I planned lunch on Sunday at Papa’s Greek Meze and Grill, which is the former Mama Mia’s Italian restaurant, still at Newlands; still run by the same folk: the Kalamatas!
They’d assured me, when they changed business names and cuisine served, they would open Sundays by popular demand, closing Mondays instead.
My Sunday lunch there was aborted at the 11th hour as, just as I shut down the PC, the black-as-night heavens opened, thunder roared, lightning struck nearby and The Kopje was bombarded with hailstones as big as squash and golf balls.
However, I needed to go to Newlands on Monday to have a zip on a camera bag fixed at the friendly Indian cobbler. While there, I checked on a new “tapas” bar:
Bolero’s, run by the same folk who have a pub of that name at Chisipite and Tree Top Restaurant, Glen Lorne.
It was smart and clean; more spacious than was the case over its years as Billy Fudpucker’s, as new owners have, sensibly, moved the bar. But there were only two pretty girls, sipping what looked weak shandy (on a sweltering day) crunching crisps.
I had to use the local supermarket…but lunch called and I set off for the Blue Banana/Baobab Grill twin Thai restaurant/ Zimbo steakhouse.
But — in a senior moment — I virtually automatically sat at a Papa’s outdoor table, which — surely? — should have been shut, giving staff time off?
Clearly it wasn’t, so instead of a green Thai curry I’d been mentally salivating over, I was soon lustily flattening a meze (starter) plate of some of the nicest grilled calamari you’re likely to find 1 000km from the ocean, in a land-locked nation.
There wasn’t a hint of the dreadfully over-chewy “elastic band” texture so often found here, with calamari which has been too long deep-frozen, not properly thawed out or not cooked by an expert.
These were soft-to-slightly al dente in texture, ivory coloured seared honey-gold and full of the flavour of the sea. Before they came, still warm, pita bread arrived and was nibbled with salt and cold lager as I studied the new menu.
A second slice to accompany the squid rings, when they arrived piping hot, proved no problem to the waiter.
I prefer calamari grilled juicily, to fried or deep-fried, but everyone to their own. And squid steaks, when available, are far superior to rings and tentacles.
A drop of jus created in cooking, full of fishy-ness was mopped up with a last morsel of pita.
Calamari is US$6 as a starter; US$14 as mains, with starch of choice and vegetables. They also do calamari salad at (I think: haven’t yet tried it) US$10.
For mains I’d a splendidly sloppy juicy dish. Sikoti moschari is Greek for wonderful, punchy, powerful and pungent ox-liver, cooked sympathetically slowly to retain its offal-y goodness and served in a robust sweet red wine and onion jus, which coated the nyama nicely and lingered to the very end.
It came with a generous dollop of smooth, creamy, garlic-mash potatoes, steamed courgettes, carrots and onions at US$13.
I would, personally, have called it a day there, after two grand, filling courses on a stoep overlooking TM’s car-park shimmering in heat, but reviews are so much easier to compile if one has a third course! (You understand?)
From a short list of puddings on an easy to follow carte, I went for a grandiosely named Aphrodite’s Delight. Menu writer says it’s Turkish delight-flavoured ice-cream “drizzled” (God, how I hate that word!) with pomegranate syrup.
I detected none of the latter and pomegranates, though fiddly to eat, are one of my favourite fruits. What I did “get” was a fairly generous splodge of common-or-garden vanilla ice-cream into which lumps of Cadbury’s Turkish Delight chocolate were folded.
The combination of flavours and textures between satin-smooth, silky ice-cream and chunky chocolate-coated tooth-achingly sweet Turkish Delight was very pleasant.
Two down points: dessert spoons wouldn’t reach the bottom of a long-stemmed “sundae” bowl in which the sweet arrived and I craved each drop of this mixture at US$5 which, candidly, I felt a bit steep in a family restaurant.
Had I checked specials blackboard menu, I’d have spotted, and almost certainly eaten, ice-cream and smashing plump, ripe strawberries at a buck less.
Talking to restaurateur George Kalamatas and his mom, Annette, later, it proved that popular demand for the outlet to open Sunday lunches (when signature dish lamb kleftiko was served) wasn’t as pressing as the clamour from regulars for them to continue Monday service.
So after three weeks of the new regime, they abandoned Sabbath lunches and reverted to lunch Monday to Friday, supper Monday to Saturday. Booking is advised.
They confirmed they’ll be open for traditional Western and Mediterranean-style Christmas lunch on the Big Day (December 25); Xmas fare will be served, in addition to the standard menu, throughout December.
I suggest advance booking.