Tag Archives: South Africa

Momo Baohaus

Bao… You know that soft steamed Chinese bun filled with delicious ingredients. The bun is light and airy and oh so delicious. Yeah that good stuff. I’ve been having difficulty finding good bao in Pretoria so when Momo Baohaus caught my eye as I was passing Greenside in Joburg I knew that’s where I was having lunch.

Momo Baohaus serves Asian dishes and specialises in bao, bowls (rice, noodles, and wokked greens), and sushi. And every dish on the menu looks tasty.

Some treats before ordering

From the street the restaurant looked empty but as soon as we were standing outside my friends and I were shocked by how full the restaurant was. We got the last table! And we still had to turn it into a table for 3.

As soon as we were seated menus appeared and a couple minutes later (yes, two minutes) a waiter was ready to take our drinks order. A friend and I decided to be adventurous and tried the Turkish delight lemonade and the lemongrass yuzu ginger beer. Surprisingly, the lemonade wasn’t too sweet. And it was tasty. The ginger beer was also tasty and had a bit of a tart taste and a bit acidic. But both drinks were delicious and refreshing.

Lemongrass yuzu ginger beer and Turkish delight lemonande

For food we wanted to order everything or at least I wanted to order everything. We started off with tapas: Korean fried chicken wings (spicy, crispy and dripping with sauce. So yummy); stir fried greens spring rolls (bland but the sweet chili sauce made it enjoyable); and the szechuan prawn wontons (the best of the 3: spicy, tender, and mouth-watering). The wontons are a must.

After that tasty treat we ordered bowls and bao. The Kung Pow bao definitely has a kick, thanks to the  gochujang (a red chili paste that is sweet, savoury, and spicy). The beef was crunchy and the bao was tender and sweet. It was perfect.

For the bowls we ordered the szechuan (chicken with noodles); Bangkok (beef with jasmine rice); and Seoul (beef with noodles). The szechuan bowl was the best of out all 3. The chicken was tender and spicy and the sauce was delicious. Definitely a dish to try. The Bangkok was also delicious but it could’ve had just a bit of sauce. Nonetheless the beef was delicious. The Seoul dish was also tasty. Although I having more than one shiitake mushroom would’ve been great and the beef was a bit too crunchy for me. Still, all the bowls were cooked well and were unique and tasty.

The food at Momo Baohaus is delicious and flavourful. Many of the dishes leave you craving for more. And the dishes are huge so you have enough for later in the day or for the next morning (when the flavours will be even stronger).

The service is also great! There was almost no wait between the dishes, which created only one problem: we ran out of space on the table.

I give Momo Baohaus 3.5 cupcakes (and order the wontons):

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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)

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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)

 

 

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)

 

Culture Club

I’ve been craving a place where you can relax and feel transported away in Pretoria. And the Culture Club in Pretoria is exactly that.

I arrived a few minutes early, before my friend, and as I was sitting there I couldn’t help feel a nostalgic feeling on have sundowners on the Camps Bay Promenade in Cape Town. Sitting in the Culture Club’s comfy chairs, with the tropical house playing the background, I couldn’t help but feel transported to Cape Town. I had to wake myself up and remind myself that I was not at the beach but in Pretoria East.

I was initially seated at a table for 2 but I felt that the table was quite small. It is a tapas bar so I was planning on ordering a number of tapas. So I moved tables, which my waiter kindly agreed on, even though many of the tables were reserved. Note: Always make a booking for Friday and Saturday nights at the Culture Club. It gets packed.

While waiting, I ordered a Pimms Cup. The bartender was not shy with the Pimms and within a few sips, I was relaxed. When my friend finally arrived, we ordered the meat and cheese board and churros. It’s an odd combination I know, but CHURROS.

The meat and cheese board came with beef carpaccio, pastrami, olives, gherkins, white cheddar cheese, peppers, and a spicy tomato sauce. The meat was fresh and the cheese was aged well. It’s the perfect platter for 2 people to share. And it’s filling!

The churros were unfortunately not the best. They were a bit oily as you bite in but the chocolate was delicious.

While I didn’t try a lot of the tapas, as planned, I was happy with the platter. The service at the Culture Club is also great! We were constantly checked on our waiter, and when he’s shift ended, we had fantastic service with the next waiter. As mentioned before, the ambiance is also fantastic. It’s chilled and comfortable. The perfect place for after work drinks on a Friday.

I give the Culture Club 2 cupcakes. I haven’t had such great service in a long time in Pretoria:

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Review guide:

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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

Joziburg Lane

This past weekend had plenty of food events occurring. The Market at the Sheds in Pretoria and the Street Food Festival in Joburg in Maboneng, to name a few. But what caught my eye was the Joziburg Lane Street Food Extravangza Pop Up in One Eloff Street, Joburg. It may not be the cleanest  area in Joburg but opening up a permanent food market in the area is a fantastic initiative to revitalise Joburg CBD.

Joziburg Lane is difficult to miss as the building is bright yellow. You immediately know where to go. Parking is available in the building so don’t feel shy to drive up the ramp until you find parking on the top level. Interestingly, the food stalls are on the ground floor of a set of apartments. So once you’ve parked, take a walk down the stairs until you can’t go any further. Don’t be like me and start exploring the apartments. It’s easy to get lost.

Once we were back on the staircase, we followed the music till we reached the ground floor. A  band was playing, creating the perfect relaxed vibe. And the great part was the it wasn’t too busy.

Some entertainement 🙂

The best thing to do upon arrival is grabbing a drink and then exploring your eating choices. There’s plenty of drinks on offer: beer brewed in Soweto, wine, cocktails and soft drinks. We grabbed 2 cocktails from Cocktail Bar: the Cosmopolitan Glamour and the Downtown chill. The bartenders are friendly and willing to swap out ingredients to make your drink more palatable. My drink, the Cosmopolitan Glamour, was supposed to have chili vodka. I can’t handle that so the bartender swapped it for vanilla vodka. A welcomed change. If cocktails aren’t your thing, you can grab drinks with more variety from the bar across from the Cocktail Bar. I’d give Gogo’s Ginger Beer a go. It was delicious and had the right amount of spiciness.

With all the food choices it’s tough to pick just one. So here’s a list of the stalls I ate from. The first was The Wicked Waffle, which is Brussel Waffles with various toppings. We went for the Lady in Heaven (strawberries, cream and Belgian chocolate) and the Oreo waffle (Oreo biscuits, vanilla ice-cream, and Belgian chocolate). The waffles were crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. And the toppings on each waffle worked well together. I really enjoyed the waffles. They were tasty and made you feel warm inside.

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Lady in Heaven

The second stall was Joburg Deli, which has an array of sandwiches. I tried their Spinach Leave Wrap with Ostrich mince. The perfect meal for Banters, or if you’re trying to cut down on carbs. The wrap was delicious and spicy. It’s hard to believe that such a simple dish could be so yummy.

Next up was Zombie Chefs, which has a food truck and its own store (if you walk left as you exit the food stalls). I wanted to try their biltong salad but it was sold out. So Lee had their Thai Chicken Burger. The burger has the right amount of spiciness. The chicken was cooked and seasoned well and the veggies in the burger, that were marinated in soya sauce, was not overpowering. It was the perfect Asian styled burger.

Alas, I realised there was only so much food I could stuff into my stomach, so we decided to take some food back with us. From Jeff’s Eat, we picked up Mince Samoosas. These were delicious and the mince was marinated well with the perfect amount of spiciness. We also picked up Chili Biltong from Braeside Meat Market. The biltong was fresh and spicy, obviously. It was difficult not to eat all the biltong before we got home. Lastly, we managed to get a Blue Velvet cupcake from Kay’Kreations. I thought I’d have it for dessert but it’s too pretty to eat.

In addition to all the food, there’s also some lifestyle goodies on sale. There’s jewelry on sale just outside where the food is located and skincare products inside. In particular, is Yum-elicious. A temporary stall that sells a variety of hand and body scrubs. If you have a few minutes to spare, have a chat to the owner, who was a chef and has for the past 3 months been making her own body scrubs. They smell delicious and she’s more than happy to explain to you how the scrubs are made. In addition, 10% of sales go the NPO she’s working for.

I’d love to see Joziburg Lane become as big as the Neighbourhood Goods Market in Braamfontein or the Maboneng Precinct. The food stalls have delicious food made from quality ingredients and are priced fairly. I’ve been fortunate to eat at many food establishments, including Michelin star restaurants. So I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of food at Joziburg Lane. And the vibe transports you away. I didn’t feel like I was in the heart of Joburg. I felt safe and the market could have easily been one in a European country.  I can’t wait to see the market grow and become an attraction in the CBD.

Joziburg Lane is set to open on the 2 September 2016. Trading hours are:

  • Tuesday to Saturday: 10am to 5pm
  • Friday: 10am to 10pm

For more queries, here are their contact details:

Moroccan House

This first thing that catches your eye is the vast number Moroccan crockery laid out in front of you. Just pouring out of the 3 story house. As you enter, there’s a table with sometimes a friendly face to direct you where to go. If there’s no one just take a walk up the stairs.

The second floor has everything you need to turn your home into a Moroccan emporium. There’s platters, bowls, teapots and tagines of every size and colour. Not to mention beautiful table cloths. After you’ve almost bought out the store, go up another flight (you have to work for that food) and you’ve arrived at the Rooftop Cafe and Deli.

Behind the scenes
As soon as you enter, there’s someone friendly greeting you. No matter how busy they are in the kitchen. Although space is limited, they do try to accommodate you as best as possible. As soon as you’re seated, a menu appears before you with some olives. So take your time and read through the mouth-watering menu.

Olives
It’s tough to pick a drink with all the choices you have but I decided on the Moroccan Magic Juice. This is a blend of pomegrante, apple, and pear juice topped with sparkling water. It is quite sweet but it’s refreshing. As the area is small, it can get warm quickly so the refreshing drink is perfect. Plus there’s pomegrante seeds in it.

Magic Juice
To eat I ordered the Moroccan Kefta with Couscous. It’s supposed to be a light meal but I found it filling. The meal comes with a salad, Couscous and Kefta. The salad has a sweet salad dressing that is divine. Unfortunately my waiter couldn’t remember what was in the dressing but if I attempted at a guess, I’d say olive oil (obviously), lemon, and honey. The Couscous was also well prepared and fluffy . However, the menu did say “bejeweled” butternut which didn’t seem to make it to my plate. I think it would’ve added some sweetness to the plate. But the Couscous wasn’t the star of the plate. It had to be the beef meatballs in a spicy tomato sauce. The meatballs were tender and delicious but the sauce added a depth of flavour. I’m glad the dish came with additional sauce, as the sauce was delicious.

Kefta and Couscous
After that “light meal”  I felt like something sweet was in order. I ordered the Rosewater Cheesecake. A well-deserved treat. The dessert was served in tall Moroccan tea glass and had 3 layers. The first was a rosewater gelatin topped with rose turkish delights. It was delicious, I could’ve had the first layer only. The second layer was the cheesecake which was a standard cheesecake and the last layer was the base made from Tennis Biscuits. I’d recognize that taste anywhere. Having all 3 elements together was fantastic. The gelatin gave a delightful flavour to the rich cheesecake and the biscuit base provide a crunchy element. I finished that dessert in 5 minutes flat.

Rosewater Cheesecake

As if the dessert wasn’t enough, I also ordered a chocolate sesame cone. The sesame seed cone was a sweet, sticky biscuit filled with milk chocolate. The 2 sweet elements complemented each other well, making you crave more.

Chocolate Sesame Seed Cone
And then to top of meal I ended with some traditional Moroccan mint tea, which was sweet and minty (of course). The tea was delicious and refreshing. And for some odd reason, the tea complemented the dessert well.

Traditional Moroccan Mint Tea
Traditional Moroccan Mint Tea

The minute you walk into Moroccan House you feel transported away. You forget about the traffic on Atterbury Road in Pretoria as you’re transported to Morocco. The decor, music and food make the experience fantastic.

Ghorbia
I give the Moroccan House Rooftop Cafe and Deli, 2.5 cupcakes. If only they had served the butternut.

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Review guide:

Poor                    Cupcake-Outline-Vector Cupcake-Outline-Vector Cupcake-Outline-Vector Cupcake-Outline-Vector Cupcake-Outline-Vector

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

Lenin’s Vodka Bar

Lenin’s Vodka Bar… That’s all I read and I knew we were going to have drinks there. How could you not?

The bar is located next to James XIV, in Maboneng Precinct. So I didn’t have to walk far 😜.

Walking into Lenin’s Vodka Bar is like walking into another world. You leave the bright sunlight and enter a dimly lit room. A room that includes a DJ booth and storeroom in the one corner and a bar in another. And just as Lenin would’ve preferred, there’s sickles and hammers all over the walls. I love it! Who needs to visit Mother Russia when it’s right in your backyard 😂.

As soon as we sat down, a bartender brought us menus. The drinks have the greatest names: the Kremlin, Red Star, Chernobyl, and the Vlad.

The Kremlin is green, as it should be, and was balanced well. It had a great citric taste. I think I could’ve drunk more if it!

The Kremlin

The Red Star was a bit harsher. The grenadine was a bit overpowering.

The Red Star

But the best was the Leningrad. The lemon neutralized the alcohol and you couldn’t taste the vodka, gin, Barcadi or triple sec. It was just lemon wonder.

The Leningrad

I really enjoyed the bar. I only wish it was closer to Pretoria. But I guess it would lose its charm then.

James XIV Ethiopian Restaurant

“Ethiopian food is bland. I don’t know why people get excited over”. These were the remarks of a good friend of mine when we were discussing Ethiopian food. Being from Kenya, I trusted his opinion but I thought “I still have to try it myself”. Luckily the opportunity presented itself.

While looking for places to explore in Joburg, I stumbled upon the restaurants in Maboneng Precinct. Once of which was an Ethiopian restaurant, James XIV Ethiopian Restaurant. Looking at only the pictures of the Ethiopian coffee, I made it my mission to eat at this restaurant.

James XIV is located on the less busy side of the precinct and opposite the  Museum of African Design. It’s quite small inside, with a kitchen a few tables. Luckily there’s tables outside, allowing you to enjoy the warmth of winter sun.


Arriving inside the cafe, the friendly owner met us at the counter and allowed us to grab any table we wanted. We were the only ones there, so we had plenty of options. We picked a table outside and once seated, a cook/waiter appeared to take our order without a menu. We started at her, she stared at us and eventually we asked if they had a menu. The cook/waiter was shocked! Why were we asking for a menu? There were only 2 options available, so a menu was not required. The 2 options were: vegetable or vegetable and meat. We ordered 2 portions of vegetables and meat for the 3 of us.

The food arrived approximately 10 minutes later, on a huge silver tray. In the tray was injera (an East African flatbread made from sour-dough). On the injera was an array of wat (stew).  As injera is the national food of Ethiopia, I couldn’t wait to tuck in. Injera has a sponge texture and was tasteless, which is understandable given that each wat had a unique flavour.


Here’s a breakdown of each wat:

  • Shiro is the red sauce that is made of chickpea powder. The powder is slow-cooked with Ethiopian red berbere sauce. The shiro was delicious and spicy. I couldn’t help each a whole portion on my own.
  • Azifa is the brown looking lentils. This is actually a salad made from cooked green lentils, chili, mustard seeds, onion and lemon juice. Given the amount of spices and chili I found it bland.
  • Kik alicha is the yellow lentils on the plate. Split peas are cooked with plenty of healthy turmeric, chili and garlic. This was my favourite wat as it was spicy and full of garlic. But not so much garlic to keep the vampires at bay.
  • The red lentils are mesir wot, which is split red lentils cooked in berbere sauce, with onions and garlic. This was also spicy but not as tasty as kik alicha.
  • Gomen is collard greens that were served with beef. Gomen is made with onions, garlic, lemon juice, tumeric, paprika, ginger root, and ground allspice. Collard greens are normally bland but the meat was tasty and tender.
  • On the plate was also atkilt wot, which is a combination of cabbage, carrots and potatoes. These vegetables are simmered in a turmeric and cumin sauce. I’m not a fan of cabbage but the atkilt wot was delicious.
  • Included in the wat was spinach, braised with onion, chili and garlic. This tasted identical to my granny’s cooking, which is spicy and warming.
  • The spicy beef was made with red berbere sauce. It was indeed spicy and left you reaching for your water. The wat was delicious as well and accompanied the injera well. I can’t think of anything else to eat with the beef besides the injera.
  • The potatoes and carrots stew was also delicious. I enjoyed the gravy more as I found the potato a bit hard.

2 portions were a lot for the 3 of us but the food was delicious. So delicious that we cleaned the plate.

After that spicy affair was the pierce de resistance: Ethiopian coffee. My Kenyan friend may dislike Ethiopian food but he had only good things to say about their coffee. It is well-known that coffee originated from Ethiopia and has a significant impact on the Ethiopian economy. It’s also the country’s national beverage. I was looking forward to seeing the coffee ceremony but that did not happen. However, I was assured that the coffee was made the traditional way of boiling the coffee in a clay pot. Nonetheless, the coffee was great! It had a strong caffeine smell, so I was a bit hesitant as first, but once I had my first sip I enjoyed every second. The coffee was complex and had a chocolate taste.


I enjoyed my first experience of Ethiopian cuisine and can’t wait to have more. Given that James XIV was a small cafe, I felt welcomed and treated well. The food was delicious and the coffee great. Sitting outside, under the trees and almost on the side of the road, did not feel like I was in the middle of Joburg but rather somewhere else. I love it when restaurants manage to transport you away. And James XIV did that without even trying.

I give James XIV Ethiopian Restaurant 2.5 cupcakes.

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Review guide:

Poor                    Cupcake-Outline-Vector Cupcake-Outline-Vector Cupcake-Outline-Vector Cupcake-Outline-Vector Cupcake-Outline-Vector

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

 

 

 

Paul Cluver and my love story with Gewürztraminer

Today’s blog is written by guest blogger, Janina Hundenborn.

I love Paul Cluver wines! So much so that allure of their wines was the only reason I made my way up those winding roads, from Cape Town to Hermanus, to visit their wine estate. It was the weekend after my birthday and I could not think of a better way to celebrate.

The Cluver wine estate is situated in the Elgin valley near Grabouw in the Western Cape. The climate is a little colder than what South Africans are used to, but Paul Cluver knew how to use this to grow wines from his home country. You can find German style Rieslings and Gewurztraminer among other wines on their tasting menu. The furniture of the tasting room is worth mentioning briefly as the benches and tables are actually made out of a massive Cyprus tree that fell over in the garden!

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The road up to the tasting room and restaurant. 

We start the tasting with a 2015 Sauvignon Blanc. The wine is clear with a hint of green in the colour. The taste is crisp and fresh, citrus flavours are dominating. The wine is a little too zesty for my taste but I can imagine that sometimes one might look for just this kind of refreshing taste. I move on since the next wine is the whole reason I am here: the 2015 Gewürztraminer. A little bit of a tongue breaker but you are immediately rewarded for your efforts. I ask the lady to fill up my glass particularly well since this is my favourite. She happily complies and I can’t contain my excitement! The nose is spicy with a little bit of honey coming through. This is not surprising since “Gewürz” actually means spice in German.  The palate delivers on what the nose promised. Spices, honey and great length. I savour the wine as you have the perfect interplay between a soft sweetness on the tongue with some refreshing acidity in between. This interplay is both fascinating and delicious. I’m in love!

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The Sauvignon Blanc with its clear and crisp colour. Paul Cluver has won several awards for their wine in recent years, which are displayed on the tables around the tasting area.

 

It is time to move on to the next wine, the 2015 Dry Encounter Riesling. As the name suggests, this is a dry wine. Clear in colour, the taste is rich in minerals as typical from the Elgin soil. The Riesling is delicious but may not cater to everyone’s taste. It’s dry and some might prefer a little more sweetness. But fear not, Paul Cluver has you covered! With the 2015 Close Encounter Riesling, a Spätlese wine (Spätlese in German means a late harvest, not quite so late as your dessert wines but late enough to let the sugar content increase in the grapes) much higher in sugar content. I love the name “Close Encounter”, it hints at the sexy yet cosy feeling you get from this sweet and smooth wine. The Close Encounter Riesling is so rich in flavour, it reminds you of taking a big bite out of one of those green and slightly sour apples. If the Dry Encounter is too dry for you, you will love the slightly sweeter and perfectly balanced Close Encounter.

We are moving on to the Reds now. I am not a fan of red wines. It’s not that I don’t like the taste of red wine but my body cannot handle it. When I have just one glass, my cheeks turn red, my tongue starts feeling funny and I just cannot see the appeal of purple lips and teeth. However, I was positively enlightened by the 2013 Pinot Noir. The colour is delicate and the wine is relatively clear for a red. You find your typical bundle of berries on the nose. The palate is smooth, berries with hints of chocolate. It’s quite a light and fresh taste yet matured and low in acidity. This 2013 Pinot Noir may just have me converted! Excited, I move on to the next: a 2014 Pinot Noir. I am surprised that you would give out the younger wine second but I give it a try. You can still detect the berries and the freshness of the older brother, however, as young wines do, this one is high in acidity and not nearly as pleasant and well behaved as the 2013 Pinot Noir. I may not have been converted after all.

Finally, we taste the Paul Cluver Noble Late Harvest. This is a delicious dessert wine, with lots of apricot and honey on the nose and the palate delivers on these promises. It’s surprisingly fresh given its sweetness and the perfect way to end our tasting experience.

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Couldn’t leave without some of these treasures!!!

We did not get to taste their flagship red or their Chardonnay but you don’t pay for the tasting so I think that’s okay. I leave Paul Cluver with a bottle of the Gewürztraminer, the Close Encounter and top it off with a 2013 Pinot Noir, looking forward to the next time I get to open one of these.