Over the past few years, Jo’burg has blessed us with boutique restaurants that pop up from out of nowhere. A tucked-away gem which falls under this category is The Royale in Craighall. Perhaps what contributes to the sacredness of The Royale is that while walking down the less-than aesthetic Jan Smuts, you don’t expect much. However, once you enter, you feel as if you have stepped into a living Pinterest board. Gentrification at its finest. At The Royale, your eyes are the first to feast as they take in the Cuban-inspired décor which marries together pastel pinks, greens and blues to create a tropical whimsy.
Ambience: Trendy and tropical. A taste of Cuba. (5/5)
Food and cocktails: Delicious and it won’t stretch your wallet (3.8/5)
Service: Efficient and friendly (4/5)
Overall: Delightful. A great overall experience.
If you’re looking for the perfect Instagram picture, then perhaps you should pay The Royale a visit. Everything is wonderfully aesthetic – and I mean everything. From the floral wallpaper to the charming mismatched lightbulbs to the abundance of plants. A special mention must be made about the bar. For anyone who has a slight tendency to enjoy visual organisation, and I do believe that I am speaking to the masses, you will feel oh-so-satisfied when your eyes meet with the perfectly aligned bottles and glasses which parade themselves against a pink backdrop. You cannot help but feel as if you have entered the meticulous mind of movie director, Wes Anderson. Being 1pm on a Saturday, we did not see the bar reach its full potential. Nevertheless, the light Cuban music and vibrant aura made it a festive occasion, with a crowd that consisted of all sorts.
FOOD AND DRINK
The menu is short and sweet. There aren’t any starters per se, but you do get a complimentary bowl of deliciously fried potato skins to snack on. If you are feeling extra hungry (or impatient) then you can order a side. I hear the cauliflower wings are a good option.
My boyfriend and I wanted to jump right in, so we skipped this and went straight to mains. Here we were presented with an option of meat or seafood-based dishes, all of which were strong contenders. Unfortunately, I picked the weakest contender which left me with the most embittered emotion of them all – food envy. While I ordered the shredded Cuban beef, or “Ropa Vieja”, he ordered the mussel and clam pot. His meal was a cold, hard 5/5. While mine was tasty, I couldn’t help but feeling that I could replicate it at home.
My friends, who frequent The Royale, later told me that I should have chosen the prawn curry, the Cuban sandwich or the hamburger. Not that any of this info helps now, but perhaps it’s advice you should heed when visiting this quirky joint. I also had my eye on the squid and ceviche. Guess I will just have to go back. Darn.
The cocktails definitely live up to the near-perfect bar and instead of opting for dessert, I opted for another drink. True to their Cuban flavours, most of The Royale’s cocktails incorporate Rum. I may be biased because Bacardi is one of my favourite liquors, but I found the refreshing, summery flavours of the Mango Storm to be absolute bliss. After making a safe choice, I wanted a surprise. So, I tried the Michelada which had no description besides for the words “Cuban Speciality”. Very reminiscent of a Bloody Mary, it was a surprise indeed. Although this was not exactly to my taste, it did almost convert me to a fan of tomato juice. If you are a fan, I would say it’s a must.
The waitresses were efficient and welcoming. The managers were also pleasant and ensured that their guests were satisfied. We were most pleased with the swiftness and presentation of our orders. I have heard however, that when The Royale fills up service can be variable. If you don’t enjoy the crowds, then rather go in the afternoon. If you’re in for a party, be sure to stay well into the night. As this is one of the newest and most whimsical places in Jo’burg, bookings fill up quickly. Make sure you book well in advance, especially if you intend on going on Friday or Saturday evening.
357 Jan Smuts Ave, Craighall Park, Randburg, 2196
Tel: 060 575 2471
Operating hours: Wednesday to Saturday 11:00-00:00 (kitchen closes at 22:00). Sunday 11:00-20:00.
For more Equilibrio restaurant reviews click here.