By Alan Behr
JOHANNESBURG, 14 JUNE 2010 Rare are the living legends who get
monuments built in their lifetimes, but in the Johannesburg suburb of
Sandton, a made-to-order shopping square is anchored by a colossal statue
of Nelson Mandela. It presents the hero of the resistance and future
president as a towering, somewhat quizzical figure a cross between
Chairman Mao and an anthropology professor about to hand you a bad
Johannesburg at night is not for the faint hearted. Even though
the area outside the square is patrolled and our hotel sat diagonally
across the street, the doorman urged my colleague and me to take the
guarded skybridge. Sandton is effectively a fortress, and the square
is its castle keep, so once you are there, you can relax.
The most often recommended restaurant on the square (and the
surrounding area) is The Butcher Shop and Grill. With its green walls,
wooden floors and market-like corridor, to say nothing of its secondary
role as a working butcher shop, the restaurant announces "steak
house." In South Africa, that has a different meaning: our steak was
ostrich. Specifically, we had fried ostrich filets, heeding the
waiters advice to have them prepared medium to medium well. The result
was enjoyable; it looked like beef but was tangy and gamey. And for
once at a steak house, our plates werent overloaded.
If the crime rate is a consequence of freedom in South Africa, so too
is the quality of the nations wines. Indeed, the wines at
restaurants tend to outdo the food, and that held true for The Butcher
Shop. It served the wine that was the standout of our visit, Vin de
Constance, a dessert wine made by Klein Constantia Estate. The menu
warned that it was subject to availability, and it is easy to see
why. Made from Muscat de Frontignan (Muscat blanc á petits grains)
grapes shriveled to raisins, it is honey colored, not as sweet as a German
Eiswein, but offers a splash of lemon and a surprisingly spicy finish.
If you like ostrich or perhaps develop a taste for kudu,
just give the butchery forty hours advance notice, and the meat will be
delivered for pickup by you at a shop at the airport. After a long
flight fueled only by airline food (though, if you are flying South
African Airways, its better than average), you can reproduce a night at
the restaurant in the privacy of your own kitchen.
The Butcher Shop and
Nelson Mandela Square,
Tel: (27) 11 784 86 76.
Dinner for two with South African wines by the glass: about U.S.
Alan Behr practices intellectual-property law at the New York
office of Alston & Bird LLP. A regular contributor to
Culturekiosque, Mr. Behr last wrote on the
Modern Art's retrospective Henri Cartier-Bresson: the Modern
Century in New York.
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