Everything hand-made is a guiding precept of this steampunk-inspired restaurant located at 27 Boxes, a Melville shopping centre made entirely of upcycled shipping containers.
In early 2015 steampunk, a speculative genre of fiction that imagines what the past would look like if the future had already happened, has become a style preoccupation, conjuring an earlier – often the Victorian – era and making a fetish of the machinery of the industrial age.
The Countess’s re-purposed double-story shipping container is an inventive space, with a large industrial staircase that gives you a sweeping view of the hammered metal counters, lots of copper piping adorning the dark grey walls and an impressive light fitting made of chains. A portrait of the mysterious Countess surveys the place.
Hearty home cooking meets the American South here with lots of smokey and sweet barbecue flavours (the Brisket and burgers are particularly good), excellent pickled vegetables (some spicy, with a delicate touch of curry flavours) and an emphasis on comfort foods given The Countess twist such as the truffle mac and cheese with confit garlic toast and greens.
For starters the Planks, a series of small dishes with accompanying pickles, are a popular choice. While meat dishes rule there are plenty of options for non-meat eaters including a chickpea, chilli and feta vegetarian burger served with explosive chilli aioli, a Moroccan veg stack with smoked cheddar, and beer battered fish.
There should be a rule that you cannot leave without tasting the Pot de Crème, a supreme dessert that mixes the richness and creamy texture of a crème brulee with the sharp flavour of black lava salt melted into maple syrup. Served in a small glass jar it’s a revelation, and the perfect way to finish any meal.
The Countess has a varied breakfast menu (until 12:00) and also serves raw juices, smoothies, and milkshakes that have incited poetry. Flavour combos include salted caramel and popcorn, and pineapple, coconut and vanilla.
Melville resident and owner Leon Pretorius has put a lot of thought into the flavour combinations and textures on the menu adding spicy items that undercut the richness of certain foods. Adventurous palates will be well rewarded here.
Bookings are recommended, and if noise bothers you choose to be seated downstairs. Also specify whether you would like to be seated at a counter (high) or table.