Societi Bistro

Sitting among two of the ugliest new buildings in the City Bowl is this Georgian designed island of sanity.  Perched on the Mount Nelson Hotel side of the Labia Theatre is the worst of them: The Orangerie.  Why the developers elected not to hire an architect God only knows.  There is hardly a shortage of them.  Instead we have a jarring block of zig-zags trying to poke you in the eye.  The marginally better version of modern design is the shiny black thing (15 on Orange Hotel) next to the historic Michaelis art school.  The first student majoring in graffiti to spray paint it wins a free lunch.

That most developers are scum is a well documented fact.  That is why we have a city authority to rein them in.  Have the planning approval department disappeared from the scene along with the talented opposition leader Helen Zille?  Modern design can blend in to a heritage precinct or it can even successfully take this piss out of it.  These builder boys do neither.

So we scuttle from Orange Street into the al fresco dining area of Societi on a bright, if a little chilly, summer’s eve (blankets are provided).  Cheek-by-jowl dining can create a buzz but if you are in the mood for more space the outdoor option suits. In winter fireplaces make inside eating cosy.

Tonight it’s a battle of the mussels.  First up cooked in apple and cider.  A fine clean taste with only a deft touch of the apple.  Sometimes these Cape types can let the fruit get a little out of hand in their traditional savoury dishes.  On a visit to Upington in the Northern Cape* lamb cooked in an orchard of apricots two nights in a row was a bit much (the alternatives were ghastly).

Back to the battle of the sea shells.  Next up it’s the Malaysian chowder version which unfortunately tastes like tinned food.  Is it the canned coconut milk?
The hands down winner is the apple one, enjoyed with a bottle of Klein Constantia Sauvignon Blanc (at a reasonable R90).

The steak in the filet poivre is good, if cooked a too safe rare.  The sauce of Madagascan green pepper, brandy and cream really makes it soar.

A yellowtail is a meaty success, all the more striking because this is not the most desired fish.  Consequently it is plentiful and can be eaten in good conscience.  A previous experience eating a more obscure and boney species didn’t work.  A little too experimental.

A vegetarian gnocchi with peas, spinach and broccoli is prepared by searing the outside of the potato pasta, injecting a bit of a burnt zing.

Then it is the battle of the chocolates.  First up is a squishy (the only way to eat it) flourless chocolate tart off the menu.  Then it is the Nemesis Cake, off the specials board.  The crunch of pistachio and espresso ice cream puts the Nemesis ahead by a nose.  There are no losers.

Societi is darn good value-for-money chow when fine dining is a stretch and you really don’t feel like going to the neighbourhood pizza joint again.

* For top writer Helen Walne’s take on Northern Cape hospitality click here

Tom Robbins
January 6, 2010

Societi Bistro
+27 (0)21 4242 100
50 Orange St
Central Cape Town

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3 Responses to “Societi Bistro”

  1. Duncan says:

    Had dinner here on Saturday sitting in the “kitchen” which they let us know would be the case when we booked. I just love seeing everyone’s food go out and listen and watch the kitchen interactions; you can tell a lot by what you see there.

    Anyway I ordered a Bronze Bream whole fish, then checked and saw it is RED on the conservation list. Chef corrected the special as it was in fact Black Bream or Hotentot? (Green fish). Good food and a pleasurable evening.

  2. Jenny says:

    Had a most delicious meal and enjoyable evening at Societi last night. A roasted fennel salad to start – subtle delicate delicious – and pork cutlet with veges and a seriously yummy sauce. Service was superb.

  3. Greg says:

    Had a really good evening at Societi last night. Really enjoyed myself. So did Mandy. She loved the intimate cosy homely atmosphere. It was cold enough for fires in each room and we got a waitress who didn’t think that we were doing her a favour by eating there. My food was not as good as Mandy’s but pleasant eating nevertheless.
    Starters: I had the autumn salad special – porccini mushroom carpaccio with shavings of parmesan. Bit too strongly doused in lemon juice meant the meaty taste of the mushrooms was lost but good nevertheless. Mandy had the chicken liver parfait which was really good. I finished it.
    Mains: I had the augergine fettuchini with roasted risotto and which the menu said included chilli but actually tasted of curry! Rather disappointing because this curry flavour permeated everything and was completely wrong for pasta. Mandy had the fillet with green peppercorns which you reviewed. She said it was too salty but I finished her meal and I found it excellent – perfectly done and the green creamy peppercorn sauce is a winner.
    I drank Noble Hill merlot which was palatable and reasonably priced. Mandy had Klein Constantia sauvignon blanc per your recommendation which she said was very good – she had 4 glasses, admittedly small ones though!
    I finished with a dessert special – pumpkin and almond fritters with cinnamon ice cream and a black coffee – really nicely complimented flavours. Just right to end the meal.
    Bill incl tip = R600. All in all a decent evening out. I would go back again.

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