Olives & Plates (Hyde Park, Gauteng, South Africa)

Sometimes in our search for truly offbeat locations, Offbeat Eats finds ourselves in some interesting scenarios, like drinking Namibian beer in the back of a bookshop in a suburban shopping mall in Hyde Park, a northern suburb of Johannesburg. How we got here was an interesting story; going with friends to a charity auction for the Upper Valley Humane Society, we ended up winning a bid on a week-long safari at Zulu Nyala in kwaZulu-Natal, scheduled for April 2020. Well, we all know how 2020 turned out. Over the next two years, that trip got delayed a half-dozen times, and then more than a little drama with South Africa (riots in 2021, severe flooding in April 2022), a hotel getting sold and having to rebook, and United Airlines canceling a week’s worth of flights due to jet fuel shortage. These almost led to our May 2022 trip getting canceled. But despite all that drama, we ended up having a smooth 16 hour flight, arriving in the evening in Johannesburg and getting a driver to take us to our Johannesburg-area accommodations at the splendid Hyde Park Guest House and promptly crashing into bed.

The next day, after an insightful, but historically sobering, tour of Constitution Hill, we ended up going to a quirky dinner spot that had been recommended by a fellow guest at the Guest House: Olives & Plates.

A small Johannesburg-area chain, this location of Olives & Plates was located in a spot where I probably would have never come across it. In the small suburb of Hyde Park, there’s the Hyde Park Center Mall, and on its second floor is a large bookstore: Exclusive Books, and Olives & Plates is located in the back of the bookstore. It’s actually a pretty large dining area, with two dozen tables, and if visiting during the daytime, surprisingly large windows looking out over the north suburbs. It’s a pleasant space: nice wood tables, pendant lights, and a lot of comfortable spacing between tables.

Olives & Plates was originally a Mediterranean restaurant (hence the “Olives”), but they’ve expanded the menu into more of a contemporary menu with quite a few options: an extensive grill section, pastas, and lighter main courses. As we debated our choices, we both enjoyed Windheok Lagers beers Namibia Breweries in Windhoek, Namibia. An enjoyable beer, it’s one of the more common offerings in South Africa.

I had heard very positive things about the quality of South African beef, so I decided to go for the Rump Roast. Served up with onion rings and chips, this was a very pleasant surprise: the steak was outstandingly good. Tender inside, a nice reddish-pink interior with a well-seared crust, and the meat itself was the primary flavoring here, without too much salt, pepper, or other seasoning. Indeed, it’s one of the best steaks I’ve had in the last few years, and for the most pleasant surprise: it cost me… $10 (mostly courtesy of the exchange rate).

Carol went for the pasta, opting for the penne served as the “Angry Napolitano”: a slow-cooked cherry tomato sauce with fresh chilli, garlic, fresh basil & oregano. This was quite enjoyable, but not quite in the same league as the steak, so I’m pretty sure if we ever go back to Olives & Plates we’ll both be focusing on the grill.

The other pleasant experience at Olives & Plates was dessert. Back when I was little, it was pretty common for “fine dining” places to have either an elaborate dessert trolley or a dessert table loaded up with cakes, pies, and the like, and that’s still how they do dessert at Olives & Plates, with an enormous table of cakes, all kept under those glass domes. We ended up staying pretty simple with the double-chocolate cake, but this was a good sharing dessert: the cake itself was a nice moist and not-overly sweet cake body, and the frosting smooth, chocolatey, and not cloying.

Really, we enjoyed Olives & Plates a lot: the environment was pleasant, the staff friendly and helpful, and the food high quality and very affordable. And with this review, Offbeat Eats has now visited Africa, and our reviews span 15 countries (and counting)!

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