Johannesburg: The Gray Restaurant

By Ingrid Casson

Larger-than-life chef Philippe Wagenfuhrer has swapped the East for West Rand with his produce-focused steakhouse and restaurant.

Physical Address: 38 North Rand Road, Hughes, Boksburg.

Call 011-823-4184 or visit www.gray-restaurant.com.

THE PLACE

Alsatian-born chef Philippe Wagenfuhrer isn’t one to rest on his laurels, so when he packed up his knives at award-winning restaurant Roots last year, we suspected something was potting. Not one to be dictated by a CBD location (Roots was a lengthy drive from Joburg to the Cradle of Humankind), Philippe’s latest venture has diners resetting their GPS for an industrial part of Boksburg. But Philippe points out he’s not interested in being tossed in with the dime-a-dozen franchises infesting inner Johannesburg – Gray is a destination restaurant, thanks very much. So, far from the feathery meadows of Magaliesburg, Philippe is offering an oasis of style in the heart of the East Rand with his latest venture, The Gray Restaurant.

THE FOOD

Set in a light, airy space that manages to be slick with an element of casual (crisp white tablecloths, shimmering silver and grey sculpture), Gray poses as an upmarket steakhouse. The meat is excellent and ticks all the boxes … grass fed, aged 18 to 24 days and always served medium rare. But you’ll also be steered in surprising directions with touches like gazpacho amuse bouche with lemon sorbet, foie gras-stuffed quail, beef with a smudge of harissa and chunky chocolate terrine with cookie ‘sand’ and edible flowers. When it comes to produce, Philippe is a purist and he insists on sourcing the very best ingredients. Instead of wrapping up the evening with dessert, try the cheeseboard featuring cheeses made on the West Rand by Italian cheesemaker, Giovanni Scarcella.

THE PEOPLE

Born in Strasbourg and raised in West Africa, Philippe whiled away childhood holidays in his uncle’s restaurant kitchen in Alsace. Arrested by his love for cooking, he studied in France and went on to own restaurants as far afield as Scotland. His worldly experience has sculpted his signature eclectic menus. Head chef Raymond Kokota followed Philippe from Roots and his business partner, Sean Shipalana, met Philippe as a regular at the restaurant with his wife. Sean owns the Harley Davidson dealership next door, which was built in the knowledge that Philippe would open a fine-dining restaurant on the premises.

X-FACTORS

We love Philippe’s passion for pairing dishes with bespoke drinks. His beers – made in conjunction with microbrewery Dog and Fig – are a highlight, especially the buchu beer. Also try his wines sourced from various Cape terroirs; they’re approachable and food friendly.

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