Lunch #21: Fish ’n Chips with the Personal Pirate

Once upon a time* I went to lunch with a pirate. Not just any pirate. My Personal Pirate.

Everyone should have a Personal Pirate. They are more interesting than Personal Financial Advisors, more fun than Personal Trainers and certainly more useful than either. Take note that when choosing a Personal Pirate, he (or indeed she – piracy is an equal opportunity field these days) should have some background in the legal profession. It has no impact on their piratical skill, but it does add a delicious hint of irony.

I am lucky to have a particularly good Personal Pirate who brings swags of loot to all our lunches. The fictional lunch I write about here took place on a hypothetical Friday, so since the PP is Catholic, I thought it would be appropriate to eat fish.

There is a lovely little chippie on Long Street that is distinguished by four things: red-and-white checked cloths on the tables, lemons in the windows, an ancient till on the counter, and an ‘original wood-fired stove’ (complete with indoor wood-pile). All of which make it an eminently suitable place to host a pirate. Or in my case, to be hosted by a pirate.

Because, as usual, I forgot to bring cash. Arrrrrrrrrgh.

Personal Pirate

This, in my land-lubber opinion, is the best fried fish on Long Street. You can also have chips if, like the PP, you still believe in carbohydrates.

It’s important to have lots of lemons in the window of a chippie. And old tills. And red-checked table cloths. Otherwise, it’s just not a proper chippie, is it?

*Legal notice: The characters, places** and events described in this post are entirely fictional. Any resemblance to any person living or dead is purely coincidental. So there.

** If the chippie actually did exist, it would be called Revelas, and it would have a sign that looked like this:

Pure sign-making genius.

Lunch #20: Cape Town’s best Mutton Salome at Mountain View Café

Today I played bountiful hostess to a most esteemed fellow writer, The Man Who Catches Many Planes.

The Man Who Catches Many Planes is the only person I have ever met who manages to make a proper living as a freelance travel writer. He even has a wife and child who don’t have to support him by standing at busy intersections. TMWCMP has agreed to tell a roomful of Avid Students how he does this as part of the travel writing course I’m giving (again) at UCT. His only condition was that I take him on a Long Street Lunch.

I had, in fact, agreed to take him on a lunch last year, the first time he spoke to Avid Students for me. But TMWCMP was too busy catching flights to exotic destinations to meet me for noodles at Bamboo. So today when he arrived (probably fresh off an Airbus), I gave him two options for lunch: Bamboo, or this lovely new spot I’ve been eyeing with interest for the last few weeks…

As well as this beautiful mural, Kilimanjaro Restaurant offers African food, beer and pool, and is underneath Long Street’s most complained-about landmark: Senator Park

Since TMWCMP had noticed a large number of what he tactfully referred to as ‘mice’ on his last visit to Bamboo, and Kilimanjaro Restaurant was almost as dark inside as it was empty when we peered through the bead curtain, we chose the wildcard lunch-location instead. This involves strolling down Long Street looking for somewhere interesting and obviously cheap. And this is what we saw…

In case you were in any doubt, it is called Mountain View Take-Aways. (But I still got it wrong.)

Now, any good travel writer knows that a busy lunch spot is a good lunch spot, and TMWCMP is a very good travel writer indeed, so he dragged us both inside. We were fortunate enough to arrive during a brief lull in business, because as we were to discover, Mountain View Take-Aways is possibly the most popular lunch spot in Long Street.

We ordered food: a mutton salome for me, a chicken and cheese burger for TMWCMP. To drink, I had a cheeky can of Coke Zero while he selected a Stoney. I was disappointed that I couldn’t get a Mountain Dew at Mountain View, but TMWCMP says it hasn’t been available in Cape Town for at least 20 years. I insisted on paying the bill of R76. (Nobody can say that I don’t reward favours generously.)

For starters, TMWCMP treated us each to a R3 samoosa. Hot, crunchy and delicious as they were, I was unprepared for the magnificence of my mutton salome when it arrived.

As usual, I’ve managed to make my food look like a Halloween prank, but take my word for it, this salome was well worth breaking the No Carb All Fat diet for. It was flaky, crispy and bulging with tasty mutton and potatoes. (Note eminent travel writer’s hand clutching burger bun in background.)

I now understood exactly why Mountain View was packed. Where else could you get such a perfect meal for R35 in a matter of minutes?

I could only love Mountain View even more when I saw what they’ve put in place of a tip jar. The lady behind the jars is lovely and friendly, but apparently my portraits are as good as my food photography.

On the other hand, the view from our table wasn’t quite as advertised:

I know all about poetic license, but this is taking it a bit far.

As we walked back sharing a warm, juicy, R3 cinamon doughnut – me to my desk and TMWCMP probably to the airport – I pointed out, in a profound sort of way, that the Mountain View Take Away is exactly the type of place that makes Cape Town so surprising and fun, even for such seasoned travellers as TMWCMP and me.

P.S. You can follow TMWCMP on Twitter @onanotherplane. I do.

Lunch #19: Drooling over Netsuke at the South African Jewish Museum

Today I spent my lunch break doing squats with a magnifying glass in the basement of the oldest synagogue in South Africa.

Although I have sometimes been complimented on my Jewish looks, I have no Hebrew heritage and (I’m ashamed to admit) not all that much interest in Zionist history. But two things lured me into the museum today:

1. The museum was having an open day, so I could get in for free. I have lots of Scottish heritage, so this appealed to me.

2. I have always been intrigued by the enormous poster of the strange animal with a very long neck (it’s not a giraffe) that’s on the side of the building. Apparently, it’s one of the Hidden Treasures of Japanese Art that are part of the permanent collection of the Museum.

After completing rigorous security checks, including a sweet but sharp-eyed Jewish Granny interrogating me gleefully at the entrance about my intentions, I walked past a very large pair of wings and swiftly, if somewhat apologetically, past all the other exhibits into the small room where the Treasures are Hidden.

Very Large Wings Indeed.

The Hidden Treasures turned out to be something called Netsuke. Netsuke are simply toggles that Japanese people used to prevent their pockets falling off their kimono belts. At some point, they went from being bits of shell and driftwood to some of the most intricate jewelry ever devised.

Netsuke vary from comical, to ludicrous to something approaching divine. The Jewish Granny had led me to believe that taking photographs would send the Ark of the Covenant crashing down upon my head (in the nicest possible way), but I can share the official descriptions of some of my favourites with you.

62. Netsuke of a mermaid and an octopus making amorous advances to each other.

69. Netsuke of a father and son startled as a tea-kettle comes to life as a badger.

70. Netsuke of the witch-dragon Kiyohime gripping her hair with her three-clawed hand, laughing wickedly as she entwines her reptilian body around the bell of the Dojoji temple; inside the bell is her captured monk-lover Anchin, who has spurned her, his face peering through an opening.

I managed to find a pic of this guy on their website:

9. Netsuke of Shoki the Demon-Queller standing on one leg, his sword in his right hand, holding the rim of his hat, on top of which hides an oni (or demon).

All of this detail is exquisitely captured in objects smaller than a Kinder Egg. Each of them is bursting with so much personality and vitality that I’m convinced they come to life every night as soon as the museum closes.

As for the strange animal with the long neck, it turned out to be a netsuke of a doe howling at the moon (as does do). Next time I pass the Jewish Museum on a night when the moon is full, I’m going to listen out for her.

39. Netsuke of a seated deer howling at the moon. Pic stolen from Jewish Museum website, because I’m scared of Jewish Grannies.