Anybody who grew up in the southern suburbs will know of Pirates – either as a restaurant renowned for their steaks and live music, or as the bar that one ends up at when all other venues in the area have closed, or as both. Either way, they are definitely doing something right, as longevity in the restaurant (not to mention pub/club) scene in Cape Town is almost as farfetched a concept as an EFF-hosted High Tea.
We went there on the night of “that storm” in Cape Town. You know, the one which nobody was really warned was coming and which suddenly hit us out of nowhere! Being Capetonians, my fellow bru and I (two of the bru’s couldn’t make it that night) obviously didn’t have that obsolete item known as an umbrella with us, so we quickly found a parking close to the restaurant and fought through the battering rain to get inside. Once inside, the manageress on duty showed us to our table, where we had a good view of the nights live musicians, The Good Life Band.
There were a good number of diners there that night, including two birthday tables, which made for a festive atmosphere. The feeling I got, sitting in our booth, was that I had been transported back 25 years to when I used to go to a steakhouse as a youngster. Everything, from the heavily wooded décor to the dimly-lit interior, instantly brought back memories.
Our waitress soon attended to us and offered to take our drinks order. It was then that we were given the type of news which people generally need counselling to prepare them for – they don’t offer craft beers and the only beers on tap were two of SAB’s most generic brands. Still, we forged ahead and ordered the one marketed as having fewer calories.
We quickly moved onto ordering our starters. The offerings were, again, reminiscent of a steakhouse menu from way-back. We decided to go for a bit of a mix and ordered a Deep Fried Calamari and Stuffed Black Mushrooms between the two of us. The calamari arrived looking precisely as expected, however the Stuffed Black Mushrooms should rather have been called “Stuffed Bowl”.
The components of the dish namely black mushrooms, spinach, garlic, mozzarella and cheddar cheese, were definitely all there, however, the way they were put together would be foreign to anybody who has ever had a stuffed black mushroom dish. The idea of a stuffed mushroom is that the mushroom is filled/stuffed with the other components. In this case, everything was mixed together and filled/stuffed into the bowl. Don’t get me wrong, it was a tasty starter, but the presentation and texture of the dish was not what was expected. On the other hand, the calamari totally hit the mark. As the plates from our starters were being cleared away, the band began belting out a classic from Creedence Clearwater Revival called “Have you ever seen the rain?” Whilst this question may seem rhetorical for many, only a few short weeks ago it would have invoked serious head-scratching from Capetonians trying to think of the answer.
Food-wise, it had been a bit of a hit and miss start, but the main act was still to come – and that was why we were really there! For our burgers, we went for their Blackbeard’s Burger (topped with bacon, cheddar cheese, and mushroom sauce) – the most popular burger on the menu – and a Bacon & Feta Burger. When they arrived, our first thoughts were that we would be rolling out of the restaurant. The portions of chips were massive and filled practically the entire half of one side of the plates. The burgers, themselves, came extremely generously topped.
The Blackbeard’s Burger looked like it needed to quickly find a home in our stomach’s, but in the case of the Bacon & Feta Burger, the presentation was not the most inviting. The bacon had no colour to it and its texture was what was most disappointing. The best way I can describe it is to use the fabulous Afrikaans word, “verlep”. For those not versed in South African, this word refers to something being “wilted”. On top of this, there was a huge amount of creamy feta, perhaps too much as it worked to overpower the patty. The topping on the Blackbeard’s Burger wasn’t too bad, however we both felt that the amount of sauce used nullified the flavour of the patty. The Pirates burger patty is t-a-s-t-y! Next time I will order their regular Pirates Burger and request extra basting sauce, as their basting sauce is absolutely spot-on.
The flavour of the Pirates patty exceeds the flavour of most other restaurants’ burger patties which I have tasted. I am a true believer in restaurants needing to stick to their strengths. In this instance, in my opinion, the patty needs to be shown to be the highlight of their burger dishes – not the toppings. This being said, the fact that Pirates continues to go from strength to strength is testament to the fact that they are definitely doing most things right. A busy restaurant on a night in which Cape Town experienced the mother of all storms – that’s seriously impressive going!
Beginnings – Good old-school steakhouse variety. The fact that the mushroom dish arrived not at all how it was described, made it a disappointing start to our meal 2.5
Burgers – A patty comparable to the tastiest we have had, let down greatly by the quality and quantity of the toppings. Pity… 3
Beers – The fact that they serve beer is the only reason that they don’t score less 1
Bringers – Our waitress was very efficient, however we felt that she lacked any real pizzazz, which was a shame as it means we can’t give her a perfect score 4
Background – Considering what was going on outside with the weather, one couldn’t expect to be in a more vibey restaurant. The live music was great, in spite of conversation being made difficult due to it being so loud (believe me, I feel old typing this sentence!) 4.5