Let’s get real for a moment, Joburgers. When it comes to restaurants, as much as we love our long-time establishments and neighbourhood favourites, we’re always affected by what’s happening around us, right?
Luckily, our chic city’s food-and-drink scene has many options to grab and keep our attention. From fine dining spots to the cheaper but still delicious hangouts, there are loads of new places I’ve come across lately, but the one that’s distinctly stood out to me is The Fat Zebra in Linden.
The Fat Zebra hasn’t just raised the level for cafes in the quaint suburb of Linden, its become one of the first of what had previously been a rarity: an establishment that offers consistent quality across everything they do – from coffee and breakfasts to lunches and wine-paired dinners.
I arrived at the restaurant on a Friday afternoon in summer to try it out for myself. Upon arrival, I concluded right away that 7th Street in Linden is certainly an up-and-coming restaurant strip. It gives me the same kind of feel as 4th Avenue in Parkhurst.
I instantly admired the minimalistic yet intriguing décor – think bright interior with exposed brickwork and understated finishes. There are coat hooks on every wall allowing customers to keep their possessions close.
The restaurant was bustling both inside and out and I had a slight idea why (hint: their buttermilk crumpet stacks and foamy coffees are hard to miss on Instagram). Inside, customers were sipping on their coffees, supplied and freshly-brewed by 4th Avenue Coffee Roasters, while those outside were enjoying some wine.
The place isn’t huge, in fact, it’s a bit of a nook (that said in the best way possible). Both the inside and outside sections are small and cosy, which allows for customers to indulge an intimate atmosphere. I opted to sit outside, which is a lovely, breezy space to enjoy an early lunch.
After a quick peruse of the tantalising menu, owner Kevin was kind enough to come over and make a couple of fine recommendations.
On the breakfast side, you can expect both basic as well as creative options. Both the Eggs ‘Ben-Addicted’ and Buttermilk Crumpets are firm favourites, while The Elvis and The Babalaas (which is even served with a shot glass of cream soda) aren’t far behind. Sadly it was past 12:00, so they were no longer serving breakfast.
In terms of lunch, they offer a bit of everything, including tapas, salads, pizza, pasta, burgers, meat, poultry, and even a prego roll. I’m a big fan of the large selection. Then, for dinner, you’re spoilt for choice with a number of gourmet dishes on offer, including fresh handmade pasta, seared Norwegian salmon, wood-fired baby chicken and creamy mushroom fillet. After hearing about their Banting-friendly chicken prego done in a homemade sauce, I was sold almost instantly.
What’s also very interesting to note is that at The Fat Zebra, all of the dishes that come out of the kitchen are prepared in a pizza oven. Yes, that’s right – even the meat. The only items on the menu that aren’t, are the crispy potato cubes. Although this cooking method may sound a bit odd for anything other than pizza, it seems to be working tremendously well!
So, back to my meal. Yes, it looked that good! The dish was stunningly presented and looked unbelievably fresh.
In terms of taste, the prego was equally as impressive as the potatoes – the chicken was wonderfully succulent and the peri-peri sauce that it was served in was unbelievably flavourful. It presented a bit of a ‘kick’, but nothing I couldn’t handle. The generous salad portion, on the other hand, was just as fresh and tasty.
I had a glass of the fabulous pinot noir chardonnay that is Graham Beck Gorgeous. Recommended by Kevin, this wine was a perfect pairing with my spicy dish. I must also add that the restaurant offers a rather extensive wine list at affordable prices. Even their house wines are of top quality and are sure to please even the most discerning palette.
Before jumping right into dessert, Kevin insisted that I try out their signature crispy potato cubes, which are The Fat Zebra’s take on your boring old potato chips and, boy, am I glad he did! They were simply a delight and the aioli mayo that they came with complemented them ever so well.
After scoffing down every last potato cube, I moved on to dessert and found it to be a toss-up between the flourless lemon and almond cake and the chocolate torte. After much contemplation, I finally decided on the latter and I’m happy to report that it was a fantastic choice. The torte was sublime – it managed to be dark and chocolaty but at the same time not too rich. I also decided to order up a cappuccino on the side, which was pure quality.
I left The Fat Zebra feeling wonderfully satisfied. The experience overall was a real treat. I think what makes this spot special is that it’s stylish in a way that might signal the coffee shop just as much as a wine bar. It’s an ideal place to go for enthusiastic service that’s also very precise about what’s on your plate and in your cup.
In my opinion, The Fat Zebra is an excellent afternoon option and is well worth the drive if you aren’t a Linden local. I’m yet to try their breakfast and dinner options, but you can bet that I’ll be back to do so very soon! I’ll warn you that they’ve grown ever so popular since opening, so arrive early to secure your seat. You can trust that the sophisticated ambiance and quality menu is what keeps everyone coming back.
By Candice May