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Eating out: South African cuisine in Mumbai

January 19, 2010 16:38 IST

It was the name of Mumbai eatery Ubuntu that caught our attention. We had never come across such an unusual moniker and that was precisely the reason why we decided to try it out.

We went there one Saturday afternoon for lunch and were pleasantly surprised by the unique decor. The restaurant is part of four establishments -- Ubuntu fine-dining restaurant, Zulu Terrace, Lappa Cafe and Marimba Bar and Lounge -- and had an air of class and elan. There was a lady at the door to welcome us, she looked like she had a black belt in karate.

It was very inviting, comfortable. Imagine each table separated from the next by strings of beads -- although it doesn't afford you much privacy, it still cuts you off from other patrons. The beads shimmered gently in the afternoon sun and you could watch them sparkle even as you went through an extensive menu.

The restaurant offers exclusive South African cuisine, keeping in mind the experimental palate Indians have. The authentic artifacts on the walls add to the ambience and the space between tables is just enough.

Though South African dishes are the mainstay, Ubuntu also has Thai, Chinese, Italian and Indian dishes. You can choose from rice, noodles, pastas and even risottos.

We decided to play it safe -- we weren't feeling too adventurous and opted for the vegetarian menu. There were six different kinds of soup -- vegetarian, chicken and sea food. We ordered for pasta in a toato-based sauce and it was quite delicious, though spicy; it added to the flavour of the soup.

The starters on offer looked quite heavy and can easily pass off for a meal in themselves. There's vegetables, prawns, meat and even Lebanese chicken. For the mushroom lovers, there's plenty of Mushroom Galauti and for the health freaks, salads. For those who don't mind a few extra inches on the waist, there were Tandoori Prawns and Ajwani Fish Tikka.

We decided to skip all of this, just so that we knew what was awaiting us at the main course -- the starters would have been the end of our meal! There was too much to choose from. They had tried to please every tastebud in Mumbai and were quite impressive when it came to it.

The food was good and the portions were aplenty. Apart from rice, one can order every kind of Indian bread like roti and naan or even garlic bread. The dessert menu was our only concern, as it was very limited, consisting only of ice creams, pastries and Gulab Jamuns. We really missed our favourite -- Caramel Custard.

A three-course vegetarian meal here for a couple should cost you about Rs1,000. A three-course non-vegetarian meal will set you back by Rs 1,500, excluding drinks.

You can enjoy liquor at Ubuntu or at the sister concern Marimba, which is next door and opens at 7 pm. This lounge is quite spacious and you can laze around, have a few drinks and unwind after a hard day's work. The tables are arranged in a semi-circle, giving you more leg space. The same South African touch is apparent in the ambience.

You can order drinks and starters, along with light music to start off with -- it builds up to a crescendo as the crowd increases. You have a deejay who takes requests and dedications. If you feel a little claustrophobic, feel free to enjoy your drinks in a quiet enclave within the lounge -- it's big enough to accommodate 24.

Marimba has two giant screens where short movies are screened on Sundays. And of course, cricket matches during the season. In India, owning a TV screen and not showing cricket would be sacrilege!

The restaurant and lounge were opened by a lady from South Africa, who sadly enough, had to leave the country. The owner of the property then took it over, maintaining the South African decor, ambience and cuisine. He has since added the other items on the menu to make it all-inclusive. The head cook has worked in South Africa for four years.

Sunday brunches here come with their own entertainment. A lunch buffet at Ubuntu costs a reasonable Rs 299 per head. Definitely a restaurant you must visit once. And you're free to return if you feel its money well spent -- we thought it was overpriced by as much as 50 percent.

Details:

Ubuntu and Marimba
Dream Square,
C 18/21, Dalia Estate,
Off Veera Desai Road,
Andheri West,
Mumbai.

Phone: +91 (0)22 2673 1181
+91 9833377006
+91 9833300526

Do you have a favourite restaurant or cuisine? Or have you sampled the latest haunt on the block? Be it Manali or Kanyakumari, Kashmir or Goa, Jaipur or Nagpur -- we would love to know more about the eating out options in your village, town or city. Simply e-mail your reviews to getahead@rediff.co.in (subject line: 'Restaurant review') and do try to include a photograph of the establishment; we'll publish the best ones right here on rediff.com

A Ganesh Nadar and Nithya Ramani