Lunch #9: Rhino-Poaching Protesting outside Parliament

Today we were sitting in the office listening to the sounds of vuvuzelas and car horns. Out there, in front of Louis Botha’s horse, in front of the South African Parliament, was a bakkie with a full-size fake rhino on the back surrounded by lots of people dressed in red and black waving placards with slogans like ‘Rhino Horns don’t make you horny”.

People like Gareth Morgan (Shadow Minister of Water & Environmental Affairs and frequent travel companion of the Yummy Politician) were tweeting photos of themselves with placards with slogans like ‘Rhino Horn Won’t Cure Your Disease. Leave Our Rhinos Alone.’

I feel very annoyed about rhino poaching and I too wanted to wave a placard with a slogan. I listened to the vuvuzelaing and horn tooting impatiently, hoping that they’d stick around until I could take my official lunch break (strictly between 1 and 2pm).

Free at last, I approached the seething horde of 40 people with caution. They were dressed in red and black, so I wasn’t sure if this was a repeat of Saturday’s Anti-Secrecy Bill march. (That was my first-ever march. And this would be my first-ever protest. I think activism may be a virus.) I didn’t really feel like protesting the Secrecy Bill twice in one week.

Fortunately, they were there about rhinos and, even more fortuitously, I happened to be wearing the right colour scheme. (It’s very important to wear the right colours for these things. I felt terribly out of place in bright blue on Saturday’s march.)

Unfortunately, the protest seemed to be winding up as I arrived. Clumps of protesters were waving good-bye and then driving past, honking their horns and waving their placards with slogans out of the windows. A fire engine also zoomed by with its siren going, but I think that was unrelated.

I stayed on to the bitter end, until even the rhino had left, waving a placard with a slogan that said, ‘Save A Rhino. Convict A Poher’.

Proudly Placard-Porting Poacher Pesterer

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.

Lunch #6: Crappy Chicken Curry from The Home Of The R10 Shooter

I’ve come to think of it as my duty to you and to this blog to have lunch at establishments that I might not otherwise patronise. Thus, last week, as The Yummy Politician and I moseyed down Long Street enjoying the winter sunshine, I dragged him to a halt in front of this particularly posh joint.

Bob’s: the home of the R10 shooter and the paper rhino.

The sign said it all really. But just in case you missed it, there were several more signs.

Wait a second. Did I see that right?

Things That People Really Shouldn’t Have Invented #242: Garlic Tequila.

I probably should have taken that as a hint (along with one or two others) that Bob isn’t big on taste. But the lure of a R25 lunch was too great. To paraphrase Top Gear – as one does – how bad could it be?

We sat on the pavement. Not actually on the pavement, but in chairs at a table on the pavement. We didn’t peruse the menu, because we’d already seen it. Bob’s is the kind of place where you can read the menu from 50 feet away. The YP chose the ‘Build-A-Burger’, I ordered the ‘Chicken Curry and Rice’ (R25).

I did not order a shooter. I’m usually pretty brave when it comes to strange food. I’ve eaten camel and dodgy boerie rolls, but I’ve discovered that I draw the line at Garlic Tequila. There you go. Everyone has a line, and now I know mine.

While we waited for our food, we thought it would be fun to play a game of pool. We had reckoned without Bob’s brother, Bob The Builder, however. Apparently Bob and Bob had decided that lunch time was just the right time for a spot of heavy drilling. It made for interesting pool. One of us would be lining up a shot, when

WHWWWHWEHEEZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZKKKKK!

An earsplitting burst of drilling would shatter our nerves and send the white ball caroming off crazily. It turns out I am probably better suited to life in a war zone than the YP, as I won (just). We tottered back outside to the relative peace and quiet of the Long Street pavement carrying our plates:

Crappy Chicken Curry – it looks a lot better than it tastes.

At first sight, both our meals appeared perfectly okay and certainly good value for R25. But Before Bob’s (BB) I had no idea it was possible to make chicken curry entirely out of bits of bone and skin, or that rice could taste exactly like watery, puffed up water. I had therefore paid R25 for four pieces of curried boiled potato – the only edible things in my bowl.

The YP had fared slightly better. His burger was edible and his chips were only three days old. On our way back to the office we passed the Egyptian Goose family in The Company Gardens. They were scavenging around in the grass for something tasty among bits of old squirrel poo, compost and cigarrette stompies. I knew exactly how they felt.

At least there aren’t any drills going in The Company Gardens.

Lunch #7: Caprese Sandwich and The Great Adderley Street Riot of 16 August

Today any plans I might have had of going on another Long Street ramble were disrupted by the news that news was busy happening Right Now on Adderley Street.

The South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU for short) had decided to have a cosy little riot down the road from my offices. These are the people who (according to @6000) last week said: “We here in SA are civilized, in comparison to down-right hooliganism in London.” I was interested to see what a ‘civilised’ riot would be like.

On the internet, streaming video showed flames and we could hear helicopters chugging above the city from our desks. While my colleagues sensibly watched videos of the event, I went for a stroll in the sunshine through the Company Gardens and down to Adderley Street.

All was calm and peaceful in the Company Gardens. Impossible to imagine rioting here…

I scrutinised the faces of the people I passed and complemented one guy on his T-shirt. Nobody seemed concerned, agitated, interested, or in any way aware of anything unusual going on.

When I got to Adderley Street, I looked hard for any signs of rioting. All the street vendors were doing business as usual, all the shops were open. Nandos was packed. It took a while to notice anything amiss at all. The first thing I did notice were some burnt plastic dustbins on the pavement.

Evidence of the civilisation of SAMWU

I asked the street vendors sitting next to this interesting object what it was. They looked at me as though they couldn’t possibly be more bored by this terrifically stupid question. Eventually the one dude mimed fighting. I raised my eyebrows and played dumb some more.

When?

Now.

Wow. Hmm well, thanks. I’ll just leave you to carry on being bored in peace then.

I crossed the street thinking there might be more to see there. Indeed, although everyone was going about their business as usual, there was a great deal of litter and, for some reason, lots and lots of Snowflake Flour scattered all over the road (I know it was Snowflake, because the packets were still there). Further along were more burnt bins and, standing strategically near them in a puddle of flour, an ETV reporter rehearsing his lines.

Miriam, did we remember to pack my Concerned Citizen face?

‘Vendors ran terrified from the mob…’ he was saying, as I walked past vendors smiling and having a chat over neat piles of naartjies.

ETV Reporter Guy was drowned out by a riot of school children I’d noticed earlier outside the Slave Museum. They were now clustered around a short, grey-haired figure closely followed by men in suits who looked several orders of magnitude too smart to be school teachers. (I’ve also never seen a school teacher wearing an ear-wire-thingy.)

Cape Town’s mayor, Patricia de Lille, was making a tour of the damages, led by vendors whose stalls had been looted. Apparently municipal workers have a taste for imitation designer luggage, fake watches, cigarettes, sweets and milk powder. I can only assume that this is was what SAMWU meant by SA being ‘civilised’. After all, their looters didn’t steal from big name brands or High Street retailers. They stole from people with virtually nothing.

Patricia de Lille with vociferous vendor

One of the street vendors led Patricia across to the car I was standing next to.

‘Look here – see! They smeshed the window end neerly yenked off the door!’

It was true. The window was smeshed. The door was still firmly on, though.

‘They can’t do thet! It’s wrong!’

Patricia agreed that it was absolutely unacceptable. Her entourage moved on.

The vendor who had done the talking bragged happily to the other vendors. ‘See! I just chetted with Petricia! Thet was a chet, hey!’ I watched one of the schoolkids get his foot stuck in an empty flour bag. A City Sightseeing bus drove past. The helicopters had flown home.

The Great Adderley Street Riot was over and my lunchbreak was too. So I walked back to the office and got a caprese sandwich from Carlucci’s.

Graffiti near my office.

(P.S. If you think I can’t count because I skipped Lunch #6, you’re wrong. I’m just a lazy sod who hasn’t finished the draft yet.)

Lunch #5: The Best Trinchadas… In The World at The Oldest Pub In Woodstock

Determined to prove his status as a Cape Town Expert after last week’s Mexican Debacle, The Yummy Policitian rewarded me for a Saturday morning spent scrutinising bathroom tiles with a lunch at The Woodstock Pub & Grill.

Woodstock has become quite the spot for hipsters to hang out on a Saturday morning. They pour into the Biscuit Mill in their teeming millions and completely stuff up the parking for people trying to shop at the discount meat market next door. This is bemusing to me as I have lived in Woodstock for about eight years without any expectation of being trendy. I suppose it’s even more bemusing to the meat market customers.

Apparently part of the charm is that Woodstock still has Pockets Of Authenticity. These, I take it, are ‘authentically’ old and skommy spots. The Woodstock Pub & Grill, situated just around the corner from super-trendoid Superette, is most definitely just such a Pocket. It has been there for at least 28 years, which has given it plenty of time to perfect the art of trinchada-making.

The Woodstock Pub & Gill: It’s every bit as Authentic as it looks

As we approached, the experience was given added Authenticity by a bergie who asked me to take his photo. He then asked me to give him money for taking the photo, which I didn’t want to take in the first place. Yes, Woodstock is a bemusing place.

The Pub interior was promising. Dark, musty and with a small cluster of regulars studiously suiping around the bar. The restaurant area was empty, so we chose a nice window seat – where we’d have some chance of seeing our food – and perused the menu. (By now you’ve probably noticed that I never read a menu. I always peruse or consult it. This is an important quality in restaurant reviewers.)

‘Pub Interior’ – by the colourblind hedgehog workshop of Woodstock

The bartender came and took our orders. As usual, The Yummy Politician wanted a girly cider. These are not available in Pockets of Authenticity, so he had to make do with a Castle-Draft-and-Sprite Shandy. We also ordered our steak trinchadas (R40) which weren’t actually on the menu, but are apparently always on the menu. (More bemusement.)

While we waited, we went exploring. This involved me marching through the kitchen uninvited to have a look at the indoor aviary. The aviary had two budgies, a cockatoo and a cat fast asleep on top of it. There was also a slightly unkempt bonsai collection and a fish tank containing absolutely nothing but three goldfish, one of them very large.

Cat above the budgies: a case study in coexistence

Our food arrived as we were reading a page of the Sunday Times from January 1957 (it was our tablecloth). The trinchadas were everything we could have hoped for. The steak was succulent, the sauce was superb, the chips were home made and the rolls were crispy. The napkins, however, were, well… bemusing.

Perhaps The Woodstock Pub & Grill is a member of the Star Alliance too.

Coming soon: Bob’s Bar – Home of the R10 shooter.

Lunch #4: Finding Mexican With The Yummy Politician

It has been some time since I last did a lunch. That was because I’ve been in the Maldives and they don’t have lunch there. No, that’s not true. I was just checking to see how gullible you are. They had a lot of lunch there, but I had to write about it for the COSMO website. That was my job for a week: go to a tropical island, stay at a five star resort, eat a lot of lunch and write about it. I’m giving lectures at UCT on how to do this. Really.

Anyway, I returned to Long Street last week. This time I was accompanied by The Yummy Politician. He is a Cape Town Expert, because he was born here. So he led us to Attempted Lunch Place #1.

Lunch Place Attempt #1: It violated the budget rule

It was indeed a very nice place, but there was nothing within my lunch budget range of R20 to R30. Magnanimously, I revised my lunch budget upwards to R40 for all future accompanied lunches, but alas, this remained insufficient. Since I felt it would be awkward to ask the restaurant to put their prices down but also that it would be unreasonable to put my budget up any further, we crossed the road to Lunch Place #2.

Lunch Attempt #2: It had alcohol in its name.

The Yummy Politician had mentioned that he was in the mood for Mexican, which is practically the same thing as Cuban, so we sat down happily and perused the menu, where I could find at least two things within my budget. Unbeknownst to us, however, the menu was just there to fool us, because we couldn’t actually have anything on it.

We tried ordering nachos, but there was no cheese. We tried ordering spinach and feta flatbread, but there was no spinach. We tried ordering a burger, but there were no chips. We thought we’d managed to beat the system when we worked out that we could order a burger with no chips, but then the waitress played her ace: there was no credit card machine.

Foiled, we trudged back out onto Long Street. The seconds of my lunch break were ticking away. Behold! Across the street was the faithful old Mexican Kitchen. Dingy, dodgy and completely reliable.

Lunch Attempt #3: It has cheese and I can afford it.

We checked that there was cheese, we checked that there was a credit card machine, we removed the sombrero from our table. I ordered bean soup and got quesadillas instead, but that was okay. Really.

Subtle murals on the outside walls of The Mexican Kitchen hint at the stylish interior.

Lunch #3: Masala Dosa From Masala Dosa With The Woman With No Face

Today I took a friend with me to Long Street for lunch. I cannot tell you her name, because she is famous in internetty ways and she doesn’t like being famous. Or at least she doesn’t like me sneaking up on her in the office, taking pictures of her and then putting her name and face in my crummy blog. So today I went for lunch with the Woman Who Shall Be Known As The Woman With No Face. (WWSBKATWWNF, for short. TAFKAP, eat your heart out.)

Here is a picture of her:

The Woman With No Face: Officially Approved Portrait

The Woman With No Face is a vegetarian. She is enlightened in that way. She is also quite hard to please, so I was a little nervous about the lunch. I broke the ice by encouraging her to run across the road in front of an oncoming Cape Town Tourism Bus. The tourist in the front on the upper deck gaped at us like a frozen haddock in a fishmonger’s window. I took this to be a Good Omen. (A note on omens: if you pay attention, they are all around you. You just need to know what to look out for.)

We walked briskly down Long Street, pausing only for me to look at a pair of ruffled denim shorts (only R120 – on sale) and to photograph a passing gorilla. The Woman With No Face kept walking, forcing me to run to catch up. She does not pause for ruffled denim shorts or gorillas. This should give you an idea of the pressure I was under.

A passing gorilla on Long Street. They are not as common as they used to be.

Fortunately, on my way back from The Coffee Bar That Was Murdered By Its Own Wallpaper yesterday, I noticed a little place that looked pink, vegetariany and that might take credit card. (I keep running out of cash.) So we went directly to this restaurant, where I asked the Lovely Indian Man whether they served any vegetarian food. Amazingly, they did.

We sat down. I gave The Woman With No Face the bench seat, because I knew she would prefer it. Also, I have a hard time concentrating on conversations, so it was good to be staring at a wall that showed a digital blow up of an enormous bosom and a hand holding a platter of indiscriminate vegetables.

We consulted the menu. I was alarmed, because everything on the menu was over R30, my maximum lunch budget. I decided to make it a special occasion and settled for ordering the cheapest meal on the menu: the masala dosa (R42) and a glass of water (free). The Woman With No Face followed suit, although she didn’t order the water.

I was very happy with my decision when the meal arrived:

My glass of water and my Masala Dosa, with that of The Woman With No Face in the background.

After appreciating the little turmeric decoration and being given instructions on how to tear, fill and dip our dosas by the Lovely Indian Man, we ate with gusto. Afterwards, The Woman With No Face said that she had enjoyed the lunch and that she might even come for lunch with me again, even though I owe her R5 on the bill.

Look out for this sign if you have R42 and want a nice vegetarian lunch.

Lunch #2: The Mango Lassi From The Coffee Bar That Was Murdered By Its Own Wallpaper

I’m starting to think it’s possible that decor might have an influence on the success of an eatery. Then again, maybe not. You tell me.

The coffee bar I bought lunch from today is about to die. I thought it was just quiet because it was lunchtime and in my head, coffee’s more of a breakfast thing. So I asked the woman, is it busier at breakfast?

She shrugged and said, No, in fact we’re closing next week because it’s so quiet.

For good? I asked.

Yes, she said.

Oh, I said.

So I ordered a Mango Lassi (R23 for the 500ml size) and spent the time it took to make trying to figure out why nobody else comes to this coffee bar.

It couldn’t be the location. I mean, it’s Long Street. It’s where people come to eat.

It couldn’t be the menu. Sandwiches, wraps, curries, muffins, smoothies, lassis… It’s not like they’re trying to sell insect stir-fry. (Although I’d be right there if they were – I saw a talk on TED once about eating insects and I’m all for it. Definitely theoretically anyway.)

It couldn’t be the staff. Despite impending unemployment, they were cheerful, friendly and efficient. They had a good vibe going.

So I thought, maybe it’s the wallpaper.

Here it is. You decide.

Possibly eaterycidal wallpaper.

Lunch #1: The Dodgy Boerie Roll And The Boy From Bonteheuwel

Who says there are no crazy adventures to be had just outside your front door? Okay, lots of people have acknowledged there are. But how many of them actually go and have one on a day at the office? My current quest is to find an adventure every lunch break. I’m lucky enough to work within walking distance of one of Cape Town’s most epic adventure locations: Long Street. I’m also lucky enough to get the chance to take an hour off between 1 and 2pm most weekdays to go in search of sustenance.

I have decided to share this quest with you. And so, today I present: The Dodgy Boerie Roll and The Boy From Bonteheuwel, a photographic food safari.

Where to go for lunch today? A ray of light from on high directed the way.

Yep, I simply stopped at the first place I saw. And this was what I saw…

Cold, turgid boerie and cold oily onion. I’m hungry, but am I this hungry?

Dammit! I am a brave African adventurer. I have eaten camel. I can eat this.

Also, I have lots of Scottish ancestors. And it’s cheap.

I had a long conversation with the guy behind the skillet while we waited for the boerie and onions to heat up again. During this time, I ascertained the following.

  • He had cooked the boerie and onions only this morning, so they were definitely fresh.
  • He was from Bonteheuwel. Bonteheuwel used to be a bad place, but it’s calmed down a lot since 2002. In fact, these days Long Street is a more dangerous place than Bonteheuwel, in his opinion.
  • Nobody would bother his customers, however, because he takes care of his customers. He used to live on the streets, but a documentary maker helped him sort out his life.

Nobody messes with this guy’s customers.

He directed my attention to the block across the road. This used to be inhabited by drug dealers. It’s been cleared out now, but the drug dealers still hang around every night.

The former drug dealers’ headquarters. Apparently it’s being renovated for decent people to move in.

At last the boerie was warmish. Mohammed (for that was his name) put it all in a roll while I staved off pleas from a self-professed starving Zanzibari (who really didn’t look all that starving, I promise). I sauced my roll and departed.

These are the sauces. I recommend the Mustard and Tomato sauces. They taste exactly as you would expect.

“See you tomorrow!” called Mohammed.

“If I’m still alive,” I thought.

One bite into the boerie roll. It’s three hours later and I’m still feeling fine. Result!

Photos taken with crappy purple BlackBerry 8520. Yes, I am the world’s laziest professional photographer.