Rabbit in the Moon – Illovo

One evening, whilst standing outside Turn and Tender at Thrupps Centre, my eyes were drawn to a quirky little restaurant some ways down the road. I caught a glimpse of Rabbit in the Moon (“Rabbit”) with its tented outdoor area and mentally added it to the list of restaurants to follow up on.  A little while later, I was pleasantly surprised to find a short review of this up and coming Joburg eatery in Taste Magazine. The review was nothing but complementary and we were keen to give it a go.

Before we get into the nitty gritty of what went down, let me just say that I debated for quite some time whether to write this review or not (hopefully my reasoning will become apparent as you read on). Clearly I was unable to contain myself and chose the former, so here we go.

Team:  10 eager restauranteerers arrived, 10 traumatised  ones left.

Décor:  We were seated in the small, outdoor tented area at the main table – a massive wooden dining room table in the middle of the room. The tent itself is decorated with tudor style artwork, granny’s old crockery and cutlery and a mismatch of vintage furniture. Lighting is courtesy of huge old fashioned lanterns hanging from the tent roof.  Rabbit’s décor works – it draws you in and makes you feel a little like Alice must have, after falling down the hole into wonderland.  I didn’t go inside, but I imagine the décor is along the same lines.

Vibe: Self-created. Illovo is a busy enough area but being seated at an oversized table that basically filled the tent, social interaction outside of our group was basically obsolete (unless you count practically sitting on the laps of those people seated at the little tables crammed all around us as social interaction). Besides the back of my head being scorched by the unnecessary heaters, the tent provided a warm and welcoming environment.

Service:  Beyond shocking, but please note that my review of the service extends to both the front of house and kitchen, so I’ll be specific:

Waiters –  I only saw 2 waiters the entire evening, perhaps there were more inside, I can’t be sure. Our orders (for both starters and mains) were taken at 8pm. Starters arrived at 8.45 and mains STARTED arriving at 9.30. I know delay in food is generally not within the waiter’s control, but an explanation, apology or at the very least an indication that they actually cared would have been nice. We had to ask for things more than once (in the case of bread, atleast three times) and had to do the occasional sweeping scan in order to catch our waiter’s attention.  There were apologies at the end of the night but too little too late as far as I’m concerned.

Managerress – We saw the manageress for the first time at 9.30 when it was time for us to complain. She approached our table with an attitude and left with an even bigger one. I don’t appreciate excuses in place of apologies and I don’t take kindly to people rolling their eyes when I am speaking to them.  If you don’t know how to competently deal with customers, complaints and your own staff, you should not hold a position of authority.  Maturity, or lack thereof in this case, is no excuse.

Chef –  As the manageress was unable to handle our complaints, she called the chef – amidst the swearing I was unable to catch his name – who without hesitation told us to….. er…. leave ——- > these were not his exact words but I don’t wish to tarnish the reputation of my blog by filling it with profanity. Way to go big guy!


Starters: I ordered the cheese platter which was shared. A selection of gruyere, asiago, pecorino and blue cheese was accompanied by an orangey marmalade of sorts and what I think was quince jelly.  I love seeing cheese on a menu under starters as opposed to desserts, and this platter did not disappoint. There was enough for at least 4 people and was reasonably priced.


I tasted the meat platter as well. A selection of cured meats, pickled artichokes and olives.  Again, enough to feed atleast 4 people and if ordered with the cheese platter would definitely be enough for a lunch.


Also ordered was the bruschetta with tomato, cheese and basil and the bresoala.I found the bread of the bruschetta not quite crisp enough and the topping nothing to write home about but the bresoala was perfectly salty and delicious.  I loves me my meat!


Mains: Ah how things took a turn for the worse. Our meals came out in dribs and drabs and I wasn’t able to taste very many. Subsequent to the altercation with the chef, most plates returned to the kitchen full of food.

The boyf and I both ordered the Fillet Mignon, which was served on a slice of bread with a courgette fritter, potato stack and a cream sauce. The bread was misunderstood (or maybe I misunderstood the point of the bread, either way) and the remainder of the dish was delicious, albeit cold.  The boyf declared his fillet average and he is the meat connoisseur, after all.


Another dish ordered by 2 restauranteeres was the chicken served with truffle fries and topped with cherry tomato salady thing. The chicken was severely over cooked; so much so that you needed a chainsaw to cut through it, never mind a serrated knife.  Its takes a real talent to mess up chicken so I guess, hats off?


Several other dishes ordered included the rabbit burger (beef, not rabbit for all the Thumber lovers out there) and pasta with a courgette sauce. I didn’t taste these but fellow restauranteerers said they were pretty good so we’ll go with that.


The last dish to arrive, a whole 10 minutes after the first dish, was the panzerotti. Described as al dente, I find the word “raw” a more suitable alternative. Cold filling and rock hard pasta… deeeeelicious.  Besides a nibble on the pasta, this dish was sent back untouched.

Dessert: we didn’t order any. We paid our bill (in full, I might add) and left, as per the delightful chef’s request demand.

Note: In response to our complaints about the lengthy delay and the staggered way in which we were served, the manageress advised us that “food is prepared fresh and to order” and receiving dishes at different times “is just the way it works”. I find this pathetic excuse for an explanation unacceptable. If your kitchen is unable to cope with a table of 10 then you should not allow reservations for 10 people. It’s as simple as that.

I’ve always wanted to be as objective and honest with this blog as possible. Objectively, besides the overcooked chicken and undercooked pasta, the food was good.  However, in this case, good food was completely overshadowed by incompetent and disrespectful staff. 

[Previous] owner* Cinzia Spalletti says the name of her restaurant is “based on an Asian myth that says if you look at the full moon and see a rabbit, you are in love”. On the night in question, I didnt even see the moon, never mind the rabbit, and I certainly did not fall in love.

Shame on you Rabbit in the Moon, shame on you.

On a side note – I received a call from the NEW owner of Rabbit in the Moon to apologise for how we were treated and to invite us back as their guests. Whilst we accept their apology it is unlikely that we will be returning to their establishment but wish them the best of luck – with staff like that they’re certainly going to need it.


4 thoughts on “Rabbit in the Moon – Illovo

  1. I think Rabbit was a wasted oppurtunity. It could have been good, if the staff there had even a hint of a clue. The absolutely terrible service made the whole place not worth it at all.
    And after being sworn at by a chef who obviously can’t even cook the simple things on his own menu, I would not go back there if they offered me free food for life served by angels in sports cars!!!

    I spent 7 years working in or running resturants and not once did I ever feel the need to swear at a customer! I realy, truly hope that Rabbit fails like it deserves to!!!

    • I agree with Gary, it didn’t have to go down the road it went.

      I will never go to any restaurant where that chef works ever again.

  2. I booked a table a week before my husband’s birthday. I was told we’d get a table onto the garden as I mentioned our young son would be with us. Perfect. We arrived and it quickly became apparent that a table hadn’t been reserved for us at all (despite us phoning at the given time advising them we’d be 15 minutes late). The restaurant appeared empty except for 2 other tables. There was a 6 seater at the garden (already occupied with 4 patrons) and a 8 seater on the other side. We were then told we could “pick a table” inside or out. There were a number of smaller tables, a 4 seater near the garden and we were offered the 12 seater in the middle of the tent (there were 5 of us!) Essentially they were empty however the empty the tables were either too small or too big and not what we were promised on booking. I was rather embarrassed and didn’t want to kick up a fuss as it was my husbands birthday. I think the four patrons heard us trying to work out whether we should squeeze onto a table of 4 near the garden or sit at the baronial table of 12 or sit inside. They were most kind and offered their table to us (they then moved to the 4 seater), which we gratefully accepted. We settled down and had to wait at least half an hour to order drinks. We ordered the pomegranate juice cocktail – no pomegranate. Ken Forrester wine then? Don’t have that either. The service was slow and very unattentive.

    That said, I thoroughly enjoyed the tomato/mozarella bruschetta. I was indifferent about the mushroom. My fillet with rocket and parmesan was beautifully presented although I think it could have been seasoned better – but was still enjoyable. Not sure how fresh the parmesan cheese was though. One guest ordered the Fillet Mignon which he said was tough – so he had a disappointing meal. We were never more drinks, another bottle of wine or even dessert while we were there. After waiting for some time, we finally ordered coffees. I did enjoy the coffee.

    I was SO disappointed because I loved the quirkiness of the restaurant. I thought the food was beautifully presented and although disappointing in places it was the lack of service and detached attitude of the staff that ruins ones dining experience there. It has a heart, but no pulse.

    I’m a foodie and am passionate about food/cooking and family and friends often phone me for recommendations on restaurants. I would have loved to support this restaurant but sadly I’m not going to go back in a hurry. Pity – I saw such potential…….

    • I know exactly how you feel and am sorry you had a mediocre experience.

      I too was excited by the idea of the restaurant and looked forward to what it had to offer.
      I was hoping that maybe the restaurant would improve with some time but I can see nothing has changed.

      Oh well, luckily Joburg has a wide variety of amazing places to visit.

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