Wolfpackby Su-yen Thornhill / 28.11.2013
There’s no such thing as a free lunch, or so they say. There’s usually some sort of catch, yet there are people who can wangle freebies all the time. During one of my poorer phases in life, or should I say in an attempt to live more frugally, I latched onto the idea of becoming a mystery shopper.
You get sent on missions. Not quite the ‘save the world batgirl kind of gig’ but an email nonetheless stating time and place and a list of objectives you must fulfill. This allows the owner of the company to essentially spy on his or her employees.
You could be going to try out a car service, test a product, fill in a questionnaire or if you are super lucky, get sent abroad to stay in a new hotel – sadly I never made that grade. I think my most traumatic job was to investigate hardware stores in London, to see if I could be leased power-tools, with no prior experience. Seemingly none of them had any policy in place to ensure competency. I very nearly re-enacted the Texas ‘Chainstore’ Massacre by wielding the blade and almost taking out the assistant.
Since then I have decided to stick to safer options. What better way is there to fulfill the opportunity of a free meal than to become a restaurant critic? Well, during my last outing, I was given grief for not dwelling on the food. That’s because they knew I was writing about them and the food wasn’t all that great. I was plagued with the guilty conscience of one who has been given a free dinner and about to complain about it.
It was therefore with a light heart that I went to check out The Wolfpack restaurant in Parkhurst. The management knew I was coming, but the staff didn’t so I was treated like every other customer in the place. And unlike last time where I flew Hans Solo, I could bring a friend, so at least I didn’t have to sit like Norma no-mates in this super busy gastropub.
My plus one was already seated when I arrived and Mr Jack the waiter could not have been more attentive and welcoming. He enticed me to try the elderflower cucumber infused gin, and Rachel opted for a spiced pear mojito. While The Wolfpack is known for its craft beers, I have to say they mix a delicious cocktail and I slurped mine down rather faster than intended.
The room is completely open to the street and split into a dining area, furnished with simple painted tables and metal chairs and a bar space separated by a high table designed to stand around heavily laden with beer. Awesome for a balmy summer’s evening. There is also a second floor, but it was booked out for a private event. We were there around seven and the restaurant was just filling up, soon to become extremely rowdy with a group of golfers downing beers around the beer island. This is probably not the sort of place to take a first date if romance is what you are after, but certainly a brilliant venue for a fun evening heavily lubricated with alcohol.
I opted to try the Big Bad Wolf burger, which according to Mr Jack, (let me state for the record, I checked with him about his name and this was indeed his first name and not a Victorian butler service quirk) was their signature burger. He asked how I would like it and erring on the side of caution, I asked for it medium to well done. Now I know that is probably sacrilege to many of you, but having trained as a microbiologist, I am always dubious of mince beef and E.coli.
My mother always says, (now you must imagine a very strong Chinese accent,) “If da quality is good, den it doesn’t matter how cooked the meat it, it should still be tender.” Thankfully, she was right, despite being well done and no blood in sight, my burger was succulent and tasty and I should add enormous. The leaning tower of Pisa that arrived had me wondering whether I ought to use my cutlery rather than attempt to bite into it. I went for a compromise and hacked the tower in two and enjoyed a very messy half hour of delicious burgerdom.
Rachel had the Morrocan inspired burger cooked just medium and reported no grievous bodily harm, so you are probably safe to order the meat as you like it. I love the wooden boards the food is served on and the burgers come with a choice of side orders. Being of Chinese and fussy origin I tried the Asian salad, which was clean and crisp. I totally wished I had my own portion of the shoestring fries that came with Rachel’s burger because they were unbelievably moreish. Chima, another member of staff came to see how we were getting on and recommended the peanut brittle ice-cream. It came in a small pickling jar and was the perfect end to a very filling supper.
The overall ambience of The Wolfpack is Hipster New York. The exposed brick wall with stencilled wolves, the play on little red riding hood and the tiled floor all reminded me of the big apple and I almost expected the cast of Sex in the City to swing in at any moment. It’s certainly a brilliant new incarnation rising upon the ashes of George’s on Fourth.
The burgers start around R70 and there are vegetarian options. There are other items on the menu including fillet steak, pasta, salads and mussels, but as Chima said, ‘Burgers are our thing.’ And that was what most people in the room were tucking into. I ended the evening with a glass of Devil’s peak beer and Rachel a Tiger.
In the last few months, Parkhurst has enjoyed a renaissance and become quite a foodie destination with new restaurants popping up throughout the street. The Wolfpack is a welcome newcomer and comes from a well-known pedigree. Its sister restaurant, The Cnr. Café and Bistro in Craighall Park has enjoyed years of success. Any restaurant that encourages street life is a plus for me and they are on to a winning formula. Decent beer, cocktails and dinner would have set us back around R400 including tip but we were happy and full and will go back for sure.
* The Wolfpack, 21 4th Avenue, Parkhurst, is open from Tuesday to Sunday (12pm to 12am). Follow them on Facebook for updates or call to make a booking on 011 447 7705.