Seeking to spice up the Chase Valley environment with a flavourful and kasi approach to the traditional braai, Forest Grill has ventured into the area with a uniquely South African cross-cultural food culture in the form of the shisanyama.
Situated on a small private estate adjacent to the Hatcheries Park, the Forest Grill (colloquially called Ehlathini — “in the forest”) was started by Lindo and Alex Strachan and offers spacious and airy, beautiful forest views with plenty of safe parking. This marks a first of its kind for a predominantly upmarket area and clientele.
“The ultimate vision for us is to capitalise on the restaurant’s unique location in the northern suburbs, seemingly remote yet nearby, and its tropical paradise natural setting and other attractions, like ample parking, safety and security, to appeal to a broad and racially diverse market,” said Strachan, adding that they have owned the property for the last 20 years now.
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The Forest Grill is a food and live music lounge that offers delicious meat platters with a variety of high-end meat cuts served with uJeqe (steam bread) and the spicy chakalaka they pride themselves on — a recipe of owner Lindo MaZulu Strachan’s grandmother, MaToyoza.
They also serve modified traditional food like inhloko (sheep’s head meat) and umgxabhiso (tripe). Inspired by similar eateries across SA, MaZulu sought to create something similar in the city. She has already succeeded in creating a hospitable, cosy, and lively place with great food.
“We wanted to try out something new for the predominantly white market present here in Chase Valley and given the success of the shisanyama among our black people, we thought we could give it a try amongst the white market and thus far we have found that it is working very well,” said Strachan.
The shisanyama operates not only as a place where people can eat and chill, but also as a venue for Pietermaritzburg and the surrounding areas’ local musicians and artists to showcase their talents.
“We are definitely trying to boost local talent and want our place to be a platform for our local artists to showcase their work and entertain our guests. We currently have some resident musicians who frequent our place but are also open to various other musicians,” said Strachan.
The lounge is also already known as an entertainment playground with an upmarket jazzy feel because of the celebrities and artists who visit, including Yommy, a peerless Congolese saxophonist, and other local artists who are contracted to the venue and regularly feature there.
Looking back on some of the difficulties faced, Strachan said that during the lockdown there was absolutely no income coming through, however, things are looking up and for now they are trying to master everything that they can to ensure the customer has a life-changing experience, with plans to franchise Forest Grill in the future.