A little haven of jazz-infused calm just off Rosebank’s perennially busy Park Corner restaurant strip. South African restaurant and wine bar Blaque manages to effortlessly mix great food and wine with a pared down atmosphere that makes everybody feel at home. As chef and owner Sizo Henna says “Blaque is warm, accessible, me and you”.
Sizo’s natural charisma and years spent working as a private chef in the kitchen's of the country’s rich and powerful (he even did a stint as Cyril Ramaphosa’s personal chef - South Africa’s current President), plus a heartfelt passion for supporting other small businesses, combine to make him a consummate host, who makes every guest feel important and cared for. And in spite of the minimalist surrounds Blaque has a certain cosiness to it.
The slim menu is divided into salads, ‘sarmies’ (toasted sandwiches), grills (steaks, ribs, lamb chops and the like) and ‘ekhaya’. Ekhaya roughly translates as ‘home away from home’ and it is this proudly South African portion of the menu that will have you booking ahead on weekend evenings. The ekhaya dishes are only available Thursday through Sunday and are very popular.
There are four dishes to choose from served with a side of steamed bread, mngusho, chips or the most comforting creamy samp (slow cooked crushed corn kernels). Apparently, the oxtail potjie(stew cooked in a cast-iron pot) and the ulushu (tender home-cooked tripe) are among the restaurant’s most popular dishes. Meanwhile it was the umleqwa or ‘roadrunner’ chicken that sent one of our diners dreamily off to rose-tinted childhood memories of special occasions catered by grandma.
Umleqwa is a home-reared and slaughtered chicken – the ultimate ‘free range’ poultry if you will – that is notoriously difficult to tenderise. At Blaque the chicken takes up to four hours to prepare, which is probably the main reason that one never usually sees it on a restaurant menu. The chickens are often described as ‘roadrunners’ as they are famously difficult to catch, “those chickens could keep running for ten kilometres!” our waiter joked. Typically the meat, even after hours in the pot, will still be ‘stubborn’ or ‘hard’ (don’t even try to eat it with a knife and fork), but absolutely packed with flavour. If you are searching for the most authentic, traditional South African cuisine, look no further.
A devoted wine lover, Sizo’s wine menu champions boutique South African wines and he goes to great lengths to get hold of special bottles that have a story to tell. Such as the small-lot Aslina wines made by the award-winning Ntsiki Biyela, South Africa’s first black female winemaker.
And completing the picture of course is that jazz soundtrack, with the soothing sounds of Africa’s jazz greats gently easing you into the evening. The restaurant also hosts live jazz gigs once a month and with advance notice it is possible to book out the entire 60 seats for a private dinner.