Before last week’s PRIMI World experience, I could count on one hand the number of times I’d been to a PRIMI – and even then, it was only ever for drinks. I mean, that’s what they’re known for, aren’t they? I’d heard whispers of good pizza here and there, but nothing that had me sprinting off to go and eat there. So when I was given the opportunity to experience PRIMI and profile their dishes, I was understandably nervous. I mean – if it were for a restaurant I visited often, I’d be able to write about it in my sleep! But PRIMI? I’d actually have to concentrate, which isn’t my strong point when food’s around.
BUT – I am a die-hard food fanatic, after all – and have made 2016 all about stepping outside my comfort zones, so off I went, boyfriend in tow (because let’s face it, nobody likes eating alone…)
Venimus, vidimus, edimus.
We came, we saw, we ate. This sums up about 90% of restaurant experiences when you’re in a long-term relationship, like I am. The true test: Whether or not we both enjoyed ourselves enough to linger, stretch out the evening a little bit, instead of rushing home to watch Game of Thrones.
To my pleasant surprise, we settled in more and more as the evening unfolded… clocking up to what I’m sure is a new personal best for Tuesday nights. One round of drinks became two as we chatted our way from starters right through to dessert. I put this down to the PRIMI atmosphere; laid-back and casual. The space successfully avoids being everything I loathe in a restaurant: cramped, loud or lit like an emergency room. Bonus points go to the waiting staff for not picking the worst moment to come and ask you how your meal is going! (i.e. directly after you’ve taken the biggest bite of food in the history of mankind).
So, at an Italian-inspired-cosmopolitan-fusion restaurant, with a menu full of tasty options – what did we eat?
Armed with my only snippet of prior knowledge about PRIMI and their renowned cocktails, I opted for a Litchi Jam-Jar to kick the evening off:
As pleasing on the eye as it is on the tongue, this drink strikes the perfect balance between boozy and sweet. A combination of ice, spirits and fresh fruit juice – one must be careful not to gulp it down too quickly! Two or three of these and I’d definitely have been “Pumping up The Jam“!
Choosing a drink for me was a no-brainer. The difficult part was picking what to eat from a menu crammed with options!
Fast-forward past a great deal of umm-ing and ahh-ing, I settled on the Beef Carpaccio to start – and I’m so glad I did! PRIMI deliver a very generous portion that is beautifully presented. The fresh, thinly sliced beef is lashed with lemon juice and olive oil and served at room temperature, which is exactly how it should be. Garnished with a handful of fresh rocket, every other mouthful comes with the salty kick of a caper berry – and before you know it, it’s all gone!
The starter definitely whet my appetite! It was all systems go for round two!
Ready to put this “Italian-inspired” cuisine through it’s paces, I chose a main course from PRIMI’s range of Gourmet Pizzas. When in Rome, or something like that… More than any other, the Gourmet Moroccan Chicken Pizza caught my eye… and then it walked off with my heart.
Hot damn! Forgive me, Tim Noakes & Co., for I have sinned… And. It. Was. Good! Unlike most other pizzas I’ve had, this one had a perfect crust that was not too thick (read: doughy) and not too thin. Am I the only that’s picky about these things? Turns out the secret to PRIMI’s perfect pizza bases is the fact that the dough is hand-made in-house, using authentic ingredients and left to leaven for 24 hours. No shortcuts here, folks…
With a tomato and mozzarella base, it’s topped with Harissa-spiced chicken, sliced red onion and a crunchy tomato, cucumber and coriander salsa. Dollops of creamy feta and yoghurt dressing complete the picture – and what a pretty picture it is!
It struck me, as I attacked this masterpiece, that each bite was as flavoursome as the last. Instead of merging into one vague flavour after the first few bites, each mouthful was a fresh reminder of the toppings, and how well they work together. I particularly liked the textural variety; soft chicken strips and crunchy cucumber with smooth, creamy yoghurt dressing… Well played, PRIMI, well played.
With half the pizza safely in a doggie-bag (destined to accompany me to work the next day and definitely not for my dog!) and three-quarters of the Jam Jar down the hatch, we arrive with great excitement – at dessert.
Ah, dessert. Something most of us inexplicably have space for, even when we’re stuffed. Someone wise once said that you should “take your pleasure seriously“, so I scrutinised the dessert menu with all the seriousness of a lonely forty-something trawling Tinder for her soulmate.
The stakes were so high! Everything leading up to this final course had been brilliant – it was up to the sweet stuff to bring the trophy home…
Enter Cheesecake, stage left. Now, I’ve slaved tirelessly over home-made cheesecakes that never quite rose to the occasion. No matter what I do, they’re never quite as nice as when they’re made by someone else. Well, whoever made this cheesecake deserves a medal, because it was hands-down (literally, cross my heart and hope to die) thee best cheesecake I’ve ever had.
Almost too pretty to eat, this New York-style baked cheesecake is served with a tart berry sauce and topped with a mixture of Summer berries. Not too sweet, and devilishly creamy, it has a soft biscuit crust that melts in your mouth (and doesn’t require titanic jaw strength to bite into)…
Yup, it’s going to take a lot to beat it. That’s for sure.
So, tummies full and plates cleared, our delightful dining experience was nearing its end. In between the final few sips of my Jam Jar I chatted to our waitron, Dan, to learn some of his story as one of the People of PRIMI. He’s been a waitron at PRIMI The Zone in Rosebank, Johannesburg since 2012. It was immediately clear to me that he enjoys his work, and when I asked him what his favourite part of his job was he replied: “The pizzas!”.
Dan’s charming attitude and friendliness really were the cherry on top of a great evening. His thorough knowledge of the restaurant and its menu are testament to the time and effort that goes into making dining at PRIMI a comfortable, memorable experience.
So, what are the key take-aways from my PRIMI World Experience? Firstly, PRIMI is firmly among the restaurants I’d visit again, and often. Secondly, I’d definitely recommend PRIMI to anyone looking for a great place to eat out… Knowing little about PRIMI before this actually worked to my advantage, because I could view the entire menu with fresh eyes and really appreciate the variety. Thirdly, it’s nice to know that there are chain restaurants around that really do serve excellent food. PRIMI’s food is their expression of their love for people, and in my opinion, it shows. Carefully thought-out combinations, fresh ingredients and beautiful presentation make for a memorable experience indeed. Finally, I finally understand what all the fuss is about! So whether it’s just for drinks (give the Jam Jar a go) or for a meal with friends, I’m confident that you’ll enjoy your PRIMI World Experience as much as we did.