South Africa’s diverse landscape, from open savannahs to rugged mountains, and their encompassing wildlife has given rise to a unique culinary experience: the flavours of game meat. Each animal brings its own distinct characteristics to the table, allowing for a gastronomic adventure that celebrates the country’s natural resources and rich culinary heritage. What’s more, wild game offers a nutritional profile that sets it apart from conventional meats like beef, chicken and pork. Out in the wild these animals roam free, leading to leaner and more muscular meat that is low in fat and cholesterol, while being rich in iron and vitamins. What’s more, game reduces the carbon footprint associated with food production and transportation, making local game a greener choice.
Eland (Taurotragus oryx) is the world’s largest antelope, yet, despite its size, it’s able to maintain a trot indefinitely and can jump a 1.5m fence from standstill. Eland meat rivals beef in texture and taste, making it perfect for anyone new to game meat. One step down in size, the kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros) is renowned for its succulent meat. Easily characterised by its spiral horns and stripped and spotted markings, kudus love to feast on fruits, such as watermelons as a liquid resource, as well as shoots and leaves. This diet gives their meat a delicate and slightly sweet flavour with hints of nuttiness. Rich, tender and slightly wild tasting, kudu remains a favourite amongst game lovers. Above all other animals, the gemsbok (Oryx gazella) embodies the spirit of the arid African landscape. Able to endure astonishingly hot temperatures, they are the ultimate survivors of desert extremes, showing incredible strength and endurance. A diet of only sparse desert grass makes its tender meat consistently sweeter than other buck. On the more robust side of the flavour spectrum, the meat of the Wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus) – that forage grasses on open savannah – is imbued with a hearty earthiness and firm, succulent flesh.
South Africa’s national animal, the springbok (Antidorcas marsupialis), provides meat that is both vibrant in flavour and striking in appearance with its dark red streaks. Home to the semi-desert of the Karoo, springbok have to roam vast tracts of land to find food and for this reason grow slowly. They eat a vast diversity of shrubs, including the rooibos tea shrub, giving their meat naturally rich herbal flavours. Lean and tender like ostrich (Struthio camelus), springbok has the texture of veal with a delicate, almost sweet flavour. Finally, impala (Aepyceros melampus) while similarly fine-grained has a firmer texture and an earthy gaminess like European venison.
Belthazar’s menu showcases the tantalising wild taste of South Africa with an array of game cuts to suit both the adventurous and the less intrepid. “We are proud to be able to offer such a diverse array of export-quality local game,” says Belthazar owner Ian Halfon. It is only by fostering strong relationships with sustainability-focused game suppliers that Belthazar’s rich selection is available all year round, he adds.
Since South African game meat is especially lean, unlocking the typical intense savouriness when grilling takes precision and attention to detail. Expert grillers at Belthazar customise their grilling technique according to the cut and species. In general, most game meat requires a cooler and slower approach to grilling. “We take extra care to match the grilling technique with the type of game being prepared, to avoid overcooking,” says head Chef Sherwyn Rayners, adding that game is best enjoyed medium-rare. Denser, robustly flavoured cuts – from species such as Wildebeest – require lower heat over an extended period, while delicate, tender game meats like ostrich, gemsbok or springbok produce the best results when grilled with intense bursts of heat.
When it comes to basting and sauces, richly flavoured game cuts will benefit from Belthazar’s signature basting and spicier sauces such as the Madagascan green peppercorn sauce, while the more delicate or those closer to beef like eland, are enhanced when basted with olive oil and served with a side of Belthazar’s famous red wine sauce. However, for those who can’t decide which game steak to choose, Belthazar has you covered with a game skewer comprising a selection of four different species of game. A firm favourite at Belthazar is the game lasagne: A hearty mince of kudu, eland and springbok layered between sheets of pasta, unctuous Napolitana and béchamel sauces, topped with mozzarella and Parmigiano and baked al forno for the ultimate comfort food experience.
Join Belthazar in celebrating these wildly delicious flavours.