Croft & Co, a cupboard of a shop on Tyrone Avenue, in Johannesburg’s Parkview, used to sell expensive men’s swimwear, Montblanc pens and Cuban cigars. What with the downturn, it has lost the swimsuits, kept the cigars and started serving food.
The portions are small, so it’s best to eat there before, or after, having lunch. Or perhaps they’re just keeping watch over their customers’ waistlines — a man was picking at a fruit salad during a recent lunchtime visit.
Their version of a Caesar salad has cos lettuce, shaved parmesan, croutons, white anchovies and a boiled egg. For R60, it is criminally small — although it is very tasty — and the croutons were not freshly fried.
But the place has been open for only three weeks and owner Grant Ravenscroft says they’re still feeling their way. He has owned a string of restaurants, including Biscotti and Bites, in Greenside, as well Scusi next door to Croft & Co.
The chef, Anne Rich (and Ravenscroft’s sister), marinades the fillet steak in olive oil, parsley, thyme and basil.
A compromise has been made on garlic, because many of their clientele have to return to work after lunch. It is served on soft bolo de caco bread, with caramelised onion, mayonnaise and grain mustard.
Another compromise, a successful one, has been made with the dressing of the Caesar salad, because of Rich’s mistrust of fresh egg yolks. In it is anchovy, parmesan, olive oil, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce and a secret ingredient — a commercial mayonnaise.
Their most popular sandwich is the prosciutto and fontina, with sundried tomato mustard (R45).
They serve excellent Lavazza coffee — a dark and nutty 100% Arabica variety called Rotondo.
Breakfast runs to scrambled eggs, with cream (R30) or tomato (R40), and with Peter James Smith’s Lincolnshire sausages flavoured with thyme and sage (R65). There’s also fruit salad (R30) and yogurt and muesli.
But this really is the place to go if you want to buy, and smoke, cigars. On a recent afternoon, a portly man was sitting out on the tiny deck at the back, thumb and forefinger curled around a Romeo y Julieta Wide Churchill. The cigar is indeed wide and a pungent thread of smoke curled from the stub. Ravenscroft has opened a box of these, and you can buy them, kept in a humidor, for R140 a stick.
He says unapologetically there are bigger problems than smoking and, although there has been plenty of talk about smoking laws, none has been promulgated. Besides, if someone does complain, he can always close the door.
Cigars account for about 40% of his business and “serious smokers” will go through a box, or more, in a week. A box of 10 Partagas Serie D No 4 sell for R1 300 and 10 Cohiba Behike 56 are R4 200, which, believe it or not, is a bargain.
66 Tyrone Avenue, Parkview. Tel: 0Smoking allowed: Cigars are the main course at Croft & Co in Parkview
but there is food on offer as well. Photo: Delwyn Verasamy
11 646 3634