Local, but different

2009-04-01 00:00

Thank goodness for autumn. I don’t know why we expect so much from summer when what we usually get is lots of damp greyness with the odd blast of intolerable heat. Here in Hilton it feels like we were cocooned in mizzle for months. You get used to it; my children and dogs are well acquainted with being taken for walks where visibility is five metres, but it fosters feelings of inwardness and you can feel like you’re missing things.

Like the metamorphosis of a rather unremarkable midlands restaurant into something quite different. While we were all avoiding the rain, three of London’s top restaurateurs quietly took over the Corner Post in Howick and transformed it.

Adam and Katie Robinson, who moved to the Dargle from London six years ago, lured their old friend Dan Evans from the Cape to their new joint project, the Corner Post Bar and Dining Room.

As restaurant co-owners the three are a formidable combination; Evans is credited with opening the first “gastropub” in London, the Anglesea Arms, which became the first pub to be included in the Michelin guide, while Adam and Katie ran the Brackenbury, described by London entertainment guide Time Out as “a restaurant every neighbourhood would kill for”.

Now they’re working on inflaming the passions of local diners at their post on Main Street. The property has had a makeover with a light, no-frills bar area in the front and an interior that is more serene and formal. Out at the back there’s a sunny courtyard and a garden especially landscaped for children.

Adam describes the Corner Post as a restaurant where “locals are our bread and butter, with Dan the unusual aspect. He’s a very good cook, acknowledged among his peers.” Evans, whose cooking was described by Nigella Lawson as “honest and inventive”, admits that he’s had to be “more thoughtful” about putting together his menus here, which change daily depending on what’s available. His food is “forever evolving; here it has to be accessible. To be a success you have to root the establishment in the community.”

And so his menus are a mixture of intriguing and familiar. On the same sheet you might find game terrine, toast and green tomato chutney (R40), chargrilled Merrivale duck breast with chips and béarnaise (R110), and bangers and mash and onion gravy (served with a glass of beer, wine or soda) (R50).

The dessert selection is equally interesting. A recent menu included deep-fried doughnuts with iced butterscotch (R30), Individual plum and almond tarts with amaretto icecream (R40) and a selection of fruit sorbets.

“This is not haute cuisine,” says Adam. “It’s not pretentious food.”

Produce is sourced locally and seasonality is important. “It must be very fresh and vibrant, at the peak of its season and flavour,” says Evans.

Fresh and vibrant — like an autumn day in the midlands. Add to this the promise of encountering something new and intriguing to eat when you visit, and I can think of no better way to spend a sunny day right now.

• For further details see www.cornerpost.co.za

• Watch out for a new fortnightly food and recipe column by Dan Evans starting soon in The Witness.

Top London restaurateurs Adam and Katie Robinson (back) and Dan Evans, now running a restaurant in Howick.

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