“One, two, three, four. One, two three, four, five. And faster.” The swell of our collective drumming reverberated off the walls, our fingers beating the stretched skins before us with everything we had until our instructor yelled “stop!” and we all sat back, laughing with relief (and at our poor ability to keep us with the amazing drummers up front).
This is how one begins an evening at the exceptional GOLD – a unique African restaurant in the heart of Greenpoint.
Interactive djembe drumming is just one of the delights awaiting visitors at this gem, for GOLD combines this experience with a foodie adventure that takes you all the way from Cape Town to Cairo; the culinary journey accompanied by live entertainment from an awesome variety of singers and dancers that hail from across the continent.
Housed in a cavernous refurbished brick warehouse down a tucked away side street, one is welcomed by the statuesque Mali puppets – their puppeteers hidden inside, often to comical effect. Inside, African beaded art, sculptures and patterns adorn the walls to glowing effect.
After enjoying a glass of bubbles (replete with a real gold leaf), and the drumming lesson, we were treated to a hand cleansing ceremony before being lead to our table – a cosy spot in the ‘gallery’ section that allowed us to peer down at the larger spaces below.
Our wonderful waitress, Tariro, introduced us to the dishes that were to come, explaining the styles of cooking that come from the far North, stop off at Morocco and Algeria, before coming to land right here in the Cape. Interestingly, and contrary to popular beliefs, most African dishes are actually vegetarian, consisting of organically produced whole grains, beans, fresh fruit and vegetables. So while there are a couple of meat dishes, veggies will feel right at home (and have vegetarian options where meat dishes are present).
Starters included a delectable ‘South African’ pepperdew and ostrich biltong salad, traditional ‘roosterkoek’ (a type of bread typically enjoyed at a braai), as well as a tasty Moroccan zeilook dip made from aubergine, tomato and garlic. Scooping up mouthfuls of each, we tucked into the melange of flavours, some hot and spicy, others cool and sweet.
The pastry-style snacks followed; the Algerian ginger and cashew briquats little mouthfuls of heaven, the Cape Malay samoosas crispy and Zambian sweet potato cakes the perfect vessels for their sweet sauce. Here too, one is treated to a cut of venison and lamb boerewors (a Namibian style of sausage), smothered in a tomato ‘smoor’ as is customary.
The mains keep coming, the dishes a feast laid out before you as you wonder how many more steaming bowls might fit on the table. While I gravitated towards the spicy Egyptian lentils, and just about inhaled the glorious Tanzanian fried fish, shrimp and spinach, my partner enjoyed the Zanzibar turmeric-glazed carrots, Moroccan vegetable couscous, and the table favourite, the Ghanaian peanut chicken – in rich and buttery broth made from crushed peanuts and tomatoes, elevated with chilli, ginger, garlic, tumeric and fresh time.
Fit to burst, it’s no wonder that you’re encouraged to come hungry, but, should you feel like more of anything, it’s freely available and at no extra charge. So if you’re able, and really, really hungry, just ask.
Of course, no set menu is complete without its sweet ending, and in GOLD’s case, it’s made even sweeter by the awesome presentation. Little paper parcels, presented in hand-crafted models of minutely-detailed tin houses, contain the Egyptian phyllo cigars – the pastry stuffed with almonds and pistachio nuts. These are to be dipped in the little bowls of cardamom ice-cream, the fragrant bowl bringing us home to land right back where we began – in South Africa.
While the wine list is succinct, it’s populated with some big players. If you’re ordering by bottle, opt for a Newton Johnson Pinot Noir – the gentle red a great pairing for the sheer variety of dishes. Our exciting options include the cocktails, local fynbos-infused gins and Amarula being the primary flavours. Hearty, home cooked food like this might also pair well with a local beer, so don’t ignore those if you’re partial to a brew.
Dinner time is interwoven with 3 unique performances, beginning with a praise singer who welcomes you and introduces you to the singers, dancers, puppets and musicians. The second performance showcases the dancing and celebrations in Africa and the third performance is in honour of royal African queens. Swaying to the beats of the drums and enchanted by the skill of the dancers and singers, it’s hard to resist getting up and joining them. Luckily, you’re invited to do just that, when, in a crescendo of celebration, the staff, performers and (willing) patrons, end the evening with a group dance off. While my moves were nowhere near as admirable or coordinated, the team makes it fantastic fun, and even helped to teach me a couple of new moves I must break out at the next party.
Cape Town’s cosmopolitan cuisine is one of the many reasons to visit our beautiful city, but should you be in search of a specifically African-themed feast, GOLD restaurant is where you need to be.
Book your evening at GOLD
Arrive at 18:30 for the Djembe Drumming Lesson or from 19:00 onwards for dinner.
Find them: 15 Bennett Street, Green Point, Cape Town.
Blog post by: Tarah Darge