Circus Café is a relatively new addition to the Pietermaritzburg restaurant scene, having recently taken over premises previously occupied by a Piatto franchise at the Liberty Midlands Mall. Being rather eager to find out what they had to offer, I booked a table for dinner and soon discovered this restaurant could well be here to stay in Pietermaritzburg.
Situated adjacent to the recently opened fun fare, Circus Café attracts a high degree of passing foot traffic with its colourful black and green logo and ‘chess board’ themed tiled floor. The décor is distinctively retro, depicting a variety of circus themes from a bygone area and combined with the upbeat vibe, creates a unique and uplifting ambience.
Upon entering I was pleasantly greeted by restaurant manager Andre who promptly showed me to my seat where the rest of my dinner party were patiently waiting. Without further ado we ordered our drinks and a garlic roll to share while we perused through the rather extensive menu. From starters and soups like the Belgium Mussel Hot Pot (fresh Saldanha mussels steamed with a creamy garlic and dill sauce) to char-grilled steaks and oxtail, Circus Café sports a varied menu that will cater for most tastes and preferences.
I opted for a traditional vegetable platter (R75) which consisted of a vegetable patty served with a creamy mushroom sauce, savoury rice and a helping of crunchy vegetables. The meal was certainly tasty and well-presented but considering the nature of the dish, it was possibly a little overpriced. I felt that R65 would have been a more realistic price given my findings at similar establishments, but this by no means detracted from the quality of the meal, which was superb.
Mary-Anne selected a char-grilled 300g rump steak (R95) served with French fries (or vegetables) and a choice of sauces (Madagascar green peppercorn, woodlands mushroom, Prego or cheese) at R16 extra. She loved the rump steak, remarking that it was “tender and juicy” and “definitely value for money.” Taking those comments into consideration I tendered to agree, but to be charged extra for sauce was perhaps a little cheeky.
Olive opted for a chicken schnitzel with mushroom sauce and a helping of mixed vegetables (R65) which she thoroughly enjoyed. Her only quibble was that the vegetables lacked variety but besides that, the meal was “perfect.” Paul ordered the T-bone steak special, a 400g flame-grilled steak served with French fries for just R75. He gave it the thumbs up and understandably so because it is undoubtedly one of the best value for money meals to be found at Circus Café.
My mom, a huge fan of spicy food, selected the chicken and prawn curry special (R85) served with basmati rice, poppadums and a choice of vegetables. She raved about the dish, remarking that the chicken was so tender that it almost seemed to “melt” in her mouth. Given the generous portions and high quality of presentation she felt that the meal was well worth the price and would highly recommend it to anyone.
Paul was the only member of our dinner party who ordered dessert and boy did he make an excellent choice in the form of a huge helping of layered fresh fruit salad (R32). Garnished with granadilla coulis and vanilla bean ice cream Paul absolutely loved his dessert, which one could easily imagine being served up to royalty, it looked so good.
After settling my bill I took a few photos and began to reflect on the evening’s events and I’d have to say that in terms of service, presentation and attention to detail Circus Café are right up there with the best. Our waiter Lungelo was polite and attentive and his product knowledge was also pretty impressive. Not at any stage did he hesitate when asked a question and I was equally impressed with the warm hospitality displayed by managers Linden and Andre who attended to our every need.
Despite being situated in close proximity to a number of accomplished competitors, Circus Café seems set to establish itself as one of the leading eateries in the perennially busy Liberty Midlands Mall, if not the wider Pietermaritzburg restaurant scene as a whole. Their service was of a very high standard, their food well-presented and expertly prepared and the uplifting ambience and unusual décor was most refreshing. Although I had a few reservations about the pricing of certain dishes I highly recommend this eatery to anyone.
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Circus Café Contact details:
Tel: +27 (0)33 342-2628
Physical address: Shop 302, Garden Food Court, Liberty Midlands Mall, Pietermaritzburg.