Taste of South Africa.
Hey there! Thank you for stopping by. Welcome to this post.
From 24th to 28th April, Crowne Plaza Hotel (in Upperhill, Nairobi) in association with South African airways; hosted a South African food festival – to showcase a wide array of south African cuisines. A South African chef; Shimmy Sello, prepared all the wonderful meals. I attended the festival on Friday 28th April.
I want to share with you my experience and hopefully teach you a thing or two about South African food.
The hotel is pretty easy to get to with a matatu (public service vehicle) or even with a private car. For a matatu, board a vehicle going to upperhill and alight at Crowne plaza. See? It’s pretty simple!
The festival was taking place in the hotels’ ‘Baraka restaurant’. I was welcomed by the wide smiled, well dressed waiters. Daniel Mbaabu; in charge of public relations, was also very kind to me. He introduced me to the chef: Shimmy Selo, showed me round the restaurant and kept checking on me; making sure I was okay. How kind!
There was a live band singing beautiful South African music.
The restaurant is pretty big; it has a large sitting area both inside and outside. Even when it’s a full house, the restaurant is not congested. The buffet was well arranged in a corner outside- that wasn’t in the way of any of the diners or near any tables.
Apart from the size, this restaurant is very beautiful. The architecture and decor is pretty breathtaking – keeping your eyes busy as you eat.
Anyway, let’s get right to the food!
I know most people can’t be bothered with the whole soup and salad before the main course (including me) but it’s good to try these things. Maybe soup is a long shot; but you could serve some salad with your main meal and be at peace with yourself knowing your eating a balanced diet.
On that note, there was a wide array of salads. I was pretty impressed. I don’t know whether South Africans like salads that much, or they just decided to make use of all the vegetables in the pantry. Whichever it is; it was a beautiful salad bar with lots of varieties. Hats off to them!
There were individual vegetable salads like: cucumbers, bell peppers, carrots, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, lettuce, snap peas and olives (both green and black). This was really nice because it provided people with a “make your own salad” option in case the assorted salads were not as appealing to you.
The assorted salads included: ‘kachumbari’ (sliced tomatoes, onions and chopped dhania with lemon), a variation of coleslaw (finely chopped cabbage with diced mango), tomato and avocado salad, an assorted salad consisting pawpaw, red peppers, pineapples and green peppers, mango and cucumber and a sausage salad (with tomatoes, onions, yellow peppers and cucumbers.) Told you it was extensive! There were also a variety of salad dressings such as thousand island, vinaigrette, and others that tasted really good; but I unfortunately don’t know the names of. I think the dressings should have had labels – so we know exactly what we were serving. Apart from the dressings and a few desserts, everything else was very well labelled.
The salads were all very fresh and tasty.
Moving on to the main course.
For starch; there was pap (ugali), steamed rice, rosemary potatoes and dumplings. This wasn’t as extensive as the salad; but it was a pretty accurate depiction of how South Africans like their meat and hence don’t have time to waste on starch. Nonetheless, the options were a good enough variety.
The steamed rice was cooked perfectly. (Not raw and not mushy).
The potatoes have a bit of a story. So, when I went into the restaurant, I took pictures of everything before sitting down to eat. On taking pictures, there were diced potatoes that had been labelled rosemary potatoes. However, when I went to serve, there were sliced black pepper potatoes. I was a bit confused with that; and assumed maybe the rosemary potatoes ran out. Despite these sliced black pepper potatoes having an amazing taste, they were extremely dry and too crunchy; making them not too enjoyable.
The dumplings were really good! I had never had dumplings before; and so, this was a great first experience. They were moist, a little sweet and packed with flavour. Think of a really soft mandazi that’s a little sweet but; has a savoury aroma. (The chef told me the savoury aroma was absorbed from the lamb shanks because they were cooked together or at the same time or something like that.)
Apart from the salad, there were also steamed vegetables (picture with the pap (ugali) on the side.) (Carrots, broccoli, french beans and snap peas). They were well cooked, fresh and crunchy (still hard to the bite).
There were several protein options; chakalaka (vegetarian), grilled lamb shanks, beef mchuuzi, grilled drumsticks, marinated beef steaks, grilled goat ribs, borewoes sausage, bratwurst sausage and of course the star of the show: pork leg with Apple chutney.
The grilled steaks and grilled goat ribs looked great! I couldn’t wait to dig in! However, the grilled goat ribs finished before I could get to them. As for the steaks, they had a good marination but were really tough making it quite a challenge to chew.
The bratwurst sausage (German sausage) and borewors sausage were amazing! Done to perfection. Not overcooked or undercooked! Just right! The taste was spot on!
The grilled drumsticks were tender and beautifully marinated but not cooked all the way through. The bone was still a little red.
Braised lamb shanks in stew or curry kind of sauce, was one of my favourites! The lamb was so tender. The meat was just falling from the bone and you barely needed any strength to rip The meat off the bone. The spices complimented the lamb so well making a nice stew. To be honest, I didn’t think a lamb stew could be that great!
I am sure we are all familiar with beef mchuuzi. It’s a common dish here in Kenya as well. It was well made just like the lamb shanks but the meat was unfortunately a bit too hard.
Chakalaka (picture with dumplings) is probably the best vegetarian dish I have ever had. It was sweet and spicy; and wasn’t runny like most vegetarian sauces. It was packed with flavour from the various vegetables incorporated; as well as the protein- cow peas. It can however also be made with beans or green grams.
The pork leg was a sight to behold. However, despite its beauty, the flavour was not as great. I found it to be a bit bland in terms of the marination and flavour. The meat was also very hard. Not tender or easy to chew. I know pork to be very tender and sweet; therefore, this was a big let down. The Apple chutney on the side could have helped; but it had chilli which (personally) am not such a big fun of.
It took me quite a while to get through all those dishes; noting down all these details; such that, by the time I was getting to the dessert section; most of them were over. I was so sad because I love pastries so much. In fact, looking back, I should have started with dessert. See where all that salad has landed me haha. I now see why people skip the soup and salad – to get to dessert before everyone else does.
Despite this, I believe the best one I got to try, was the koeksister. It was sticky but oh so tasty. It’s basically fried dough coated with syrup or honey. It’s hard as a rock but when you bite in, a tender pastry sinks in your mouth.
The cheesecake was good. I am not such a big fan of cheese in dessert; so, I won’t go on and on about it. That not withstanding, it was really tasty. (The chef actually told me that its his favourite dessert.)
The other two cakes I got were really good. Moist and sweet but not the overbearing kind of sweet. One was creamy and one wasn’t; but they were both really tasty.
Well guys, that marks the end of my South Africa Food Festival journey. I enjoyed every bit of it and would advice all of you to try participating in food festivals; especially those incorporating food from other countries. You discover so much while still in your country! How great is that. No air fare or hotel room; yet you still enjoy the country’s cuisine.
I think that this is something that should be done again. Not only for South Africa; but also for other countries.
Thank you for stopping by!
Come again soon! … and bring a friend too!
I would love to hear from you;
- What your favourite cuisines are. It could be Chinese, Indian.. e.t.c
- What your favourite South African dish is – for those who have tasted their food.
- What your experience at Crowne Plaza has been for those who have been here.
Let me know in the comment section below!
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