South Africa is famous for its legendary rugby and cricket teams, and for the fact that in 2010 it will be the first African, and first Southern Hemisphere, country to host the football (soccer) World Cup. With this in mind, we assumed we were in for a very healthy meal…oh, how wrong we were…
The South African Shop
461 Hawthorn Rd, South Caulfield
The Shebeen Café is located within The South African Shop, a specialised grocery store focusing on South African and kosher products – aiming at the local South African Jewish population. As such, this restaurant is only open during business hours, offering breakfast and lunch meals – hence instead of a Saturday dinner, this week we treated ourselves to a Sunday lunch.
The eatery is located to the side of the store, overlooked by an expansive and colourful mural depicting native Africans dancing to a jazz musican. Owned by South African immigrants of Portuguese heritage, the menu of the Shebeen Café is an interesting mixture of dishes from these two countries. Although we attempted to focus our meal on the South African dishes, the lure of a traditional Portuguese prego was too much for some diners. This week’s special assortment of stunningly able South African supper assessors were Sai, Nick, Naomi, Susie, Nyk, Caroline and Rami.
Boerewors Roll – Traditional South African beef sausage in a roll with chips
This meal was quite bland, with the sausage being served in a plain roll that had only been buttered. The sausage itself was extremely dry and had a strong flavouring of cloves. In order to counteract the dryness it was necessary to add sauce to roll, which subsequently masked the flavour of the meat. The chips were thin, French-fries style covered with a moderately spicy peri peri powder.
Kruger Salad – Sliced biltong, tomato, onion & cucumber served on a bed of crisp lettuce
It was difficult to locate the vegetables on this dish with the biltong being, by a large margin, the main ingredient to this “salad.” The biltong was salty and very fatty, with flavour reminiscent of corned beef. Like all beef jerky it was also incredibly tough.
Full Springbok Breakfast – Fried eggs, facon (cured beef), tomato, mushrooms, boerewors & toast
The main comment we can make about this breakfast, named after the South African rugby team, is that facon is in no way reminiscent of bacon! Otherwise, this meal is similar to many café-style breakfast dishes.
Vegetarian Burger – Vegetarian patty with lettuce, tomato, onion & mayonnaise on a bagel
Keeping with the meaty theme of this meal, the vegetarian patty was a fake meat patty; and just as the facon was nothing like the real thing, neither was this. The patty was slightly chewy, with a sweet “meat”-like flavour. The mayonnaise on the bagel was also very sweet, in fact neither diner that ordered this meal was able to finish it due to the sweetness of the mayonnaise.
Traditional Prego – Aged Porterhouse steak marinated in garlic, paprika and white wine served on a crispy Portuguese roll with chips
This dish was very authentic compared to what you would find in Portugal, with the meat being fatty, but tender. One diner chose the hot sauce option, while another chose a more moderate sauce. Put into perspective, the latter appeared to be the wiser option, as the first diner could not finish her meal!
This South African dessert is basically a piece of twisted white bread drenched in a sugar syrup – simple but sweet.
The Shebeen Café is a specialised eatery with a specialised clientele, and appears to be frequented by many regulars looking for a taste of home. However, as far as local café-style food goes there are many better places to go. Nevertheless, with several meals costing less than $10, this is a cheap option for anyone interested in trying South African cuisine. Alternatively, if you’re adventurous, you could buy some interesting ingredients from the grocery store and have a go at cooking your own South African meal at home.