It’s the year of the rooster on the Chinese zodiac calendar so there could not be a more fortuitous time for Roast & Co to open.
From the same team who pioneered the mono menu – which serves only one type of main dish – this new eatery joins its sibling HQ (steak) across the courtyard with the star of its show being roast chicken.
“It made perfect sense to us to make this year all about South Africa’s favourite meal – providing a place where wholesome, free-range chicken can be enjoyed away from home,” says Matt Mullholland, Roast & Co operations partner. “The restaurant celebrates local flavours with a global twist serving traditional sharing plates and interesting sides. The carefully thought-out interior and exterior design of Roast & Co sets out to breathe a little freshness into one of Cape Town’s most iconic courtyards. There’s something for everyone at this new chick on the block.”
The funny thing about chicken in restaurants – and I know I’m not alone here – is that we hardly ever order it when eating out. There’s something so very simple about it, and unless it’s because of dietary restrictions, any other dish seems more exciting. That said, on the rare occasions I have ordered chicken, I am never disappointed.
At Roast & Co, your protein options are a quarter chicken, half chicken, or full chicken, roasted and served cut into portions, on the bone, with a bowl of gravy. Like I said when HQ first opened, if you’re going to do this highly specialised concept, it had better be good. And it is.
Not only is the chicken itself amazing, but the side dishes are phenomenal.
The menu is designed with Mzanzi in mind, giving locals and tourists a taste of some of South Africa’s favourite flavours: for example, the fried mac and cheese starter is served with a chakalaka sauce and the side of pap is drizzled with truffle oil. Starters and side dishes can be mixed and matched and shared.
We began with a baked Camembert with smoky mayo, yoghurt and vanilla honey; and inventive chicken Caesar croquettes which were delicious. Someone asked me afterwards what we had ordered and I said, “Um, chicken?”
Be realistic about how you order your bird; a quarter is quite small, really – just a thigh and a drumstick. So if you are two diners, a full chicken to share works out slightly less expensive than two half chickens (which adds the breast). We had one bird between us, which size-wise is quite a jump, but then there’s some left over to take home.
Now, those side dishes: we had tenderstem broccoli and spinach with red onions and roasted peanuts from the starters section, as well as gorgeous roast potatoes (because how can you not, with roast chicken and gravy?), house-pickled slaw with raspberry dressing for some freshness, and pumpkin fritters. Yes, the chicken was great, but I’d go back just for a bowl of these.
They’re not the flat fritters Granny used to make, but light puffy balls of goodness, served with lemon sherbet and cinnamon.
Ever since visiting Spain, I’ve been looking for the churros as good as those I had from a food truck at a farmers’ market. I don’t think it’s possible to recreate that magic moment, but my friend said those we ordered – her first – at Roast & Co were fabulous.
To drink there are craft beers, a good selection of wines available by the glass or bottle, and exciting cocktails with homegrown tweaks served in creative cups. Ask for the margarita -you’ll see what I mean.
* Open Mondays to Saturdays from 12pm till midnight, Roast & Co is in Heritage Square, 98 Shortmarket Street, Cape Town.
Mother City Fine Dining
By Bianca Coleman