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Possums

Possums Parkhurst strip has been the king of Joburg’s dining out areas for several years now.
While other areas flux and wane, Parkhurst has pumped for years, with the emphasis on young, lively and loud punctuated by a few quieter, more upmarket bistros. You have to feel sorry for the nearby residents, but at least they’re never short of a decent meal.
Possum’s Bistro and Deli is an oasis of finer dining refinement, with nary a pizza nor a tremazzini on the menu. There are tables on a patio area in front, but on a stormy summer night the interior is a safer bet. It does get rather warm inside, despite the efforts of a fan, but a carafe of mint and rosemary infused water thoughtfully arrives the moment you sit down.
As we discussed the décor we tried to remember what the place used to be before it became Possums. One friend thought it was a second hand furniture shop, and in some respects it still resembles one. There are old plates on the wall, paintings for sale, some large wooden screens, a wine wall and counters selling delicious looking deli products.
Rose petals are scattered on the tables and the attentive staff have a good knowledge of the dishes.
The menu is written on chalkboards hanging on the walls, and I felt a little rude hovering next to a couple that was clearly anticipating a romantic evening. Their date became an awkward threesome as I stood over the lady’s shoulder trying to decide which of several dishes sounded the nicest. A portable menu would be less intrusive.
The wine list does come in a folder, which is a good job because it’s an interesting affair that took me a while to ponder. A glass of Haute Cabrière cost R60 and the small carafe it came in slotted nicely into the ice bucket to cool it down.
Possum’s meals are beautifully presented and the flavours often unexpected. An Organic Salad at R58 served the three of us nicely, with an entertaining mix of strawberries, cape gooseberries, sweet potato, avocado, beetroot and various leaves.
My main meal was equally imaginative. It was Burn The Fingers rack of lamb, which is exactly what I did. You have to eat a lamb rack with your fingers, of course, and although the three bones jutting out of the artistic arrangement looked a little sparse at first, the portion size turned out to be perfect. The meat was beautifully cooked and served on a bed of spinach studded with sultanas. A few artfully placed lumps of gnocchi added width to a meal heightened by fronds of rosemary.
The first mouthful was a surprise, since I expected meat and got globe artichoke. That proved a neat counterbalance to the richness of the meat, while a bowl of pommes frites provided the bulk.
My friend’s Portuguese rump espetada with a Cabernet and pear reduction at R130 was equally delicious, but was crying out for some vegetables to accompany the skewer of meat and bowl of frites. She ordered a side dish of spinach, which balanced the dish out well.
Meanwhile beef fillet with a Porcini mushroom sauce at R135 disappeared remarkably quickly and was rated as excellent.
None of us needed dessert but you can’t judge a restaurant on a main course alone. Besides, Possums New York Red Velvet cake with a cheesecake filling promised to satisfy some conflicting cravings for both cake and cheesecake. It did a sterling job, and R38 left all three of us satisfied.
As other guests faded away and we lingered over coffee, we realised there was no music. Good, we agreed, a restaurant where you can chat without being disturbed by the background noise. Although it’s technically quite a small place, the tables are far enough apart so you don’t intrude on other people’s conversations. Unless you’re joining them to read the menu.

Possum’s Bistro and Deli:
4th Avenue, 6th Street, Parkhurst, Johannesburg.
Tel: 011 4474751.
Open 10am to 10pm Tue-Fri, 8am to 10pm Sat, 8am to 3pm Sun. 
www.possumsbistro.co.za