Classic starters and succulent steaks at the Cattle Baron

There’s been a lot of fine dining going on recently. Have you noticed? So today it’s time to step away from the gourmet and try out a new addition to the Cattle Baron franchise for some delicious, hearty, simple food. Their motto is “The finest cut meat grilled to perfection” …bring us some of that I say.

Set just off the R44 motorway between Somerset West and Stellenbosch, it’s a welcoming, light-filled bistro-style steakhouse. And there’s so much to choose from in the book of a  menu. The list of traditional starters made me smile, so many classics.

Creamy peri peri chicken livers were served on a bed of rice. A thoroughly satisfying starter (and a hearty portion) – the melt-in-the-mouth livers in their delicately creamy sauce had a delightful background of peri-peri.

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Tender livers in a delicate creamy sauce with a chilli bite

And who can resist a crumbed and deep fried camembert? Served here with cranberry sauce.

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The creamiest of cheesy starters

And yet another classic – they just keep coming. Smoked salmon trout was seved on deep fried rosti, topped with creme fraiche, capers and thinly sliced red onions.

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A delightful fishy plate

If you’re after the most basic of steak combos (which we were today), there’s a range of different cuts and weights. I love that you can order a 200g steak if you’re not feeling like a large portion. My sirloin came perfectly cooked to my specified medium rare with my favourite sauce – Monkey Gland. I always horrify non-Southern Africans by ordering this and have to assure them that there are no monkeys or glands involved in making this lovely tomatoey, oniony concoction. You can read the story of this sauce and find out how to make it by clicking here. I promise you’ll want to eat it again and again – it’s simply the perfect combination with steak and crispy chips.

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Sirloin, chips and my favourite sauce

Cattle Baron also does a Chateaubriand for one. Now isn’t that a good idea! And it comes with both Bernaise and mushroom sauce and is served here with creamy mashed potato (you have a selection of starches). A real indulgence.

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Chateaubriand for one to savour

And here’s another succulent sirloin, this time with the creamiest of champignon sauces.

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Another 200g sirloin, this time with mushroom sauce

All mains are served with your choice of vegetables, and I simply can’t resist the classic combination of sweetly satisfying pumpkin and delicate creamed spinach.

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My favourite vegetable combination

As well as the simple grilled steaks, there’s a great range of burgers, an impressive seafood section and the “Speciality steaks that made us famous” with such mouth-wateringly tempting offers as Sirloin Nevada topped with grilled bacon, avocado, camembert and toasted onions. Plus the house specialities sound amazing – I’ve got my eye on the grilled fillet served on deep fried rosti, topped with garlic sauteed mushrooms.

But I’ll also have to leave space for dessert next time – again they’re a collection of real classics including malva pudding, creme brulee and crepes suzette. Or finish off in true South African style with a Dom Pedro – a desserty drink made by mixing ice cream with your choice of liquor. Take my word for it – they’re delicious. As was everything else we consumed with delight at this lovely classic steakhouse (there’s that word again)!

Portions are substantial, prices are great value and the service is excellent, too. A welcome addition to Stellenbosch’s restaurantland.

We visited the Cattle Baron Grill and Bistro at Kleineschuur, just off the R44 between Somerset West and Stellenbosch.

Famed steakhouse Smith & Wollensky opens in London

It’s been a while – so I’m pleased to say I’m back in Covent Garden. Not a moment too soon.

Tonight I’m testing out the freshly opened Smith & Wollensky (six weeks old on the night we went). The name is said to have been selected randomly from a list in a telephone directory in 1977 when the Smith & Wollensky brand was created and their first restaurant opened in New York City. There are now nine branches across the States and it’s certainly about time that one opened in London. And where better than in Covent Garden, just off the Strand?

A £6 million refurb has transformed what used to be the Department of Work and Pensions offices into a stylishly welcoming establishment that simply oozes class. Plenty of leather and wood and gleaming parquet floors. Just walking into the room made me feel happy.

Ordering is pretty much a no-brainer here – it has to be steak – they are all USDA prime, dry aged and butchered on site. The two signature steaks on offer are the 24oz bone-in ribeye and the 21 oz New York cut bone-in sirloin. Today’s specials also included a tempting T-bone and the piece de resistance – a 42oz Porterhouse steak (meant for sharing). Wow!

But first starters and it seemed logical to gravitate towards the shellfish section in anticipation of such meaty mains.

Half a dozen plump oysters were served with lemon, vinaigrette and tomato sauce. Wonderfully fresh and flavoursome. I love oysters, they feel both indulgent and light and healthy at the same time.

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A platter of oysters to tuck into

Jumbo shrimp were served simply cooked and peeled with dipping sauces.

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And here are our juicy steak choices – the signature sirloin and signature rib-eye, both done medium rare. Delightful.

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The most perfectly cooked sirloin

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The signature rib-eye just about fitted on the plate

There’s a lovely selection of sides to accompany your steak. Fries were crispy outside and soft in the middle and served wrapped in paper in this lovely little basket.

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Steak and fries…a match made in heaven

And then there’s the legendary creamed spinach.

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Beautifully creamy spinach

I walked past the cheeseboard on my earlier explorations so that was firmly lodged in my mind as dessert. A lovely selection of French and English cheeses, I tucked into a combo of goat’s cheese, cheddar, Epoisse and gorgonzola, elegantly served with tomato chutney, quince jelly, grapes, celery and biscuits.

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A great selection of English and French cheeses

Today’s pudding special was summer pudding – a long time favourite. Packed with berries it has that beautifully unique tang and was served with extra fruit and a dollop of vanilla ice cream. Dessert heaven.

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The ultimate in summer puds

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My cheesey selection

I was lucky enough to be given a tour of the establishment before sitting down to dinner, which included a visit to the cold room and the kitchen. Not often you can say that! It’s great to get the whole picture. I couldn’t resist taking a picture of the amazing Porterhouse steak, just waiting for some intrepid steak-eater to order it. I should have put something else in the picture for perspective – this fillet looks tiny but it’s actually a large one, it’s just being dwarfed by the Porterhouse which is giant!

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Little and large…fillet and Porterhouse

The cold room was packed with tens of thousands of pounds worth of steak, quite a sight to behold.

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More steak than I’ve ever seen in one place

A night out at Smith & Wellensky is a special one. You feel wrapped in tradition and love – even though in reality you’re in a brand new restaurant, it feels like it’s been there forever, the service is wonderfully warm, the decor is beautifully elegant and the ambience relaxing. And of course you couldn’t go to a better place to get your steak fix. This is the real deal with broilers equipped to cook about 140 steaks at once…now that’s a lot of steak!

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The welcoming bar is calling me

Smith & Wollensky is at The Adelphi Building, 1-11 John Adam Street WC2

A Covent Garden favourite: Sophie’s Steakhouse and Bar

I’m loving being back in London and returning to favourite dining venues as well as trying new ones. And of course, wandering around Covent Garden checking out what’s happening and what’s changed. Today was my chance to visit one of my favourites in the area – Sophie’s Steakhouse and Bar. It’s on Wellington Street, a street that’s so packed with places to eat, you’re spoilt for choice.

It’s an airy place, kind of New York warehouse-style, very contemporary with brick walls and high exposed ceilings. Sophie’s doesn’t take bookings which usually gets my back up, but as it’s quite big I’ve always managed to get a table without a problem. It also makes it a frequent venue for spontaneous lunches…for once I see the point of a restaurant not taking bookings!

It’s a steakhouse (clearly), with a range of the usual cuts of beef and traditional accompaniments like onion rings, fries, creamed spinach and salads. But there are other options on the menu, too, if you’re feeling like something lighter.

As you sit down and order your drinks a board of delicious salami slivers are delivered to your table. Cast a glance towards the bar and you’ll see a collection of them hanging from the ceiling.

A plate of salami slivers is delivered to the table to keep you going

A plate of salami slivers is delivered to the table to keep you going

One of my favourite pre-lunch drinks is a Kir – an irresistible combo of cassis liquer and white wine. Served in a glass with S for Sophie’s!

A deliciously refreshing Kir

A deliciously refreshing Kir

There’s a small selection of tasty salads. Bearing in mind the importance of steak in this establishment we went for the peppered steak salad. Fillet mignon with fresh garden leaves, spring onion, cherry tomatoes and tomato vinaigrette.

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Tasty fillet steak salad

I was happy when I spotted the tuna on the menu! Chargrilled and served with marinated tomato, avocado and red onion salsa. I like my tuna barely cooked at all. I have been known to get very grumpy when a plate of overcooked tuna is placed in front of me, as I always ask for it rare. So I was very pleased when the waiter responded to me by saying: ‘You mean you want it blue’. And blue it was with a truly delicious salsa with lots of avocado. The perfect lunch.

Blue tuna with plenty of avocado...heaven

Blue tuna with plenty of avocado…heaven

Sophie’s is also a great place to pop in for a drink or coffee – they do fab cappuccinos. It’s got everything you need to keep you happy!

Sophie’s is at 29-31 Wellington Street.