A home away from home

Tuna lollipops with sesame seeds, pickled ginger and wasabi mayo.

Tuna lollipops with sesame seeds, pickled ginger and wasabi mayo.

Published May 6, 2024


Ray’s Kitchen

Where: Emberton Estate, 90 Ashley Drive, Hillcrest

Open: Tuesday to Saturday 11am to 9pm. Sunday 11am to 4pm.

Call: 066 511 0252

It’s one of the Glass Guy’s favourites. So when varsity friends came “home” from London to see the folks in Hillcrest, I suggested we give it a whirl. Naturally the Glass Guy jumped at the opportunity.

I hadn’t been here since Ray’s first opened, somehow always ending up at the “mothership” on the Dunkirk Estate in Salt Rock. Set in the original farmhouse that the estate is built on, the restaurant has some charm and spills out effortlessly onto an open deck and into the garden. The estate too has grown up since I was last here, looking a lot less boxy as people are living in it and gardens mature. A little less like ground zero.

Panko crusted snails and Parmesan in parsley butter.
Crispy calamari with a spicy mayo.

But make no mistake, Hillcrest is not the country cousin. The food philosophy here is much the same - a small selection of dishes to cover most bases, but dishes done well, and priced reasonably. It’s casual eating yet a cut above, and the menu is enlivened by regular specials. They’re chalked up on the board. And you can just stop by for a simple pizza. The pizza oven here does overtime. And the Glass Guy maintains they’re one of the best. There are pizza special nights regularly.

Starters take in the likes of a meat platter or a veg mezze. There’s chicken livers and fish cakes and one of my favourites prawns wrapped in crispy phyllo with a spicy dipping mayo. Sophie went for the other favourite - tuna lollipops (R145). These are chunks of tuna on a stick rolled in sesame seeds and quickly seared and served with wasabi mayo, pickled ginger and a lime soy reduction. They’re eaten like lollipops and are delicious. Sophie agreed wholeheartedly.

Prawns under a phyllo crust cooked in the pizza oven.

I tried the panko crumbed snails in a parsley butter (R118) which were good. I liked the crisp coating. (Not the Glass) Guy enjoyed prawns cooked in the pizza oven under a crust of crispy shredded phyllo pastry. He enjoyed it although felt it was a little oily. It was. While the Glass Guy enjoyed the crispy squid with more of the spicy mayo (R94) - what’s not to like?

The wine list too is simple. A few whites, a couple of rosés and bubblies and a few more reds. There’s little to induce expressions of horror, although there’s a heavy hitter in each category for those who want to go big. Sophie is unsure about the shiraz and is brought some to taste. It gets the thumbs up and the Hartenberg soon hits the table.

Tuna steak on a bed of vegetables.
Seafood tagliatelle in a seafood sauce.

For mains there are a couple of burgers - beef and chicken - falafels and melanzane, and some risottos including a wild mushroom and a seafood version. Sophie opts for the seafood tagliatelle (R215) with prawns mussels and calamari. It’s cooked in a nice light tomato and seafood sauce and is a lovely dish - and substantial too.

For (Not the Glass) Guy it’s the tuna special (R275) done similarly to the lollipops but as a steak and on a bed of vegetables. It’s good - and enormous. The Glass Guy goes for the slow roasted pork belly (R215) in a lovely flavourful mustard sauce. It’s meltingly soft and comes with a giant slice of good crackling. It’s served with tempura sweet potatoes and veg.

Pork belly in a mustard sauce with crackling and crispy sage.
Beef fillet in a truffle infused mushroom sauce with crispy onion rings.

For me it was a special of the mushroom fillet (R245) which was enormous. It was cooked a perfect rare and came with a good truffle infused mushroom sauce and was garnished with the most beautiful and perfectly crisp onion rings. Now why can’t more places make onion rings like this?

It was served on what I initially thought was a potato rosti but turned out to be bubble and squeak. I enjoyed every bit of it, and at least half of it for lunch the next day.

None of us could face dessert. Instead we finished off the wine and ended up with a round of good Irish coffees and continued the catch up. When we next looked up what had been a full restaurant was now empty. We didn’t want to overstay our welcome.

Food: 4

Service: 4

Ambience: 4

The Bill: R2187 excl tip. It was Sophie who marvelled over the fact that her dinner had only coast the princely sum of ₤26.

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