For those still not in the know, The Upper Palatte is a group created to get ‘friends’ together, at least once a month, to try out new places to eat thus broadening our palate sensations – whether it may be a trendy bistro at a five star hotel or an undiscovered earthy ethnic eatery. Members of The Upper Palatte are affectionately referred to as Upper Crusters. An Upper Cruster is a member of The Upper Palatte and consequently a part of The Upper Crust (TUC), which is the title given to the body of individuals who belong to The Upper Palatte.
On Friday 20 March 2009, The Upper Palatte (TUP) had its second ‘eat’. The venue was Mama Tembo’s Cafe, an ethnic eatery located in the suburbs of Linden, Johannesburg. A total of twelve Upper Crusters were able to attend The Upper Palatte’s second meet.
Initially, Mama Tembo’s was supposed to have been the venue at which TUP was meant to have its inaugural eat. However, just before the eat was to take place, it was brought to my attention that all current Mama Tembo’s had been disenfranchised (coincidentally, all within the same week of TUP’s inaugural eat) but that a new branch would be opening at a later date. Seriously… what were the odds? I may add that this was extremely annoying and a major inconvenience. As a result, I had my reservations about rescheduling another TUP’s outing at Mama Tembo’s, yet, for some odd reason, I found myself drawn to the mystique of the place. Honestly, I was most curious to find out how ‘ethnic’ the place really was.
At first glance, Mama Tembo’s may be said to resemble a restaurant from the ‘Cool Running’s’ chain of party venues. However, once inside, patrons are transported to a 1960’s flavoured South African ‘shebeen’, with tin roof and all, which is filled with memories from the ‘good old days’. The place is 100% South African and proudly so. I must say, that it would be the perfect place to bring an international visitor. Not only will visitors be able to learn about our history and culture, but, cleverly so, they are also able to purchase any of the exorbitantly priced item which litter the venue’s floor, walls and tables. Furthermore, all cutlery is wrapped within ‘dish cloths’ and served within old coal driven clothing irons. The place is very funky ,with great little touches, and oozes a deep ‘African’ warmth. The experience is not unlike standing in a queue at the airport, surrounded by people who have no concept of personal space, while sipping a strawberry daiquiri.
With regards to the food, I was rather disappointed with the menu. Although Mama Tembo’s toots being an ethnic eatery, the place has no special or unique cuisines. I was expecting meals along the lines of ‘Crispy Chicken Feet’, ‘Goats Brain’, ‘Lamb Knuckles’ or even ‘Tripe’. Our domestic worker would have been immensely dissatisfied. With regards to food, I will try almost anything at least once. Sadly, the most interesting meal on the menu was that of the ‘Marrow Bones’ starter, which I obviously ended up ordering. The meal was great, delicious in fact. The best part was the sauce of the marrow, which had a sweet balsamic spin to it. Dillon and myself ended up polishing it all off and were even tempted to lick the plate clean *lick*.
For my main course I ordered the ‘Lamb Stew’. Although I found the meal to be far too salty, I did enjoy the overall taste. My meal was served with traditional ‘pap en sous’, which I laced with Balsamic vinegar, and, as Tammi put it, ‘el dente’ vegetables. I also ordered a side of the rather
unique and unusual ‘pap’ chips. Pap chips are tendrils of mielie meal which have been deep fried. Unfortunately, they do not really taste like anything, perhaps oil, but that is as good as it gets.
Service at Mama Tembo’s leaves a lot to be desired. It is not unlike going to Cool Running’s or News Cafe when it is really busy. Myself, and several other Upper Crusters, had to continuously ask for drinks or meals, again, and again, and again… and again. You know, I understand that being a waiter is hard, I get it, but that really is not my problem. If you are a waiter, it is your job to ensure that the customer is happy and well fed, and not left trying to gain your attention through various charade like hand gestures or even, through sheer desperation, smoke signals (yes, we burnt quite a few things with the candles… who doesn’t? *snicker*).
Despite the gripes with the service, the rest of the evening was a great amount of fun. We literally danced and sang while being offered free tequila shooters. I am not talking about the good kind now, after all we were supposed to be in a ‘shebeen’, but the kind that feels like it has lacerated your oesophagus while it burns a hole into you stomach lining.
The ‘feel good’ effects were immediate which resulted in, among other things, Freddy feeling up tiny metal ‘cocks’, while Simon made ‘vaginal shaped chickens’ out of dish cloths, which left Dillon trying to smoke the papery ends of straws, all with Tammi absentmindedly making ‘sperm’ out of tissue paper and candle wax. Yes, good times!
At the close of the evening, The Upper Palatte unanimously adjudged Mama Tembo’s Cafe with a delicious rating of eight out of ten. This ‘ethnic eatery’ is trendy and has a fantastic vibe. Although the service does have its flaws, the food is good and a great time can be had by all. Endorsement: Deliciously Recommended.
Although all of The Upper Crust who were able to attend had a fantastic time, we do hope that the next venue to be visited by The Upper Palatte will be just as much fun or perhaps, even better! Please do have a look at the album from ‘The Upper Palatte Ingests: Mama Tembo’s Cafe.