Where: Dunkirk Estate, Sameja Drive, Salt Rock
Open: Tuesday to Saturday 8am to 8pm, Sunday 8am to 3.30pm
Call: 032 525 4505
The oxtail was perfect. On a cold evening, washed down with a good glass of shiraz, it was just what the doctor ordered.
Meltingly tender meat just fell from the bone in a rich and deeply rewarding casserole on top of silky mashed potatoes with squeaky fresh green beans. I’m in heaven, as was Di, my bridge team mate, as we lapped up every last morsel.
Yes, I wanted to lick the plate.
We were at Ray’s Kitchen in Salt Rock, joined by fellow competitors Mark and Vanessa, after playing in the bridge interprovincials. The bridge was foul, but the kitchen made up for it.
Ray’s has always been a favourite on the North Coast. It’s a simple but smartly styled bistro offering an Italian-styled menu that’s done well. Service is slick and friendly and owner Paul Shepherd makes you feel like you’re at home. It was great to be back.
You can choose your wine from the bottles lined up on the bar counter, although waiting staff are very knowledgeable and more than confident to make suggestions. There’s also a small cocktail selection that speaks of summer.
The menu offers a range of interesting pastas and pizzas, and a number of dishes cooked in the pizza oven. It’s augmented by daily specials chalked up on the board.
I had been tempted by the seafood risotto. If it is anything like the risottos Shepherd produced in his time at Marco Paulo, this will be top notch. His lamb neck risotto is one of those dishes that stick in the all-time memory banks. And then there was the langoustine fettuccine in a vermouth, cream and tomato sauce, but one bite of the oxtail (R260) and I knew I’d made the right decision.
But I get ahead of myself. Starters might include their famed tuna lollipops ‒ hunks of tuna in a tempura batter with sesame seeds, pickled ginger, wasabi mayo and a soy lime reduction. It’s something of a signature dish. The Thai-style rock cod fish cake with avo, with sesame, chilli and lemongrass is also popular. I’d also previously had the masala mussels which were on the specials board.
Mark went for the crispy squid with spicy mayo (R95) which was spot on, while Vanessa went for the phyllo-wrapped prawns (R135) with the same spicy mayo. These four were good large plump and juicy prawns coated in beautifully crisp phyllo. Yum.
I enjoyed the garlic snails (R115) cooked in the pizza oven with their crispy coating of a Parmesan crumb and some bread to mop up the garlic.
For mains specials included wood-roasted langoustines and a crayfish thermidor, or lamb chops. There was prawn and chorizo, or mushroom and spinach panzerotti, and an asparagus and leek rice risotto cake. I had previously had the pork belly and enjoyed it, while half a deboned chicken in a masala yoghurt also appealed.
Mark went for the sirloin on the bone (R295) which was a massive 600g portion complete with a marrow bone, veg and a tart mustard sauce. He gave it the thumbs up. As did Vanessa to her Asian-inspired seared tuna (R280) in black and white sesame seeds with wasabi mayo and pickled ginger. This too, was good cooking.
Other mains include a rack of pork loin ribs, or fillet medallions in a mushroom sauce. For those wanting something lighter there’s a house burger and prego roll. Vegetarians can look forward to melanzane, or falafels, or wild mushroom risotto. There’s a veg pizza with brinjals, artichokes, mushrooms, tomatoes, olives, avo and rocket. As a meat eater, this would have been my pizza of choice if I were having one.
I didn’t even look at the dessert menu, as I had already had an inelegant sufficiency. But Mark managed to squeeze in a home-made choc mint ice-cream, while I relished my good double espresso.
A great evening all round, made all the more memorable for meeting up with old friends, some of whom I hadn’t seen since pre-pandemic days.
The Bill: R1 802 (for four)
The Independent on Saturday