Eating is really one of your indoor sports. You play three times a day and it’s well worthwhile to make the game as pleasant as possible” Dorothy Draper
Its birthday time again (funny how it comes around the same time each year) and in keeping with my anti-big celebration state of mind, the boyf and I opted for romantic dinner for two at Thomas Maxwell Bistro (“TMB”) in Parkmore.
TMB has been on the top of my list of ‘places to try’ for quite some time. Having experienced a
stuff up slight confusion with a booking in the past, I put off going to TMB for a while. However, a couple of visits to its website and listening to some friends rave about how fantastic it is and my desire to visit was rekindled. So the boyf booked and off we went.
Team: Le couple
Décor: Of all the restaurants I’ve visited, I can say with certainty that TMB will claim first place in any décor competition. Three large dining rooms make up TMB’s total eating area and each room is styled with a modern vintage feel. I know “modern vintage” is a bit of an oxymoron, but that’s really the best way to describe it. Roaring fire places are framed by bare walls and exposed brickwork which in turn provides the perfect back drop for antique furnishings and odd trinkets. Our table was flanked by a retro red leather couch and wooden drinks table whilst the table across the way played home to a large wooden pineapple. Quirkily quaint.
Vibe: We were practically the first to arrive at 6.45pm but TMB soon filled up. The buzz of constant chatter was complimented by soothing jazz which was at just the right volume. Although filled to capacity, TMB never felt too full. The tables are positioned perfectly apart so you don’t feel like you’re sitting on a stranger’s lap or listening to their conversation (which for an eaves dropper like me may not be ideal haha). There is no boozing at the bar or loud raucous crowds… this is a grown-up’s restaurant and turning 25 and all it’s exactly what I was looking for.
Service: Impeccable, to say the least. We were greeted at the door by the chef who led us to our table (pointing out the hazardous stairs along the way) and seated us. Each of the dining rooms contains a “service station” which seems to be home to at least 2 waiters/waitresses, a runner and a floor manager. So you are really never out of someone’s sights. The chef himself returned to our table to recite the specials of the day and our order was thereafter taken competently and concisely. Once again, the chef was on hand to greet us as we left and walked us out. A point worth mentioning was that our water was topped up consistently throughout the night – something that is overlooked by most restaurants these days. There was a slight delay between mains and dessert but our floor manager apologised for this profusely and considering TMB was full, we couldn’t be too critical.
Food: Although the menu at TMB is relatively small, it will cater for most and is boosted by the specials menu. Starters will set you back approximately R70.00 and mains start at around R100.00 Desserts are in the region of R40.00. Certainly not cheap by anyone’s standards, but well worth every cent.
Starters: Ostrich Carpaccio (ordered off the specials menu): Considering I can never say no to cheese, it was more the deep-fried goats’ cheese than the ostrich that grabbed me when it came to this dish. I did however thoroughly enjoy all components of this dish. The thin, well-seasoned ostrich required very little chewing and was packed with meaty flavour. The goats cheese literally blew my mind – Rounds of goats cheese dredged in brioche crumbs and deep-fried until crispy on the outside and oozing on the inside. All complimented by a balsamic reduction and what appeared to be a smoky paprika powder. This was my dish of the night.
Zucchini and Emmental Salad: the boyf’s choice –girly healthy I know, but I must say, it did taste great. Fried slivers of zucchini topped a giant mound of rocket and shredded seaweed and were accompanied by curls of Emmental cheese. At R68 I thought the salad was a bit overpriced, especially considering you only got a handful of zucchini chips and a mountain of salady stuff. It was a great combination, something I will be recreating at home, but would I order it again, probably not.
Mussels & Chips: after reading the menu before actually going to TMB, my mind was pretty much made up – I would be having the mussels. And have them I did. The massive bowl of steaming mussels drenched in garlic, lemon and parsley cream was accompanied by a bowl of the most delicious thin crispy chips. The sauce was sublime and the mussels themselves were the best I’ve had (*even better than the ones here*). They were cooked until perfectly tender and had soaked up so much sauce that they were bursting with flavour. My one suggestion – serve some crusty bread with this dish, to mop up all the sauce; I felt a bit odd slurping up my sauce with a mussel shell.
Sirloin with brandy & pepper corn cream: A massive chunk of meat cooked medium rare and covered in a deliciously rich brandy and pepper cream sauce. You can’t really go wrong. Personally, I prefer rump or rib-eye to sirloin but the meat was so well cooked and the dish so packed with flavour that you didn’t really notice the slightly tougher cut of meat. Served with chips, pumpkin and spinach, this dish was really worth the price tag.
Dessert: TMB has an extensive dessert menu and everything really did sound amazing. We finally decided on two dishes to share.
Beignets with chocolate sauce: for those who are unsure, a beignet is like a little doughnut ball, deep-fried and coated in cinnamon sugar. Crispy on the outside, doughy and delicious on the inside. TMB gives you 3 beignets with a hot chocolate dipping sauce (there should have been more) and some berry sauce to take the edge off. I found the beignets ever so slightly overcooked, but delicious none the less.
Spice Meringue: Meringue nest served with a selection of tropical fruits and a scattering of pistachio and cardamom. A pavlova if you will. I personally prefer my meringues slightly chewy on this inside, but the boyf, who is practically a meringue connoisseur, declared it perfection. I didn’t understand the cardamom but thought the remainder of the dish was fantastic.
TMB not only redeemed itself in my mind but lived up to all the hype created by those who had been there before and has secured its spot amongst the top places I’ve had the privilege of dining at.
I will, without hesitation, recommend TMB to anyone looking to savour some of Joburg’s finest cooking and can say with certainty that the Thomas Maxwell Bistro and its team can give any other world-class eatery a run for its money.
Thomas Maxwell Bistro, 140 11th Street Parkmore, 011 784 1575