You get many of these fish-on-a-skillet places. They tend to come with ropey (literally) dÃ©cor and plasticated place mats. They tend to have blackboard menus with the dishes colourfully written in chalk. They tend to be tended by scampering students.
But this one is different, the hungry man has always assured me, the fish is reliably fresh and with the prices so right, who can be too critical of some cheesy â€œshiver-me-timbersâ€ fisherman staring down at you while you munch?
Last time I ate with AndrÃ©, we nearly ate here; perhaps this is why I suggested it, though perhaps it was because AndrÃ© was in a tearing rush, with lunch a compressed affair due to mounting pressure in his particular fishbowl. In his words, the situation had reached â€œDefcon 2â€ that day, but there was always time for some lunch.
As indicated by the fact that this restaurant serves us our chosen Sauvignon Blanc in decent glasses clearly branded â€œWosaâ€ (the hungry manâ€™s employer), this is one of AndrÃ©â€™s favourite spots for a quickie. We promptly filled these, and promptly empty them.
Sushi platter as starter. Nothing wrong here, except the Japanese sushi fellow gets off to a very slow start, misdirected by the waiter. Our Sauvignon Blanc, a Neil Ellis Groenekloof is in a bottle that leaks. Or so it seems. Then our sushi arrives. We eye it momentarily, then itâ€™s gone. Sushi is a make or break on two counts â€“ the rice and the freshness. Also the way the pieces of fish are cut, but I donâ€™t know enough about that.
The rice today is great, the freshness of the tuna suspect. Itâ€™s been frozen, that tell-tale grey patina. Itâ€™s not tingling though, a tell-tale sign of The Grim Reaper. â€œBut I didnâ€™t eat the salmon mousse.â€ â€œNo, it was the sea chicken. Ha ha ha, haâ€.
Anyway, the meal from here on was pretty standard â€“ some grilled Angel fish with potato wedges tasty enough. AndrÃ© was regaling me with his weekend trip to Namibia, where a string of mechanical failures saw him sitting on the side of a remote desert highway, his umbilical cellphone useless. Later, on the same highway, he would buy some weird mushrooms that grow out of ant heaps and look like those hand grenades that the Nazis used to fling in illustrated war cartoon books. I ate some of them last night, really rich and with a firm texture, not unlike the truffles one finds in the Karoo, with an earthy flavour and distinct muskiness.
Some red wine. An espresso. A phone call for AndrÃ©, a colleague needs a cappuccino from the cafÃ©-bistro place next door, Greengate (which also has Wosa glasses). We move across. Another espresso. We like this one. Great crema and full flavour. A hint of acidity. We have to pay and. Have another to. Be sure. Itâ€™s good. Coffee. (Rictus grin).