BILLY SUTER visits El Patron restaurant in The Square Centre, 250 Umhlanga Rocks Drive, Umhlanga, and discovers a venue which, as a restaurant by day and a tapas and cocktail bar by night, has great potential to attract a fun crowd, 30-to-50 being the target age group. Having opened last December, then having been walloped by Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, it is now introducing a bigger and more exciting menu, as well as a wide selection of nightly attractions, ranging from karaoke and bands to salsa demos and drink tastings.
AFTER being invited to review El Patron, a relatively new restaurant with an easy vibe and casual elegance in Umhlanga Ridge, it came as a big surprise, on arrival there on Wednesday evening, to be told the new menu is only being introduced next week.
Um, okay, we thought. Perhaps it would have been better to have reviewed next week, then? Certainly so… but my partner and I felt a lot better on being informed that much of the current menu would be retained for the new, tapas-heavy menu scheduled for introduction on Monday, October 26.
It was quiet when we arrived shortly after 6pm to find El Patron very nicely situated, with ample parking, at 250 Umhlanga Ridge Rocks Drive, in The Square Centre which, curiously, is circular in shape. It is just off the impressive avenue of fever trees that are a short distance from the landmark Multichoice offices.
Seating in the oblong room looks on to an impressive, brightly illuminated bar that fills a good section of the venue’s width and is alongside the wood-fire pizza oven – pizzas being a big drawcard here.
Décor has rustic elements, seating being at unpretentious tables or on large benches, the cushioned backs of which are covered in an olive-coloured fabric featuring the names of dozens of pop stars. A fun touch.
Lighting is via downlights and suspended, copper-wire light fittings, as well as from large, back-lit pictures depicting chic women and men in suits and hats – a nod to the restaurant name, which implies “The Boss” and hints of the US Mob.
Outside, tables spill onto a wooden deck where one can listen to music or enjoy some other added attraction most nights, and where one can relax in the piazza, under the stars, or on large comfy, white couches on the deck.
The restaurant is already known for its wood-fire pizzas and the one my partner ordered was the winner of the evening – a large BBQ chicken, mushroom and red onion affair served on a perfectly crisp and thin base. Very yummy, not shy on ingredients and good value at R94 (a smaller version is available for R73). Good news is that it is being retained for the new menu.
Other pizzas available on the current and new menu, ranging in price from R55 to R100, are Margherita, Hawaiian and Vegetarian (mushrooms, olives, green peppers, red onions, feta, garlic and peppadews). The current pizza menu’s Tikka Chicken variation is being dropped and instead one can order Mexican Fiesta or Signature Chicken (chicken, mushrooms and peppadews).
Pastas are pretty standard and the Alfredo I ordered was disappointing -excessively heavy on herbs and not quite like any other Alfredo I have ordered before. It was also served with wholewheat tagliatelle (which I do not like), without anyone asking my pasta preference. Another grumble was that it was ready before I asked for it to be served; while we were still on starters. Rather naughty of them.
That dish was way too rich for me to recommend, but if you have to have a pasta you could try the Napoletana (R69), Spaghetti Bolognaise (R86) or, from the new menu, a Mac and Cheese Special (R35). Takeaways of these are also available, by the way.
For starters, my partner and I shared a good platter containing a bowl of chips, a small salad and a mix of chicken pops, crumbed chicken strips and chicken wings in the El Patron signature sauce, which is tasty – spicy without being overly fiery. These items remain on the new menu and can also be ordered in smaller portions or other variations. They are sure to prove popular picks.
The current menu also offers burgers, all served with rustic-style chips – beef (R88), chicken (R79) and vegetable (R69). The chicken and veg options stay on the new menu, but the beef burger is being replaced with a Gourmet Lamb and Cheese (R88).
I’d like to try the Prawns El Patron from the new menu. The prawns are dipped in lemon butter, braised in peri-peri and served with rice. Also a new signature dish is the flame-grilled Chicken El Patron – available as a quarter, half or full chicken – served with the restaurant’s signature sauce, chips, rice or rolls, and carrot salad.
Another new item is a Build-Your-Own-Bunny on Thursdays – a quarter-loaf with a choice of sugar beans (R49) or chicken or mutton on the bone (each R69). A lamb curry (R150) is also new to the menu, along with a large portion of butter chicken (R130) and a large serving of chicken cubes with potatoes, served on rice or with a roti (R130).
Various sandwiches and salads are also available to order, as are BBQ or peri-peri livers, as well as crumbed mushrooms. The new menu also offers grilled steak cubes, grilled lamb cubes or fried hake and chips.
Sadly, there is no puds menu, so you’ll probably have to try one of the El Patron exotic cocktails for any sweet fix.
El Patron is open Tuesday to Sunday. The contact number is 072 481 2544. Mail email@example.com
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