Seared Tuna (R 149). My partner and I chose to start with a delectable Warm Mediterranean Salad (R 59) and Homemade Fettucine with Prawns, Kingklip and Velouté (R 69). Perfect in size and taste. The sundried tomatoes and pine nuts gave the salad a tangy, textured punch, while the homemade fettucine’s texture ensured the seafood took centre stage.
For mains, we chose the Seared Tuna with Avocado, Lime, Chilli Salsa, Olives, Anchovies, Cherry Tomatoes and a Rocket Salad (R 149) and Portuguese Style Grilled Kingklip with Potato Wedges and Crisp Steamed Vegetables (R 149). These were flavourful, and thoroughly enjoyable to eat, with nothing to nitpick about. The tuna was adeptly cooked and the lime worked very well with the chilli salsa. It was a lovely melody in the mouth, with sharp notes and soothing pauses. The kingklip was crisp, spicy and almost juicy, the variety of crisp textures only adding to the wholesome flavours.
To round off a filling meal, dessert was a tough choice. Again the options were limited, but it finally came down to the Belgian Waffle with Hazelnut Syrup and Homemade Organic Chocolate Ice Cream (R 59) or the Strawberry Pavlova with Creme Anglaise, Whipped Cream and Chocolate Sauce (R 59). The pavlova won by a tiny margin and we were ecstatic with our choice. A beautiful plate with granadilla and raspberry coulis outlined by the chocolate embracing the pavlova. The meringue was light and the strawberries heavenly.
Charcoal Dining is a fantastic restaurant for the seeker of intimacy and relaxed dining. There is nothing pretentious or forced about this restaurant, where van Litsenborgh himself will come out for a chat. This new place is one to watch.