The Dutch cleric Thomas à Kempis said, “I have sought everywhere for peace, but never found it except in nooks and books”, and this can be nowhere truer than at the Hussar Grill in Main Road, Rondebosch. Its interior lined with shelves of leather-bound tomes in nooks and little corners running up to the ceiling gives the decor a light-dark scholarly feel.
The drawing, in coloured chalk, of a hussar, up above the bar area as you enter The Hussar Grill, reflects a distant past in a far-off place when special cavalry units in medieval Hungary under the Hungarian Matthias Corvinus went on escapades to protect the land and borders but also pillaged the countryside. Today there are still a number of ceremonial mounted units that have the word “hussar” in their name, such as the 1st Cavalry Regiment of the Hussars of Junín of the Peruvian Army.
The interior of The Hussar Grill is decorated with bookshelves which provide an excellent prop and sets the tone for diners for an evening with lots of debate and discussion … and if you need to look up something, you’re sure to find it in one of the books. Among the books and other antique artefacts you will find various bottles of good claret, providing interesting decor and rich textures for patrons to sit back and relax in. One can imagine, in the days when smoking was permitted, the clouds of cigar smoke billowing through the restaurant, creating a smoky effect.
The Hussar Grill could easily have been a place for French Baroque painter Nicolas Tournier and friends to gather around and discuss new painting techniques like chiaroscuro (light-dark) or sit down over a meal and enjoy one of the rarer things of life – good conversation.
The Hussar Grill’s Baroque feel extends to all aspects of the interior – the tables, decor and bar area. Several of the patrons sitting at the bar enjoy conversation with other patrons waiting for a table, or just enjoying it, or chatting with bar attendant Des, whose service is like clockwork and who loves conversation with colleagues and customers alike.
A large selection of fine wines is available to accompany any special cut of meat. Classic is the Hussar blend, but a large assortment of white and red wines is a feature of the place.
Daily specials chalked up on the blackboard ensure a selection of fresh dishes accompanied by up-to-date explanations from the staff. These include a choice of venison steaks – at least you will not have to go hunting for your own eland: special cuts of this prime venison are provided for you. See this article on a previous Murray’s Food Trails subject: The Eland Trail.
C Louis Leipoldt a medical doctor and eclectic writer of cookbooks writing through his own voice, but under the pseudonym KAR Bonade (Corbonade), lauds good-quality biltong as one of the meats easiest to digest, and has the following to say about it:
Let me add this. Of all the meats, biltong is possibly the easiest to digest, and the best food. I do not know why. But it is a fact that thin slices of beef biltong (and the same holds for grated game biltong) almost melt away in your stomach. They are digested without using much energy. This makes biltong, if it is first-class, one of the best foods for sick people. But then a bad, and especially a dirty fly-bespeckled biltong is an inferior food, and much more so if a quarter of it consists of indigestible sinew. (Leipoldt’s food and wine, p 282, Stonewall Books, 2003)
Specially bottled to commemorate 50 years at The Hussar Grill: a full-bodied red wine to accompany the venison and beef.
The Hussar enjoys special occasions, such as staff in a lighter moment toasting some special event with a regular customer. The long hours enable patrons to get a table until late at night (details of opening hours at the end).
The evening shift ends with staff personally hand-polishing each glass to maximum shininess, ready for the next day.
Not just steaks, but also hamburgers are available, made with prime beef served with chips, for the in-between diner. In addition to beef steaks, the Hussar also serves vegetarian, chicken and fish dishes.
Chris at the bar. Beer and ales on tap. Being close to SA Rugby, and with SAB just down the road (Newlands), cold beverages come with the territory.
There’s a legend that one day a famished hussar intent on testing the steel of his sabre and bored by the T-bone decided to brandish his sword, only to strike the T-bone in the middle, slicing it perfectly in half; hence the newly invented classic at the Hussar: Fillet on the Bone, commonly known as FOB and a favourite among some regulars. But you don’t need a sword to slice your meat – you can eat it off the bone with an ordinary steak knife.
Here is a recipe for tomato soup with strong reminiscences of master chef Olga Petersen:
Peel 6 ripe but firm tomotoes by pouring boiling water over them – and then slice 2 carrots and 2 sticks of celery, chop up 2 onions and crack 2 cloves of garlic with the side of the knife and remove the little green gland inside of the garlic and throw it away.
Place a quarter of a small cup of really good olive oil into a largish saucepan over medium heat and put in the chopped-up veggies and stir with a wooden spoon, to cook for 15 minutes.
Dissolve two cubes of veggie stock in 1,5 litres of hot water, stir and add to the mixture together with two medium-sized tins of Italian tomatoes. Don’t separate the stalks from the tomatoes if they still have them on. Stir and let the mixture boil up and then reduce to simmer for 15 minutes and then add some dried origanum (not fresh!).
Serve with dried bread/toast topped with Grier cheese and serve semi-chilled Barbera d’Alba with its strong aroma that can stand up to the tomato flavour without back-staging the soup.
Edited and adapted (without the details of the wine pairing) from http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/vegetables-recipes/tomato-soup/#pvePhr7QVSm8ldjQ.99.
Keep the glass simple but with a nice open brim to maximise the bouquet – try stemless wine glasses for a change.
Barbera d’Alba is a good choice to enjoy with the 500 g T-bone, the pride of cut for any Hungary diner or with its renowned Carpetbagger.
End with freshly ground Terbodore, or one of Des’s special chocolate liqueurs – no alcohol for the driver, though, or call a cab!
At The Hussar Grill you are sure to go back in Rondebosch history.
10 Main Rd
Monday to Friday: 12h00–23h00
Sunday and public holidays: 18h00–22h00
Booking policy: Walk-ins welcome, but reservations are highly recommended.
Photos by Paul Murray, unless indicated otherwise