Let’s get real for a moment, Joburgers. When it comes to restaurants, as much as we love our long-time establishments and neighbourhood favourites, we’re always affected by what’s happening around us, right?
Luckily, our chic city’s food-and-drink scene has many options to grab our attention, and keep it. From fine dining spots to the cheaper but still delicious hangouts, there are loads of new places I’ve come across lately. However, there’s one that’s distinctly stood out to me – ready your bellies for the stylish spot that is The Fat Zebra in Linden.
The Fat Zebra hasn’t just raised the level for cafes in the quaint suburb of Linden, it’s become one of the first of what had previously been a rarity, an establishment that offers consistent quality across everything they do – from coffee and breakfasts to lunches and wine-paired dinners.
I arrived at the restaurant earlier this month, on a summery Friday afternoon to try it out for myself. Upon arrival, I concluded right away that 7th Street in Linden is certainly an up-and-coming restaurant strip. It gives me the same kind of feel as 4th Avenue in Parkhurst.
I instantly admired the minimalistic yet intriguing décor, think a bright interior that boasts exposed brickwork and understated finishes. What I also found pretty neat was the coat hooks on every wall, which allows for customers to keep their possessions close. This is Joburg after all, right?
The restaurant was bustling both inside and out, and I had a slight idea why (hint: their buttermilk crumpet stacks and foamy coffees are hard to miss on Instagram). Inside, customers were sipping on their coffees, which are supplied and freshly-brewed by 4th Avenue Coffee Roasters, while those outside were tucking into some wine.
The place isn’t huge, in fact, it’s a bit of a nook (that said in the best way possible) which I somewhat prefer, so it didn’t at all bother me. Both the inside and outside sections are small and cosy, which allows for customers to indulge an intimate atmosphere. I opted to sit outside, which is a lovely, breezy space, to enjoy an early lunch paired with a glass of top-notch wine.
After a quick peruse of their tantalising menu, owner Kevin was kind enough to come over and make a couple of fine recommendations. Sadly, it was past 12:00, so they were no longer serving breakfast, but after hearing about their Banting-friendly chicken prego done in a homemade sauce, I was sold almost instantly.
Before I get right into telling you what my health-conscious meal was like, I’ve just got to share some of the drool-worthy options on the menu with you. On the breakfast side, you can expect both basic as well as creative options. Both the Eggs ‘Ben-Addicted’ and Buttermilk Crumpets are firm favourites, while The Elvis and The Babalaas (which is even served with a shot glass of cream soda) aren’t far behind.
In terms of lunch, they offer a bit of everything, including tapas, salads, pizzas, pastas, burgers, prego rolls, meat and poultry, and even a boerie roll. I’m a big fan of the large selection. Then, for dinner, you’re spoilt for choice with a number of gourmet dishes on offer, including fresh handmade pasta, seared Norwegian salmon, wood-fired baby chicken and creamy mushroom fillet.
What’s also very interesting to note is that at The Fat Zebra, all of the dishes that come out of the kitchen are prepared in a pizza oven. Yes, that’s right – even the meats. The only items on the menu that aren’t, are the crispy potato cubes. And, let me assure you that although this cooking method may sound a bit odd for anything other than pizzas, it seems to be working tremendously well for them!
So back to my meal. When my prego arrived, I almost tucked in before snapping a quick photo. Yes, it looked that good! The dish was stunningly presented and looked unbelievably fresh.
In terms of taste, the prego was equally impressive – the chicken was wonderfully succulent and the peri-peri sauce that it was served in was unbelievably flavourful. It presented a bit of a ‘kick’, but nothing I couldn’t handle. The salad, on the other hand, was just as fresh and tasty, not to mention a generous portion for a side.
On the side, I had a glass of the fabulous pinot noir chardonnay that is Graham Beck Gorgeous. Recommended by Kevin, this wine was a perfect pairing with my spicy dish. I must also add that the restaurant offers a rather extensive wine list at very friendly prices. Even their house wines are of top quality and are sure to please even the most discerning palette.
Before jumping right into dessert, Kevin insisted that I try out their signature crispy potato cubes, which are The Fat Zebra’s take on your boring old potato chips and, boy, am I glad he did! They were simply a delight and the aioili mayo that they came with complemented them ever so well.
After scoffing down every last potato cube, I moved on to dessert and found it to be a toss up between the flourless lemon and almond cake slice and the chocolate torte slice. After much contemplation, I finally decided on the latter, and I’m happy to report that it was a fantastic choice. The torte was sublime – it managed to be dark and chocolaty but at the same time not too rich. I also decided to order up a cappuccino on the side, which was pure quality.
I left The Fat Zebra feeling wonderfully satisfied. The experience overall was a real treat. I think what makes this spot special is that it’s stylish in a way that might signal coffee shop just as much as wine bar. It’s an ideal place to go for enthusiastic service that’s also very precise about what’s on your plate and in your cup.
In my opinion, The Fat Zebra is an excellent afternoon option, and is well worth the drive if you aren’t a Linden local. I’m yet to try their breakfast and dinner options, but you can bet that I’ll be back to do so very soon! I’ll warn you that they’ve grown horrendously popular since opening little under a year ago, so arrive early to secure your seat. You can trust that the sophisticated ambiance and quality menu is what keeps everyone coming back.
By Candice May