So you're comfortably down with Vietnamese and Thai, but when was the last time you had South African for dinner? South Africans may only make up 0.7% of Sydney's population but that still means a total of 28,193 ex-pats, according to the national census in 2006.
South African cuisine offers an interesting melting pot of flavours, shaped and expanded by a long history of colonisation. Dutch settlers played a significant role, but there are also noticeable influences from the Germans, French, Indonesians, Indians and Malays - all of whom contributed new dishes or twists to traditional African fare.
Lucky Tsotsi upstairs dining room
At Lucky Tsotsi in Darlingurst, you'll find a diverse menu that traverses all of these flavours. Downstairs is the bar, furnished with corrugated iron, old signs and stylised junkyard touches to resemble the makeshift bars or 'shebeens' that used to spring up in shacks across South Africa.
Lucky Star pilchards - a South African favourite
Upstairs is the dining room - although you can order food and drink downstairs - that offers larger tables. There's a bar up here as well.
Hunter's Gold and Savanna Dry ciders $8 each
Somehow I've scored a seat at Billy's supper club tonight, and almost everyone starts off with a South African cider. The Savanna Dry is clear and crisp but there's not much apple flavour to it, perhaps overwhelmed by the traditional wedge of lemon. I'm more of a fan of the Hunter's Gold which is distinctly sweeter.
Oom Karels African platter $19.90
There are several South African beers available (Castle, Black Label and Castle Milk Stout) plus the Windhoek and Windhoek Light from Namibia. And what goes better with beer than biltong - the South African version of beef jerky.
The Oom Karels African platter is like a party platter of nibbles with biltong, chunks of dry wors dried sausage (also known as droëwors), dried fruits and nuts, and a scoopful of Bhuja mix - a popular snack across South Africa.
Kakhulu garlic snails $12.90
Garlic snails might seem out of place at first, but it's a dish found in many restaurants in South Africa. The snails here are cooked just so, retaining their tenderness, and we soak up all the remaining garlic butter with the soft fingers of crustless brown bread.
Inkosi chicken wings $11.90
Inkosi chicken wings yields a pile of six pieces, clustered on greaseproof printed with newsprint. The wings are reasonably spicy and although they're a little messy to eat, the char on them creates a smoky sweetness.
Lucky's LM prawns $16.90
You may as well roll your sleeves up and go broke with the prawns as well. Eat the head and tail if you please, but savour the delicate flesh in the middle, pepped up with garlic and peri peri.
Hau! chicken livers peri peri $9.90
The chicken livers are probably my favourite dish of the night. Here they're cooked only briefly so it's still soft in the middle, and served in a rich gravy that packs some heat.
Lucky's BBQ pork rib rack 'n chips $35.90
At $35.90, the full rack of pork ribs is the priciest dish on the menu but its complement of chips should easily tide over even the hungriest bloke. The ribs aren't particularly smoky but the sauce is predictably sticky and almost fruity in sweetness.
We finish up with that South African classic, bobotie, a dish that originated from the local Cape Malay community. It's best described as a kind of meatloaf topped with egg before being baked. Yellow rice and chutney make this a complete meal.
And dessert? We kick off with koeksisters - pronounced cooksisters - that are deep-fried twists of dough. Derived from the Dutch word koekje for cake, these are quite dense and heavy with a thick syrup glaze that almost makes your teeth hurt from all the sugar.
Milk custard $8.50
The melktert is a milk custard tart that uses more milk and less egg compared to Chinese or European custard tarts. This creates a lighter milkier tart that is dusted generously with cinnamon. It's also said to have come from the Dutch.
Malva pudding $8.50
But the dessert I can't get enough of is the malva pudding. The name malva comes from the Malvasia wine from Madeira which was traditionally served with this Dutch dessert. Today it's particularly popular in Cape Town, South Africa's capital.
The pudding is warm from the oven, spongy in texture and doused liberally with syrup. It reminds me of a British golden syrup pudding.
It's been a wet and miserable night but there's plenty of cheer inside this charming eatery. The staff are friendly with advice if you're unsure on what to order, and you're sure to bump into a couple of homesick ex-pats too.
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Lucky Tsotsi Shebeen and Bar
245 Oxford Street, Darlinghurst, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 8354 1306
Tuesday to Thursday 5pm - midnight
Friday 12pm - 3pm, then 5pm - midnight
Saturday 4pm - midnight
Sunday 4pm - 10pm
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7/11/2013 02:41:00 am