South Africa 5 — A Light Lunch…


Shortly after arriving at Singita, we decided to head to the outdoor deck for some lunch. We had been traveling some 24+ hours door-to-door including stopovers and had a total of 10 takeoffs/landings so we weren’t in the mood for anything heavy. We had a brief chat with the sous-chef, and although I mentioned an interest in “local food” — it was clear that the menu was really skewed to a very international set of favorites, with the chefs’ twists incorporated. I loved the menu, but was a bit disappointed about the lack of local dishes (which I would learn more about over the course of the next few days)…


Mrs. MM started off her lunch with a brilliantly hewed chilled cucumber soup (top photo), a good antidote for the warm noontime temperature levels. Our “butler”, Vivian, poured us glasses of sparkling water, as well as a cold crisp white wine and would soon learn I was addicted to Coke Light with lots of ice. She then brought a basket with two kinds of bread, and served that with a trio of tapenade (olive), chakalaka (spicy vegetable) and pesto (basil) spreads. The chakalaka was an instant hit, and Mrs. MM would eventually ask them for a recipe which they kindly provided for the simple sauté of vegetables with tomatoes and chili. The tapenade and pesto were delicious as well.


For her main course, Mrs. MM had a panzanella salad with toasted cubes of brioche. Simple and delicious. With just 28 guests in the hotel at any one time (there must have been roughly 20 guests when we were there), this would be like running a kitchen in a large home with very discerning guests with an international palate. The menus were limited, but I could have eaten each and every item on offer. Considering we were in the middle of nowhere, and several hours from the nearest grocery, the line-up of dishes was nothing short of impressive.


Tables for lunch were set up under a large ebony tree, and staff kept a watchful eye for monkeys that had a habit of poaching bread or other goodies right off the breakfast buffet table or even from your bread plate. No wonder they had “slingshots” as part of the “equipment” in the villas, along with emergency horns and flashlights. :)


I started off with a terrific caesar salad, complete with marinated whole anchovies, not the really salty canned anchovies. The marvel here was the triumph of thoughtful simplicity. A few crisp romaine leaves, with large shavings of parmiggiano reggiano in between, several whole fillets of marinated anchovies, freshly made breadcrumbs (probably from uneaten home baked breads from breakfast buffets) a few quail’s eggs and just perfectly dressed. Not overdressed. And while the portion may strike some as being modest, you could literally have as many portions as you desired…


In the brief interval before the main courses arrived, we looked out at the opposite bank of the sand river and were a bit giddy with anticipation for our first game drive. The following day, just after lunch, a female leopard apparently strolled through the hotel grounds, passed right under the lunch deck, and spent a few minutes in front of a villa before heading home. It’s the stuff of dreams — you can’t make these things up. For my main, I had a bowl penne carbonara, with particularly flavorful bacon. It was delicious, but you must understand now why food (my near lifetime obsession) took a supporting role to the game watching.


Our daughter, still a bit out of sorts from all those take-offs and landings (I was quite prone to motion sickness when younger as well), opted to have just a light serving of samosas with tatziki and herbs. The samosas were beautifully executed, with wafer thin skins instead of the doughier consistency of a classic samosa. We returned to our villa for a quick nap before heading out on our first drive…


12 Responses

  1. Once again your vivid description of the meals you ate, along with the stunning photos, compliments the adventure that you and your family have taken not only for the safari outdoors but also the gastronomical delights you partook of. Thanks for sharing.

  2. As I grow older, I somehow begin to find sauces and dressings abhorrent. I never understood why many of the socioeconomically higher end ‘older’ folks didn’t appreciate sauces until I entered their biological phase. This is the kind of food which now appeals to me – dryish, fresh and full flavoured. The taste and clarity of the ingredients complemented rather than masked. Even with curries, I want them made with freshly ground spices so you only need half their amounts to pack in the same punch and thereby also end up with a product minus all that debris/’mud’.

  3. Always had the impression that butlers were supposed to be male. Africa may be more forward thinking that I thought if they have female butlers. And good thing you packed your good underwear Marketman, woman can be way more “himantayon” when it comes to underthings.

  4. May I suggest calling a female butler a buttress and I guess, a head stewardess a flying buttress.

    The simplest recipes, you know, the one’s with the fewest ingredients, are invariably the most difficult to pull off perfectly.

    @Khew, It might be simply a function of what your now diminished digestive capacity can break down; the bane of that far section of our age continuum when hollandaise sauce becomes one’s sleeper enemy.

  5. Zerho, actually, Vivian took care of our food and drink only. I was actually concerned about a valet clearing our luggage and handling our clothes. :)

    Betchay, similar looking wood ebony to kamagong, both really hard, both expensive, and both now quite rare. There were several large ebony trees on the reserve, but when I tried to buy ebony wood in handicraft places in Cape Town, there was none to be had.

    Khew, I know what you mean.

    AlexME, the trip was so inspiring that writing the posts is so effortless (except I have to wade through thousands of photos and choose just a few of the best)…

  6. Ah the Chakalaka was to die for. I hope you were able to sample Bobootie which was in the menu. The staff were very gracious to make for our family liver and giblets in peri peri sauce. Looking forward to seeing more of your posts. I miss Ebony.

  7. @Footloose – (^_^)

    MM – the quality of your photos definitely took a wonderful evolution as compared to the earlier ones you’ve taken. Kudos!!! As is with the rest of your readers, we are travelling with you on this journey. I also checked the company’s website and WOW!!! ultra-expensive ha. But I agree with you – it is a trip of a lifetime and one that could be checked off your bucket list.

  8. Looks delicious! But I am sure the view took the cake (pardon the bad food pun) :)

    I also had motion sickness when I was younger…and still have it to a certain extent now. I can sympathize!



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