NESTLED alongside an antique shop on Berea’s trendy Chamberlain Road is a small, vibey restaurant that has taken East London by storm.
Constantly buzzing with customers, Sanook Café specialises in gourmet burgers and crispy pizzas and is one of the few restaurants in the city which usually requires a reservation in order to avoid disappointment.
Owners James Hogg and Natasha Machado have come up with an uncomplicated concept of good, simple and deliciously presented food underpinned by excellent, friendly service. And East London has welcomed them with open arms.
A chef by trade, Hogg once owned a catering company in Port Elizabeth, while Machado has run franchise restaurants in Gauteng. The couple then moved to Thailand where they owned a beer garden and restaurant, before moving to East London and opening Sanook in April last year.
As word of their excellent burgers and pizzas spread, so Sanook, which once consisted of a long alleyway courtyard and a smallish interior, has expanded into any available space it could find and now also sports a cosy bar area with more chunky wooden tables to accommodate the constant stream of hungry patrons.
“Almost every month we bash down walls and take on a new part of the building,” said Hogg, adding that he and front-of-house pundit Machado have been “overwhelmed” by the success of their East London venture. Since we had neglected to book, my husband Glenn and I arrived for a late lunch last Saturday afternoon, and were immediately shown to a table for two by our friendly waiter. Besides Sanook’s famed gourmet burgers and pizzas, the menu also features salads, panini and shareable snack boards.
While we waited for our orders, the owner nonchalantly plucked a sprig of rosemary from a window box planter next to us. It doesn’t get much fresher than that!
My gourmet cheese burger (R57), topped with red onion, mayo and rocket and served on a fluffy sesame seed bun was delicious. To me the word patty suggests something flattish and rubbery, so I will not apply it to the burger I was served, which was characterised by all the crumbly plumpness and juiciness of a handmade burger. Served with ultra-slim crispy French fries, it is clear why the gourmet burgers, which also come in chicken breast, ostrich, lamb and venison versions , are such a hit. And if that sounds like too much meatiness, vegetarians can opt for The Hippy Burger (R45) which consists of a grilled black mushroom, topped with goat’s cheese, eggplant, baby marrows and rocket, topped with homemade tomato sauce.
Glenn opted for the Asian Invasion salad (R65), which was made up of sliced beef fillet resting on a mound of greens and shredded cabbage with an Asian dressing.
He particularly enjoyed the Asian dressing with its gingery flavour and hankered after more of the roasted baby marrow that was a key element of the dish. We ordered cheese cake (R35) and wicked chocolate cake (R35) – the cake of the day – for dessert. Served with cream and ice- cream respectively, both were excellent. The creamy cheesecake was lemony and smooth, while the decadent chocolate cake was all moist sponge and mouth-watering ganache topping.
Decorated in a relaxed, muted style with unpretentious screeded floors and rows of cushions adding a homespun comfort to interior seating, Sanook has succeeded in a venue where other good restaurants have struggled.
Bookings can be made by phoning (043) 721-3215. – Barbara Hollands