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Farewell Farro: restaurant closure leaves a giant gap in Jozi's food scene

Steve Steinfeld pays homage to one of the city's best eateries, which has been forced to forever shut its doors in the wake of lockdown restrictions

28 June 2020 - 00:00 By Steve Steinfeld
In the two short years it was open, Farro raised the standard of Joburg dining.
In the two short years it was open, Farro raised the standard of Joburg dining.
Image: Supplied

The closing of any business is a devastating thing, and the closing of a restaurant even more so. Restaurants, the ones worth their salt at least, are so much more than just a place to eat. Few can say that at the end of a long, hard day, a meal at their favourite restaurant wouldn't cheer them up.

Farro was one of those restaurants. It was a place to go to and be guaranteed a great experience. Among the swarms of supply-chain franchises, steakhouses and over-priced cafes that make up most of Joburg's dining landscape, Farro stood alone. It was a restaurant that knew what it was and stood for it, bravely.

Quietly confident, its modern European approach to dining was ahead of the curve. It was at the forefront of the city's dining culture and it showed that, yes, we could take food seriously. It gave those of us who fight for the recognition of Joburg's food scene hope that we had a contender to rank among the country's best.

Truth be told, Farro never truly received the recognition it deserved (often overlooked in favour of its Cape Town contemporaries) but it was quite simply one of the best restaurants in the country. Most certainly one of the best in Joburg.

One of Farro's many outstanding dishes.
One of Farro's many outstanding dishes.
Image: Steve Seinfeld

I could wax poetic about the dishes that blew my mind, of which there are many — the cauliflower, the salmon, the tart, the truffles — while recalling the equally impressive additions to the exceptional wine list, which pointedly (and occasionally to the dismay of a Joburg diner) shunned the average for the interesting and exceptional — highlighting small-scale, local producers and unusual varietals.

Service was up there, too. Eloise Windebank, half of the couple who owned the restaurant, was always ready to expertly work the floor while Alex, the other half, ran the pass.

Farro, though, was so much more than the sum of its parts. It was a challenge to Joburg to embrace good food, to elevate our food scene, to take it more seriously.

Some may have been upset that no, you couldn't get extra chilli with your meal, and nor would you be able to have your steak well-done, but those of us who worship at the altar of food recognised Farro for what it was. It grew a cult following.

If you knew about food, you knew about Farro.

Amid the Covid-19 pandemic and the government-sanctioned lockdown that brought our restaurant industry to its knees, Farro announced that it would be closing its doors.

Considering that it had only been open for two years, the impact it made on our dining culture was impressive. Should we be so lucky as to see the team regroup, I can only hope Joburg will be there, ready to embrace them with open arms.

Until then farewell, fair friend.

Though they have closed the doors of their restaurant, Alex and Eloise Windebank continue to operate a meal delivery service called Farro Family Style. Find them on Instagram: @farroillovo