Going back outside — discussing how to get the most out of the bounteous buffet — we sat down at our nice quiet table under the shady pergola, discussing that climbing plant, that shade-giving growth the name of which we were not able to agree on. However, soon we were distracted by the arrival of our bottomless pitcher of homemade lemonade. It was very refreshing and happily not too sweet, perfect on such a hot day.
We asked the waiter for the specials of the day: a beef fillet, fried tilapia, or a soup provençale. The lunch menu also offered toasted sandwiches, deep fried haloumi and omelettes for those wanting a lighter meal. The standard menu might be fairly brief, but the day’s specials, together with the buffet’s enormous selection of salads and the hot vegetable dishes provide ample variation to create a really splendid lunch.
As the “centre” for her main course, my wife decided on the tilapia, while I chose the beef fillet, asking for it to be done medium rare. The waiter explained that when these would be ready we could then also select from the buffet any and every salad and vegetable dish we might want to put around our fillet and fish. What pleasure and what anticipatory excitement!
Having given our friendly and professional waiter our order, my wife now put our burning question to him — the question that had vexed us so grievously as soon as we had sat down under the pergola: Was it, or was it not, a grape vine that grew over our heads? “I will ask the manager, ma’am,” the waiter promptly said and went inside.
Not two minutes later our waiter came out with a booklet in hand. This booklet appeared to have been written by the manager of the Shop Cafe himself! It provided very valuable information on many indigenous trees and shrubs to help anyone with designing a beautiful and environmentally sensible garden. On page 5, left-hand bottom, our creeper was mentioned: it was a Grape Ivy. Aha! So it was not a vine; but was a grape, and actually had the name of grape ivy. A difference that only finicky botanists would want to fight over. We decided to bury the hatchet, agreeing that both of us had been more or less right.
Our waiter then called us to come inside, collect our plates with the fillet and the fish, and add anything we might wish from the buffet. Did we select, and take titbits of this, and that, and the other!
Sitting under our shady pergola again, we tucked in, and after some minutes of most pleasant eating, we both realised that we had been so enthralled by our varied salads and vegetables, that we had quite forgotten that we also had fish and fillet to enjoy. That was a first for us! The tomato on aubergine with haloumi and mozzarella was divine, the creamed rice — with what appeared to be some long dark wild rice grains mixed in — was sumptuous, the pumpkin with cinnamon heart-warming, the game chips delectable, and the watermelon with feta and olives surprisingly successful. Small wonder we forgot our fish and fillet. However, once we managed to give it some attention, it was clear that the fish was cooked just exactly right and was not overdone, and that the fillet was indeed that exact medium-rare that enhances its taste while maintaining its very tender texture. We continued to take mouthful after mouthful of pure and beautifully varied enjoyment; what pleasure to have such a wide selection of palate-pleasing bites!
While sitting over our double espresso and cappuccino — and a good large slice of chocolate cake to share — The Shop Café Owner Kerry Wallace came out to retrieve his reading-glasses which my wife had borrowed at the start of our lunch in order to read the menu. With a good laugh, we discussed the vine once more and the booklet on trees and shrubs that he had written together with Tom Muller.
It is clear that Kerry is a great chef. His approach — not surprisingly in view of the booklet on trees — is geared towards sustainability: seasonal ingredients causing a minimum carbon foot-print. What is so exciting about all this is that Kerry likes to set himself the challenge of providing food within the boundaries of sustainability and use this to let his creativity go all out. And it works. As mentioned before, all the food is done with attention — proven also by the fact that the meal comes with some slices of different focaccia made at the Shop Café itself and not bought in from some baker’s dozen of bread rolls. All in all, the food on offer shows such a wide spread of creative and exciting flavour combinations that anyone can create a truly beautiful and very tasty lunch.
Some friends — enjoying their retirement and who happened to be at The Shop Café too — also raved about the soup provençale, and its good value with the fresh focaccia as a perfect midday meal for a very fair price.
Speciality Restaurant – healthy food using local ingredients in season, which caters primarily for vegetarians but has something for the carnivores too!
Expect to Spend US$10 to US$15 a head
Adjacent to The Shop, Doon Estate, Harrow Road, Msasa