Pineapple kimchi and baked aubergine.
Pineapple kimchi and baked aubergine.
Beef croquettes, smoked and offset with herb pesto.
Beef croquettes, smoked and offset with herb pesto.
Spareribs with  tasty sides.
Spareribs with tasty sides.
Home-made ice-cream in a cone.
Home-made ice-cream in a cone.
Duck fat potato garnished with paprika and served with truffle aoli.
Duck fat potato garnished with paprika and served with truffle aoli.

HOGHOUSE BARBECUE

* * * appetising, fresh and flavourful food

42 Morningside St, Ndabeni

Open Monday-Friday 5pm-9pm

Email: [email protected]: http://hhbc.co.za

GPS: 33° 55’ S / 18° 30’ E

Pig out Texan BBQ-style at PJ Vadas’ new Hoghouse Barbecue. Meat, potato salad, coleslaw and a wide variety of imaginative sides and snacks feature, writes JOS BAKER.

MEET a new-look PJ Vadas. If you know him only from 5-star venues like the Roundhouse and Camphors at Vergelegen, refocus. This is chalkboard, bare board stuff rather than haute, with a relaxed PJ Mark ll, having swapped fine for fun, playing happily in the BBQ market. He’s now busy creating a neighbourhood restaurant in the unlikely location of Ndabeni.

Note the term BBQ rather than braai. PJ learned the basics of this Texan speciality during a stint in Texas last October, and his new venue offers you the chance to pig out.

You’ll be forgiven if you don’t recognise the address, as this is an industrial area not noted for restaurants, adjoining the suburb of Pinelands (an under-served captive market). And yes, the restaurant, open from five, is child-friendly, so there’s no need to leave the kids at home. PJ himself is a family man. He describes bookings as “two waves”: families first, followed by adults able to linger.

To set the mood, outside the door there’s The Hog, a choo-choo engine, ready to belch smoke. Indoors, the laidback space is fittingly industrial-style: open-plan kitchen; a string of naked bulbs; bare wooden tables, paper-covered platters as plates for finger-food, with plenty of mop-up paper serviettes for greasy fingers. The sliding blackboard menu, rescued from a school, evokes memories, while the fun printed version carries the brewery’s jaunty warthog logo, tail erect. It’s up to diners to create a contented vibe, and judging by the noise, contented they are.

So is the freshly relaxed PJ. “Basically, BBQ involves three components: meat, potato salad and coleslaw,” he explains. Put like that, it sounds boring. Is he bored? He grins, saying that his wife is unused to seeing so much of him.

Though he claims all he does is add salt and pepper, he injects that basic combo with passion, quality - and succulence. If all barbeques were like this, I’d be an addict. This is no dried-out tough meat, braaied to death SA style. There’s nothing boring about succulent south western-style smoked beef brisket, meltingly tender pork from belly to spare ribs, supplemented by lamb shoulder and burnt ends. Each cut geared to capturing the flavour of prime quality free-range meat from environmentally conscious local suppliers.

What’s smoked depends on what cuts are available and it can happen that certain items are sold out during an evening. The barbecue changes daily, but don’t look for warthog. The caring, friendly staff vetoed the idea. Your e-mail might be “porks”, but how could you eat your logo?

Meat takes centre stage in all its succulent splendour. The basic formula is simple: you select what you want from the barbecue and then settle on your snacks, sides and dessert. PJ confesses that the creativity lies in the snacks and side dishes. Here his imagination surfaces in delights like wild mushroom arancini and chipolata aioli , pig tails with honey and mustard (try them at least once, but don’t expect crunch), and sourdough bread with truffled cream cheese.

Starters to nibble on range from sticky BBQ chicken wings to tortilla chips with avocado guacamole. We were a party of four, two of them children, and our unanimous choice from the nibbles were the beef croquettes, a rich goulash encased in a crisply crumbed coating, offset by a tangy herb pesto.

On to the meat, with a little of each cut to satisfy all appetites. For the youngsters, spare-ribs were first choice. Paired with fire-roasted corn on the cob and goats butter they offer an ideal opportunity to get-down-to-it and greasy.

Must-try standout among sides is the pineapple kimchi with coriander and bean sprouts, crunchy with peanuts. Baked aubergine with tomato, buffalo mozzarella and basil makes a toothsome partner to most cuts, while the vegetarian-friendly charred sweet potatoes, maple syrup and pecan nuts complements buttermilk fried chicken. Sadly, my one disappointment was the duck fat potatoes with parmesan and truffled aoli, which to my palate were not crisp enough.

Desserts play to the kid in all of us; home-made ice-cream in a cone. Flavours change regularly, but if you’re lucky, order the black forest cake or salted caramel.

The premises also operate as Hoghouse Brewing Company, a fully-fledged craft brewery. (Expect beers sporting wacky brand names like Hog Tail, Hog Wash, Warthog and Road Hog). You can see the brewing area from the restaurant, but until the licence is granted, that’s as near as you get.

Meanwhile, waiting in the wings is head brewer Ryno Reyneke, an established food and décor photographer and enthusiastic craft beer brewer, well known in the craft beer industry. And accomplished sommelier Joakim Blackadder, who worked with PJ at the Roundhouse, is ready to take the floor.

Right now BYO or sip on soft drinks, pour over coffee and exotic tea infusions like Nigiro Taiwanese Jin Shuan Oolong or Nigiro Kenyan FOP black tea.

l BBQ meats from R30-R60 per 100g (cooked weight). Snacks R30-R55; sides from R25-R80; ice-cream and sorbet R30.