Proud Mary in Rosebank keeps on rolling out food that rocks

Proud Mary in Rosebank keeps on rolling out food that rocks
The bar at Proud Mary is as cool as Tina Turner. Left, the menu, right, grilled octopus. (Photos: Who Nose?)

We cleaned a lot of plates at Proud Mary, in Johannesburg’s Rosebank, and they should be proud. Very proud. The food on our table was a truly marvellous selection that the chef had composed like an orchestra.

On a chilly Monday evening, the distraction and I plus two foodie friends clambered out outside The Zone in Rosebank. On a Monday night, the restaurant attached to a very quirky boutique hotel was buzzing.

Black-suited security greeted us at the door and guided us through to reception where we were efficiently delivered to our reserved table. The waiter – a delightful chap called Mike – took our drinks orders for pre-dinner cocktails efficiently.

The gorgeous interior is dominated by a massively high and well-stocked bar surrounded by comfy seating and staffed by showy mixologists. The crowd was a mix of bankers, Joburg North hoi polloi, lovers, blessers, blessees, and generally very stylish. The place had a warm pleasant hum. We were off to a good start as superbly prepared cocktails arrived. The wine list is extensive and filled with unusual and eccentric quality choices. Someone thought about this list. Deeply.

The menu is equally eccentric and offers a wide choice of food, the most interesting for me being a lovely selection of small plates and unusual starters. When asked to choose something, they all appealed, so I ordered one of each plus white anchovies from the starters. Harry Hartmann Sauvignon Blanc hailing from Elgin was the deeply delicious vinous selection. 

From left, white anchovies with apple, pear, celery and fennel salsa; fried dhal fritters with makhani yoghurt, chilli oil and pineapple chutney, aubergine ‘carpaccio’ with hummus, orange and vanilla pearl onions. (Photos: The Nose)

Mike suggested he bring out the dishes in tranches as they were ready from the kitchen. This was wise, as flights of not-so-small dishes soon filled our table in a riot of colour. Each dish proved in its own way a delight. Highlights were the superb sumac chicken, truly excellent chargrilled octopus that was tender on the inside and crispy on the outside, served with a medley of Mediterranean flavours.

Left, oxtail croquettes, and right, sumac chicken thighs with coriander and mint tomato salad. (Photos: The Nose)

The oxtail croquettes were little savoury rounds of delight served with a delicious garlic aïoli sauce. Three huge prawns were hardly a small dish but succulent with paprika and lemon sauce and moreish Parmesan crisps. Tempura mushrooms were a visual and oral treat with Togarishi.

Left, halloumi baklava, and right, tempura mushrooms. (Photos: The Nose)

Halloumi baklava was sticky honey and almond layers with crispy wafers of phyllo over a squeaky piece of perfectly grilled halloumi. The aubergine carpaccio was transcendental. Cooked to gorgeous translucency with really traditional hummus, pearl onions and a little mint oil. Lamb kofta transported me to Lebanon; salmon gravlax offset by caviar and dill oil to Copenhagen. 

A classic green salad was wonderful in a tangy citrus dressing with the multiple salad types set off by crunchy little apple matchsticks. Someone in that kitchen has above-average knife skills…

Read more in Daily Maverick: A tale of two Jozi pâtisseries

Left, citrus-cured salmon gravlax with apple and celery salad; right, calamari. (Photos: The Nose)

Less successful was the pork belly which had a tough chewy rind instead of a crackling, but the sauce and accompaniment were delicious. The calamari was a little oily and over rich but I am nitpicking. 

It was a truly marvellous selection that the chef had composed like an orchestra on our table with each instrument an important part of this gastro symphony. The ingredients were fresh; the presentation and preparation thoughtful and caring, the pace of service superb. An evening to savour and enjoy. 

The pastry chef must also be singled out for praise as despite being as full as little piglets we ordered two desserts and espresso martinis. The desserts had perfect balance. Neither of them overrich or oversweet. The deconstructed strawberry mess was a triumph. Poached strawberries, in-house prepared ice cream, shards of meringue and yummy gin jellies. The panna cotta was equally light, not oversweet and with a perfect consistency. The martinis were a shock of strong espresso and deadly vodka and left us giddy.

The distraction, our smiling foodie friends (it was the first time for them) and I were positively delighted. It was a stunning relaxing evening filled with delight. 

The bill for the four of us including a multitude of cocktails, 13 dishes, good wine and many bottles of water and a generous tip for our server Mike came to a very reasonable, for the experience, R3,600.

Proud Mary scores a very proud 9.4 on the restaurant scale and will continue to see us again and again. 

PS: The breakfasts are also excellent. When shopping in Rosebank a visit here for brekkies or brunch should be compulsory. DM

Proud Mary is at The Bank, 26 Cradock Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg | phone 010 023 3316 | Reservations on WhatsApp: 061 585 1596 or [email protected] | Parking outside with a guard off the street: R15 per hour | All credit cards accepted

The Nose reviews SA food heroes and lesser-known spots serving great food. Restaurants are visited anonymously with the bill paid in full by our secret and highly qualified food reviewer. The Nose is often accompanied by the delicious distraction, partner in life and fellow gourmand.


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