Lunch #27: Chicken Schnitzel with The Starman at Pollsmoor Prison

Despite the fact that I am officially retired (for as long as I can make the money last) I do actually, occasionally, sort of, kind of do a little bit of work.

It’s all the fault of my famous author former colleague, The Man Who Won’t Stop Writing Books. TMWWSWB has written about 53 already, but somehow that’s not enough for him, even though JM Coetzee himself wrote the blurb for the back cover of his last but one book, using words like ‘magnificent’, if I recall correctly.

If JM Coetzee called something I’d written ‘magnificent’, I’d never write another word again for fear of cocking it all up. But nooooo, TMWWSWB is out there right now launching his next book and busy writing at least three more. And he’s roped me into writing one of them with him.

Unusually for a book, this one already has a publisher, and a contract, and a deadline, and we are even going to be paid some money for it (which TMWWSWB assures me is a situation in the book world somewhat rarer than dragons returning to Westeros). Which means I actually, really have to do this work.

The writing part is admittedly difficult. Since it can take me years to write a random blog post, you can imagine how impressively I am procrastinating over writing something more substantial. But the research part is pretty darned cool, because it involves snooping around Cape Town finding awesome secret things and places. So far I’ve found extinct trees, and hidden caves, and ghosts, and hippos, and pickled Barons. But I hadn’t had any lunches, because restaurants aren’t really allowed in the book.

However, TMWWSWB and I thought we’d make an exception for Pollsmoor Prison, which, as a few adventurous Capetonians (such as The Man Who Catches Many Planes) know, has a restaurant that’s open to the public. It’s staffed almost entirely by prisoners who are almost due for release, as part of a rehabilitation program.

I thought it would be amusing to be driven to Pollsmoor in a Porsche, so I invited The Starman to lunch.

The Starman has been previously alluded to in this blog as the world-famous artist who taught me Photoshop and as one of two ex-boyfriends who still desire the dubious pleasure of my company. He therefore needs no further introduction. Except that I can’t resist telling you that, for about a year, when he was still a struggling artist, he had blue hair and wore blue Crocs. (Please note, this was AFTER I dated him.)

As a world-famous artist, The Starman now wears Campers and drives a Boxster convertible, which does interesting things to his hair when the top is down.

On our way to Pollsmoor, we discussed the matter of his pseudonym.

“I was thinking Porscheman,” I said. “The guy I dated before you used to call you GTI-boy, but you don’t drive a GTI anymore and you’re too old to be a boy.” (I am seldom accused of flattery.)

“That’s gross,” said The Starman.

“What about The Dotman?” I said, referring to his peculiar painting style.

“Ugh,” said The Starman, revving through a tight corner and making me shut up very fast.

The entrance of Pollsmoor Prison looks exactly the way you’d expect a maximum security prison entrance to look: High walls, razor wire, tyre puncturing spikes, and lots of guards in brown.

“Um, we’re going to the restaurant?” said The Starman doubtfully.

Even though I’d been there before, I wasn’t entirely sure I’d got it right. But the guard gave us a friendly smile and waved us through. The Starman inched over the retracted spikes and followed the directions the guard had given us to the Pollsmoor Recreation Centre, going very slowly so that he could gawp at the size of the place. (Like the Tardis, it’s bigger on the inside.)

The restaurant featured atmospheric fluorescent strip lighting, a large number of guards in brown waiting for their takeaways, and plenty of empty tables. A smiling waiter in an apron and inmate’s overalls (fashionably tucked into his socks) brought us a menu.

“What do you recommend?” I asked him.

“The schnitzel,” came his prompt reply. So we ordered two.

It took a while for our food to arrive, so The Starman decided this was the appropriate occasion to tell me all about his plan to rob a bank. According to him, it would take just six months of part-time tunnelling and hopping in and out of man-holes on Long Street.

“Err, that sounds like a lot of hard work,” I said, glancing nervously at the gaggle of guards. “And, anyway, I’m retired, and you don’t need the money.”

Fortunately, our schnitzels were served before The Starman could convince me to play Dortmunder to his Kelp. They were a worthy distraction: huge and golden, covered in a creamy cheese sauce, and accompanied by fries and salad garnish. If JM Coetzee had been there, I feel sure he would have pronounced them ‘magnificent’ too.


And, at R37, a Pollsmoor Chicken Schnitzel is cheaper than a book.

We polished them off and went to the front counter to pay. It was then that I realised that, as usual, I hadn’t brought any cash.

“Err, do you take credit card?” I asked the guard, looking around uneasily for a card machine.

“No, sorry ma’am. Just cash.”

“Hahah,” I said to The Starman. “I know I invited you to lunch, but I’ll pay you back later. You DO have cash, don’t you?”

“Ummm, I think so. Let me just check…”



“Yeah, no, I don’t. Sorry.”

“Hahahah,” I said to the guard. “Is there an ATM anywhere nearby?”

“Yes, just up the road at the shopping centre, ma’am.”

“Err, would you mind going and drawing some cash?” I asked The Starman. “I’ll just stay here in the mean time.”

“Sure,” said The Starman.

“You WILL come back for me, right?”

“Sure,” he said again, winking.


But he was gone.

“Hahah,” I said to the guard, simpering inanely. “I don’t suppose I could interview the restaurant manager while I wait?”

The guard obligingly went to fetch him.

“If you come back for me, I’ll call you anything you like,” I whatsapped The Starman furtively. There was no answer.

The restaurant supervisor, a lovely CO1 called Mr Philander, kindly came and chatted to me, while fielding a ridiculous order from the finance department for 14 hot meals to be delivered in five minutes’ time.

He explained his establishment’s passion for producing quality, fresh food at very affordable prices, and said that, because they want the food to be good, they don’t rush things.

“We want people to come back,” he told me. I assured him that I would come back.

If, in fact, I ever managed to leave.

But The Starman did return, grinning.

“I just got whistled at by about 20 women in blue,” he said, looking pleased with himself.

“Those would be the female prisoners,” said Mr Philander. Apparently the Porsche had been a good idea after all.

The Starman paid for our meals with cash that he had presumably not stolen from the bank up the road. You’re not allowed to tip, so we gave our waiter a big thumbs up instead.

As we drove slowly back out of the prison, The Starman pointed at two of the street signs: Procyon and Castor. (Yes, Pollsmoor has enough streets to need signs for them.)

“Notice the street names?” he said.

“What about them?” I said.

“Well, what are they?” he said.

“Err, moons of Jupiter?” I guessed. The Starman has always had a thing about space, and he’s currently studying some complicated space course at UCT, just for fun.

“No,” he said, pointing at another two: Rigel and Aldebaran. “Try again.”

“Ahah!” I said triumphantly. “Craters on the moon!”

“Okay, this next one will make it easy, although it’s not technically the same thing.”


“Ooooh right. Stars. Well, at least I knew it was something astronomical,” I said, feeling very much like Bridget Jones trying to locate Germany.

“Yes, but why do you think they’ve named the streets after stars?” he continued, while I harrumphed to myself.

“I dunno. Why?”

“Well, what do you do when you look at the stars?”


“No, you look up.”

“Yes, and?” I still didn’t see what he was getting at.

“Well, when you look up, that gives you hope, doesn’t it?”

“U-huh.” Someone was clearly feeling profound after their schnitzel.

“So have you decided what you want me to call you yet?” I asked, returning to more earthly matters.

And I think we all know the answer to that.

In case you’re wondering, I did think fairly long and hard about mentioning the doubtful conditions at Pollsmoor Prison, the Numbers Gangs situation, and the work being done to rehabilitate prisoners there. I even read several verses of Oscar Wilde’s immensely long and depressing poem “The Ballad of Reading Gaol”, with the lines

that little tent of blue
  Which prisoners call the sky

which Nelson Mandela wrote he’d seen the truth of at Pollsmoor. But then I decided that serious issues have as much place in this blog as decent astronomical knowledge and good food photography.


Lunch #26: Car-shopping and a R70 sandwich with the Cringe-Inducing Ex

As you may have gathered, I’m fond of having budgets – usually so I can ignore them. But about a year ago, I decided I didn’t feel like having a job any more, and I became an avid disciple of a blogger who calls himself Mr Money Mustache.

Mr MM advocates early retirement (not as in ‘at age 55’, but as in ‘within 10 years of starting work, around age 30’) through badassity. It turns out that badassity is Canook for ‘using your common sense and not spending money on heaps of crap’. It’s amazing how you can change your life just by getting good at not buying things. And, as a not insignificant bonus, you also end up being far nicer to the planet.

Now, a sensible Mustachian would obviously do all their saving before retiring. Naturally, I poo-pooed that idea. And, just before waving goodbye to my desk, I did something else that would have had Mr MM crying into his stash in despair: I bought yet another fancy clown car.

I blame Top Gear, but it seemed natural at the time to fork out close to R200k for a shiny Audi. Besides, I’d recently survived a major accident, in which my last fancy clown car (an overpriced Mini) successfully saved me and my passenger from injuries too awful to contemplate. (We tried contemplating them. It wasn’t fun.)

But, after a year of doing whatever I wanted – which, oddly enough, involved very little driving – that beautiful, expensive piece of machinery suddenly stopped making sense. One day, I woke up and realised I didn’t want it. What I wanted was a vintage hipster bicycle for tootling around town and a tiny little Noddy-car for groceryering. (Unlike Mr MM, I can’t see myself growing enough facial hair to use a bike trailer.)

The Audi quickly found a new, more appreciative owner, and I trawled Gumtree looking for one of these:

Top Gear can also be a good influence on car buyers.

Top Gear can also be a good influence on car buyers.

It was an educational experience. Here are a few of my favourite ads:

Ag dad, man!

Ag dad, man!

This guy's got his priorities straight (and his CapsLock stuck)

This man’s got his priorities straight. (I’m pretty sure it’s a man.)

Yes! Yes! I deserve it! My time is... hang on a second.

Am intrigued by this democratic approach to Lambo ownership. Wonder if they’d let me own it for hmmm, three and a half seconds?

Not entirely sure 'neck breaker' is on anyone's list of motoring must haves.

Not sure how neck brakes work. They sound uncomfortable.

Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 2.31.04 PM

Sardines might work at a push.

Maybe it's got something to do with being so close to the coast?

Minnows need not apply.

I just can't. Even.

I just can’t. Even.

I worked really hard at my car-buying. I read reviews for almost every tiny car made in the last 10 years. I read detailed instructions on how to inspect a car. I read a 12-page undercover report by a journalist who’d been sent to spy on car salesmen. I read Terry Pratchett. (That wasn’t technically part of the research, but it was necessary after several straight hours of Gumtreeing.)

I drove to Somerset West to grimace at a mangy Panda. I drove to Paarl to get a speeding fine. I went to see cars in the dark and rain and cars that would have looked much better in the dark and rain. Until, eventually, I’d had enough.

I’d like to say that the car I ended up buying is the best possible fit for my budget and requirements, but there’s a chance I simply bought it out of fatigue. Plus, the friend I took with me to inspect it (as per expert car-shopping instructions) was about as much use in this regard as a week-old newspaper.

The Cringe-Inducing Ex is one of only two ex-boyfriends who still actively seek my company. Since, like Taylor Swift and most other women in the world, I’m a psycho bitch from hell, this makes him a very special friend indeed.

On the down side, the CIE’s chief pleasure in my company is retelling the same embarrassing stories about our relationship and making the same mortifying observations about my taste in subsequent boyfriends every single time I see him. In fact, in case you were ever considering dating me, I advise you not to. The CIE will come up with a nickname for you so hideously accurate that I won’t be able to get past it.

“Seen The Turtle lately?” the CIE inquired for the hundredth time as he drove us through the mist towards Montague Gardens.

“No, I haven’t seen him for YEARS. You KNOW that.”

I dashed into Broadway Bakery to buy some pasteis in the forlorn hope he’d lose his train of thought. No such luck.

“So, any news on The Queen Mother?” he asked, crunching pastry. “Is he married yet?”

“I told you, I don’t follow him on Facebook. Why don’t YOU stalk him if you’re so interested?”

“I used to, when you were dating him.”

At last we reached the dealership and took the little car for a test drive.

“What do you think?” I asked him as we pootled along in an underpowered kind of way.

“It seems very small,” he said.

“Yes, that’s the point.”

“But you’ve always had nice cars. What will The Walking Dead think of you driving a car like this?”

“It doesn’t MATTER what he’d think, since I’m never going to SEE him again.”

Back at the dealership, I reminded the CIE to kick the tyres. He pronounced them all present, so I went into the Wendy house and bought the car.

As a thank you for his sterling service, I then dragged the CIE through the icy, windy streets of Lower Woodstock to find some lunch. The CIE looked around nervously.

“Do you walk here often?” he asked.

“Yes, all the time.”

“Are we anywhere near the Old Biscuit Mill?”

“It’s just around the corner.”

“Can we go there, then? I’d feel safe there.”

“I won’t,” I grumbled. “The prices they charge can be very dangerous.”

We wandered through the empty, echoing cloisters of the Old Biscuit Mill. Behind the cutesy artsy bucket mill fountain thing, a warm, inviting deli doorway beckoned.

Saucisse deli.

We went inside. They had bread.



They had meat.



They had cheese.



Since these are three of my favourite things, we sat down and asked for a menu.

There’s a well-documented phenomenon in behavioural economics called relativity (it’s not the Einstein kind). Essentially, when you’re dealing with large amounts of money, smaller amounts of money seem relatively insignificant.

For example, if you were at the Waterfront buying a handbag for R12,000, the chance of saving R200 on it would be unlikely to cause you to drive to Century City. But, if you wanted a pair of jeans that cost R250, you’d probably drive all the way to Belville to buy the same jeans for R50. I think this is why I barely flinched when I looked at the menu and saw that the sandwiches were around the R70 range*. After all, I’d just bought a car.

I ordered a roast beef on sourdough with shaved Gruyere. The CIE ordered a more reasonably-priced bowl of R55 pea and brie soup. We sat and waited for our food.

“I like their sign,” I said to the CIE, pointing at the deli’s branding on the counter. “I like how they’ve used such a tiny little sausage. It’s cute.”

The CIE considered it for a while.

Then said: “Doesn’t it remind you of …”

A R70 sandwich.

A R70 sandwich.

*If you think it’s ridiculous that I’m examining why I went ahead and ordered a R70 sandwich – thus violating my strict R50 lunch budget – I’m sorry to say it, but your Mustache needs work.


Lunch #25: Pregos and Pasteis at Broadway Bakery

When one gets to the grand old age of *mumble mumble mumble*, it’s very important to place a high value on your work. After all, you’ve spent decades accumulating your skills and experience, and they’re now almost definitely worth something.

Let’s take my Photoshop skills, for instance. I was taught Photoshop about *cough cough* years ago by a now-world-famous artist and, if I say so myself (and I usually do), I am not bad with a magic wand. Of course, I am absolutely crap at using every single other tool and I routinely can’t remember how to create a mask, let alone what to do with it when I have.

Nonetheless, I once entered a competition at Design Indaba, using Photoshop to create a hideous poster featuring photographs of my toothy grin next to the somewhat confused grins of several random strangers. We had 30 minutes to design our posters and I spent 15 of those minutes trying to remember how to add text. Incredibly, I won. So I am, in fact, a prize-winning designer and Photoshopper, as judged by an international panel of (clearly barking) design experts.

However, this means that I am occasionally faced with a quandary. Some of my best friends are bloggers, and one of them is even world famous. But, while she has wisdom and insight beyond anyone else I know into this crazy little thing called life, she also thinks that I can design things. (She never saw the Indaba poster.)

And, if there’s one thing more important than not working for free once you’re over 23 (unless it’s for a registered charity), it is never to let friends pay you for work (at least, not with their own money). Because that is just awkward. And weird.

So when The Yummy Mummy came over this morning to suggest some improvements to the great work of art that is the header image I made for her blog, she not only praised my efforts with an effusiveness that reminded me strongly of those deluded design experts, but she also insisted on taking me out to lunch afterwards. (Ha! I bet you were wondering when I’d get around to the lunch.)

Now, she knows that, aside from Societi Bistro, which occupies its own dimension of restaurantaurial perfection, I am not fond of fashionable eateries. So we went jousting the taxis around the Salt River circle, then down the gorge of the vile beast that is Voortrekker Road where, at number 109, she led us into an unexpected treasure-trove.

Broadway Bakery is like a miniature, Portuguese version of everyone’s favourite German deli, Raith, minus the annoying accompaniment of Gardens shopping mall. There’s a bakery counter, a coffee counter, a few shelves of imported food-type things, and six tiny bar tables with high chairs where you can sit and order prego rolls, grilled chorizo and other great staples of Portuguese haute cuisine.

Broadway Bakery interior

Free wifi and Frankie’s Cinnamon Cola. Not what I was expecting on Voortrekker Road.

I almost ordered the bifana, a roast pork roll, but in the end we both stuck with classic beef pregos, responding with detectable levels of outrage when the waitress asked if we wanted chips or salad with them.

Prego roll and chips

Honestly, who orders a prego roll with salad? Yay for chips!

They were delish: soft, fresh Portuguese rolls, obviously baked right there this morning, with tender, tasty steak in perfect amounts of marinade, and hand-cut chips that were much less greasy than most (so probably as good for us as salad in any case).

And, because I am halfway to becoming another Mr Money Mustache, I was thrilled to see that our lunches were less than R50 each. (Back in 2011, my lunch budget was R40, but I’ve made a generous concession to inflation.)

Unfortunately, The Yummy Mummy still has a long way to go on her journey towards Mustachianism, because, not only did she buy my lunch, she then insisted on buying me half a dozen of the most fabulously flakey, crunchy, creamy pasteis de nata to take home. (R7 each – take that, Vida!) And she wouldn’t even take one of them for herself.

Pasteis de nata

Yes, I know they look fluorescent yellow and they aren’t really. But bad food photography is one of the things I pride myself on in this blog.

So there you go: I will do Photoshop for praise, pregos and pasteis.

(But only if I love you very, very much.)

Lunch #24: Drones, a jag and winter whales at the 12 Apostles Hotel & Spa

It’s winter in Cape Town, which, much of the time, is made abundantly clear by things like rain, wind, clouds and dark, damp dreariness. But, sometimes, in a fit of utter absentmindedness, the weather becomes bewitched by the beauty of the city and gives us a day of perfect summer in the middle of winter.

Last Sunday was such a day. I was determined to make the most of it, so I volunteered to accompany The Supersize Stig on a drone shoot of the new supercharged F-type Jeeeaaaaag. (My impressive car knowledge comes from watching 20 seasons of Top Gear.)

We were up at Silvermine Dam by 7.30am, and this is the spectacle that greeted us:

Sunrise over Constantia

The sun, forgetting to hide behind clouds, rises over Cape Town.

No, actually I mean this:

Man ready to fly a drone

This is what a proper drone pilot looks like. It would be quite funny, if the whole flying a drone thing weren’t so impressive.

There were two drone pilots and two amazing wasp-like Freedom drones (made right here in SA) to follow the car around. After attracting an admiring crowd on Ou Kaapse Weg, we found a more secluded spot down by the Crayfish Factory and I got to drive the Jeeaaag at 20km/h up and down a hill a couple of times – which neither the Jeeaaag nor I thought was a very accurate depiction of our capabilities.

F-type Jaguar in Cape Town

The cat meeting other cats at the Crayfish Factory.

This was all extremely hungry work, so it was just as well Supersize Stig and I had something special and substantial to look forward to for lunch. Dear readers, this blog has brought me fame and glory. Or at least an extremely nice lunch where the waiter knew my name.

Yesterday, I was invited to Sunday lunch at no less than the 12 Apostles Hotel and Spa – as an actual blogger. Now, I know this is breaking a couple of the supposed rules of this blog. I admit that The 12 Apostles is a fair distance from Long Street. But I’ve already broken that rule loads of times. Also, the buffet lunch, while fantastic value for money, is a tad over my original R40 limit, but I’ve broken that rule in the past too.

So, here is what to do when you have Sunday lunch at one of the world’s leading hotels, in the world’s most beautiful city on the most surprisingly sunny Sunday of the year:

  • First, park your Jeeaaag. This is easy, because the 12 Apostles actually has parking. Unlike pretty much any other eatery anywhere near the sea  on a mid-winter summer’s day in Cape Town.
  • Take your seat by the window, with a patch of golden sunshine and a perfect view of the sparkling sea, flat as a mirror facing the cloudless sky. Take a deep breath. Let it out. Relax.
Azure Restaurant, 12 Apostles

Yes! I’ve found it – probably the only quiet, spacious spot in Cape Town for a sunny seaside lunch.

  • Have Supersize Stig order a bottle of Anura Sauvignon Blanc. He can drive the Jeeaaag home.
  • Ask Stig to bring you something to eat. Being a stunt driver has made you too exhausted to stand up again. ‘Something’ turns out to be seared tuna and pear and walnut salad with soft boiled eggs and crunchy green beans. Clever Stig!
Want meat? You got it!

Want meat? You got it!

  • Now that your strength has been restored, go back to the buffet for seconds and thirds, smiling at the lady on the keyboard who sounds just like Eva Cassidy (she’s actually Jenie Oliver).
  • Hear a bell? That’s the whale bell, conveniently rung when they make an appearance so you don’t have to strain your eyes looking for them. Watch other people point at whales. You can see them from your table anyway. No need to stand up.
If you're feeling just a tad energetic, take a camera along, because you will see whales getting up to all sorts of antics out there.

If you’re feeling a tad energetic, take a proper camera along, because you will see whales getting up to all sorts of antics out there.

  • Finish the wine as you heroically forego seconds of dessert in favour of cheese and biscuits.

I didn’t have firsts or seconds of the red velvet cake and I rather regret it.

  • Climb back into the car feeling blissfully content with life, the universe, wine and whales, only to be blasted out of your seat by the howl of an angry engine accelerating in first gear.
  • Mentally apologise to the diners on the deck for shattering the perfect serenity of their Sunday afternoon.
  • Vow to use a quieter car next time, when you take the Girl in the Pearls for Pink Tea By The Sea.

Azure Restaurant, with its generous Sunday buffet, is the perfect venue for a relaxed Sunday lunch. Dishes include a splendid array of imaginative salads and amuse-bouches, fresh fish, roast lamb and sirloin and a mass of mouthwatering desserts. Lunch is served every Sunday between 12h30 and 15h30 and costs R285 per person (half price for children under 12).

During August, the 12 Apostles is serving a special pink version of their Tea by the Sea at the Leopard Bar. Ladies get a glass of pink MCC on arrival, followed by freshly baked scones, a selection of dainty finger sandwiches, and a range of pink themed sweet delights, all served with the finest fragrant teas and coffees for R160 per person.

To make a booking, contact restaurant reservations on 021 437 9029 or

Azure Restaurant

A properly professional photo of Azure, not shot by me or my iPhone.

Lunch #23: The Best Lunch in Cape Town, if not the Entire Universe

Today I was rather Down in the Dumps, until my fabulous friend The Yummy Mummy, who is more fabulous than a unicorn, griffin and phoenix rolled into one, invited me for a stroll down Long Street.

It’s been a long time since I last loitered in Long Street, but many of the old lunch spots are still there: Ravelas Fisheries, Bob’s Bar (now The Home of the R12 Shooter, such is inflation), Mountain View and Masala Dosa.

Being fun, fearless and, above all, frugal females, we stopped at most of the shops along the way and absolutely definitely did not spend any money on cute little jersey jackets or awesome afro keyrings.

The Yummy Mummy displays one of the items we somehow managed NOT to buy.

The Yummy Mummy displays one of the 10,000 items we somehow managed NOT to buy.

Our saunter past the antique stalls on Church Street was brought to an abrupt halt by this sign:


We were peckish, the waiter was friendly, the buffet, which we went inside to inspect, looked pretty darned fine:

This buffet for R35? It had to be a trap, so I took a closer look...

All this for R35? It had to be a trap, so I took a closer look…


If anything, tt looked even better close up.

We took our seats at a table outside, which came equipped with soft fleecy blankies for our behinds and a handbag chair. (Restaurants, take note: you should always have an extra chair at every table for ladies’ handbags.)

The friendly waiter came and told us three things, after which I accused him of trying to blow our minds:

1. Our R35 lunch buffet came with a free glass of Merlot or Sauvignon Blanc.

2. Far from being considered rude to pile your plate high, the most bulging plate would win a free tequila.

3. If we wouldn’t mind sitting a moment, he’d bring us some soup to start.


Susan and I started giggling in a way that was probably alarming in women of our relatively dignified age.

The soup came (hearty), the wine came (more than drinkable), we piled our plates high with beef curry, salads, the most delicious thin-sliced grilled brinjal, roast sweet potatoes, cauliflower cheese pasta, olives, feta, etc etc.

The Yummy Mummy, looking Somewhat Pleased

The Yummy Mummy, looking Somewhat Pleased. Note level of wine in glass. I told you it was drinkable.

The Yummy Mummy won the free tequila, according to the waiter, but she ordered another glass of wine instead. Our waiter actually asked us (he asked us!) if we’d like chilled mint-infused water to drink too. After that we drank latte and shared a piece of warm homemade shortbread (not included in buffet).

And then The Gangsta Muffins arrived and started playing Summertime

As the Yummy Mummy observed when she saw the plastic thing being pulled out: "It's going to be awesome." It was.

As the Yummy Mummy observed when she saw the blue plastic thing being pulled out: “This is going to be amazing.” It was.

It’s midwinter in Cape Town and if life had worked out the way I’d planned, I’d be in Thailand right now. But thanks to a fabulous friend, a wonderful waiter and a funny old musician who uses his own head as a drum, I’ve remembered that this is, after all, The Best City In The World – and I’ve just had the best lunch in it.

Lunch #22: Bunless Burger at The Long Street Café with Mr Malaprop

Today a complete stranger thought I was planning to propose to him after I’d known him for roughly 50 minutes.

Or, at least that’s what he told the waitress.

The waitress being told the good news.

I’m not sure how this happened, but I’ll try to explain. I recently took up CouchSurfing. For those of you who have not yet signed up for the site with the blue couch surmounted by the confusing blob, which turns out on close inspection not to be a Rodin sculpture (the Thinker, I believe) kissing a Brancusi (I’m not sure exactly which), but actually a map of the globe tastefully portrayed in orange with white outer glow… Oh dear, I’ve written a sentence too confusing to complete.

Right. As I was saying. is the Facebook of travel. The difference being that you actually have to have met someone before they can become your friend on CouchSurfing. You don’t have to go anywhere near a couch, or even know how to surf one. In fact, couches have figured very little in my CouchSurfing experiences so far.

This is what they have been:

CouchSurfing Experience #1: Had lunch at Mr Pickwick’s with an Extremely Intelligent Fellow from Berlin who has the misfortune to think JM Coetzee is The Greatest Living Writer and is writing a book about him. EIF told me he has never met Coetzee and doesn’t want to, just in case Coetzee has to go to the loo, thereby demonstrating that he is human and not, in fact, a god.

CouchSurfing Experience #2: Invited a Brazilian Network Engineer from Minneapolis to come to my friend’s farewell party. BNEFM had spent the last week installing facial recognition networks all over Cape Town for the government, but fortunately everyone else at the party was a geek too. The BNEFM chatted up a pretty blonde geekette and seemed to enjoy himself very much.

CouchSurfing Experience #3: A South African tour operator spotted my profile on CouchSurfing and recognised me as a Former Getaway Journalist (although, like everyone else, he’s never actually read anything I’ve written). He wanted to buy me coffee so we could talk about travel. Very kindly he bought me coffee AND a burger.

I lied. The burger came with a bun. But I’m still avoiding all carbohydrates besides wine, cake, chocolate and macarons, so I removed the bun and ignored the chips. Still, not bad for R35.

I’m still unsure how he thought I could be useful enough to earn my lunch, but we did at least succeed in entertaining each other and freaking out the waitress. CouchSurfer #3 has an endearing way of using words inaccurately, incorrectly or just plain indecorously. His friends call this phenomenon ‘Mikeopropisms’.

Lulled into a false sense of security by his pronunciation of the word ‘facade’, I told Mr Malaprop all sorts of ridiculous stories about my life, cricket scores, and the family trees of people he may or may not have met. By the end of lunch, he was suggesting psychiatric treatment and scaring the waitress with the possibility of an impending proposal on her shift.

But, as I informed Mr Malaprop, I have already met Someone Rather Delicious* and proposed to him. (Although I’m pretty sure he didn’t notice.)

* As it happens, Someone Rather Delicious proposed to Someone Else not long afterwards. Oh well.

The Long Street Café. Interesting things happen here. But not proposals.

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.

Lunch #18: Cheep Cheep Chicken From Inkuku

I suppose I should have shared this with you sooner: The Yummy Mummy and I have discovered the World’s Most Enjoyable Diet. Essentially it consists of eating all the cheese and cream and steak and sausages you want. With a side order of eggs fried in butter. It’s very like Atkins or Noakes, but without portion sizes, branded food bars or any sense of self-control.

Apparently the Yummy Mummy has a friend who dropped 15,000kgs* in three days eating double-cream greek yoghurt and bacon, so she resolved to try it too. When the Yummy Mummy reported back that she’d lost 2,000kgs* four days later, I decided to join her.

These are the instructions she sent me:

“No bread, potatoes, rice and pasta. But lots of oats, some crackers, veggies and salad, KFC, chicken with the skin, peanut butter, eggs scrambled in butter, cream cheese, full cream yoghurt, cheese, sausage, streaky bacon, chops with the fat…”

She forgot to put ‘entire bottles of wine’ on the Can Have list, but she did assure me that they made no difference to the diet’s effectiveness. (Note: in order to be good little dieters, we have sacrificed beer. Most of the time.)

I then read every article on this website: and decided that vegetables were probably too much of a carbohydrate risk, so heroically decided to go without those too.

The real challenge, however, was to find a lunch place that would accommodate my new healthy diet within my perennially-trim lunch budget. But as I was strolling up Parliament Street wondering where I could buy deep-fried sausages with a side order of cream, I came across this:

Even if you don’t know enough Xhosa to translate Inkuku, it’s pretty obvious what this place specialises in.

I didn’t want the evil roll, chips and coleslaw, but was pleased to find I could still get half a chicken for R25. And what a delicious half of a chicken it was! Inkuku do theirs as a lemon-herb roast, with crisp yet greasy skin that’s well worth eating. The only thing missing was the mayonnaise – for flavour and a bit of extra fat. (I had to go to Spar for that.)

If you’re not on a strict diet, you can get the chicken burger meal for R30…

*Weight-loss figures may be slightly exaggerated. In case you were wondering, I myself have lost almost 1,000kgs in the last month. Or, at least, I haven’t actually gained any weight.