Taking risks is by its very nature, well, risky… When it comes to eating out I tend to give restaurants that take a gamble with their menu a little more credit than those that stick to the tried and tested. The mavericks may fail spectacularly at times but, hell, at least they make the effort to excite and surprise.
Such is the case with The Attic – the second eatery from Tom Hughes and Martin Jakoby; the creators of my favourite restaurant in Melville, The Loft. Situated in Joburg’s Parkhurst, across from the bustling Espresso, The Attic is a welcome addition to 4th Avenue’s somewhat tired restaurant strip.
In keeping with the homey sentiment of its name, The Attic’s decor could best be described as rustic chic. For a relatively new restaurant it looks lived in; like it’s been in that very spot for at least a decade. It maintains some of the structure of the previous tenant, the much-missed Batuke, with its smoking section on the one side but now offers a separate bar and lounge area on the other.
I’d eaten at The Attic for dinner at least three times and was impressed both by the diversity of the menu and the quality of the food. Like any good eating out experience, each dish was a new adventure and most delivered a suitably triumphant conclusion (the guinea-fowl risotto is a particular standout).
Most recently I headed out to the restaurant for lunch – hoping for a similar experience. While The Attic usually buzzes with activity at night, the mid-day crowd was more sparse and subdued. My friend and I were presented with an eminently sensible lunch menu; a stripped down version of the dinner offerings.
We started with cocktails of course. We were brought the best mojitos I’ve had in some time; suggesting that giving the bar a tryout as a drinks or sundowners spot might not be a bad idea at all. Suitably lubricated, we then moved on to the food.
My starter – the pork neck terrine with mustard remoulade, pickled cabbage and beetroot carpaccio (R42) – didn’t impress with its appearance; looking messy on the plate. Unfortunately, it didn’t live up to expectation in the taste department either. The terrine had a pleasant subtle pork flavour but was overwhelmed by the tanginess of the pickled cabbage and mustard.
My friend’s duck, ginger and hoisin spring rolls with dipping sauces (R40) however were fantastic, boasting crisp exteriors with fresh, beautifully flavoured centres. I’d tried these before at The Attic and I doubt their spring rolls could be improved in any way.
The main course was again a mixed bag. My eating partner’s Middle Eastern styled spiced lamb burger with handcut chips, baba ganoush and tzatziki was declared a disaster. In fact he couldn’t finish it. I tried a few bites, and while the flavours were pleasant, if a little bland, the texture of the lamb was unpalatable. A burger patty is very much about texture; and this one was unfortunately more smooth paste than mince.
On the plus side, the rustic style chips were perfect; but not much of a consolation in the context of a R60 burger.
My main – the crab fettuccine with coriander, chilli and lime (R90) – was much more successful: A creamy, spicy mix of sweet shredded crab and pasta. Spicy soon became the operative word however as the chilli kicked in.
This didn’t bother me as my preference is hot, but many others might not be able to cope with the intensity. I have no doubt that management received complaints from more chilli-sensitive lunch-time patrons. The portion was quite large and I ended up taking some of the fettuccine home to be enjoyed the next day.
We settled on the lavender panna cotta terrine with rosewater and candied orange (R42) as a shared dessert, against my better judgment. Past experience with this usually flavourless milky jelly has universally been disappointing. I was happily proven wrong: The Attic’s panna cotta was beautifully flavoured with subtle lavender and bounded on the sides with an orange and rosewater jelly: A very pleasing conclusion to a roller coaster ride of a lunch.
Despite some considerable disappointments this time round, I will return to The Attic. There is a real commitment to producing exciting and interesting food here; something that should be supported in Joburg’s bland restaurant scene. Most importantly, when The Attic gets it right, the spectacular highs very much dwarf the disappointing lows.
The Attic is located at 24, 4th Avenue, Parkhurst (corner 10th street) and is open for lunch and dinner from Tuesdays to Saturdays and lunch on Sundays. Call 011 880 6102 for reservations.