OK, so I’ve been wrong. Mea culpa. Whenever I heard the word ‘buffet’ I envisioned animals at feeding troughs, grey food, jostling queues, plates piled high, and plenty of waste.
Ivan Govender, general manager of Spiceburg in Greenside as well as Namak in Craighall Park, Jo’burg has changed my mind about buffets. Every Sunday Spiceburg features ‘off the menu’ dishes such as a choice of 25 vegetarian dishes. The next Sunday it might be South Indian seafood or North Indian non-vegetarian food.
The likes of Lamb Korma or Creamy Chicken and Prawn Masala are culinary euphemisms to Ivan who has Indian food newbies declaring at the end of the meal that the two restaurants to be the best Indian restaurant in Africa.
Take the pepper cauliflower. Cauliflower doesn’t quite stir me to sing five-star culinary praises but as always, it’s what you do with it. The two restaurants’ Pepper Ghobi involves mustard seeds and the florets that are crisp to the bite. You’ll never view cauliflower the same again.
Or it might be about the Masala Dosa, a crispy rice and lentil pancake stuffed with spicy mashed potato and served with lentil curry, coconut chutney and ‘gun powder’ (six types of lentil dry-roasted, with a touch of dry chili).
The breads, too, are finer, lighter and tastier than anything else I’ve experienced. Try the Rava Dasa – onion and semolina pancakes with a spicy potato fillingThere’s crab (soup or as a main course), duck, calamari and Madras tamarind prawns served with crisped curry leaves. Lamb and chicken feature, of course, as do an array of vegetarian dishes. In fact, the menu is so interesting and habit-forming that regular visits are obligatory.
Perhaps it’s not even about the food per se, but about the entire experience. The wine list matches the menu, the service is friendly and both places are open at convenient times. If you think Indian food is about curry – make haste to one of these restaurants and give yourself over to absolute pleasure.
Spiceburg :141 Greenway Road, Greenside. Telephone 011 486 2255.
Namak: 9 Grafton Avenue, Craighall Park. Phone 011 327 0095