Exactly what South African food is, is quite difficult to pinpoint; we are a mixed nation of varying tastes, all of them delicious. Some might say it’s a gatsby, others a bunny chow, many would say a potjie and they would all be right. The one we can all agree on is braai vleis or shisa nyama. In the moment that the meat hits the hot grill, “shisshhhh” is the same word in all 11 official languages.
I am constantly disappointed by how few restaurants in the Cape showcase our typical South African braai. Yes, they have barbecue, we didn’t invent the braai, but do they have sides like chakalaka and pap? I dare say they don’t. You know who does? Karibu Restaurant at the V&A Waterfront. The same restaurant that won BEST South African Cuisine on the African continent, as well as best South Africa Cuisine in the world for two consecutive years – so you know they mean business.
Give me great food with a local accent any day. And this is exactly what makes Karibu so vitally important to our city; they actually educate your palate with the real taste of South Africa.
In the age of conceptualised and overly-complicated restaurants and menus, it’s good to know there is a space to escape to for the taste of home.
With a breathtaking view of Table Mountain and the V&A Waterfront, there is no more perfect central location. The interior is set in earthy tones, with rich burgundy accents and spectacular lighting dropping from the ceiling. The walls pay homage to our strong bush heritage with illuminated images of nature.
Jamie Rowntree, Executive Chef at Karibu, describes the cuisine as uncomplicated, simple and unpretentious. We completely agree.
“When in Rome, or rather, when in South Africa, try local. The menu is extensive and we have covered all of South African food culture with influences from Cape Malay, Afrikaans, African and touches of German, French and English and just about every taste our beautiful country is made up of,” says Rowntree.
Starters range from traditional Malay fishcakes to the more adventurous crocodile carpaccio. The one to try is definitely the bobotie springroll. Perfectly crunchy on the outside, it is not a taste you expect to bite into and yet is warm and comforting when you do.
Oysters, springbok or ostrich carpaccio, a mussel pot or pickled fish are some of the other options. Choose between home and adventure – either way, you won’t be left disappointed.
According to Rowntree the idea is not to mess with tried and tested recipes passed down through generations in South Africa. “We haven’t invented anything new, we’ve played with the recipes and come out with the best version for our customers.”
The main menu is extensive, there are traditional dishes to try like bredies and potjies, a braai platter section with sides of chakalaka and putu, also never neglect the daily freshly-baked roostekoek, or the morogo (spinach) and potato.
Of course there is a seafood section, because we live in Cape Town and boast some of the freshest, tastiest fish and shellfish in the world. For those who have a more gamey palate there are venison skewers, ostrich fillets and venison potjie too.
“Our bestseller is the game, generally people want to try something they have never tried before. You’d be surprised that the locals enjoy the braai option more than the tourists. Visitors want to try something authentically South African, they are curious about bobotie, denning vleis and bredies too,” explains the chef.
My main meal was the braai platter with putu and chakalaka. I asked for medium preparation on my meat and was pleasantly surprised with how perfectly cooked to my specifications it was. The basting is minimal and the smoked braai flavour intense – just the way a great braai chop is meant to be. If you want something a little different, the ostrich fillet is highly recommended.
After enjoying my main meal I rushed to get more acquainted with the dessert menu (as one does), where there are milk tart, koeksisters and hertzoggies to close off the evening among others. It made my heart smile to see such recognisable treats on a menu. After an eeny, meeny, miny, moe situation, I landed on Malva pudding with ice cream and vanilla sauce. It was a desirable conclusion to an authentic evening. The sponge was soft in texture and drenched in sauce.
Let’s not forget that Karibu offers the finest wines the region produces, with vintages that will make even a seasoned wine-expert blush. Their wine selection has earned them several awards including a Diner’s Club Wine List Diamond award. They also made the World of Fine Wine List, a highly-coveted space. And these are just two of the many awards the restaurant has been honoured for.
Local is indeed lekker.
Karibu delivered on an experience that is quite rare in Cape Town. It makes me glad that in the heart of a tourist city, there is a space that is staying true to who we are and showing visitors just how much we have to offer in terms of taste, flavour and excellent service.
I’ll be back!
Pictures: Supplied and Nidha Narrandes