RECENTLY re-opened after a successful renovation, Sprouts bistro in Nahoon, East London now sports a welcoming, fresh new look that has been attracting patrons eager to investigate the restaurant's redesign.
In the evenings, Sprouts' huge plate-glass windows have been offering irresistible scenes of jovial diners ensconced in the trendy new interior, so it was with confident anticipation that I chose this neighbourhood restaurant for a celebratory meal with my husband Glenn and daughter Anya.
She was to return to Cape Town shortly to continue her university studies and this was be one of our last chances to enjoy a good dinner and conversation before she left home once again.
We were greeted warmly upon arrival and shown to our window seat – where we became part of the well-lit tableau visible to passing Beach Road motorists.
Owner Brian Cradock has done a great job rebranding and redecorating Sprouts, which has now been extended into what used to be an adjoining shop, making room for a trendy cocktail bar as well as lounge seating and extra tables.
The lighting has been warmed up, while rustic wood panelling and whimsical leafy motifs have given Sprouts an inviting, high-end feel.
The extensive, well-designed menu with its front cover mantra promising that "the Sprouts food philosophy aims to please" further added to the promise of a good evening, but sadly we were in for a few disappointments.
The wine list, which prices wines at R18 per glass, makes no mention of per bottle prices.
Also, most of the sauvignon blanc and chenin blanc wines listed were not available.
Then, when it came to ordering our food, we were told that my daughter's choice of "catch of the day" was unavailable.
Glenn's choice of minted lamb salad (R48) was also not available, according to our waitress, and neither was the fillet steak (R78) I ordered.
Trying not to get flustered, our young waitress then began pointing out all the menu options that could not be had.
She said the restaurant had been let down by suppliers.
We were not the only diners faced with reduced choices – much grumbling was heard from a large table alongside our own when their waitress reeled off a litany of "we don't haves".
In the end I downscaled my choice from fillet steak to cheeseburger (R49), which came with great crispy thin French fries. The smallish pattie was served on an oversized bun but was quite tasty.
My daughter's starter of creamy mussel pot (R38) with white wine and herb sauce was deemed by both her and my husband as lacking in flavour, but the accompanying rye bread was tasty and fresh. Glenn said his paneer prawn starter (R36) consisted of good, firm prawns, but was let down by a bland bed of rice. His choice of Springbok carpaccio and avocado salad (R46) main resembled a smaller starter portion, but this was quickly remedied and a larger portion presented.
The carpaccio slivers were moist and flavoursome, but left his hunger pangs less than satisfied.
Anya's Thai chicken salad (R48) main, which consisted of grilled Thai chicken strips on wild rice and greens with a lemon grass dressing, was tasty but mediocre. Having been disappointed by the unavailability of our first choices of dishes and then being underwhelmed by most of the food we ordered, we had high hopes for desert, but these too were dashed when our waitress informed us there was no Sprouts signature crème brulee (R28) and no pavlova nests (R24) – the two deserts that looked the most appealing on the menu.
However, our homemade ice-cream in chocolate sauce (R24), served with fragrantly fresh mint leaves in beautiful glass dishes made some reparations to our evening.
Sprouts prices are reasonable and the restaurant offers a pleasant, atmospheric venue, but the dishes are perhaps more suited to daytime fare.
Also, the owners should think of dispensing with the present menu and its many unavailable options and put up a chalk board with a daily menu of items that the kitchen actually can deliver.
Our bill, which included a soft drink and a bottle of white wine, came to R378.
Sprouts is at 11 Beach Road, Nahoon.