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Vegan Hippie Connection Market

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you my first vegan post. Now I’m not vegan but I do respect the lifestyle choice. And I have been trying to be more healthy and eat less processed food. I also realise there isn’t much awareness about vegan restaurants or markets in Gauteng, although the lifestyle is growing. So I’m going to try to shed some light on the many markets or restaurants. Bear with me but you’ll start seeing more diversity.

To kick off this new mandate, I stopped by the Vegan Hippie Connection Market held at the Pirates Sports Club in Parkhurst, Joburg and on the last Sunday of every month. It’s not a stone’s throw away from my home but it is quite central if you’re in Joburg. And it’s close to all those trendy restaurants in Parkhurst (cc Craft, etc).

The Vegan Hippie Connection Market started almost a year ago and has since had 10 markets. The market boosts 60-62 vendors. So you’re spoilt for choice, with food, clothing, and other lifestyle goodies.

Some of the goodies that I enjoyed were:

  • Vegan ice-cream (so yummy)
  • Dog biscuits (Goliath loves them and the vendor tested the biscuits on her dogs)
  • Getting henna done
  • The delicious Persian olives
  • The tofu and avocado spread
  • The tasty vegan energy bars
  • Waffles
  • And I wanted to get my hands on all the jewelry on offer

Taking a walk around it’s difficult not to buy everything you see. The vendors are extremely friendly and happy to chat to you about their product(s) (and to give you a sample to try 🙂 ). And you don’t feel pressured to buy the product. The vendors actually don’t mind if you have a taste, take a business card, and order from them at a later stage.

The atmosphere is also fantastic and welcoming. I know a few people who are trying to adopt the vegan lifestyle and they are faced with plenty of judgement for not going all in. In this environment there’s nothing of the sort. There’s no judgement. In fact, I was only asked once if I was vegan. I must admit I panicked and said that I was vegetarian. A vegetarian who had a sausage and bacon for breakfast. Don’t judge!  see-no-evil-monkey

Talking to the owner Benita Coetzee you get a sense of what she wanted the market to be: a community where you could find all things vegan and be in a non-judgmental environment. And she’s achieved that.

The market is also dog-friendly and dogs of all sizes are welcome. There’s also plenty of parking. And live entertainment 🙂 .

Have a look at the photo gallery below to see what the market had to offer. I came away with kombucha (a drink I’ve started enjoying this year), buddha earrings (because how could you not), and some dog biscuits.

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Something’s Cooking by J

J’Something, the vocalist of Mi Casa, has moved into food. After spending some time with his own food TV show he’s expanded into a restaurant. Being a fan of Mi Casa, I couldn’t wait for his restaurant, Something’s Cooking by J, to open on the 1 April 2017.

I visited the restaurant a week after it had officially opened and was smart enough to make the reservation a few days in advance. When I got to the entrance of the restaurant, I overhead the hostess letting someone know that the restaurant was fully booked. A good sign if you’re J’Something.

After letting them know I made a reservation and finding out our table number, we were escorted to a table (that wasn’t the table we were told) that was outside the restaurant and, basically, outside. As it was cold, I went back to the hostess who escorted us to the table to ask if we could have the table that I had booked, which was inside the restaurant. She was a bit hesitant but after mentioning that I had booked in advance and I should get the tabled I booked she took us in to a table that was in the center of the restaurant. Our originally booked table was outside but in the restaurant. So I appreciate the hostess making a plan for our table. And then we found friends and moved over to their table.


While we were still sitting outside the restaurant, J’Something popped over to welcome us to the restaurant. That alone made my night and I may have fan-girled a little. Just a little.


As we sat down, starters were already on the table as our friends had been at the restaurant for a while. We tried the Korean dunked wings, a secret menu item, the deep fried mac ‘n cheese, and the trio of bao down.

I promise you get more than 3 chicken wings. I took the photo after everyone had dived in.

The Korean dunked wings were well covered and the sauce was sweet, spicy and a little spicy. The meat was also cooked well. However, friends were saying that they found the wings to burn and not actually be spicy. While I love spicy food, I like my spice to not be too hot, but I enjoyed the wings as they had a bit of bite.


Next I tried the deep fried Mac ‘n Cheese that is served with a spicy (spicier than the wings) pronto sauce and a fondue sauce. The mac ‘n cheese was fried perfectly and the pronto sauce added a much needed tastiness to the blandness of the mac ‘n cheese. The fondue sauce also elevated the mac n’ cheese. The dish is a perfect comfort dish but it is a heavy dish and I found it difficult to eat more than a square.


The trio of bao down consisted of chicken, pork and langoustine bao. Overall, the bao was a bit hard and not as tender as bao should be. It also felt like it was store bought. The pork was tender and was served with a cucumber pickle that added flavour to the pulled pork. The langoustine bao with served with a mango and tomato pickle and was also delicious. The pickle cut through the meatiness. However, the chicken bao was not as exciting. I liked the idea of deep frying the chicken but some parts were too hard to eat. The onion pickle and cream cheese didn’t add much to the dish either.

For the mains, the 3 dishes I could get my hands onto were the mom’s prawns, pork belly ramen, and the Bra Hugh burger.


The mom’s prawns had decent sized, fresh prawns. But that was the best part of the dish. The sauce wasn’t tasty and and the person who ordered the dish didn’t actually finish it. And she’s someone who always orders prawns.


I love pork belly ramen so I wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to try it. The ramen broth was delicious and a bit salty. But was the sunny-side up egg, the seaweed with wasabi powder, the noodles, and kale it was delicious. A delicious dish. Until you get to the pork belly. With ramen, the pork belly needs to be tender so that you can break it with your chopsticks (a side note: pork belly should always be tender). For this dish I had to use a knife and fork to cut through the pork. It was not a fun sight. Luckily, with the hot broth, some of the small pieces of  became a bit more tender. Also, I didn’t get any of crackling that was in the dish description. The pork belly skin was hard but could hardly be called crackling, it wasn’t that crunchy.


Lastly, I got by hands on the Bra Hugh Burger. I had seen reviews about the burger and some weren’t positive. This burger was tasty but nothing special. The beef patty and burger was cooked well and the chutney was tasty. The chips were a bit too soft in the middle for me but a bit crunchy on the outside. I think the chips could have cooked a bit longer.


After all that food, I made some space for dessert. And I was the only one who ordered dessert. I think we all filled up on the starters. For dessert I had the Pastel de Nata Cronut, a dish the menu says is a MUST try. The Portuguese custard tart beneath the cronut was divine but a bit too sweet and lemony for me. I loved the caramel on the custard tart – it added a slight crunch to the dish. The cronut was soft, sweet, and delicious as well. The two elements worked well together and the coconut marshmallow added some more sweetness to the dish.

From a food perspective, there were hit or miss elements on most of the dishes. It seemed like it was difficult to get all the elements to come together for some of the dishes. Therefore, the food is just above average. It’s a great place to grab a hearty meal after or before some gambling or entertainment. And it is, after all, casual dining.

In terms of service, the waiters seemed to lack some training. It took a while to order more starters or mains. And the waiter completely forgot to pour me wine as he was going around the table – and we were only a table of 9. The waiter did also look flustered. I did at one point ask him to just to one thing at a time and top up everyone with wine and then come back and take the orders. That seemed to help a little. In addition, the waiters who served us kept dropping cutlery every time they brought a meal to the table. But it was only the first week of opening, so these kinks will get sorted out with time.

Also, in terms of service, the delivery of the food was fast. We must have waited, at most, 15 minutes for our main courses.

However, the best part of the restaurant and, what makes it a good restaurant, is J’Something himself. This was my first interaction with him but from the moment he greeted me I felt like I was a friend. He was constantly walking around the restaurant greeting patrons that had just sat down and checking up on tables. Even taking time to have conversations and take photos. I didn’t see him turn down a single photo request. He’s attention to his customers was an amazing. It made experience memorable.

Lastly, some advice, get a table inside the restaurant. The ambiance is casual, and energetic. It’s like being at a Mi Casa concert. If you’re sitting outside you won’t have the same experience as those sitting inside.

Based on my experience and feedback from friends at the table,  I give J’Something 3 cupcakes.

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Review guide:

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No rating (read: why have you even bothered to open)

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Poor (read: shit)

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Average (read: meh)

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Good (read: above mediocrity)

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Very Good (read: fling your money at them. It’s worth it)

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Extraordinary (read: if you have to make a sacrifice to be here, do it)

 

 

Restaurant Mosiac at the Orient

In South Africa, we’re fortunate to have fantastic fine-dinning restaurants – restaurants that are innovative and keep us enthralled. One such restaurant is the Restaurant Mosaic at The Orient, in Pretoria. From Pretoria it’s about a 30 minute drive and an hour drive from Joburg. But it’s well worth it, especially as you arrive at the gates of the Orient Hotel.

The Restaurant Mosaic is run by head chef Chantel Dartnall. And if you’re in the restaurant, eating lunch or dinner, you’re bound to bump into her.

My boyfriend and I decided it was best to stay over for the night, than to drive home on dark roads after a few glasses of wine. Better safe than sorry!

Upon entering a security guard escorts you to a parking bay. He already knows that you’re a guest of the hotel and not a day visitor.

As you walk through the massive front doors, Zele is waiting for you. And you’re immediately taken to your room, where you’re handed a refreshing drink of pomegranate .

As it was our anniversary, a bottle of Pol Roger Rose 2004 was waiting for us in the room. Bottle popped and we were well settled in to our gorgeous Udaipur themed room.

After a while we got a bit hungry and asked for a light snack. We thought we’d get sandwiches or something similar. But no, Chantel had made a delicious and beautiful salmon salad. It was light, refreshing, crunchy, sweet and has a bit of bitterness. An excellent prelude to the main event.

Salmon and cream cheese salad

When dinner finally arrived, we made our way to the restaurant and were seated at a cosy booth. It was difficult to notice the people around us, with the way the restaurant was designed. Immediately I noticed champagne glasses. I didn’t order any champagne for dinner as I knew we’d still be feeling the effects of the Pol Roger. But as we were celebrating an important event the Restaurant provided glasses to start off the evening.

With our glasses charged a bread cart followed, stocked with a variety of bread. And the waiter insisted that you try more than one.

Then Chef Chantel popped by to take you through the menu and different wine pairings and help you decide between the 5 course and 9 course meal. We went with the 9 course menu and the enthusiast wine pairing. How could you not?

Still part of a bread, we were presented with a amuse bouche. It was delicious.And an inviting start to the evening.

Dark chocolate, macaroons, and cheddar cheese

And then the “prelude” continued. First was frogs legs served on a bed of mushroom jelly. I must admit, in all my travels I never ate frogs legs before and I did not prepare myself for it. But as the true foodie I am, I was not going to let the opportunity pass me by. Frogs legs taste like chicken and in this case it was a tasty fried chicken legs. The mushroom jelly added an earthy taste. It was delicious. The frogs legs were served with a Graham Beck Brut (2012) and it paired well. Nothing felt out of place.

Once the appetizing prelude concluded, the first course was served: a foie gras mousse in a light muscadel jelly with finely sliced muscat grapes. It was served with truffle brioche. It was gorgeous. The foie gras was rich and creamy, the grapes added freshness and the brioche added an earthy flavor. It was, without a doubt, the best foie gras dish I’ve had in the country. And it was paired with my favourite South African Gewurztraminer: the Paul Cluver 2014. The pairing was perfect as the wine added a freshness to the earthy dish.

The second course was the Celebration on Spring. A well-thought out garden salad. It was fresh and light. Everything you would want from a vegetable salad and although it looked beautiful, the flavours complimented each other well. And so did the Alvi’s Drift Albertus Viljoen Chenin Blanc (2012), that was fruity and creamy.

I got excited and forgot to take a photo when the dish arrived.

The third course was Genesis. Genesis was rainbow trout with a miso mousse and Pomelo. This dish was also tasty and had a subtle fish flavour. The miso had flavour and spiciness. And the Pomelo really did pop. Genesis was a beautifully designed dish but the only problem was that it was paired with the Iona Chardonnay (2014). The wine was still young and clashed with the spiciness of the miso.

The fourth course was the course I’ve seen everyone love: Mousse de Mer. And understandable so. The langoustine was cooked perfectly and the tomato froth was light and fluffy and infused with rooibos. And hidden beneath was delicious risotto which added meatiness to the dish. The seashell mousse had an intense tomato flavour. The tomato salt (the sand) added more intense tomato flavoring, so it was best to have as little as possible of this. The dish also contained seaweed which added more salty flavour sauce. Overall, it was an amazingly well-thought out and prepared dish. The flavours complimented the langoustine well and is a dish that has plenty of depth. It paired well with Hartenberg Weisser Riesling (2008), which was slightly acidic and very fruity.

The fifth course was, honestly, the course that caught my attention: Millionaire Nest Egg. A quail egg with black truffle paste, on a bed of truffle infused mushrooms. It was a gorgeous, subtle dish that was earthy and the yolk pierced through adding some sunshine. The earthy dish was paired with the Lismore Viognier 2011 (another favourite) that provided an acidity and freshness to the dish was the hints of peaches and apricots.

Finally the starters were done and a palate cleanser was brought to the table: The Garden Pea. The palate cleanser consisted of a matcha and lime with a pea puree. It was a refreshing palate cleanser and fitted in well with the menu. And the peas were from the garden, adding to the ambiance of the hotel.

And with that we were halfway, although quite stuffed, and onto the main course. For mains, we had the option of 3 courses: Bouillabaisse (Kabeljou), Prints in the Paddock (Beef), and Birds of a feather (Quail).

I love quail, so there was no way that I was going to say no to the Birds of a feather. The dish consisted of King Quail that was glazed with raw honey and Balsamic vinegar. Top that off with saffron scented petite tortellini that is stuffed with slow braised Goose and Capon meat and you’ve got a mouth-watering dish. Add to this sweet onions in a red wine sauce. The dish was sweet, slight acidic, and rich. I loved every bite. The birdy (that’s now a word) was paired with the Mont Destin Pasionne (2009). With the heavy dish, the wine added creaminess and further richness.

Lee had the Prints in a Paddock for mains, which consisted of a 36 days matured Angus beef with sumac and a red ivory fruit preserve.The red ivory fruit is from the Red Ivory tree that can be found all over the Francolin Conservancy. Another element from the surrounding areas. The beef was perfectly cooked to medium rate, and the fruits added sweetness. The sumac spices added a hint of tartness to balance out the sweetness. This well-designed dish was paired with the Nederburg Petit Verdot (2001), which added richness and a spiciness to the dish.

With out stomach’s bursting, we moved onto dessert. First up was a cheese selection that was paired with Quinta de crosta port. There’s every variety of cheese available but the highlighted choices were the Epoises de Bourgogne, Belnori Phantom Forest, and Dolcelatte Gorgonzola. Most of the cheese paired well with the port, but as I’m not a fan of port of depth and flavours of the port were wasted on me.

Next for dessert was the Chocolate Cherry. This dessert had a large cherry filled with chocolate on the plate and was surrounded with cherry infused elements. Again, a fantastic mixture of sweetness, sourness and crunch. And it was delightfully light. The dessert was paired with Chateau Septy Monbazillac (2009), which with its fruity bouquet, complimented the cherry and chocolate.

Finally, we were on the Mamelon de Venus. A delicious, light and cruchy choux pastry that  was surrounded by Jasmine. It was definitely a Spring dessert: floral and light. And the bright colours of the strawberry and jasmine made it inviting. It was a scrumptious dessert and one that I would travel all the way back to the Restaurant Mosaic for.

AND after all that food there was more: Petits Fours. They were too gorgeous to ignore and we may have finished most of it.

After stuffing ourselves, we made our way up to our room. A steep affair if you’ve drunk all the wine pairings.

Come the Sunday morning and we were still stuffed, but I couldn’t miss an opportunity to see what breakfast would entail. And breakfast was superb. After being seated, a slightly warm herbal, ginger and lemongrass tea was placed in front of you. It was a delicious tea at the right temperature on the warm morning. A pastry tier was also placed on the table.

But that’s not all, a quartet of intriguing dishes were placed in front of us: tropical fruit salad, oats with vanilla and star anise, fig with goats cheese and a herb vinaigrette, and a coconut pannacotta with granadilla jelly. A flavourful start to the day.

After this, our warm breakfast of salmon with scrambles eggs and hollandaise sauce was served. Another well-executed dish.

It’s difficult to find fault with the Restaurant Mosaic or the The Orient. Every detail is thought of and as a guest, of the hotel or the restaurant, you are well taken care of.  The service is impeccable. I was a great weekend away. And when the menu changes, I’d love to be back again.

A goodbye gift from the restaurant.

I give Restaurant Mosaic 5 cupcakes. I can forgive the unfortunate pairing with the Iona.

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Review guide:

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No rating (read: why have you even bothered to open)

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Poor (read: shit)

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Average (read: meh)

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Good (read: above mediocrity)

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Very Good (read: fling your money at them. It’s worth it)

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Extraordinary (read: if you have to make a sacrifice to be here, do it)

Old Town Italy

Menlyn Maine… The new addition to Waterkloof Glen and a great one at that. Menlyn Maine opened late last year and boasted having some great restaurants and shops. “An amazing shopping experience” was the impression I got. But I didn’t realise that they had some fantastic restaurants as well.

Cue in Old Town Italy. A detailed restaurant, gelateria, bistro and deli located in Menly Maine. And when I say detailed, I mean detailed. Every time you look around, you find something new.

Restaurant, bar and part of the deli

I dropped by Old Town Italy accidentally this past weekend. I was actually looking for Koi, as I thought they had opened already.

Upon entering the restaurant, I waiter approached us and asked if we wanted a Gin & Tonic. I thought it was a bit weird given that we were heading into the restaurant and that we probably would’ve ordered the drink once we were seated. But the waiter was convincing and we walked into Old Town Italy with a drink already in our hands. Not a bad start, I would say.

Once we were seated, menus were immediately presented: a food menu, pizza menu and a drinks menu. While I appreciate the options, I did find the 3 menus a tad too much. The table had more menus on it than anything else.

After being left to make our choices for 10 minutes, we managed to get the attention of the waiter. Although it would have been appreciated if the waiter came to check on us before we had to call him. However, once we did order the waiter checked on us plenty of times.

 

Gelateria

As the restaurant has an authentic Italian feel, we decided to order something Italian to drink: prosecco. In particular, we ordered Bottega Millesimato. It is was a fruity, dry sparkling white wine. It’s an easy wine that’s fragrant and well-balanced. And perfect for the heat of the day.

 

 

Bottega Millesimato

For lunch we ordered the Margarita Extra pizza and the OT Hamburger.

The Margarita Extra really was extra. I was craving something with melted cheese and it did not disappoint. The difference between an everyday Margarita pizza and the Margarita Extra Pizza was that the mozzarella was Italian Buffalo mozzarella and roasted cherry tomatoes. It was the best Margarita I’ve ever had in the country.

Margarita Extra

The OT Burger was 200g of beef with edam cheese, mayonnaise and regular burger toppings (lettuce, tomatoes and gherkins). The burger was delicious and the patty cooked perfectly. The burger was also served with hand-cut fries (so yummy) and pomodoro sauce.

OT Burger

The food at Old Town Italy was fantastic! I enjoyed every mouthful. The ambiance is great and the service gets better once you order.

Ice tea to help with the heat

As mentioned before, Old Town Italy also has a deli which has everything you’d need for an Italian night. And it provides some great take-aways.

 

Deli

I give Old Town Italy 3.5 cupcakes (the service before we ordered could’ve been faster):

 

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Review guide:

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No rating (read: why have you even bothered to open)

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Poor (read: shit)

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Average (read: meh)

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Good (read: above mediocrity)

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Very Good (read: fling your money at them. It’s worth it)

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Extraordinary (read: if you have to make a sacrifice to be here, do it)

 

 

El Pistolero

Tacos tacos tacos… I could eat tacos all the time. It’s one of my favourite dishes. And because of that, it’s the reason I’ve named my blog after it: Tacovolution. With the love for tacos comes the love for Mexican food (or TexMex). The spiciness, crunchiness, freshness and use of simple ingredients means that most Mexican dishes are always scrumptious.

So cue in El Pistolero, located in Constantia Park in Pretoria. El Pistolero has been open for over a year and a half and while I’ve known about for a while, I’ve heard mixed reviews about the restaurant. So after an Eat Out labelled it as one of the restaurants to check out in Pretoria, I knew I needed to have a taste.

El Pistolero is next to Woodstock Urban Pizzeria and I almost walked into it. El Pistolero is to the left of the pizza place and is yellow. It has some great seating options: inside, non-smoking outside and smoking outside. As soon as I entered the restaurant, a waiter welcomed me and let me choose where I wanted to sit and then brought the drink and food menu. After my friend arrived, which was 5 minutes after I was seated, the waiter came by ready to take our drink orders. We ordered margaritas (how can you not?), a Marga-rona and Tepache.

Kitchen and prep area
The Tequila Margarita was refreshing. It was made from tequila, grapefruit, lime, and sugar syrup. Our waiter assured us that the grapefruit and lime were fresh, and it was indeed. The rim of the drink was also salted well. It was a well-made margarita.

Tequila Margarita
The Marga-Rona is now one of my favourite drinks. It combines my two favourite Mexican beverages: margarita and Corona. A Corona is added to the margarita giving it a cider taste. If the tequila in margaritas becomes too much for you, then this drink is perfect (given that you can handle a light beer).

The Marga-Rona
We also tried the Tepache, which is a fermented pineapple drink. It’s quite refreshing and the fermentation is not overbearing. It’s the perfect drink if you like pineapple in your alcohol or alcohol in your pineapple.

Tepache
Already, no fault with the drinks, so I was salivating by the time the starters arrived.

Unfortunately, El Pistolero had run out of Jalapeno Poppers. I was disappointed because I had been thinking about them for a week. Luckily, there are plenty of options. We ordered the Ceviche and Sweet Street Snack.

Bar
The Sweet Street Snack was mango, green melon and cucumber. The fruit/veg is sprinkled with chili powder which makes an interesting combination: refreshing and spicy. For a starter, it’s perfect. It’s light, refreshing and tasty. And it’s a big portion. It would be way too big for one person and for 2 people, it’s still just a little too much. But I would order it again. Especially on a warm Pretoria day.

Sweet Street Snack
The other starter was ceviche. Ceviche, if you’re not familiar with it, is a seafood dish in which fresh raw fish is cured in citrus juices (lime or lemon). El Pistolero’s ceviche is hake or yellowtail fish that is cured in lime and orange juices. It is accompanied by nachos, red peppers, and pickled Jalapeños. The ceviche is delicious. It’s fresh, crunchy (from the nachos and red peppers) and spicy. It’s a well-rounded dish. And even though we were almost full from the street snack, and trying to keep place for our mains, we made a point of finishing off the ceviche. Again, I’d happily order the ceviche. Jalapeño poppers for what?

Ceviche
After the tasty starters, it was onto the mains. We ordered the Cordero Taco and Gringa Taco. Like I said, we came for the tacos. Both taco dishes are served with soft corn tortillas.

The Cordero taco is slow-cooked leg of lamb in adobo (a marinade/sauce made from paprika, oregano, salt, garlic and vinegar). Accompanying the lamb is crema (a soured, thin cream), mint salsa, pumpkin seed salsa and potatoes. The taco was amazing. The lamb was tender, the salsas added flavour  and spiciness and the potatoes added a softness and earthiness. I really enjoyed the taco.

Cordero Taco
The second taco dish was the Gringa taco, which is marinated beef short-rib, guacamole and parmesan crisps. This was my favourite out of the 2 dishes, even though the beef was a bit tough. The dish was spicy, more spicier than the first taco dish, but it was crunchy and had more flavour. I enjoyed the crisps and could’ve eaten a plate of it. But if you’re not a favour of spiciness, I’d give this dish a miss. My mouth was on fire for a good few minutes 😛 .

Gringa Taco
After that spicy experience, we ordered churros with dark chili chocolate and milk jam caramel. The churros were crunchy and sweet. I could’ve eaten them just as they were, with the milk jam caramel. But the chocolate did add more sweetness and spiciness. It was a well-rounded dessert. There was nothing I would’ve changed.

Churros
Overall, I had a great experience at El Pistolero. Every dish was tasty and filling. I would happily order any of the above dishes again. And the dishes are also well-priced.

The service is also fantastic. The waiter was always available when we needed him and he cleared up the table without being asked to. And finished dishes or straw wrappers were removed quickly.

In terms of ambiance, I could’ve spent a few more hours at El Pistolero. It has a great vibe. The restaurant is airy, the decor Mexican and the music transports you to Mexico or Texas.

I would happily go back to El Pistolero and I’m disappointed that I didn’t go earlier. It’s an amazing restaurant. Therefore, I give El Pistolero 4 cupcakes.

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Review guide:

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No rating (read: why have you even bothered to open)

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Poor (read: shit)

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Average (read: meh)

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Good (read: above mediocrity)

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Very Good (read: fling your money at them. It’s worth it)

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Extraordinary (read: if you have to make a sacrifice to be here, do it)

Manga, Cape Town

I love anime and manga. My favourite anime is Blood Plus and manga is Death Note. So it made sense that a restaurant called Manga would peak my interest.

Manga is located in Mouille Point in Cape Town. As soon as you walk through the sliding glass doors, various images of anime characters  appear before you. If you enjoy anime, it’s an amazing sight.

After finding a seat, we waited. And waited and waited. Eventually, we managed to get the attention of a waiter to find out how ordering works. At Manga your order is placed on the menus provided. We thought this was the case but there was nothing to write with.

Once we ordered the dishes, we were keen to order some sake. However, the waiter had no idea what type of sake was unavailable. After going to check with the bar our waiter returned with no sake. There was none as the restaurant had run out. So we ordered juice because the next thing we ordered wasn’t available as: passion fruit and lemonade.

As soon as we had our juices, the food arrived. It wasn’t a long wait. We ordered quite a bit: edamame beans with miso salt, crispy calamari, Manga rainbow reloaded, salmon nigiri, sticky pork belly, sakura crunch roll and rocket wasabi roll.

The best dish out of all the dishes was the crispy calamari with garlic chips, coriander, spring onion and hoisin. It was nice but nothing to get excited over.

Crispy calamari

The rest of the dishes were poorly executed: The sushi was also decent but it didn’t taste fresh; The pork belly was spicy and crunchy but it was too crunchy. It became difficult to eat and we eventually gave up and lastly, the edamame was, for lack of a better word, dead. There was barely any salt on it. It also wasn’t an enjoyable dish.

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Sakura Crunch Roll
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Manga Rainbow Reloaded
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Salmon Nigiri
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Rocket Wasabi Roll

Manga could really be an interesting restaurant. It’s situated in a beautiful part of Cape Town and you can have a bit of an ocean view from the restaurant. Once you have a waiter, the service is great. But it is disappointing when you try to order something and it’s not available or the waiter has no idea what is available.

In terms of food, there was only one dish that I almost finished. The rest were not tasty. And as the fish was not fresh, Lee became sick. Not something you want when you eat at a restaurant.

Based on my experience, I give Manga 1 cupcake.

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Review guide:

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No rating (read: why have you even bothered to open)

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Poor (read: shit)

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Average (read: meh)

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Good (read: above mediocrity)

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Very Good (read: fling your money at them. It’s worth it)

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Extraordinary (read: if you have to make a sacrifice to be here, do it)

Marble, Johannesburg

Amazing food, great service and an amazing ambiance. Since opening in August, reviews of Marble restaurant have been pouring in and many of the reviews I’ve read have only been positive. So in late December, I got my chance to review Marble.

Marble is located in Rosebank, Johannesburg – about 5 minutes from Rosebank Mall. Parking is on the street or wherever you can find parking, which can be a bit frustrating if you’ve never been in the area before. And then finding the restaurant does require having a vague idea of knowing where you are going. Or maybe I just missed all the signs.

The pride of Marble: it’s grill

After finally finding the correct floor on the correct side of the Trumpet on Keyes building, we were welcomed by hosts to Marble. And then proceeded to our table, where the rest of our companions were.

Complimentary bread

Once the drinks were taken, we ordered our food from our friendly waiter. Starters were the Blackened Octopus and the Overnight Coal Roasted Soup.

When eating octopus it’s important to remember that it is a chewy food and needs to be well-tenderised. The octopus on my plate was beyond chewy. At one point I just gave up. My jaw was getting sore from chewing on the same piece before swallowing. On the parts I could eat, the salsa added spiciness and a bit of bitterness, while the chorizo added saltiness. I can understand what the dish was supposed to be and it would’ve been delicious if the octopus was a bit more tender.

The blackened octopus

The other starter was the Overnight Coal Roasted Soup – the soup of the day, which was a tomato soup. This was lovely and delicate but nothing amazing. It was, at the end of the day, a warm tomato soup.

Tomato Soup

On to the mains, which arrived 15 minutes after we were done with the starter. The first was the pork belly that is grilled and served with smoked peppers, Asian slaw and cherries. I love pork belly. It’s a delicious meat that is always tender. However, the pork belly from Marble was tender for the first bite and the rest was chewy. It was odd how the first part of the pork belly was fine and the rest was chewy. It was not an enjoyable experience. However, if the pork belly was tender it would’ve been delicious as the accompaniments added crunchiness and hint of sweetness from the cherries. But the pork crackling (or rind) was delicious and I did finish that first.

Pork belly

Another main was the rib-eye, which was cooked perfectly to the requested medium-rare. The chipotle sauce was spicy and the pickle added a little bitter taste and crunch. But it wasn’t anything mind-blowing. Just a normal rib-eye with some accompaniments.

Lastly, dessert was the ice cream sandwiches because how can say say “No” to ice cream sandwiches. And we were full from the last  2 courses. Out of the 3 options, the almond meringue with halva ice cream was selected. The meringue was delicious and cracked perfectly and the ice cream was sweet.

Almond meringue with halva ice cream

While it seems to be hit or miss with Marble’s dishes, the presentation of the dish was always attractive and inviting.

In terms of service, I was left wanting. In many cases, our waiter had to be tracked down to order another bottle of wine, or water, or to ask for the table to be cleaned. But when the waiter was serving us, he was friendly and pleasant.

Fantastic wine selection

For a hyped-up restaurant, Marble did leave me feeling a bit cheated. Previous patrons had gushed about how amazing the food was and how great the view. While I agree that the view is fantastic, the food was average for me. And my companions agreed. I don’t think I’d come to the restaurant again, but I will go the bar area and have a few drinks. That was a fun experience and the view adds to the experience.

A cocktail from the bar: Bianco Charrata No. 1

It should also be noted that the restaurant and bar interior design was attractive. The high ceilings added space to the room. I can understand why the interior design cost a pretty penny. It added light and warmth to the area.

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Source: Marble Restaurant

To summarise, the food at Marble is quite average but the ambiance and the view definitely make it an experience. Based on the above, I’ve given Marble 2.5 cupcakes:

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Review guide:

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No rating (read: why have you even bothered to open)

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Poor (read: shit)

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Average (read: meh)

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Good (read: above mediocrity)

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Very Good (read: fling your money at them. It’s worth it)

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Extraordinary (read: if you have to make a sacrifice to be here, do it)

 

Breakfast Pancakes

Sunday morning pancakes with my sister is one of my favourite childhood memories. The mess everywhere, the 5 pancake flops before the good ones and the loud noise that woke up my parents. Pancakes are definitely my favourite breakfast dish.

So what’s the best birthday breakfast? Pancakes of course! And according to 100% of the people I’ve asked, the best pancakes in Pretoria are from Harrie’s Pancakes. Harrie’s Pancakes are located all over the province: Graskop, Eastwood, Cullinan, and Dullstroom. I visited the Eastwood Branch, in Arcadia.

The day we went was perfect pancake weather – that cloudy, raining, miserable weather. Harrie’s was packed! Luckily, I managed to grab the last available table. As soon as we sat down, a waitress appeared with a menu. We ordered hot chocolate, which was decent, and 2 savory filled pancakes: Bobotie with a vinaigrette and Sticky pork with peaches and spring onion.

The bobotie pancake was mouth-watering. The bobotie was spiced well and the chutney vinaigrette added the right amount of sweetness.


The sticky pork pancakes was unique! The pork was cooked well but it was too sweet. Unfortunately, the pancake didn’t help with the sweetness and the sauce did not assist with reducing the sweetness.


While I feel that the pancakes are a hit or miss depending on the filling, the pancakes, without the filling, were delicious. There were light, fluffy and a huge portion. And I have yet to taste better pancakes.

So, I’m a bit torn about the cupcake rating to give Harrie’s Pancakes. Their plain pancakes are delicious and deserve at least 3 out of 5 cupcakes but the hit or miss is frustrating as you’ll have to go through the entire menu to find the best pancakes. Which, isn’t a bad thing I guess :-P. The ambiance deserves a 2 out of 5 cupcakes and their service 2 out of 5 cupcakes (the service was great until we received our order and then we never saw the waiters again. Luckily when they seated some patrons we were able to get a waiter’s attention for the bill). Therefore, I give Harrie’s Pancakes 2.5 pancakes.

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Review guide:

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Very Good          Cupcake-Outline-Vector colour Cupcake-Outline-Vector colour Cupcake-Outline-Vector colour Cupcake-Outline-Vector Cupcake-Outline-Vector

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Chocolat et Cafe

I’m back! Again… I think I’ve finally got this work/life balance down. Well at least until the next big project or exam. For now, I can get back to focusing on food. I’ve been racking up the names of restaurants in Pretoria and Joburg to explore and now I can start tackling that list.

I had an exam last week Friday and all I could think about was the Hot Chocolate that waited for me after the exam. All I had to do was pass it and that Hot Chocolate would be mine.  I amped myself up so much that I finished the exam in 22 minutes. Talk about some serious motivation! Then I was in the car and heading the Chocolat et Café, the first restaurant on my ever-growing list.

Chocolat et Café is located in Hazelwood, Pretoria. A trendy spot that just popped up overnight. Okay, not overnight, but one day there was nothing there and then a year later there were a ton of restaurants. The Café is nestled between Alfie’s and Culture Club, so if you’ve never been there before it takes a bit of searching to find it.

The Café is cute, with a ground floor section and a cosy upstairs section. Upstairs feels like a coffee shop due to the wood interior and couches. I could easily fall asleep there. The bottom is more vibey. We noticed that the staff weren’t upstairs or moving around the tables, so we let a waiter know we were taking a table and sat on the ground floor. I would have preferred if there was a waiter at the front ready to seat you. I always feel awkward having to walk to where all the waiters are congregated to ask for a table.

After we sat down, we waited for a menu. And waited and waited. Until a waiter popped by the table next to us and we managed to ask for menus, which is limited and a few menus are shared among many patrons. However, once we received the menus we understood why. Chocolat et Café’s menu changes daily, so you can sample something new everyday. I don’t mind this and I think it’s a great idea, except the menu didn’t have the one thing I came for: ginger bread Hot Chocolate. I was disappointed. I heard about the extensive variety of Hot Chocolates, but the menu only had their Old Fashion Hot Chocolate available.

To my delight, the waiter kindly asked me to wait while he checked with the kitchen about what could be done. He came back with a good comprise: adding ginger sprinkles to the Hot Chocolate. The Hot Chocolate was delicious and was simple: melted chocolate. I’ve had various Hot Chocolates but this was delightful. The drink was not sickenly sweet. It was was  well-balanced. And the ginger sprinkles add a spicy depth. I loved it!

After the Hot Chocolates, we ordered the home-made Ice Tea, Belgium waffles and almond crusted chicken waffle. The Ice Tea was delicious, and refreshing after the Hot Chocolate. The waffles were also divine. The waffles were light and fluffy and was accompanied by a melted chocolate sauce, fresh cream, home-made Vanilla ice-cream and strawberries.


But the best dish we had was the almond crusted chicken waffle. Chicken and a waffle? Who would’ve thought it could work? It was scrumptious. The chicken was tender and crusted well with bread crumbs. Accompanying the chicken was caramalised onions, a balsamic reduction, and a type of Wasabi hummus. All the components complimented each other well. The balsamic reduction and hummus added spicy and sweet elements, while the almond flakes provided crunch.

After the initial awkwardness, I enjoyed my time at Chocolat et Café. The atmosphere is relaxed. The staff are friendly. And mostly importantly, the food is tasty.

I give Chocolate et Café 3 cupcakes.

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Review guide:

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Fair                      Cupcake-Outline-Vector colour Cupcake-Outline-Vector Cupcake-Outline-Vector Cupcake-Outline-Vector Cupcake-Outline-Vector

Good                    Cupcake-Outline-Vector colour Cupcake-Outline-Vector colour Cupcake-Outline-Vector Cupcake-Outline-Vector Cupcake-Outline-Vector

Very Good          Cupcake-Outline-Vector colour Cupcake-Outline-Vector colour Cupcake-Outline-Vector colour Cupcake-Outline-Vector Cupcake-Outline-Vector

Excellent            Cupcake-Outline-Vector colour Cupcake-Outline-Vector colour Cupcake-Outline-Vector colour Cupcake-Outline-Vector colour Cupcake-Outline-Vector

Extraordinary    Cupcake-Outline-Vector colour Cupcake-Outline-Vector colour Cupcake-Outline-Vector colour Cupcake-Outline-Vector colour Cupcake-Outline-Vector colour

Pretoria Banting Market

We’re well into the third week of January and I thought it was about time that I got out of the holiday mode. As is customary with a new year, most people have New Year’s resolutions which they hope to fulfill. The most common one is the “New Year New Me” resolution. Coming up to the end of December last year, I thought there really isn’t anything I would change about my lifestyle. Aside from raiding as many Cape Town restaurants as I could before I moved, I had a healthy and active lifestyle – decent diet, low levels of stress, and regular exercise. So I had no “New Year New Me” resolutions. However, towards the end of the year, my boyfriend’s dad starting hinting at a new diet – low carb, high protein, and no sugar (basically banting 😛 ). And my boyfriend and I were suckered in.

So on the 1st of January, we started the diet. Well, sort of. We had sushi for lunch and forgot that there’s rice in it. And we sort of made that mistake on the 2nd as well. But on the 3rd we managed to stick to the low carbs (50 grams of carbs or less), no sugar, some protein and plenty of good fats. It’s now 2 and a half weeks into the diet, and it’s been going well. The only problem is it’s tough to find places to eat out at and there aren’t enough choices at health stores, unless you’re in Cape Town or Joburg. Luckily, there is a Banting Market in the Pretoria Botanical Gardens. The market happens on certain Saturdays (see here for more details), from 09:00 to 13:00.

Given the amount of advertising done for the market, I expected a huge market and was disappointed to see roughly 35  stalls, with some focusing more on the Paleo diet than Banting. Nonetheless,the market offered some great products – fresh veggies, banting condiments (tomato sauce, mustard sauce and chili sauce), banting baked goods, meaty breakfasts, and tons of free range eggs. But what I loved about the market was the friendliness of most of the vendors and their honesty about their products. We almost bought a piece of chocolate cake thinking it was banting-friendly until the vendor kindly explained that that cake was more suitable for a “cheat day”. The market also offers great entertainment to enjoy while you’re enjoying your breakfast or snack.

Although the market is small, we came home with biscuits, pizza bases, pestos, condiments and cheeses. And feeling a little more happier with the diet. It didn’t seem like all gloom and doom after all 🙂 .

The next Pretoria Banting Market is on the 6 February 2016.

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