Burgerlympics Round 6: Great Burger Company, Illovo

GBC first opened in Fourways a while back and their second store opened in Illovo shortly thereafter. Gary and I gave it a try last year (not for burgerlympics) and we thoroughly enjoyed it. So when Team Ta-Da nominated it as their choice, we were thrilled.

GENERAL

Décor:

GBS is going for a diner vibe in their signature colours of white, blue and red. It has a distinctly American feel to it (obviously), which is cool but maybe slightly over done by now. Nothing stands out but I was going there for a burger not a lesson in interior design.

Vibe:

We were seated upstairs on the outside balcony. It felt a bit secluded (which I guess could pass as private) so I can’t really comment on what was happening in other parts of the restaurant. It was a Saturday afternoon in Illovo so I’m going to say it was “vibey”.

SCORING

Patty:

A choice of beef, chicken, veggie and tuna (ahi) –  so all your bases are covered. Obviously I ordered the beef. It was big, flavourful and cooked perfectly. You could tell the meat was good quality and that lots of herbs and spices had been used. On my last visit, I had the ahi tuna burger and it was amazing albeit a little small. My only bone of contention is that I wasn’t asked how I wanted my patty cooked. I think all burger joints worth their salt should ask you how you want your patty cooked. GBC were fortunately saved by the fact that my patty was cooked a perfect medium. A few fellow Olympians mentioned that their patties were slightly overcooked.

Average score – 9/10

A coupla’ comments – “big and juicy”; “top notch”; “slightly overcooked but good”; “delicious, well-seasoned and tasty but didn’t ask how I wanted it”; “perfectly done, spiced nicely”. 

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Toppings/Combos:

GBC is predominantly a “build you own” burger place, although they do have their own combinations for those who are super indecisive. There is every possible topping on offer and a lot of them are free.  You can even choose your own roll (I didn’t see anything “banting” but who cares). I think most of us built our own burgers. I went for my usual of avo, bacon and cheese – this time blue – on a seeded roll. I also added pickles because it isn’t a burger unless it has a pickle on it.  Unfortunately, my burger arrived minus the bacon but this problem was quickly rectified. The topping ratio was spot on and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

There is quite a wide choice of sides, including curly fries, sweet potato fries and onion rings two ways. I had sweet potato fries and onion strings – both were awesome. Suggestion: order a sauce on the side for your fries… there is a huge choice and I was disappointed that I didn’t.

Average score – 9/10

A coupla’ comments – “monkey gland sauce was good but not as good as Gourmet Garage”; “nice options on sliders”; “great choices to make your own burger”

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Ease of consumption:

I always cut my burger in half. My mouth is just too small to manage otherwise. Even though I cut it in half, it still fell apart a bit. I blame the avo. Like I always say, mashed up avo is better than slices as slices cause the roll to slide off. Not the end of the world, of course. Notwithstanding bun malfunction, the patty held up perfectly and the bun to patty ratio was spot on.

Average score – 8/10

A coupla’ comments – “ate with a knife and fork”; “a little difficult to eat awesome”; “fell apart, not just mine”; “easy peasy”

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Service:

Hmmm, this is where GBC fell down slightly. We had made a booking for 14 people but when we got there, there was no table for us. The staff were quick to sort out a table  but had the restaurant been packed we would have had issues. The manageress who took the booking was very apologetic and we got 2 jugs of berry daiquiri on the house to make up for it. Our waitress was attentive but I did have to ask for ice three times. Considering you tick the boxes and place your own order, there isn’t too much to mess up from a service point of view. Hats off to the kitchen for getting all our burgers out at the same time and (barring my bacon mishap) correctly.

Average score – 9/10

A coupla’ comments – “A smidgen slow but not too bad”; “very friendly”; “friendly and nice”; “very attentive”

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Awesomeness:

I think there is some competition between Roccomammas and GBC when it comes to which is the better “build your own” place. I love Roccomammas but they are not willing to take a booking (even though we’re guaranteeing them a table of at least 12 people) so my vote has to go to GBC. I love the massive selection of patties, rolls and toppings, I love the free popcorn on each table and I especially love the fact that they will take a booking.

Average score – 9/10

A coupla’ comments – “I’ll be back”; “we could smoke inside :)”; “nice vibe, tasty burgers, very good”; “popcorn”; “brilliant”.

Overall: 44 out of 50

As I was devouring my burger, I knew GBC would be a contender for first place. And I was right. Their burgers are really amazing. I’ve been twice and I’ve left happy twice. I’ll definitely be going back very soon and I would highly recommend it. I have a sneaky suspicion we’ve found our winner.

GREAT BURGER COMPANY

SHOP B ILLOVO JUNCTION

CORLETT DRIVE 

ILLOVO

TEL: 011 268 2189

Pizzalympics Round 1: Trabella

Being part Italian and part pig, I have devoured my fair share of pizza over the years and those offered by Trabella have always ranked pretty high up on my pizzarometer.

Introduced to this quaint osteria-esque eatery by the boyf a few years ago, I have never been disappointed. So naturally, we (team boyf and I) punted it as destination numero uno.

GENERAL

Décor: Trabella does not offer much by way of décor but this is not necessarily a bad thing. I am a firm believer in keeping things simple and this rings true for Trabella.

Vibe: Bustling, as always. I have never seen Trabella empty, and this speaks volumes. It gets very loud at times but what Italian restaurant doesn’t.

Service: Orders were taken correctly, sangria was flowing and the pizzas all came out at the same time. Not an easy feat with a table of 11 rowdy diners.

Pricing: You’re looking at between R75.00 and R100.00 for a standard size pizza. Very reasonable.

SCORING

(for a break-down of how the scoring works, check out the Intro)

Base:

I’ve always found the Trabella pizza base to be perfect. Thin, crisp and slightly charred on the edges. This is my personal preference when it comes to pizza bases but it would seem that my fellow pizzalympians didn’t quite agree.

Average score – 3.5 out of 5

A coupla’ comments:

“Burnt on edges”;  “Too oily and soggy”; “Like it thinner”;  “Liked the thin base but not quite there”

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Toppings:

Wide variety of toppings, ranging from the norms like Regina and Hawaiian (bleg) to something a little more exotic, such as Prawn Teriyaki and Potato and Feta. Also on offer is the Tracy’s special which is pretty much everything you could imagine on one pizza.

Average score: 4 out of 5

A coupla’ comments: “Niiice”; “More even distribution is needed”; “more cheese”; “Amazing! Pumpkin, garlic, chilli and feta, amazing!”; “Fab!!!”

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Awesomeness:

A special shout out to the sangria. Whilst it wasn’t the best I’ve ever had, it was winey, fruity and cold.

Average score: 3.5 out of 5

A coupla’ comments: “Yum, see my drool (insert drool spot)” ; “didn’t really blow my socks off”; “great selection, great sangria”; “Great chili as well”

Overall: a solid score of 11 out of 15. Setting the bar high but not unbeatable.

Whilst I was slightly disappointed that my team mates didn’t share my love for Trabella, it still holds its number 1 spot in my heart and I am confident it will rank high on the list of Joburgs best pizza places (even if I have to cook the books. Just kidding, all results have been audited and approved)

Trabella – Illovo Junction, corner Oxford Road and Corlett Drive (Tel: 011 442 0413/4) Booking essential! 

Next up, Round 2: Luca’s 

La Vie en Rose – Illovo

The belly rules the mind.  ~Spanish Proverb

I’ve never made shy of the fact that I love a good deal. Groupon, Wicount –  my little peepers are always open! Recently Groupon offered a very good deal on a three course meal for two at La Vie en Rose in Illovo. Having never heard of it, I did a quick google and was happy with what I saw.

Voucher paid for and printed, off we went.

Team: Just the two of us. (The boyf and I)

Décor: La Vie en Rose can be found in a little house/centre along Melville road in Illovo, blink and you will miss it. Big wrought iron gates lead you into a secret garden-esque set up. Fountains, rose bushes and a big courtyard provides the backdrop for La Vie en Rose. I think this place could be quite beautiful in the day when you can truly appreciate the surroundings but at night it was rather plain and simple.

Vibe: We were one of the first couples to arrive but by 19.30 La Vie en Rose was full (I think this may have had something to do with the voucher). Whilst there were a few guys scattered here and there, the crowd comprised mainly ladies, owing to the roses and light meals I imagine.

Service: Our waitress was friendly and competently saw to our every need. She was a little slow in taking our order and clearing the table, but nothing worth complaining about. There was a gentleman wandering around who I would assume to be the manager but as he never welcomed us nor checked in at all, I can’t be sure.

Note: a 10% service charge was added to our bill. I have no objections to tipping at 10% and in this case, our waitress was fully deserving of such tip. I don’t, however, take too kindly to such service charge being unilaterally added, especially in the instance of a voucher. I have my doubts as to whether there would have been an automatic charge if we had dined without said voucher so this left a slightly bitter taste in our mouths.

Food: the menu is quite small but all preferences are adequately catered for. I thought the prices were a little high in view of the portion sizes and had we not had a voucher, I may have been slightly disappointed.

Starters:

As has been clear from my previous posts, I am a cheese fanatic. If there is something cheesy on the menu, I will order it, which is why I opted for the “Inner Wheel”. A Camembert wheel dipped in rose syrup, coated in sesame seeds and fried. I didn’t like the rose syrup at all (too sickly sweet) and I didn’t think it worked with the dish, but the cheese itself was delicious. It appears from the picture that it may have been slightly burnt, but it really wasn’t. The sesame seeds were perfectly crispy and the cheese divinely gooey. I was let down by the presentation of this dish and thought it should have had a little greenery to offset the cheese or some toasty bread sticks. (I resorted to asking for some bread on the side)

The boyf also chose a cheesy starter and went for the “Happy Days“. Grilled haloumi cheese served atop a bed of rocket with sweet chili dipping sauce and a pot of olives. I would never have thought to serve olives with haloumi as both are rather salty, but the combination was fantastic and definitely something I will be doing at home. This dish was beautiful to look at and even better to eat.

 

Mains:

Being a complete carnivore, the boyfs choice was easy  –  “Player“. Two rump skewers served with shoe string fries and a side salad. The rump was cooked to order and was juicy and full of flavour.  Although the chips were not shoe string fries (just your regular thin French fries) they did the job.  The boyf cleaned the plate –  but I think this was owing more to the size of the portion than its flavour –  and declared the dish average to good.

 

I found it slightly harder to make a decision and was torn between several items on the menu. I finally decided on the “Flamingo” –  seared Norwegian salmon served with asparagus, basmati rice and a tarragon mayo. Whilst this dish was certainly perfectly cooked and very tasty, I was somewhat disappointed. I think it could have used more seasoning and a lot more tarragon mayo. Again, small portion for the price tag.

Dessert:

Careless Love” was a definite the minute we saw it. Deep fried Phylo pastry filled with melting toblerone served with a berry coulis and a smattering of cream. This was the dish of the night and blew me away. The pastry had a slight spice about it, cinnamon perhaps, toblerone was an ingenious choice of filling and the tart berry coulis was the perfect companion. Fantastic.

 

Our second dessert choice was a toss-up between the strawberry ice cream (boyfs choice) or the chocolate brownie “Ultimate Pleasure” (my choice). Obviously we ended up with the brownie, but it proved to be the wrong pick. Oops. The brownie packed a great chocolate flavour but was incredibly overcooked and dry. It seems to have been microwaved as it had a crumbly texture that a brownie just shouldn’t have.Beautiful presentation though.

 

On a scale of 1 to 10, I would probably rate La Vie en Rose as a 6. Nothing offended me, but nothing really floored me either, and at those prices, I like to be floored.

I think it is more suited as a day time spot and having had a look at their day menu, I am eager to return for lunch sometime soon.

La Vie en Rose 

48 Melville Road

Illovo

011 268 6144

 

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!

Food:

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.