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    Sep 2013 · Sarah Duff

    In a city full of franchise restaurants it’s a refreshing delight to eat at The Leopard, which is undoubtedly J’burg’s...

    In a city full of franchise restaurants it’s a refreshing delight to eat at The Leopard, which is undoubtedly J’burg’s best quirky eatery.  Owner Andrea Burgener, a self-taught chef, has long been a favorite fixture on the city’s food scene for her previous restaurants Superbonbon and Deluxe, and now draws rave reviews for her latest venture, which is all about non-fussy, unpretentious food.

    Andrea’s small menu (with daily specials) is made up of dishes that she likes to eat, drawn from childhood South African, German and British influences, and the cosmopolitan flavours of Joburg, from Mozambican, Chinese, Indian and Pakistani to Ethiopian and Congolese.

    Put all of those influences into the mix and you’ll end up eating gems such as “little cough Quail”, a cashew-macadamia stuffed quail in a Mozambican piri-piri sauce, and the unusual Ethiopian steak tare tare, which is hand-chopped on order and served with African spices, and a taro leaf masala roll up with smokey chicken, apple atchar and flatbread. Starters are made for sharing: personal favourites include the deliciously tangy white anchovies with red onion on toast and hot rosemary olives with ciabatta, while desserts are the ultimate nostalgic comfort food: you can’t do better than the dark chocolate brownies and bananas and ice cream smothered in hot fudge sauce.

    There’s a small, but well-selected, wine list which focuses on boutique wineries and unusual varietals, such as Grenache Noir, as well as a great cocktail list that covers the classics as well as some of their own concoctions (try the Honest Love Affair: gin, absinthe, lemon, basil and rosemary).

    Service is a tad erratic, but always friendly and warm. It’s all part of the charm of a restaurant that is decorated with a touch of whimsical retro, with mismatched crockery and chairs, wall stickers and old pictures of dogs. It’s not about having a rushed dinner, it’s about savouring each course with lots of wine and chatter.

    It’s the sense of humour and playfulness exuded by the menu, décor and staff that makes eating at the Leopard such a fun experience. To give an example, the word “foodie” (as well as the over-used jus) is in fact banned in the restaurant, and the menu warns that “audible use may impact badly on the kitchen’s cooking ability.” Andrea believes that the dining world needs to lighten up about the “gastronomic experience” – which she’s certainly closer to achieving with this deservedly ever-popular restaurant.

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