It’s not exactly a state secret that I eat out at Melrose Arch a lot. One of the only restaurants that I had not yet tried was Pigalle, and I jumped at the chance to go there with two overseas visitors. The name alone conjures up images of delicious decadence in Paris, the raw, smoky atmosphere of the cabaret and gastronomic indulgence. The décor in the restaurant almost gets there with the elaborate Murano glasswork in the entrance, creamy granite surfaces and opulent gold embellishment on the chairs and couches.
The food, however, can be labelled as “silver medal”; it was good, but not great; flavourful, but not exuberant. I had a sesame seed encrusted tuna with a teriyaki sauce, which was nice, and we all know that nice is the fall-back adjective when you can’t actually think of anything earth shattering to say. The teriyaki sauce tasted exactly like the bottle of sweet and sour sauce from Woolies (whether that is a recommendation for Woolies or a black mark against Pigalle I don’t know). The tuna was lightly seared and first impressions were great, but it was certainly the understudy to the offering at Koi on flavour. The bit that really bothered me was the sour, vinegary, sauerkraut-like bed of something that it was placed on. I really did not feel that this German-Asian fusion worked at all. I can’t speak for my guests, but the impression that I got was that the lamb was nice, but not up to Zaff standards, and the fish was nice, but did not measure up against the Fishmonger in the Firs.
The wine list is extensive, and features an excellent selection of wines across all price ranges. We had a bottle of the Springfield “Life from Stone”; a controversial, love/hate wine. It certainly delivered on a very crisp, green, sharp body with some fruity esters on the nose. I’m glad I tried it, and enjoyed it, but I’m not sure I’d choose it over an easier drinking sauvignon blanc.
The service was not bad, but certainly over the top. It was as if our waiter had read a book on how to be a waiter, but had no real experience. For one he swirled the wine around as if demonstrating laboratory centrifugation. It was not the type of service that made one feel at ease; comfortable to enjoy an exquisite meal where you can let yourself explore the flavours of the dish and get lost in deep conversation.
Nice seems to be the word for Pigalle, but at the price they need to provide something far better for Johannesburg. With such a name they need to bring the flamboyance of the cabaret, the grunginess of Quartier Pigalle, the unique atmosphere of Paris to us. Nice just doesn’t quite cut it. I wish I had chosen Mezepoli, which was just below our feet.