I SUPPOSE it had to happen. The once-iconic Nosh in Richmond Hill is no more and in its place there is a chic 'n' slick new eatery called Charlie Superstar Bistro, part of Port Elizabeth franchise wizard Matt Repton's "Charlie Superstar" brand.
Matt, you will remember, is the man behind the Vovo Telo success story. It was his trendy touch that elevated the cool cafe brand to national status. Might the same be on the cards for Charlie Superstar now that a bistro boetie has been added to its two successful artisan pizza outlets?
It is hard to tell as this chichi bistro has only been operating for a few weeks. But there was certainly a buzz at the place when my husband Salvelio and I called at 1 Cooper Street, Richmond Hill, last week.
Awaiting us were amiable and attractive waiters, opulent velvet seating in trendy shades straight off the Pantone colour charts and bold wall art that might once have been described as Tretchi-kotch, but is now considered the height of drool-cool.
Everything looked brand new but, truth be told, it was one thing that was more vintage than retro that would most likely lead us back in future.
And that one thing is the Alan Fryer factor.
Anyone who truly loves dining out in this town will have seen culinary nomad Alan at his best. This was back in the days of Margot's on the beachfront (or was it Richmond Hill?), the heyday of the breezy Bay Cafe in Lutman Street, and of course Nosh in all its shiny newness, when Alan served chilli-chocolate steak long before everyone else had the cheek to steal it off his menu.
Alan is unquestionably at his best when excited and inspired by a new project and given free rein to dream up thrilling new menus.
His worst? When one of the Eastern Cape's great culinary talents gets bored or bogged down by too many of the mundane aspects of managing a restaurant.
Alan seems fully fired up for his new role, which also includes tweaking the Charlie Superstar Pizza menu at Richmond Hill and Summerstrand and coming up with some creative new offerings there.
But back to the bistro, where you will not find much in the line of pizza. We feasted on a very generous portion of mussels (R38), the best I have had in years. They are flown in fresh from Saldanha Bay each week.
They came with some excellent ciabatta baked by the Charlie Superstar team. But the bread should have been fresh, not toasted, as it did not do much to sop up the creamy, zingy white wine sauce in which the mussels had been cooked.
The sauce was so good I could have cared less if other diners saw me using an emptied shell to scoop and slurp what was left in the bowl.
This was actually Salvelio's starter. The poor man was so desperate to wrest back his dish that he shot a mussel Pretty Woman style across our table, from where it ricocheted off my shoulder and into Matt's designer curtains.
My starter, Thai-style fishcakes at the same price for three smallish ones, seemed to pale in comparison. I found the dipping sauce on the side too acidic and lacking in balance.
This is a bistro and, while the menu is therefore small, the choices are interesting and varied.
Salvelio's main course of pork ribs (R79) with hand-cut chips again eclipsed mine. The honey and oyster sauce marinade gave the dish an edge and it was refreshing that it was not drowning in marinade either. Salvelio loved that the taste of pork was still distinct.
My main course of rare rump (R79) was grilled to my liking but was not particularly memorable. However the roasted marrowbone and demi-glace reduction (R18) I ordered with it was superior stuff.
Dessert was an excellent home-made ice-cream (R22) made with vanilla pods. How wonderful to be able to get excited about restaurant ice-cream and choc sauce again.
Salvelio's tiramisu (R35) was also worthy of a repeat order any day.
To make bookings at Charlie Superstar Bistro call: 071-889-4070.