Of all these places, the Local Grill is by some margin the best steakhouse of them all. They don't necessarily serve the best steak (as we will see later on in this series), but for the steak lover who likes comparing wet aged vs dry aged (or grain vs grass fed) cows, or for the newbie who doesn't even know what 'ageing' is, there's no better place in the country.
For starters, you know you're in a place that takes its' steak seriously the moment you walk in the door. There are huge chalkboards everywhere listing all the different cuts of beef and how many days each cut has been aged. The Local Grill focuses primarily on two South African beef providers - Chalmar Grainfed Beef and Greenfields Grassfed Beef, all aged, of course.
The 'education' doesn't stop there, though. Ask your waiter/waitress if you can 'tour the kitchen' and she summons no less than the owner himself (Steven Maresch), who's all too happy to oblige. The tour starts off with the development kitchen, where we learn that Steve's currently experimenting on grilling steaks on a block of Himalayan Rock Salt that's been pre-heated for 25-30 minutes in a smoking hot grill.
We're then ushered into the walk-in refrigerator, where the various meats are in various stages of ageing. Bone-on Sirloin, Bone-on Rib-Eye, some of them wet aged in sealed plastic, others dry ageing on the racks. Here we learn that there isn't all that much difference between grain and grass-fed cows ("if you blindfolded me I probably wouldn't be able to tell the difference 7 out of 10 times," says Steve). The Local Grill essentially dry ages any cut that has a bone, and wet ages everything else, apparently because the lack of a bone and/or a relatively thick cover of protective fat makes that cut difficult to dry age properly.
The tour complete, we head back to the dining room to place our orders - starting with a Butternut Soup (ZAR 51 / SGD 6.42). It's creamy, it's sweet (without being cloy) and surprisingly delicious.
The soup isn't half as good as the Marrowbones (ZAR 46 / SGD 4.80) though. I have to say I don't care for the parsley salad, but the marrow is sweet, succulent, juicy and oh-so-sinful. Plus there's such a caveman-like appeal in picking up the bones with your hands and sucking the goodness out of them.
The seasonal 'breed of the month' was Brahman (a breed of cow with a large camel-like hump just behind its' neck); and we try the Wet Aged Rib Eye. With wet aging, the beef ages in its own blood/juices, so the resulting steak tastes ever so slightly more 'bloody' than a dry-aged one.
Speaking of dry-ageing, we also try the Greenfields Dry Aged Rib Eye on the Bone (500gm, ZAR 227 / SGD 28.60). This steak was a little less juicy than the Brahman, but with a more intense beefier flavour. Both steaks were expertly grilled to our required medium-rare; and had a wonderful char on the crust. However we thought that both steaks could have done with a few extra pinches of salt.
So while we found this our favorite steakhouse, the meat was a little underseasoned for our tastes and hence we didn't rank these as our favorite steaks. This is just a small complaint, though, and especially considering the very reasonable prices, we'd most definitely heartily recommend the Local Grill to any steak and meat lover. The beef is all sourced from halal providers but the restaurant does also serve alcohol and pork ribs.
The Local Grill has a few different branches, but the one to go to is at Parktown North on 7th Avenue; call up +27 (0)11 880 1946 for reservations. Closed on Sundays.