Having visitors from out of town, we dusted off our pith helmets and went down to Mama Africa in Long Street. We were lucky to get the last table at this perennially busy tourist ‘trap’. No false promises here. The atmosphere of excited people chattering in various languages to the sounds of clanging, banging, blowing and plucking of an African band creates exactly the expected vibe.
We were soon glad that our request to be seated with a view of the band could not be fulfilled. The music is loud enough in a neighbouring room.
It is hard to miss the décor, there is so much of it. It is busy and fun, perfectly fitting safari-chic.
A good effort has been made to ‘Africanise’ the menu. But since we South Africans only ever cook animals we have shot in our gardens we avoided the usual fare of buck and baboon and etc and went for lamb, fish and chicken dishes.
One would have to be more hopeful than me to expect haute cuisine and top-quality service in a restaurant that is jam-packed every day with the fresh hopeful faces of young Europeans, phrase books and pith helmets in hand.
The service was friendly though on the unattentive side and the food was fair to middling.
Chicken livers and West Coast mussels (starters served as mains) were tasty but not sensational.
What the Karoo lamb lacked in flavour and tenderness was made up for in the size of the portion. One portion of four chops, two colours of rice (it was not clear why) and creamed spinach (mealie meal and samp were declined) might have filled both Tintin and Captain Haddock, but delighted neither.
A couple of local brews, Carling Black Label, and our favourite local-local Darling Bone Crusher helped it all “slide”, as they say down this way, and we were ready to check out the local wildlife on Long Street.
Next stop: Bob’s Bar, which is all cheap tequila shots, pool tables, tinny high-energy music and skinny high-heeled girls hardly out of primary school (if they ever went). Again we have a canny operator serving a very well-defined market so well that it almost becomes its own caricature.
Last stop of the night: the misleadingly named Space Bar. You might expect trance music and shiny e-bunnies in place of the laid-back township vibe. This slightly raggedy bar-club is a popular choice with locals, who either huddle around large jugs of cocktails on the balcony overlooking the street or bump and jive to township tunes inside. At just R60 each, the jugs are cheap as chips. At that price one might not expect stylish labelling but it might be nice to know what is in it.
“Not sure. Alcohol!” is what I was told)
Okie dokie … ummm … well … err … Hats off to Space Bar!
Or at least caps reversed, which is how it is done here.
A number of the young men (most of them hardly out of short pants and long socks) came in wearing peak caps. A local take on the American college kid look soon took on a little bit of gangsta when each of them reversed his peak cap on a polite request from the bouncer.
I asked the bouncer why they did that and he said it was so that the camera could “see” their faces. A house rule that no one seemed to mind at all. This generation knows that Big Brother is always watching.
So hats off to Space Bar … or at least hats back.
I will go there again.