Monday, January 18, 2010

To Eat Out ... or not to eat out

Promised I would check in after reading the Eat Out (parties are still a little slow this week, but you don't want to read about parties just yet, do you? The fun of my blog is that it is so varied, you never know what topic I am going to tackle next! From jacaranda trees to car guards to Jozi hotspots to facebook pages for cats. It ain't all skandaal and Joostgate here, believe me).

Well, I had a look and besides getting rather hungry it bothered me that some of the new better places in Joburg in particular were left out. Jozi has the reputation for mediocre establishments which open up, then close a few months later, or turn into a chain of franchises, thus losing all their exclusivity appeal. Why drive to this amazing spot that does the best whatever-in-town when you have one in your suburb, you ask. Ah, but that's the thing. When there's only one of something you have to make that effort and the place will never go off because everyone is beating the door down to get in.

Although the mag paid tribute to places like The Monarch, The Greek Sizzler, La Scala, Yamato, Bismallah's and Mythos (all favourites of mine), sadly about six of the places which I have grown to love in Joburg didn't feature.

Where was the Troyeville Hotel with its fantastic prawns and great vibe? And The Teak Place in the Cradle of Mankind where you can have a very good lunch outside, then go down to the vegetable gardens where they have a pick-a-veg project and can fill up your basket with seasonal produce to take home for a mere R50? Or The Chocolate Room at the Hertford Hotel which did faboulous gourmet pizzas and designer hot chocolate besides a roaring log fire in winter? Or the new restaurant down at Arts on Main in the CBD? Or the Darkie Cafe in Marshalltown which stays open late, late, late and is always such fun? Or the fabulous Signature in Morningside with its hardworking manager, Desmond Mabuza, which I wrote about last month?

Turns out that the Chocolate Room's Andy Green is starting up a great new Italian restaurant called Si! Si! (as in yes, yes, o yes) near the Rivonia Spar where the new food hall will be. They will be joined by a great new vegetarian place called Hari (as in Hari Krishna). Signature took a full page ad in the mag but there was no review, very weird because the food is decidedly better than a lot of the places listed. While I am happy that my favourite spots are not out there on the Lonely Planet Guide it is annoying that the Cape should be so well represented. This oversight might change after the World Cup, although most of the fans will be looking for a place to have a good booze up rather than discerning dining. So no one will know that the best schwarmas in town are at the Schwarma Company in Norwood (the halva! to die for, doll. They do a mean chicken salad too), and that if you're hankering for hot brisket on rye or even some Cuban cigars there is a cafe near Senderwood that serves both, plus a range of Greek cakes and biscuits.

I want to keep it under my hat that you can get wonderful street food in Mayfair on a Saturday morning and that even the local housewives will drive up for it. Can you say the same about Cape Town, which has been trendified to such a degree that it has lost all its flavour and the food industry is now dedicated to ripping off the hapless tourists? Where are those amazing rotis that you could get once? They had the most wonderfully sensual bite to them. Where are the fishermen selling fresh vis on the quay? Besides Kalky's of course, where they still call you "Laidy" and the patrons order a Carling Black Label for their children. But o wow the fish and chips.

PS: Desmond Mabuza agreed with me that it was an oversight not to include his restaurant Signature. He even phoned the mag but editor Abigail Donnelly had not yet got back from leave. Lets hope they do something on their website to update the places they didn't manage to include. That said, it is a great mag and a great read beautifully presented

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