For those still not in the know, The Upper Palatte is a group created to get ‘friends’ together, at least once a month, to try out new places to eat thus broadening our palate sensations – whether it may be a trendy bistro at a five star hotel or an undiscovered earthy ethnic eatery. Members of The Upper Palatte are affectionately referred to as Upper Crusters. An Upper Cruster is a member of The Upper Palatte and consequently a part of The Upper Crust (TUC), which is the title given to the body of individuals who belong to The Upper Palatte.
On Saturday 22nd August 2009, The Upper Palatte (TUP) was finally able to regroup, after a lengthy four month hiatus, courtesy of my broken arm. This marks the third ‘eat’ since the inception of The Upper Palatte. The venue was Faff, which offers modern European cuisine, with a “sexed up neighbourhood fare” and is located just off Norwood’s bustling Grant Avenue in Johannesburg. Unfortunately, or better yet, fortunately, only three Upper Crusters were able to attend The Upper Palatte’s third meet.
Faff certainly offered quite a unique experience…
For starters it was quite difficult to make a booking. Not once did I manage to speak to an employee because I apparently continued to call during ‘none working hours’. Nevertheless I did eventually leave a voice message, after what seemed like a never endingly long winded recording, detailing the intricacies of Faff and its operating hours. After failing to receive a call back regarding our booking, the Upper Crusters and myself decided that we would arrive early at the destination in order to attempt to secure an available table. We arrived at Faff by 18:45 under the impression that the restaurant would be open at 19:00. Unfortunately, this was not the case. It is here that I would like to mention that it was quite a cold evening.
The restaurant was a buzz with activity, but only the cleaning and preparatory kind. Anyway, because of the weather, we asked if we could go inside. The answer? We were refused access because they only open at 19:00 and the ‘burners’ are only lit by 19:30. Let me tell you, we were not at all pleased. I could not believe that they would not let us in because we were there 10 minutes before opening. Seriously?! I kid you not. Now get this. While we were waiting, I get a call. I answer it. Low and behold, it was the manager of Faff calling to organise and confirm my booking. What the heck? Needless to say I told him, in the most scathing way possible, that we were the people who he would not let in. He laughed and then apologised, not profusely enough in my opinion, before letting us in.
After being let in, we were given the opportunity to choose our own seating. Unsurprisingly, I selected what appeared to be quite a nice location within the restaurant. After seating ourselves down, we were ungraciously asked to move to another location because that particular table had been ‘booked’. Really? I wonder when, considering we had only been called to confirm our booking not even five minutes before entering the premises. Reluctantly, we moved.
Interestingly, about 30 minutes after our arrival, the restaurant began to fill with mostly Jewish clientele. No major surprise, considering the owners appeared to be Jewish. Bare in mind, that this is by no means an important aspect to take note of, but it is one I feel I need to mention, purely because of the blatant favouritism of creed which made itself apparent throughout the course of the evening. As alluded to earlier, we were told to move to another table due to a previous reservation. As it so happens, there was no other reservation. How did we find this out? Simple really. Two Jewish couples walked in, made their way to the table we were asked to move from and asked if it was available or reserved, to which a waitron replied, “Yes it is available, please take a seat”! Can you believe that? If you are wondering if there may have been a cancellation, think again! Other than phoning us back, the manager barely made any other calls while we waited to be served.
In addition to the ‘table issue’, I have to remark on the service: astoundingly pathetic! Not only did our waiter get our orders wrong but he was rude and actually argued with us regarding our orders, essentially blaming us for the incorrect or lack of an order. Have you ever? Now get this, the same waiter which was serving us, also served the table we were originally moved from. However, his demeanour and attitude were completely different when serving them. Next time I’m going to wear a Jewish cap and see if I have better service!
Alright, enough about the venue, let us get to the most important aspect of this article, the gastronomy!
For starters we ordered beef Carpaccio, chicken livers and pie. All of the starters were delicious yet unimpressive. Standard entree fare.
For our main meals we ordered seared salmon, braised duck and leg of lamb.
The seared salmon was disastrous. Seared usually implies that the fish has merely been touched lightly by the flame of a grill, thus preserving the divine rose coloured and supple flesh that salmon is known so very well for. Unfortunately, the salmon was so cooked that it resembled a rather bland and dry chicken breast. The only saving grace for this meal was the accompanying dip, which made the dish edible.
The braised duck was good. Not great, but good. The flesh was tender, juicy and managed to retain the uniquely wild taste of game that duck is known for. Those familiar with eating duck will, no doubt, enjoy this meal. The dish is infused with a variety of spices and herbs, lending an exotic and satisfying palate sensation to an otherwise ordinary dish.
The highlight of the evening was none other than the leg of lamb. The meat literally fell of the bone. The dish was not only soft and tender, but also infused with an indescribably exquisite taste, resulting an three resounding ‘flavourgasms’. This is no doubt one of the most sublime and well received leg of lamb dishes that Upper Cruster’s have sampled. Divine!
For dessert we ordered a degustation platter with fruit parfait, crème brulee and tiramisu. Additionally we ordered two chocolate volcanoes. Simply put, the desserts were unremarkable. The crème brulee was not unlike smooth scrambled egg with a sugar coating. The tiramisu had an unusual taste which I think it may have had to do with the use of cream instead of mascarpone cheese. The fruit parfait was like fruit parfait, no more no less. The chocolate volcanoes were good though, when compared to the other aforementioned desserts. However, there was a distinctly artificial chocolate taste inherent within the chocolate volcanoes.
At the close of the evening, and after only a moments unanimous deliberation, The Upper Palatte adjudged Faff with an average rating of six out of ten. This upper marketed restaurant is quaint and exudes character, but it is a pity to see it suffer so in terms of poor service, average gastronomique fair and assumedly blatant preference to creed.
Although all of The Upper Crust who were able to attend had a fantastic time, we do sincerely hope that the next venue to be visited by The Upper Palatte will serve more in terms of degustation and character. Please do have a look at the album from ‘The Upper Palatte Ingests: Faff.
Until the next time “Milieunairs”!