I’m a Cape Town kinda gal. I like the laid back mentality, I like that I don’t need to drive for hours to get to where I want (except for Constantia, but who goes there?), I like The Mountain, the sea, the general prettiness. Joburg’s this elusive beast I tentatively visit for at most a week, mainly to get raucous with my Cape Town friends who originally come from this ghastly city (shame). So when I got the email telling me that I was needed in JHB for a month, my face went pale(r).
**Calms down to a mild panic**
While in this vicious demon city, I decided that I should give you guys a taste (awful pun intended) of some of the restaurants it has on offer. And since I was in tourist mode, why not start at the place that claims to be “Africa’s Dining Room” – Lekgotla on Nelson Mandela Square.
This African-themed restaurant seats up to 500 people. We sat in the front area, which looks like a rondavel, our hands were washed with hot, vanilla water and our faces were painted. It was fabulous.
To start, we shared a few small portions off the menu. From right to left:
Firstly, Couscous Tabbouleh with tomato, cucumber and mint, with a lemon and balsamic dressing. A simple salad, similar to one I make at home, which was well seasoned, light and refreshing.
Mama Africa’s Meat Magwinyas were stunning little vetkoek, filled with spicy mince and potato. Delicious, “beery” and wholesome, without being heavy, I loved them.
Senegalese calamari lightly floured and fried, then drizzled with a peanut, lemon and chilli sauce. It was like nothing I’ve ever had – the peanut and lemon was an odd flavour combo, but after a mouthful or two, really grew on me.
Finally, Egyptian prawns flavoured with cardamom and lemon then wrapped in stunning kataifi (shredded phyllo) pastry, on a bed of grilled feta and tomato. Definitely my favourite of all the starters, the textures and flavours were amazing. The best “bundled” or as they say, mummified prawns that I’ve ever had.
Next up, a tasting platter of some of the meat dishes, from right to left:
An Oudtshoorn ostrich fillet with a fig, honey and mustard sauce, which was succulent and tender. Ostrich is very meaty, and worked deliciously with the sweet, creamy sauce.
Springbok on a bed of barley and spinach was up next. The chewy barley, perfectly steamed spinach and delicate flavour of the Springbok, worked beautifully, although the meat was a little bit tough.
Finally we had absolutely, perfectly, wonderfully, amazingly seared kudu in a sticky red wine sauce. It was the first time I ate Kudu and this tender, dark meat was incredible, and I am now a huge fan.
Then came our Potjies served with the most delicious (trust me) banana and sweet potato mash and pap with chakalaka. On the right was melt-off-the-bone oxtail braised in red wine and rosemary with seasonal veg, which were still beautifully crisp. Gorgeous.
On the left was Karoo lamb curry slow-cooked in Cape Malay spices. I was surprised and pleased that the curry actually packed some punch. I’m quite over restaurants making wimpish, feeble curries to try please more people. If you’re doing it, do it properly. This was very properly done. **clap clap**
Last but not least, again from right to left, we had:
Buttermilk pastry koeksisters in cardamom, cinnamon and all-spice syrup. I hate koeksisters, but I loved these. Buttery, creamy and chewy, they were a welcome change from the usual tasteless pastries that rely completely on syrup for taste.
Probably the most decadent and creamy milk tart I’ve had. Their secret recipe uses oodles of condensed milk, which takes this dish up a notch.
Malva pudding with vanilla ice-cream on biscuit crumble – do I really need to say any more? It was amazing.
All in all, it was an amazing experience. They have a range of dishes from crocodile to oysters, venison to salmon and prawns. The menu is extensive, interesting and well thought through. People don’t often act as tourists in their own cities and don’t feel the need to go to these African-themed restaurants because they think they’re cheesy tourist attractions. Well this wasn’t cheesy at all, it was great.
A good night in Joburg. Maybe this place isn’t so bad. **shudder**