As a Capetonian, I have a responsibility to not demonstrate too much emotion in public. If I’m excited about something or impressed by something, I am expected to hide this from people. This is not difficult for me, it is a responsibility which I quite enjoy fulfilling. Occasionally I do slip up and my entrance into Carne was one such occasion. As I walked in, I look around and exclaimed “wow, this place looks really cool”. The host heard me, I’m so ashamed.
I’m trying to think of other restaurants that have really impressed me when I first saw them. Pigalle was one, it’s been around a while now but I remember being very impressed when I first walked in. Riboville, which is now closed, sadly, was another one. What I find interesting about Carne, is how they created such an impression with so little. The decor is certainly minimal and the walls are bare for the most part. As you walk in you are on the bar level but can see downstairs into the dining area at the same time, it’s almost too much to take in.
We had a beer (they have Jack Black on tap now) at the bar while we waited for the rest of the table to arrive. The biggest table they offer seats six people, which can be problematic and in fact was for me that night as I had to tell some people they couldn’t join us. The stated reason for the table size limit is that the kitchen is too small to serve bigger tables without compromising the quality, which is fair enough. Once we were all there, we headed down to the dining area. I noticed quite quickly that there was no music. It seemed strange at first but it certainly made it easier to hear what everyone at the table was saying.
The waiter brought the platter of meats to the table and explained what everything was. The 1.2kg T-bone looked quite intimidating even considering it is meant to be shared. Carne’s speciality cut is the lombatella or hangar steak, which hangs near the kidneys, giving it a more gamey flavour. We decided to share three starters between us and opted for the popular lamb shank ravioli (R75), the Caprese Salad (R65) and the beef carpaccio (R65). The Ravioli was delicious and the beef carpaccio with wild rocket was amazing, way better than the carpaccio I had a La Boheme (but also twice the price). However those two starters overwhelmed the caprese salad, so I can barely remember it.
I didn’t get involved in the wine selection. I did get the impression that the list is quite pricey, with most reds fraternising in the over R150 range. The list must include some quality options as the bottles we ordered were most enjoyable. I was allowed to interrogate the waiter about their water and was pleased to note they serve local water.
For mains we had a selection of cuts. I wanted to compare Carne to HQ (obviously) so I had the sirloin (R110). It was an excellent sirloin, prepared to my specification. However, I do prefer the HQ sirloin and I think it has a lot to do with the Cafe de Paris butter. Carne’s meat comes with no sauce or basting, only a selection of mustards on the table. This is good, as you can more fully appreciate the quality of the meat. The steaks come with one side and I selected chips which were too thinly cut for my liking. Again, I prefer the chips at HQ. I tasted the rib eye steak (R105) which was very flavourful and I also tasted the hangar steak (R95) which I wasn’t very excited about.
I was told that Carne would be expensive, but it wasn’t unreasonable and it provides an experience that justifies the price. The restaurant is owned by Georgio Nava who also owns the award winning 95 Keerom across the road. Just as the seafood at 95 comes from Georgio’s own boat, the meat at Carne comes from Georgio’s farm.
Carne is an impressive place and you won’t regret going (unless you do something silly like try and ask for food to be brought over from 95 on Keerom). But now that I’ve been, I think it will be a while before I get around to going back.
70 Keerom St, CBD
Tel: 021 424 3460