Urbanologi, with Head Chef Jack Coetzee overseeing the Asian-Fusion “urban garde cuisine”, serves its innovative dishes in a warehouse space shared with Mad Giant Brewery. The part of town in which it’s located is called Ferreirasdorp and it was once full of mining sheds during the gold rush that formed the City of Gold. Like every city, the area experienced a downturn – businesses left, buildings were abandoned, and it became much of a no-go zone in its peak. But the past number of years have seen major efforts at urban regeneration as derelict buildings and lots are being redeveloped into trendy market spaces, artist’s studios, residences, and restaurants.
Such is the case for 1 Fox Precinct, where Urbanologi is located.
Given its “off the beaten path” location, Urbanologi isn’t necessarily the first place you’d pop into on a whim for after-work drinks or dinner, although I’m sure there are some who do just that!
The draw of the restaurant is that it’s a destination offering something different. Dare I say, even, that it’s a welcome relief for those who need a change of pace from the more mainstream dining scene.
Style & Service
The brightly lit, slightly mod and carnival-esque Mad Giant sign perched atop the warehouse serves as a beacon for those heading to Urbanologi and the brewery.
The restaurant is a vast space, with the open kitchen on the left, bar tables lined up in the middle, and individual table and booth seating to the right. The bar sits in the centre behind the long bar tables and is backed by an enormous yeti silhouette installation. Beyond that is the actual brewery with huge metal tanks looming in the background.
The warehouse decor is industrial but with a playful touch. The designers Haldane Martin reference oversized Meccano as inspiration. In fact, they won for best restaurant design in Africa and the Middle East at the 2017 Restaurant and Bar Design Awards!
On warm days and evenings, the restaurant slides open its big glass doors so the outdoor and indoor seating areas melt into each other.
The signature bright red colour is used throughout, from the chairs and table legs to the I-beam basins in the restroom. It’s actually well worth a visit during the day just so you can take in all of the details like the giant murals that decorate the walls and the bottle cap-shaped bar. Come nighttime, the lighting is a little dimmer, especially in the back areas, and it’s busier with servers weaving between tables filled with friends, birthday parties, and dates.
From the moment we walked in until the moment we left, it was nothing but smiles and warm hospitality. Myron, the FOH Manager, and Roger kept an eagle eye on the floor and our server Adrian (I hope I have his name right!) was a gem and so patient with us as we mulled over the menu, ordering in intervals throughout the evening. He also didn’t rush us out when we were the last table remaining! Just for this, all of the staff deserve a huge shout-out because I know what it’s like, having to wait for that last table to clear before you can close up and go home.
Many places would not-so-subtly bring you the bill to nudge you out but not these guys. They let us nurse the last sips in our glasses, finish our conversation, and ask for the check in our own time. It just goes to show that they’ve really nailed the “destination” aspect of the restaurant and have created a comfortable environment that allows guests to make the most of their time there.
The menu is categorised by preparation – raw, fried, kushiyaki, steamed, cured, and frozen – and the plates are meant to be shared.
Between the two of us, we wanted to order at least one dish from each category. First up was the Venison Tataki from the raw menu, which came with a sriracha emulsion, salted cucumber, and kumquat ponzu. The ponzu added a lightness to the gaminess of the venison and it was a great way to open the meal.
From the fried section, we ordered the Crispy Dropped Black Pepper Pork Belly (with tamarind dressing, butternut puree, cucumber, and smoked peanuts) and the Tempura Shimeji Mushrooms (also with tamarind dressing and butternut puree). In my hungry greediness, I overlooked that they both came with the dressing and puree. Regardless, they were both quite delicious, although I personally preferred the delicateness of the tempura mushrooms.
We then moved onto the kushiyaki category. Here, we ordered the Coal Fired Broccoli with smoked gorgonzola cream (this decision was highly influenced by my chat with Chef Jack!) and the Lamb Rump, which came with rose geranium poached quince, baby spinach, and apple blossom.
The broccoli dish was probably one of my faves from the entire evening. There was a fabulous smokiness and I all but stuck my finger in the bowl to lick up the cream which had a bit of a kick to it. The lamb shone in its own right with that great grilled flavour and the accompanying quince and apple blossoms were the perfect complement to the meat.
The last savoury dish of the evening was the steamed Pork Dumplings. Two fat dumplings appeared before us in a bowl and our server proceeded to pour a hot citrus broth over them at the table. These were absolutely delicious, though be warned that if you try to be graceful and bite the dumpling in half, it will likely start to fall apart on you.
Finally, dessert. With eyes that are always bigger than my stomach, I insisted that we each order one. First was the Banana Malt Mousse, served with a 70% cocoa chocolate truffle wrapped in gold leaf, dulcey rolled in honeycomb, and a salted pistachio crumb. This was delightful, albeit rich. The truffle was dark and divine, and the texture of the pistachio crumb was a fantastic match for the sweeter, smoother mousse.
The second dessert was the Blackcurrant Sorbet with poached plum, semi-dried plum, blanc mange, and liquorice powder. The sorbet was intense with a concentrated flavour that had just the right amount of tartness. Having overindulged, this was actually the perfect end to the meal for me because it wasn’t overly rich or sweet.
I’ll always opt for wines or cocktails with a meal as they’re less likely to fill me up. And should I be in the mood for beer, I’m a Guinness girl through and through. However, since we were at Mad Giant Brewery, I wanted to at least give their brews a taste. Luckily, they have 100 ml servings for those who can’t commit to a full glass or want to sample a variety. I tried The Guzzler, a Pilsner, and True Grit, an amber ale. Both were great to sip on (True Grit was more my palate) but given the slight chill in the air that evening, I ended up wanting something “warmer”. By the time we ordered our food, I switched over to a carafe of Circumstance Mourvèdre which was smooth, easy to drink, and kept up well throughout the entire meal.
Good To Know
Read our Caviar Cuts interview with Chef Jack Coetzee for more!