FOR reasons that needn’t concern the average reader, but which involved a plumber/electrician and a geyser still turned off at the mains, plus an upcoming eight-day assignment in Kwa-Zulu-Natal, I needed to go out for a late breakfast last Friday.
Report by Dusty Miller
A quick scrawl down the human computer to what I fancied, in which sort of surroundings, at what sort of a price left The Butcher’s Kitchen at Borrowdale highlighted in magenta and flashing urgently!
Because — possibly in anticipation of the sort of fare we may well be served at breakfast in Greater Durban — it was thoughts of a smoky, salty kipper that had my mouth mentally watering. And the only two outlets in Ha-ha-ha-rare (Africa’s fun capital) where I KNOW you can rely on this traditional Caledonian delicacy being on the menu is TBK (daily) and The Codfather, at Chisipite, which now serves breakfast/brunch only on Saturdays.
The morning was much milder than it had been for the previous three weeks and it was hey-ho to Borrowdale with the car windows wide open, wearing only a light Primark V-necked sweater (but with a heavy Marks & Spencer fleece and a Scotch Wool Shop cashmere plaid scarf in the boot in case I was out until after dark.) And that’s hardly unusual in my job!
I sat inside in this unusually-designed restaurant (it used to be the Keg & Sable, when Zimbos were still enraptured by global franchise chain operations) where roughly half the space is devoted to a very up-market blue-chip deli, fine wine and spirits off-sales, fishmongers and, of course, the retail butchery which gives it the eponymous name.
I am not 100% convinced that this revolutionary mélange works entirely and normally prefer eating on the stoep, away from the odd shopper. But then you have to put up with car exhausts almost in your face, window shoppers rubber-necking as you shove a forkful of sausage down the laughing tackle and often contend with endless cigarette smoke billowing from neighbours convinced it’s still 1963 and nicotine has nothing to do with lung cancer or emphysema!
So I sat inside. High level electric wall-heaters were switched on, but weren’t entirely necessary.
First hurdle was that the long past its best-by-date scruffy glossy printed menu, in addition to listing kippers (US$8), also offered a smoked salmon omelette with cream cheese and spinach at US$10, or a traditional fluffy, folded omelette with any three fillings: bacon, ham, smoked salmon, cheddar, mozzarella, feta, goat’s cheese, tomatoes, onions, peppers, spinach or mushrooms for US$9.
And the trio-omelette came with chips. My pal Zimbabwe-based movie cameraman Phil Horne (often known as Forlorn!) reckons chips with breakfast are a certain cure for hangovers. I don’t know, I don’t often suffer from them, but TBK chips looked very good. They are now serving big, square, presumably hand-cut jobs, as opposed to the willowy, skinny ones which were clearly bought in. (Big tick for that!)
And the full traditional English breakfast: eggs, bacon, sausage, tomato, kidneys or mushrooms with a bottomless cup of coffee sounded excellent value at US$9.
I settled for a health breakfast starter of muesli, fruit coulis and yoghurt at US$5, which was pretty good except it needed a bit more liquid in its construction. Get to the bottom of the dish and the muesli is rather dry, crunchy and unappetising. But, apart from the last few spoons, it was very acceptable.
With it came a large cup of very fine filter coffee (US$2); a bit early, as I’d asked for it with the fish course. The idea’s presumably to get you to order a second.
Then the” kippers”, which should, really, read “kipper” (singular) on the menu as there was only one of them, not the usual pair. It was— unusually—cooked and served in a crimped aluminium baking foil wrap, which would have the dual benefit of keeping the “pong” (as my daughter complains) of kippers out of the kitchen and away from other foods and keeping fishy juices in.
Two coddled eggs had yolks the colour of the 10am sun, and with two slices of thick toast, this was a grand breakfast, which made the change from the routine so many folk crave after.
Bottom line: muesli, etc; kipper, eggs and toast, coffee US$15.
On previous occasions I’ve braved exhaust and cigarette fumes and sat on the stoep for lunch ordering once — allegedly—fish, chips and mushy peas. Understandably, I read “mushy” to mean the common culinary definition: dried marrowfat peas, steeped (or seeped?)
overnight. Cooked with bicarb and salt, with often a leaf or four of chopped mint added to deepen flavour and colour, this is a true and unforgettably delicious North of England staple with fish ‘n’chips.
But “mushy” in southern Africa also means simply “very nice” and the vegetable accompaniment to TBK’s fish (hake, I think) and chips were certainly quite nice, but featured frozen petite pois (baby peas), cooked with diced caramelised onion and (again, I think) chopped capers?
Certainly pleasant, but I really look forward to wolfing the pukkah article at probably Bryant’s Fish Restaurant, near Yorkshire County Cricket Club’s headquarters, Headingley, Leeds, in August or early September.
I seem to remember being served the real McCoy last time I was in Durban, where I should be when you read this over your breakfast.
I don’t suppose we’ll get them at the very larney, dressy-up Vodacom Durban July Handicap, where we were expected to be yesterday, courtesy of South African Express Airways and the Kwa-Zulu-Natal Tourist Board, but if I’ve been let loose anywhere near the former Esplanade (now renamed after a dead nationalist politician whose name escapes me), I’ll certainly find some of that green manna from heaven to go with my fish and chips!
Butcher’s Kitchen, Borrowdale Village (ex- Keg and Sable); fully licensed, open daily.
Phone 884445 email@example.com