Since opening in August 2018, this wildly popular Harrington Street haunt hasn’t had an empty seat. The online-bookings-only fine-dining restaurant serves only 20 guests per night, which co-owner Neil Swart explains: “Cooking dishes on a small scale enhances the depth of flavour of each element.” That, it does. But more about the food later (we’re saving the best for last).
In 2018, Neil chose to pursue dreams of unhindered culinary creativity, roping in long-time friend Anouchka Horn, whom he met while working at Terroir Restaurant. The two became great friends after they discovered that they shared similar passions. “It’s funny how we are very similar and very different at the same time – we believe this makes us a great team.”
Neil is the meat master while Anouchka is the ice-cream queen (you’ve never tasted ice cream like Anouchka’s) – making every single batch of ice cream and sorbet with its own unique base, from scratch.
“After running a normal, average-sized restaurant for six years, we knew what we didn’t like about that process, and removed it from the equation,” explains Neil. “Then we used what was left to create our concept.”
The belly of the beast, says Neil, is the heart of the restaurant, and the inspiration for the name.
The industrial-modern space is cool yet cozy, elevated by a curated alternative playlist. An entirely exposed kitchen lines one side of the restaurant and a street-facing window lines the other. In the kitchen, everything is on display – from ingredients to serveware (even the wines are visible through glass wine fridges); another nudge to the contemporary-cool design.
Leather booths paired with opposing mid-century modern dining chairs add warmth to the characterful cinder block walls, as do the delicate light fixtures. Adele van Heerden’s botanical art (available for purchase) lines the walls, and a bookcase full cookbooks, plants, and other bits and bobs serve as the central visual interest piece.
The set-menu dinners remain unknown until you arrive at the restaurant, where the evening’s culinary journey is mapped out on a black board.
As the age-old adage goes: We eat with our eyes, and nowhere is this more true than here. Each of the courses are admiringly presented on lust-worthy dinnerware alongside dainty black and copper cutlery – passionately explained when delivered by your knowledgeable waiter.
In conjunction with the communality of the open kitchen, and the fanfare with which the dishes are presented and served. Dinner at Belly of the Beast is much more than a meal, it’s gastronomic experience of the highest standard.
For R599 per person, you’re treated to a number of excellent courses, as well as bread service, a (life-changing) palette cleanser à la Anouchka, and an after-dessert delight (“a last hoorah”, as Neil calls it).
You won’t find value (or, dare we say, cuisine) like this anywhere else in the city.