You know how it goes – you spot a new place, mean to try it, get sidetracked, then the universe gives you a nudge.
So it was a friend that told me where to get a really good Cape Malay curry – District Six, the same new place I had spotted while on a neighbourhood sortie for a new rug.
Owned by Clarence Swartland-Gorlei, a former dancer who has always been an enthusiastic cook, the food that comes out of the kitchen is delicious, simple and full of the smells of a home.
Swartland-Gorlei says he finally decided to take the plunge and open District Six after a visit to Italy last year.
Seeing all the hole-in-the-wall eateries serving up their mama’s pasta recipes made him realise he could do the same thing – using his own rich culinary heritage as a starting point.
The place has indoor space for about 28 covers and a few extra for the smokers on the pavement.
Sporting one cerise pink wall and one turquoise, the place has a suitably sparkly Cape Carnival outfit (donated by Mr Daniels, whom patrons can see smiling down at them in a photo) on one wall.
Nearby, a cluster of photos from the owner’s childhood reinforce the homely atmosphere, while on another wall panama hats hang in rows and a large mirror gives a sense of depth to the small eatery.
On shelves here and there are a collection of vintage teapots and Swartland-Gorlei’s i-Pod shuffles through the decades and genres, adding to the ambience.
While we soaked up the atmosphere, Swartland-Gorlei served samoosas.
Light and crispy, filled with spicy mince and mashed potato they are worth the trip on their own.
Next up was tomato bredie, which released swirls of cinnamon as we lifted the lid, and smoor snoek, a spicy fish dish that captures its Cape Malay roots in every mouthful.
Served with a bowl of steamed rice, we couldn’t finish our generous portions as we simply had to save space for the milk tart.
Encased in phyllo pastry, it is the best milk tart I have ever had: firm, creamy and not too sweet, it is heaven in a slice.
I will be going back soon for the cheese cake, another of the proprietor’s show?stoppers.
The food is served in a hotch-potch of crockery, all of which has a “borrowed from granny’s kitchen” feel to it, and it too adds to District Six’s feel of home and sense of history. There are also pickles on sale that Swartland-Gorlei makes himself.
The one thing that does not remain constant at District Six is the menu.
Swartland-Gorlei cooks what he likes every day and changes the menu accordingly.
With fewer than 10 items on the menu, patrons run the risk of not getting the bobotie they are craving if it’s sold out before they arrive, but if you call ahead the owner will set aside your choice – so long as it’s on that day’s menu.
Also, Swartland-Gorlei is delighted to fill one of your casserole dishes with one of his home-cooked treats.
If you fancy oxtail for dinner or perhaps prawn curry, so long as you give him enough notice, he will make it for you and you can pick it up later.
District Six is just like home, except someone else is doing the cooking.
»District Six Eatery in Emmarentia in Joburg is open Tuesday to Saturday for lunch and dinner.
011 486 7226.