A taste of the town­ships

A butch­ery and restau­rant on the out­skirts of Cape Town is at­tract­ing a high­pro­file crowd

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Indulgence - VIC­TO­RIA MATHER THE SPEC­TA­TOR

Pork 2. ALAIN Du­casse, Daniel Boulud, Gor­don Ram­say. Eaten with them, dined at their em­po­ria — it’s been won­der­ful, guys, but noth­ing like the steak in a plas­tic bowl in Mzoli’s in Gugulethu with a som­me­lier pris­ing the cap off my bot­tle of beer with his two re­main­ing teeth. You don’t get those lit­tle touches in Lon­don, Paris or New York.

I don’t do ex­treme din­ing and am par­tial to white linen table­cloths and an icy glass of PulignyMon­tra­chet. Or two. Yet I am in the town­ship on the out­skirts of Cape Town at a venue that is a butch­ery, a restau­rant and a night­club. For­get sushi and ta­pas, way too old-hat. The way for­ward is point ’ n’ cook: you point at lamb, steak, pos­si­bly buf­falo, chicken if you’re a wimp, and they cook it on a vast braai, coal glow­ing, spit­ting at slapped-on wal­lops of meat cooked as you like.

‘‘Look at the colour of my skin, man,’’ says a black South African in front of me in the queue. ‘‘That’s how I like my meat.’’

It’s then chucked into blue plas­tic, to be eaten hands-on. The beer is icy from the store nearby, the som­me­lier a fel­low diner with the only bot­tle opener in the place: his mouth.

You do not know what des­per­ate is un­til ma­rooned in a town­ship in 27C heat with­out be­ing able to crack a bot­tle drip­ping with fridge-cold dew.

Apup. 4. An­chovy 3. Hazel­nut 1. FOODFORTHOUGHTSOLUTIONS:

I amshar­ing this beer, and plas­tic bowls, with Margot Janse, a chef who has won a zil­lion awards for her sub­lime magic at Le Quartier Fran­cais in Fran­schhoek.

Margot and I, to­gether with Su­san Hux­ter, owner of Le Quartier Fran­cais, white South African and a tri­fle nervy about whether we are go­ing to get out alive, are now to­tally re­laxed. We share the enor­mous bot­tle of beer with straws. We love the meat, the scene. About two min­utes af­ter we’ve dis­cov­ered this jolly place, who should roll up but Jamie Oliver. Just when one thought one was ex­tremely ad­ven­tur­ous, chef-telly comes to the town­ship.

Mzoli Ng­cawuzele’s place is cool, the mu­sic deep house or kwaito, but not thump­ing as we are chomp­ing, j ust a touch of Cape j azz. It is gen­tle, we are gen­tly treated, white ladies lunch­ing are just fine.

When I first went to Cape Town, it was be­fore apartheid had been lifted; one knew it was com­ing, but to visit a town­ship wouldn’t just have been silly, it would have been sui­ci­dal. Now there are B&BS in Khayelit­sha and town­ship tours.

I have mixed feel­ings about poverty tourism. Should one re­ally be go­ing to ogle the dirt poor or to boast that one sur­vived the night in a hu­man hell? Ac­tu­ally, Gugulethu — which in Xhosa means ‘‘our pride’’ — with its grid sys­tem of houses and shacks, is bet­ter or­gan­ised, and cer­tainly has less rub­bish, than a typ­i­cal hous­ing es­tate in Eng­land. Vicky’s B&B in Khayelit­sha is infi- nitely warmer and friend­lier than any mo­tel at home. It is from this town­ship, where many live in old ship­ping con­tain­ers, that at dawn the maids set out in pris­tine uni­forms to walk to work in the big houses of Con­stan­tia with their mar­ble bath­rooms, glit­ter­ing blue swim­ming pools and elec­tric gates scream­ing KEEP OUT. (When Mark Thatcher and Earl Spencer lived in Con­stan­tia, it was known as Marks and Spencers.)

But the white en­clave of Con­stan­tia isn’t where it’s at any more. It is the city of Cape Town that is vi­brant.

Walk Long Street — that would have ne­ces­si­tated a body­guard in the past — and you’re on a ve­ran­daed me­an­der past funky bars (def­i­nitely stop at Cape to Cuba for a mo­jito, and a cigar at the Che Bar) and bou­tiques. South African de­sign is orig­i­nal, clever, fab­u­lous. You can re­turn with some­thing no one else has got — that is travel lux­ury.

Al­ways look up in a city. And there you will see the re­stored bal­conies and rail­ings of Vic­to­rian Cape Town, the hun­gover eat­ing heavy-eggy break­fasts with in­tra­venous bloody marys at the Daddy Long Legs Art Ho­tel.

This place is to die for: prob­a­bly in the Emer­gency Room, de­signed by Capeto­nian ar­chi­tect Bert Pe­pler in hos­pi­tal chic. Each bed­room is de­signed by a dif­fer­ent lo­cal bo­hemian fig­ure — pho­tog­ra­pher Robin Sprong, artist Toby At­twell — all mar­vel­lously mad, plus a cut of the pro­ceeds from the blood-red Emer­gency Room goes to the lo­cal Red Cross Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal.

You’ll never watch Ca­su­alty again, but of all the ho­tels in all the world, this is the humdinger with a sense of humour, eclipsed only by the Grand Daddy up the street.

Here the pent­houses on the rooftop are in vin­tage Airstream trail­ers: this is the ul­ti­mate trailer park. Seven sil­ver trail­ers sit in a funky roof gar­den over­look­ing Ta­ble Moun­tain, again each de­signed by a dif­fer­ent gor­geous imag­i­na­tion. I love Dorothy, by artist Sarah Pratt, all blue polka dots — like sleep­ing in­side a Cath Kid­ston py­jama leg.

Tam­sin Relly, Cara Rosa and Chloe Townsend, re­spec­tively artist, tex­tile de­signer and leather ge­nius, have done the Bal­lad of John & Yoko trailer. It’s all mad, it’s fab, an in­stant fan­tasy of tak­ing all the trail­ers, hav­ing a great party at the pri­vate rooftop bar with moun­tains to eat while gaz- ing at Ta­ble Moun­tain. Then danc­ing un­til dawn rises over Robben Is­land.

On the sub­ject of which: you should go.

There’s a cer­tain hor­ror about trav­el­ling from the Nel­son Man­dela Gate­way to see Nel­son Man­dela’s cell — some­thing pruri­ent — par­tic­u­larly, in my case, hav­ing just had lunch with a frail Man­dela. I went to the former prison of Robben Is­land with Pris­oner No 884: Thu­lani Mabaso. He re­turned af­ter 13 years and com­mutes from his town­ship; with­out mypri­vate tour with him, and the pain of it, I would have been lesser for the ex­pe­ri­ence.

For three cen­turies this is­land — so bare, roar­ing wind, screech­ing gulls and now over­run with rab­bits — was the Al­ca­traz of Cape Town. Ir­re­vo­ca­bly iso­lated but with the city in sight, vi­cious cur­rents de­fy­ing es­cape; about 20 per cent of the min­is­ters in to­day’s South African govern­ment were pris­on­ers there.

Their women came thou­sands of kilo­me­tres and crossed on the tur­bu­lent ferry to see their men­folk; the pris­on­ers broke stones in a chain gang dur­ing the day. There is a lit­tle cairn out­side the quarry, in­clud­ing Man­dela’s stone, that breaks the heart. You must never travel en­tirely for plea­sure — it is al­ways the un­pleas­ant that sears the mem­ory. lequartier.co.za dad­dy­lon­glegs.co.za grand­daddy.co.za southafrica.net

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