… and we decided to join in the celebrations.
We’re massive fans of Chef James Diack and all he’s done and is still doing (hey, we can’t wait to dine at his soon-to-open fourth restaurant, Il Contadino). So when we heard about The National‘s second birthday celebrations and the special menu that would be available only for a few days, we hastily made plans.
We arrived early for dinner and were warmly welcomed by the staff and manager. People who work for James have, in most cases, been with him for quite some time, and are well-versed in service excellence. As part of the menu, I was excited to see that we would be getting the local Caperitif cocktail made with Swaan Tonic. It was great to see local products being supported in this way, both of these being from A.A. Badenhorst Family Wines.
My dining partner and I pretty much split the menu down the middle, as there were two options on most courses. I do wish now in retrospect that I had tried some chorizo croquettes! The full birthday menu was selected based on people’s votes of their favourites, along with best sellers over the past two years.
The National has a similar look and feel to The Federal. I enjoy the theme that runs through these two spots as it makes me feel “at home” in either. The National decor includes fun splashes of bright, eye-catching colours, for example the glasses on the tables.
First up for me was the calamari & fish cake starter. Crispy fried papadum dusted calamari that’s served on a fish cake, with spicy bisque. This was a deliciously light dish with a little bit of crunch and loads of flavour. It would be starkly contrasted with the very rich and filling macaroni & cheese that followed as my main. The dish was gorgeously presented.
On the other side of the table, the arancini filled with parmesan was a big hit. The delicate lashings of smoked red pepper sauce apparently packed quite the punch! I had extreme food envy about the aubergine crisps, being a little obsessed with eggplant.
For mains, my Partner in Crime went with the BBQ Plate. This had all the meat! Smoked chicken, pulled pork and chorizo croquettes. A side of cornbread and you’re all set. A nice sizeable portion, it left my PiC quite full! Luckily, there’s that separate dessert stomach in case you take your mains too seriously.
I loved my old school smokey mac & cheese. An absolute classic, and a winner. I didn’t even have to open my mouth as the waiter already knew I’d opt for the wild boar bacon. So I just smiled and nodded. The dish is incredibly rich and filling. Mac & Cheese may not be a sexy dish, or particularly photogenic, but take my word for it, it was delicious.
By the time desserts rolled around, we were losing the light and photos became dodgy! My friend chose the deep-fried snickers bar as it’s a personal favourite of hers, and I got the doughnuts. The dipping sauces were so delicious, I spent time just spooning sauce and chocolate directly out of the little bowls, breaking all my “no sugar” rules. But it’s a birthday, so why not?!
As always, under the direction of Chef James, we were extremely pleased and happy with our dining experience. I have never had a miss, personally. I cannot wait to see what the future holds with the fourth spot.