The other bru’s and I made our way back to Park Rd in Gardens, this time for a visit to one of the best-known and most popular restaurants in the vicinity – Rick’s Café Americain (yes, this is spelt correctly). Upon entering this establishment, by way of a narrow entrance way (which leads into what can best be described as a film set from the movie Casablanca), we were greeted by a friendly waitress who promptly showed us to our seats. This restaurant has a very interesting layout with inside seating available in different areas which, although accessible to each other, are quite cleverly separated. This layout achieves the effect of creating a cosy, intimate atmosphere – even on the busiest of nights. Our first request was to change seats in order to be seated more centrally within our room – so as to get more of the ambience.
The waiter helping us, Louis, was very accommodating and also helped by taking our first drinks order. Rick’s has a massive selection of craft beers, although only one craft brewer’s offerings is on tap. Luckily for me it happened to be my personal favourite, Jack Black’s! The options on tap were their Lager, Weiss, and Pale Ale. Three of us went for their Lager and the other bru opted for the Weiss. While we were waiting for the beer, a further waiter came and greeted us with a handshake. Three waitrons attending to us within the first 15 minutes?! What a welcoming (no, they didn’t know who we were and that we would be critiquing their performances on the night). Our beers then arrived and it appeared as though Louis had had a complete makeover while he waited for the beers to be poured. Gone was the stockily built, shaven haired and dark skinned Louis and in was the lanky, dreadlocked and light skinned Louis – or, as we soon found out, it was a new waiter called Rob. Although perhaps initially confusing, I enjoy this type of collective service far more than when I am at a restaurant where I get death stares when asking for assistance from a waitron other than the one allocated to my table.
The first round of beers disappeared rather quickly, although the bru who ordered the Weiss had to contend with his beer having more head than is experienced at a porn convention…
We mulled over what to choose for starters as we found ourselves in a conundrum – do we choose the same-old as is our custom, or do we choose something entirely new so as to experience the different cuisine on offer? We ended up going for one of each option. Good ‘ol Chilli Poppers (beer battered and stuffed with a feta/cream cheese filling and peppadew dip) were ordered along with a portion of Empanadas stuffed with a chorizo and cheese filling. Empanadas are a Spanish pastry which can be stuffed with a variety of ingredients. These each came served in a portion of three, which meant us bringing out the rulers and cutting each one in half to share between us equally. The poppers, although delicious in flavour, had a very doughy batter which had zero crisp to it at all. That is one of the pre-requisites for a popper in my opinion so, in that case, we were disappointed. The pastry encasing the Empanadas was exactly how it should be – biscuit-like in texture which bites off easily. The filling was delicious and, we all agreed, helped make the Empanadas the highlight of the starters. Incidentally, the bru who already battled with “Headgate” was not having a good night up until this point, as he received the portion of poppers which all of us brus dread: The #Iwillannihilateyourmouthandburnyouroesophagusforattemptingtoeatme popper!
The sight of his face took me back two years to when I visited Niagara Falls. He even gave up his last Empanada as his mouth begged him for time to recover, good news for me as I was the recipient of his portion.
Once the dust (or ashes in the case of the other bru’s mouth) had settled from the starters, we proceeded to order our mains. The choices of burgers sounded like this menu had been sent down from heaven. We had some tough choices but eventually ended up ordering the following:
I went with the BMB Burger – a beef patty topped with grilled bacon sauce, mushrooms, onion jam and melted brie; another bru went for a Popper Burger – beef patty with deep fried poppers (as per the starter), tomato, peppadew salsa, rocket and melted cheddar; the third bru chose the Chermoula Chicken Burger – grilled marinated free range chicken breast with mint yoghurt, avo, sautéed mushrooms, lettuce and tomato; the final bru decided on the Traditional Cheese Burger – a beef patty with melted cheddar and onion jam. All options were served with coleslaw and a basket of chips – disappointingly skinny 🙁
The first thing I am putting out there is that the portion sizes are huge! The prices of them might suggest that they are expensive but let me assure you that you will most definitely not be leaving Rick’s hungry after tackling their burgers (unless you are gluttonous, in which case forget about what I said). The 220g patties, which comes as standard, are very generous in comparison to what is generally offered elsewhere. Although the beef choices were different, our experiences were all virtually the same and can be simplified as follows: Lekker bun, very nice flavour to the patty (although the texture of it was finer than we would have liked which provided a sameness to every bite), and generous toppings. The chicken burger, as commented by the bru who had it, was quite dry and lacked in flavour. In terms of the sides, the coleslaw was decent and the chips were skinny fries (bleh!).
All-in-all, in terms of atmosphere it is very hard to beat Rick’s. The warmth and uniqueness of the place, not to mention the variety and quality of the food, is what has helped to make it the institution which it is today. A special mention must be made of the service throughout the night. When I had noticed that Louis was the waiters’ name on the bill, the reply (when I brought up the fact that Rob had mainly served us) was: “It doesn’t matter – we are all family.” Indeed, that’s exactly how Rick’s made us feel that night – like we were part of the family!
Beginnings – Top notch by way of variety. So-so in terms of final execution. 3
Burgers – The bru’s were in agony trying to choose what to order – that’s a huge compliment to the choices on offer! Although extremely tasty and large portions were provided, the texture of the beef and dryness of the chicken lent a disappointment to the experience. 3.5
Beers – An extremely large offering was a very good thing for craft beer connoisseurs, however the fact that only one brand was on tap was slightly disappointing. 3.5
Bringers – It’s not often where one is made to feel so at ease at a restaurant. Rob was totally laid-back yet greatly efficient in serving us. We were never made to feel like we were not attended to as Louis and the other waitrons made us feel like we were totally looked after all night. Rick’s is lucky to have such a great bunch of staff! 5
Background – The décor throughout is that of a period of elegance and sophistication. In this world we live in, it is so refreshing to be transported back in time, to a place where you can forget about life’s fast pace. 5