5 Joburg restaurants for fussy eaters
Food is a delicious maze of culinary exploration that rewards the adventurous...
WARNING: This column does contain colourful language.
There are two kinds of people in the world – those who live to eat and those who eat to live. If you fall into the first category, then you are presumably a little like me – you gorge yourself on everything and anything that is put in front of your gaping mouth, saliva pools at the slightest mention of pickles, prawns or pate and despite your ever-growing food baby you silently scream “Fuck you Tim Noakes!” because frankly, carbs are delicious and look better in your small intestine than on that cake stand.
If you are of the ‘eat to live’ brigade, you probably have peanut butter on rice cakes for supper and order toasted cheese on white at restaurants because you know what you’re going to get, it makes you feel full and you have no soul.
Maybe it’s a Minotaur or maybe it’s a delicious Minotaur Bourguignon? You’ll never know until you take that first step into the unknown. It’s the spirit of adventure and the element of surprise that makes unfussy eating such a rewarding game.
Remember the days when you weren’t allowed pudding until you finished your plate and if you didn’t finish what was on you plate you got a hiding? Remember eating broccoli and anything that wasn’t a hamburger met lang tande but knowing that you didn’t have any other option? What happened to those days?
Ever since children were given rights and the opportunity to choose and think for themselves and adults were given internet-researched excuses for their kak kids – “Oh he can’t learn because he’s ADD” or “He’s fat because he has an over-active thyroid” – a generation has evolved thinking it’s OK to not eat stuff.
I don’t hate you people, I just feel sorry for you and as an altruist of your appetite I thought I’d cater for you in this here article. (Although Lord knows you wouldn’t cater for me at your flexitarian dinner party.)
So just like there are different types of retardation (some more functional than others) there are different levels of fussiness – and fussiness for all kinds of reasons. So here are five places that cater for a variety of fussy eaters.
1. You’re a massive vegetarian
‘Vegetarian’ is the old Urdu word for ‘bad at hunting’.
The thing about vegetarians that really bugs me is how they try and pass off veggie versions of real food as a legitimate alternative. No Fern it’s not a boerewors roll, it’s a spicy soy sausage roll. I’m sorry Aurora but your vegetarian ‘hamburger’ is not a hamburger at all, it’s just a mush of tofu, mushrooms and birdseed that have been shaped into a patty. Why try and copy delicious meat dishes? Just eat lekker veggie shit. I don’t make melanzane with bacon instead of brinjal, because then it wouldn’t be a melanzane would it? It would be delicious but I would have to call it Bacon Bake or something. You get my point.
Anyhow, there are some places that really know how to make good veggie chow, without trying to substitute meat but rather embracing the deliciousness of things that aren’t meat. This is just one of them:
Fresh Earth is one of those places where everything is organic, vegetarian and vegan friendly, the staff are knowledgeable about the produce and don’t shave their armpits. And the food is actually pretty tasty. There is a massive deli/health shop in the restaurant and enough wheatgrass to energise an organic market.
A variety of breakfast and lunch options characterise the menu – wraps, salads, pastas, stir-fries and gluten-free pizzas filled with all manner of vegetarian delights without compromising on flavour. There are juices and smoothies, burgers made of falafels and big breakfasts with lots of mushrooms.
I know I tend to be facetious when talking about vegetarian food but looking at the menu and based on the one meal I’ve had at Fresh Earth, they really are making an effort to provide tasty food to the meat-free masses.
And they deliver, so you don’t need to wear out your bicycle tires or your hemp sandals to get there.
Where: 103 Komatie Rd, Emmarentia.
2. You will only eat steak and chips. And maybe some salad:
This is a condition most commonly observed in males, usually the salt of the earth variety who prefer rugby to art nouveau and slabs of beef accompanied by fried potato slices to pretty much anything else. And I ain’t judging. I’d far sooner sit down for some solid test rugger than doze through anything by Terence Malik. And when it comes to steak and chips, well there’s always a time and now my good friends, there is a place.
Borrowing from the concept started in Geneva at a little gem called Café de Paris, HQ is yet another offshoot delivering the same simple idea – that at HQ you can eat anything you want, as long as it’s steak, chips and salad.
No quibbles over who’s having what, no portion sharing or order envy – you get a 250g sirloin, cooked to order with a side of fries and a starter salad. That’s it.
The salad is a basic combination of cos and iceberg lettuce, parmesan shavings, and toasted pine nuts, all covered in a kick ass vinaigrette. The kicker as far as the steak is concerned is the Café de Paris herby butter that melts over it – absolutely addictive and worth the visit. The chips are standard shoestring buggers that get topped up as you go (as does the sauce) and the desserts are passable traditional Frenchy items. Personally I’d go for another steak over the crème brulee.
Since I last visited HQ though, it has been split into two – one half housing the quiet dinner crowd (and it IS quiet – I’ve very seldom seen more than a handful of other tables occupied) while the other side caters to the post-work, corporate whiskey swillers with a lounge/bar-vibe complete with pony-tailed Greek DJ jamming to his funky house tunes on a sax.
That said, if you want some steak, chips and maybe a salad, with a sprinkling of Kenny G (for Gaganakis) then this is the jol for you.
Where: 24 Central, Gwen Lane, Sandton
3. You’re gluten intolerant, think you’re a caveman or have other eating disorders:
Some people don’t eat certain things because their bodies just won’t let them. They didn’t choose it, they are physiologically worse than the rest of us. I have a friend who is gluten intolerant to the extent that after daring him to eat as many pizzas as he could during an ‘all you can eat’ special, he was pretty much pulling a Catherine Wheel on the bathroom floor with the sheer force of his body rejecting gluten from any orifice that cared to peep open. (He managed eight pizzas though, still a record, but at what cost?)
Other people follow this thing called science which gives them rigorously tested and proven facts about what we should be eating and why. I see their point, I just feel that science has already taken so much magic out of my life, can’t it just leave the food alone?
Below is a place that caters to both the anatomically inferior, the intellectually superior and everyone in between.
Gingko is a tucked away off of the Parkview main drag, in a converted house that has been home to more than one ‘health’ restaurant. They appear to have stood the test of time though and have quite a dedicated following of conscientious eaters. And from the sounds of things, they work incredibly hard to create tasty, fresh food catering to every kind of fussiness.
With a fresh lunchtime harvest table filled with all kinds of wonderous organically farmed foodstuffs devoid of colourants or preservatives that actually taste pretty darn good, Gingko is making organic seem commonplace. In fact, healthy eating has never felt so normal. Open for breakfast and lunch with a nice little outdoor patio area, Gingko isn’t the usual pretentious health food environment and offers a selection of gourmet burgers (with actual meat in them), salads, pastas and pizzas – pretty generic café fare – the kicker being that all of it is available gluten free. Including the cakes.
They make a big deal about catering for the recent explosion of Paleo-dieters, perpetuating the theory that we should be eating more like our evolutionary brethren, an opinion I subscribe to but simply cannot live by – the allure of delicious things being far stronger than my flimsy willpower. Throw in the usual flax seed and goji berry smoothies and plenty of delicious veggie options and Gingko really does cater for every kind of picky partaker.
Where: 61 Dundalk Ave, cnr Roscommon Ave Parkview
4. You have the taste buds of a child but your mates don’t:
Some people just can’t get their heads around eating foods that pack in a lot of flavour. How one can go through life never eating garlic, chilli or anything pickled is beyond me but these people exist and need to be catered for. I actually prefer eating out with someone like this because there are more options here. In fact options are the key to enjoying a meal with the toddler tongued. The trick is to go somewhere with a massive menu, with enough tasty stuff on the top end and enough to cater for those with more simple tastes.
Jo’burg is full of massive menued franchises with too many choices and few of them good ones, but one franchise has managed to stand out with a flagship store (albeit in a mall) that provides for both the uninitiated and the pretentious.
Tasha’s Le Parc
Natasha Sideris has played a good long game and evolved into the dominant force in the South African franchise café scene. With the help of Famous Brands, a good concept coupled with superlative service and good, fresh food, Tasha’s is a safe bet for any palette – with an extensive menu catering to a range of tastes. Le Parc is her flagship branch – a concept store of sorts in a French café/bistro style, has all of the everyday stuff that keeps the numb-paletted sated while appeasing the taste buds of the more sophisticated eater.
So while yes, there are tramezzini, toasted sarmies and chicken salads for the plebs AND there is French Onion Soup, garlic snails and Chicken Veloute for you and me. And no-one but the Paleo-acolytes can resist the amazing spread of sweets on offer – macaroons, éclairs, petite fours and more of your favourite patisserie standards as well as a great selection of ice-creams and sorbets.
Le Parc really has something for everyone, it just happens to be stuck in a mall. No view, no fresh air, just stiff-browed Ladies Who Lunch and well-groomed men with haircuts that require overdraft facilities. It would be a real gem if it was, as its name suggests, in an actual park and not just Hyde Park.
Where: Shop 29, Hyde Park Corner, Hyde Park
5. You’re a raw fregan macrobiotic fruitarian:
You must honestly just fuck off and pack a Tupperware.
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