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uMhlanga parties like there’s no tomorrow

The Steak & Ale pie with chips and gravy.

The Steak & Ale pie with chips and gravy.

Published Dec 4, 2021

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Steak & Ale

Where: 15 Chartwell Drive, uMhlanga

Open: Daily 10.30am to 11pm.

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Call: 031 561 7234

There was an almost surreal atmosphere hanging over uMhlanga’s Chartwell Drive last Saturday night. Omicron was knocking at the door, and with a family meeting suspected for Sunday, and no one sure what Uncle Cyril would do, uMhlanga decided to do what it does best ‒ it partied.

Coupled with month end and the end of exams, the strip was heaving. Bevvies of barely legal teens floated from establishment to establishment, the music pumped and mingled with the melee in the street, cars weaved up and down showing off, masks were up, down and half-mask. It was much like pre-pandemic times. Ahh, the good old days.

We chose the Steak & Ale because they had a wide, well ventilated verandah, and soon found ourselves propping up a barrel, watching the party over gin and tonics. There was probably a bulls party next to us, and a bunch who looked like they’d just written their last exam on the other side of our barrel. Big tables of young friends mingled from table to table to bar where there was a group of young creatives and a cougar or two. You can’t fault the party vibe.

The 200g sirloin with chips.

The menu is very pub grub, kept quite simple with limited options, which in such a busy spot is understandable. Burgers are beef or chicken or Mexican chicken, with no options to include the kitchen sink. Steaks are two weights of fillet, rump and sirloin with a rib-eye and T-bone, simply served with a side. There’s ribs, a full or half chicken and fish and chips, oh and a chicken Caesar or a fillet salad that can both be done as wraps. That about sums up the menu.

On the reverse is a selection of boards, each item listed under either R80, R70 or R60, which you can make up however you like. A lot of boards were coming out to the tables piled with things like sirloin strips, or chicken strips or Mexican chicken wings or peri-peri-livers. There’s biltong and more ribs, and sliders and crispy fish pieces, along with jalapeno poppers and halloumi strips. One arrived with some giant ball-like things on them and we decided that must be the cheese garlic rolls. Hungry, we decided to try a few dishes for starters.

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Our starter board arrived at the same time as our mains, possibly a confusion with our waitress over the noise around us. We were hungry, but possibly not that hungry. We tucked in valiantly.

Starters of crispy squid heads, panko crumbed prawns and deep-fried olives.

We were pleasantly surprised by the food, good decent stuff considering the pressure on the kitchen, and far superior to the offerings of its cousin on Florida Road..

Our crispy squid heads with a mayo dipping sauce (R80) were remarkably good. We enjoyed the panko crusted prawns (R80) which came with some kind of butter sauce, and the stuffed, crumbed and deep fried olives (R80). These were not the Café 1999 classic, but they were good. I’ve had too many poor imitations.

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My friend had the 200g sirloin (R120) which was cooked exactly to order and came with good chips and onion rings. Everything had a few onion rings on the side. A nice touch. You feel like you’re getting a second side free.

I had tossed up between the bookmaker's steak roll which sounded like a glorified prego roll and the Steak & Ale pie (R120). This was a massive affair, with a good tasty filling topped by a crisp, thin and properly cooked piece of pastry. It came with gravy, and the best part was dunking the chips into the gravy. They should certainly put that on the menu.

Desserts predictably don’t feature, although they have coffee facilities so presumably a good Irish coffee would be possible. We were tempted but decided to skip the noise, opting for an ice-cream parlour down the strip.

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Food: 3 ½

Service: 3

Ambience: 3

The Bill: R696 (including some gin and tonics)

The Independent on Saturday

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