Palamino is the place to go for a perfect meal speedily served

Helen Crooks

THE Richmond Hill eatery has been around in a few guises, firstly as the renowned Nosh and later as Charlie's Bistro.

And now, after extensive renovations and under the very hands-on ownership of Gill Repton, it is trading again as Palamino, a spot which comes highly recommended for both lunch and dinner.

When we popped in to sample the dinner menu (there is a separate lunch menu, which also includes wraps and tramezzinis), a warm log fire welcomed us into one of the extensive dining areas. The spot by the fire that we opted for, it being one of THOSE supposedly spring PE nights, is graced by chandeliers with a modern twist and strategically placed armchairs, which gives the restaurant a home-from- home feel with an ambience that puts you instantly at ease.

Once seated we were offered drinks from the extensive wine list by our attentive but not intrusive waiter, Sicelo. I ordered a glass of Pierre Jordaan Tranquille (R29) for me and a cappuccino (R16) for my dinner partner.

The drinks were served promptly, the wine presented in a carafe with a side order of ice, which was not needed as it was perfectly chilled.

And so to the menu, which is small but perfectly adequate.

We debated starters, which included that sixties' favourite, avo ritz (R39), and the interesting-sounding roasted bone marrow with ciabatta (R35) but, having had a disastrous experience with that in the past, eventually opted for the prawn spring rolls (R38) for me and the butternut soup (R38) for my dinner partner.

Like the drinks, the food was served with impressive speed and was very attractively presented. The spring rolls were so substantial they would perhaps be better shared if you want to make it all the way to dessert. Served with soy sauce and sweet chilli dips they were perfectly cooked and full of plump prawns.

The soup, my dinner partner declared, was the perfect starter on a cold, wet, windy PE night, although for her it was a little bit on the sweet side.

And so on to the mains. There are unusual items, like a spiced fillet steak salad with Danish feta and pine nuts (R60), pastas including tagliatelli with butternut, creamy gorgonzola and pancetta, and also an array with burgers. But the ribs (R85) had caught my dinner partner's eye, while I settled on the Kingklip special (R75) recommended by our waiter, who was spot on.

Again, the meals were served with impressive speed, and really attractively presented.

The side salad was served in unusually shaped bowls while the chips were definitely home-made and very more-ish.

The fish was cooked and flavoured to perfection, while the ribs were moist and succulent.

Replete, we made the mistake of asking about desserts – mistake in that it was just gluttony that made us order one: there was lemon meringue and baked cheesecake (both firm favourites) but then there was the option of a dark chocolate mousse (R32), which eventually won our hearts.

Considering the ample portions of both the starters and mains, the velvety mousse, served with cream and a strawberry, was just the right size and the perfect end to a perfect meal.

Plans for the future include adding a selection of pizzas to the menu and to develop the outside pool area, which will be perfect for summer lunches.

Restaurant visits are unannounced and meals are paid for in full.

Our bill, including two glasses of wine, two cappuccinos and a glass of sparkling water came to R374.