It’s getting a little crowded in Cape Town’s culinary trenches – I can count on two hands how many new restaurants have popped up over the last month alone. So what are diners looking for these days? Good bang for your buck is at the top of that list, convenience is the second and extraordinary dishes supersedes the first two.
A rather uniquely-named Cowboys and Cooks is ticking all those boxes. When you ask why the name, they tell you, then warn you it’s off the record.
A fairly new eatery, the owners, Michael Townsend (founder of the Harbour House Group) and Stuart Bailey (former owner of the Hussar Grill steak restaurant collection, and former CEO of the Harbour House Group) are looking to shake up suburban cuisine. And shaking it up they are!
If you live in the Sunset Beach area, this is where you are going to find one of the most perfectly-cooked steaks to land on a plate in Cape Town. High praise indeed, but I dare you to try and fight me on it. It’s not as simple as just another well-prepared steak. It is a coal-braaied chunk of excellence, and we all know braai is boss.
Let me not get ahead of myself. First about Cowboys and Cooks. It is very much a passion project – with so much passion, in fact, that there is nothing left to chance. The restaurant is draped in a classic old-fashioned steak house feel. The seating is dark wood and red leather furniture, there are wall to wall bookcases filled with classic novels. Art plays a big part of the aesthetic, too.
The bar area has a more modern look, decorated in pale yellow tones and designed with elevated shelves and tall, edgy barstools.
But the star attraction is not the setup, it’s the kitchen and, of course, the food. As tasting platters of menu items are placed in front of us, they are just as swiftly taken away empty. Everything on the starter menu is intensely flavourful.
A starter portion of wings will cost you R87 and is enough for a small meal. The wings are braaied over hot coals and lathered with a sticky basting sauce. The chicken is so succulent, the disbelief made me double-check that they were cooked inside, which they were.
The grilled baby calamari (R78) was as fresh as it gets; tossed in chilli and a tart lime butter, each mouthful melted away softly.
The vegetarian option of a large black mushroom (R68) filled with garlic, spinach and feta, was everything. Please ensure you also order a portion of the deep-fried onion rings (R29), they are probably the best I have tasted in Cape Town.
And then there was silence. Because a moment of silence is needed for the roasted marrow bones (R68). Beware, such decadence is rich, very rich – in flavour, texture, and taste. It comes with a small portion of onion rings and a ciabatta to soak up all that goodness and cut the fattiness.
For my main dish, I ordered a 300g ribeye steak (R240), with a portion of hand-cut chips (R22) and a truffle mushroom sauce (R28). A hot knife through butter is the only comparison befitting the perfect chargrilled preparation of the ribeye.
Cowboys and Cooks are purveyors of the perfectly-prepared steak. They have the utmost respect for the meat they serve. So much so, every piece of meat on their menu is Chalmar beef, aged for a few extra days.
I didn’t get distracted from the meat and ate it alone. Then I scooped up the finely-tuned truffle sauce with the chips and decided it was definitely the way to enjoy this meal. Make your own rules!
Other house specialties include ostrich loin with a citrus reduction (R190) and the Karoo Lambs chops (R210). If you’re in the mood for a lighter meal, a steak roll or a burger will set you back R85 each. I can imagine that just as much care is put into making these dishes spectacular.
Dessert was a choice of creme brûlée, oven baked cheese cake, cognac chocolate mousse, or vanilla ice-cream with chocolate sauce – all priced between R55 and R65.
My creme brûlée was extraordinary, and could very well be compared to one from its country of origin.
Cowboys and Cooks was impressive and, ultimately, exhausting. Good food always is. Lucky for you, if you live in suburbia, you’re a short drive away from your bed.
It was a bittersweet end to the meal; for one, it’s done. Along with this, you know these menu choices were so decadently good, it might require a stern chat with your dietician, because you know you will be coming back for more, sooner rather than later.