Let me start off by saying I’m no food critic. I’m just a regular bloke who likes a great chow (and a cold beer) and more importantly I appreciate good value for money. Just like you guys out there , I’m on a tight budget this year, so if I’m going to drop some hard earned cash at a restaurant or bar, I’m looking to walk away 100% satisfied. The bottom line is SLEB is going to get out-and-about a lot more in 2016 and start blogging a bit more about great new joints to visit in Joburg. It’s probably going to be a bit of a hit and miss, but I will promise you that if I’ve had a rocking experience you are going to know about it, and on the flip-side if I walk away feeling disappointed I’ll keep you in the loop so you can keep your cash in your wallet.

This weekend I needed ribs, so I visited a new spot in Melville, with high expectations (and an empty stomach) and I left feeling a little underwhelmed.

Have you ever watched those American barbecue shows on TV? You know the ones I’m talking about – you’ve got a bunch of guys down south sporting dungarees and trucker caps, downing cold Bud Lites and carefully nursing racks of ribs which have been slowly cooking for hours and hours.

I die a million deaths when I watch that type of stuff on TV! Why? Because just like 99% of the guys who follow this blog, I enjoy a rack of ribs.

When I heard that a new American styled gastro pub had opened in Melville, with a focus on “smokehouse” food, I was all in and made a plan on Sunday to get my sticky, smoky barbecue fix on.

The first thing I noticed when I walked into “The Countess” in Melville is that it was quiet. I’m always a little skeptical about “empty restaurants”, but you never should judge a book by its cover so we sat down to order.

Before I get to the chow, I’ll give the Countess props for styling and decor. It’s got an industrial feel that suits the hipster crowd inhabiting the Melville koppies, but beyond that I can’t find much praise for anything else. Quietly I was hoping the 10 other patrons, in the restaurant (excluding us) knew something we didn’t.

First off, they aren’t licensed so I couldn’t enjoy a cold beer with my meal. I can appreciate the fact that they are waiting for their liquor license, but it’s inexcusable that they didn’t make mention of this anywhere on their online platforms. If you can’t serve a cold beer, at the very least make it clear that patrons should bring their own. Major oversight if you ask me.

While the food was nicely presented, the ribs themselves where average at best. Pretty fatty with a weird “barbecue sauce” the owner had been brewing up like an alchemist in the kitchen. Here is my problem with getting all creative in the kitchen. When you have barbecue sauce on the menu, it needs to taste like barbecue sauce. You want to offer some other MasterChef inspired sauce as basting on my ribs, have the decency to advertise the fact that it’s “The Countess Special” or something like that.

When my wife turned to me and said “This sauce is weird, didn’t we ask for barbecue basting?” you know how off the mark it was!

And then I had to deal with the kak chips. What goes with a rack of ribs? You guessed right, some great chips. What I received were laughable and disgusting. I could have wrung the oil out of the flacid potatoes into my empty Appletiser bottle and greased my bicycle chain with it. Chips aren’t difficult to get right, but when you leave them in the warmer for 20 minutes before you serve them, they’re gonna come out looking like the stuff I got served.

So let me wrap this up.

This is how SLEB scores “The Countess” in Melville

  • Ambience      3/10 – The space feels hip  but I could hear crickets churping it was so quiet
  • Service           6/10  – Friendly enough (but it’s not like I was sold anything on the menu)
  • Food               4/10 – I was looking for a unique “smoke house” experience and got average ribs
  • Value              4/10 – I’ve eaten for less and had twice the value

Looking for my honest opinion? You probably know a much better rib joint around the corner, so spend your cash there.

On that note, if you know of a great rib joint, let us know. I’m keen to get the fix I missed at The Countess

Have you had a better experience than we did at The Countess, we’re  keen to hear from you.


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