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.

IMG_7312

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.

“Promise?”

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.”

Taurus.

“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?”

“Squint?”

“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 #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.
IMG_6796

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 restaurants@12apostles.co.za

Azure Restaurant

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

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: garytaubes.com 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.

Lunch #17: T-bone and ten bottles of bubbly at Societi Bistro

There is something gloomy people like to say about free lunches, which I have to admit is generally true. However, I think that possibly one of the nicest things about friends is that sometimes they make it possible for a free lunch to pop into this universe for a brief visit from some parallel universe where there are such things as free lunches.

In this case, the friends in question were the Yummy Mummy and the Delectable Restaurateur. The free lunch was the launch of Societi Bistro’s Italian menu. (There was a French one a while back. It was fabuleux, as the Yummy Mummy would say.) The way Societi’s regional menus work is that each week for 10 weeks they feature a special menu from a different region of a particular country. So, for the next month or two, Societi’s chef will be working his way up the boot of Italy like a particularly amorous lover langorously licking his lady’s leatherclad leg.

Sigh. Alliteration makes me thirsty, but probably not as thirsty as I was on Saturday afternoon when I arrived at Societi and saw this:

The bottle of bubbly is not visible in the photograph. That is because it is being poured into a glass that’s about to be handed to me. You cannot fault the service at Societi.

10 regional wines were served to match the regional menu. The bubbly was Kaapse Vonkel, but since Italians drink something called Prosecco instead of manning up and learning how to do Methode Champagnoise, I think this was a good call.

At first, I was well-behaved and tried to make polite conversation in between waving my glass for more bubbly. (Only little waves. The staff are very attentive.) But then I saw this:

Stefan, Societi’s very tasty chef, busy at the braai.

No silly, not Stefan…

This. Chargrilled T-bone drizzled in olive oil and lemon juice.

About 10 bottles of bubbly later, with at least a kilo of t-bone gobbled down my gullet, the Societi Effect* had fully taken hold. Things were said and done that I blushed to remember when I woke up in the middle of the night (amazingly) safe (and alone) in my own bed. Fortunately, there is only one incriminating photograph of me (that I know of) in existence:

Photograph courtesy of Niels Colesky. We were having a photographic competition with our cellphones. I don’t think he won.

It seems somehow appropriate that my society portrait from this event is of a boot.

*The Societi Effect: A term I’ve had to coin for the phenomenon of arriving at Societi Bistro in perfect possession of one’s manners and senses and leaving many, many hours later with the firm belief that manners and senses are stupid and you never really liked having them anyway.

P.S. In case you’re hungry here is a video of Societi Bistro. It has lots of footage of fantastico food and wine.

Lunch #16: Picnic with The Blind Date on The Company Gardens Lawns

It’s a funny thing, but despite my former involvement with a supposed-lover-of-the-outdoors – the erstwhile Yummy Politician (since downgraded to the NSYP – and, in case you ask, NS stands for ‘not so’). But, as I was saying until I made my own sentence too convoluted to continue, before today I had never partaken in that popular Cape Town lunch arrangement: The Picnic on The Company Garden Lawns.

In fact, it was The Blind Date who suggested this lunch. He offered to bring food if I would bring a blanket. I felt this was fair and courteously checked that he didn’t have a fear of squirrels. So at 1pm precisely today, I sashayed gaily down the stairs with my blanket to meet The Blind Date, who had driven all the way from Hout Bay with homemade Haloumi and Avo wraps and some grapes.

We proceeded in a slightly awkward Blind Datish way to The Company Gardens, where I found a place close to some shade and spread the blanket in the full sun. “Oh look, a rat,” observed The Blind Date, with admirable sangfroid, as an average-sized foot-long specimen rooted endearingly in a neighbouring flower bed.

This photograph was staged after the lunch. You can tell because there are no wraps, rats, beggars, grapes or seagulls in it.

About three minutes after we were seated and had set out the food, I decided to move the blanket into the shade. We sat down again, possibly not as neatly as before. The Blind Date produced the wraps and I unwrapped mine at the wrong end, which he pointed out politely. I sat waiting for him to start his in case there were further specialized wrap-eating procedures I needed to observe.

I think it was at this point that the first beggar arrived. He didn’t ask for money (nobody ever does these days – I think it’s passé in Cape Town mendicant circles), so we gave him the grapes. They were nice grapes, but it was also nice to share our lunch with someone, even if we hadn’t actually invited him.

It turned out that although The Blind Date has no fear of squirrels, he does abhor pigeons and seagulls, which are even more plentiful in The Company Gardens. Shortly after The Blind Date had thrown his wrap wrapper at a seagull (don’t worry, he picked it up again afterwards – the wrapper, not the seagull), the second beggar arrived. But we had given the grapes away and eaten the wraps. We explained this. The beggar nodded understandingly and left.

Minutes later, we had another visitor. Keenly, we perceived he wasn’t a beggar (possibly because of his barcoded truncheon, black-and-white uniform and fluorescent vest with the official city acronym emblazoned on it).

Apparently The Blind Date had attempted to relax a little too much in my company. He was leaning on his elbows on the blanket, legs stretched out in the sun. Truncheon Man brandished his weapon in what he probably hoped was an official manner, but only succeeded in looking uncomfortable.

“You can’t lie down here,” he said, automaton-like.

“Sorry, what?” we both said.

“You,” he said to The Blind Date. “You can’t lie down like that. You must sit up. It’s the rules.”

It’s true. After several gobsmacked moments, we established that no person may lie down on the Company Gardens Lawns, or even sit in a vaguely reclining manner at any time of day. We could not establish why this might be. Truncheon Man just said it was so.

So, dear readers, once more I find myself in a position to give you invaluable culinary advice: If you lie down on a picnic in The Company Gardens today, you’re in for a bit of a surprise.

Observant readers of this blog will notice that, once again, I’ve skipped a lunch. I really, really promise to write up Lunch #15 “Tibs with The Woman With No Face, The Great Dane and The Glamother” at least before, well… June.

Lunch #13: Quiche, Salad and White Chocolate Tart from Bread, Milk and Honey

I’m pretty sure I haven’t mentioned it, because it’s a bit embarrassing, but after the Yummy Politician and I spent a week at Bulungula over New Year’s and ate enormous quantities of Xhosa bread for breakfast, lunch and dinner while doing Not Very Much in between, I’ve been on a Strict Diet. A Strict Diet (for me) involves drinking fewer than five  units of alcohol a day, not eating Xhosa bread (much easier since we left Bulungula) and not having pudding with every meal except breakfast (and, at a push, not having pudding for breakfast).

As a result, I’ve been avoiding one of my favourite lunch places of late. Perhaps I should apologise for not writing about this place sooner, but I get the feeling that everyone who’s ever been in Cape Town for more than 30 seconds knew about Bread, Milk and Honey before I did. Certainly every Member of Parliament, parliamentary lawyer and environmental lobbyist does. So did the Colleague Who Likes Vintagey Things And Doesn’t Tell People About Nice Food Markets. So, you probably know Bread, Milk and Honey too, but I’m going to write about it anyway. So there.

Bread, Milk and Honey is on Spin Street, which I think is possibly the best name for a street I’ve ever come across. There is a hydro-power installation somewhere in South Africa called The Collywobbles, which is the best name for anything in the world ever. We drove past the sign for it on the way back from Bulungula. I didn’t get a photo because we were going a bit fast.

On the face of it, Bread, Milk and Honey, which serves lots of tasty, healthy salads, would seem to be the ideal place for a Person On A Strict Diet to go. There are two crosses against it, however.

Cross #1: There’s a buffet. A very good buffet.

Crap photo. Excellent buffet.

I’ve written about my problem with diets and good buffets before. Fortunately, the problem is only severe when the buffet is free. The BMH buffet costs about R5/gram (so less than the Melissa’s buffet, but still on the high side for my spartan lunch budget). Over time I’ve worked out that if I get a quiche and a couple of spoons of salad, I can feel both virtuous and economical. I’m a pro by now, so my portion yesterday cost R30,80.

Cross #2: The Puddings

See how good they are? Some of them are finished already. The plates with none left or only one left add a sense of urgency to pudding purchases.

This is much more tricky to deal with. Yesterday I breathed a big sigh of relief because my Nemesis, The Dark Chocolate Tart, was not there. However, if you look to the left of the photograph, you’ll notice danger lurking.

Yup, they had a NEW kind of chocolate tart: a White Chocolate Tart With Berries. There was only one left…

The guy behind the counter told me it was ‘very good’. Which is more than I can say for myself.

Lunch #12: The Eleven-Egg Omelette at The Company Gardens with Seven Fashionable Women

Recently, someone I work with got older. (It was, in fact, the colleague who utterly failed to inform me about the Earth Fair Food Market.) This colleague is fond of Vintage things, so we decided to celebrate by eating lunch somewhere with a Vintage Vibe. Since the restaurant at The Company Gardens hasn’t updated its menu since the 80s, it was the obvious choice. As an added bonus, it is also possibly the only restaurant in the world with a tornado in the middle of its seating area.

OMG! A tornado! In the middle of the tea garden! Flee!

Okay, it’s actually a tree. But I think it does a jolly good impression and deserves some encouragement.

The day the Colleague Who Likes Vintage Things chose to age on was also the day Cape Town chose to start having a heat wave. ‘Heat wave’ is actually a stupid phrase. Waves are cool things that rush past leaving you refreshed, if somewhat sandy in out-of-the-way places. This heat wave (which is still going strong, by the way, which is why I’m spending lunch at my computer blogging, instead of roaming around looking for cheap crap to buy)… sorry, this heat wave is more like being caught in a lava flow – long, slow and extremely uncomfortable.

Anyway, I and seven very fashionably-dressed women exited the coolth of our air-conditioned office, walked several hundred metres in the blistering sun and sat in the shade pretending to be comfortable.

One table ordered toasted sandwiches and chips. The other table ordered omelettes and salad. I happened to be at the omelette table. I had planned to order a toasted sandwich and chips, but realised my mistake just in time and ordered the cheese and tomato omelette.

One of the charms of The Company Gardens restaurant is that they use Vintage Cheese. This is the kind of cheese they made before people realised that cheese wasn’t naturally bright orange and that we’d probably be better off with fewer colourants in our food. The Company Gardens restaurant was also obviously suffering from a Surfeit Of Eggs.

This is a painful condition for any restaurant. When you have an egg surfeit, it’s very important to find a simple, strategic way to get rid of them, fast. Eggs are not only tricky to store, being fragile, but they give off a terrible pong when time runs out. And so, restaurateurs of the world, I present to you The Grand Solution To A Surfeit of Eggs (courtesy of The Company Gardens): The Eleven-Egg Omelette!

This picture doesn’t do the Eleven-Egg Omelette justice, since seven of the eleven eggs have already been eaten. Sorry about that.

Lunch #11: Pizza, Salad and Zombies at The Pasta Factory

First I have to confess that the lunch I’m describing now took place a week ago. If it had happened today, I would not have been able to blog about it.

This is owing to new and rather strict blogging controls at my place of work. People have been hauled from the building (sometimes without even being allowed to reach the ground floor first) for blogging during work hours. Okay, they haven’t really, but stern words have been spoken, some of them to me.

So right up front, I wish to make it very clear: this post was definitely not written during official working hours.

If that is clear to everyone, I will now get on with the lunch.

As usual, I broke my own rule of sticking to lunch spots in Long Street. The Pasta Factory is in Park Road, which is just off Kloof Street which, as everyone knows, is really just Upper Long Street. So I think that’s close enough. Besides, ‘One Woman’s Quest For Lunch within Walking Distance of an Office in Gardens’ doesn’t have a very catchy ring to it.

When you arrive at The Pasta Factory, they give you a plastic credit card that they swipe every time you order something. Unfortunately, just like a credit card, you do have to pay it off in the end.

As usual, I went with the YP. The YP was in an Odd Mood, possibly because he’d arranged to have people over for dinner that evening and he can’t actually cook anything besides stir-fry. I insisted, maybe a bit tactlessly, that I wasn’t in the mood for stir-fry.

Then, when it came to ordering, we both wanted the pizza. The Pasta Factory is (was?) running a special where there are three items on the menu each day for only R30 each. Last Friday, there was a pizza, a salad and some other thing that I can’t remember now because it was last Friday. I insisted that we share a pizza and a salad, even though the YP just wanted pizza and didn’t want salad. The YP tried to get the waitress on his side, but she was as neutral as Sweden (although not as chilly).

Between the stir-fry and the pizza, the YP was starting to look a little sulky. This was probably not the right time to mention that I expected him to join me in dressing up as a zombie  and doing the Zombie Walk the next (this) weekend. The Zombie Walk involves lots of people dressed as zombies walking – although preferably staggering – from The Company Gardens to the V&A Waterfront, attempting to scare people along the way and then drinking beer afterwards. (Little known zombie fact: When there’s a shortage of brains, beer will do.) Zombie walks are popular all over the world and it’s about time Cape Town had one. If you’re keen on coming, you can find out about it on Facebook.

The YP was not keen. I demonstrated my best zombie walk for him. He remained unconvinced. I pulled several of my very impressive zombie faces. The YP just stared at a pizza that had been delivered to a nearby table. “It doesn’t look very big,” he said. As I dished out a heap of cos lettuce, I offered to show the YP an excellent video on how to turn yourself into a zombie. He looked down at his lettuce leaves glumly.

The large piles of lettuce and the almost adequate pizza. This was the last photo I could take, as in true BlackBerry style, my phone then froze and I had to take the battery out and wait three years for it to reboot.

As it turned out, the pizza was big enough for two (just). I have since worked out that the probable cause of the YP’s antipathy to zombies is that he himself is actually a werewolf. (If you are wondering whether you might also be a werewolf, take this highly scientific werewolf test.) Cunningly, I have suggested that he dresses up as a vampire for Halloween. That, I reckon, should throw the werewolf hunters off the scent.

Happy Halloween everyone!

P.S. There is also a reliable zombie test, for all my fellow walking dead. (I aced it.)

Lunch #8: Steak Pie, Lamb Pie and Pork Pie from the St George’s Mall Market

I’ve been putting off writing this post, partly because I wanted all the pies to myself. But now that I’ve overdosed on pastry, I’m willing to share the secret of the St George’s Mall Thursday Lunch Market with the rest of the world (or at least with all 12 people who read this blog).

It’s actually called the ‘Earth Fair Market’ but that sounds rather weedy and do-goody and ever so slightly hippie/hipster. Also, there’s nothing particularly earthy about chocolate cupcakes with Lindt balls inside them, tacos, falafel, biltong, fudge, cheese, springbok cottage pie, and lots of pies in general. I think it would be much better if it were called ‘The Diet-Doom Market’.

I’m not sure which is less appropriate: the tartan pants or the name of this food market

But anyway, let’s not quibble. Let’s rather focus on what you’ll be buying for lunch tomorrow. Yes, I grandly extend an invitation to every one of you to join me for a good guzzle at 1pm at St Georges Mall every Thursday. If you’re a first-timer and a meat-eater, I’d suggest you head straight for the pie stand pictured below. You will recognise it by the fact that it is covered in pies (although there are a couple of quiches looking lost). Make sure your pie is properly warmed. A luke-warm steak pie with cold patches inside is strangely reminiscent of eating a dissected cadaver. Not that I’d know, of course.

Lots of pies. Some of these have now taken up residence on my bottom.

At this point, I feel I should give credit to my Newshound Friend for introducing me to both the market and the pie stand. I bumped into him on the day of the Adderley Street Riot and he told me about the market. (His excuse for being at the riot was that he had to go to the post office and works nearby, but I know better. My Newshound Friend is a fire- and riot-chaser. I have known this ever since university, when the two of us raced to watch Kingswood College burn down.)

Portrait of a Newshound with Samp and Beans

If you come to the food market, I must warn you that you may be unlucky enough to bump into people you know. Below is a photograph of my colleague looking embarrassed to be seen by me. She has been going to the food market every week for months and never told any of us in the office about it.

It is considered Bad Form to discover good food markets and not tell people about them.

A couple of tips in closing:

  • Bring plenty of cash. It’s a chore to have to go and draw and by the time you get back, all the cupcakes will be sold out.
  • Don’t listen to the Evil Lady Of The Chilli Stand who tells you to ‘pile on’ the biltong relish when you sample it. It is hot and may make half your chin disappear.

Your chin will grow back eventually, but it’s a rather nasty side-effect all the same.