Graham Paterson is an illustrator. He is also my housemate.
He moved down from Durban at the beginning of this year to move in with me and a few of our friends. Despite initial suspicions that he couldn’t cook, he surprised all of us tonight by making the best pizza any of us have ever had – on my terrible excuse for a braai, no less.
Here’s how he did it.
First, make this easy pizza dough from Jamie Oliver (link) and roll it out into 25-30cm rounds. It’s inexpensive and relatively easy.
If you can, roll your bases approximately 5mm thick. (You can make them thinner if you want, but seeing as we use an old Milk Stout quart as a rolling pin, it’s about the best we can get. The thinner they are, the easier they’ll cook on the braai.) Stab the rounds with a fork a few times to make sure they don’t shrivel up when they go on the coals.
After they’ve rested for a bit, braai your rounds on semi-hot coals for about three minutes on each side. Just par-cook them: make sure to get a little bit of colour on each side, but also make sure that the dough stays mostly raw.
Once they’re charred, thinly spread tomato paste on one side of each base. In this instance we used plain tomato paste from a tube, but a homemade Neapolitan sauce would also work well.
Lightly sauté some onions and whatever toppings you want for your pizzas while they cool. When your toppings are lightly cooked, spread them on the bases and add a thin layer of mozzarella on top. (Don’t bother using expensive cheese with this recipe – the smoke from the braai will likely overpower any light notes in good buffalo mozzarella. On saying that, however, blue cheese would work excellently.)
Chuck your pizzas on the braai, and cover with the lid. If you don’t own a Weber, cover it up with a cardboard box lined with aluminium foil like we did. This way the coal chars the bottom of the base and the heat trapped in the lid or box cooks your toppings and lightly melts the cheese.
For best results, only put your bases on the braai after the coals have been burning for anywhere between 70 and 90 minutes. Any earlier and you could risk charring the undersides of the base a bit too much. It won’t ruin the pizza, but the char might be too strong for some.
When the cheese is lightly melted and the bottom lightly charred, cut and serve.
Enjoy with any beer you wish. I chose Castle Milk Stout: the char on the base and the heavy roast on Milk Stout’s malt went together like a dream.
This recipe might seem like difficult work, but it is a lot more rewarding (not to mention a lot cheaper) than ordering pizza in. The dough is probably the most difficult part, but once you’ve made pizza dough a few times, it becomes second nature, even to an unnatural cook like me.
Today’s lunch: falafel pita and Napier Dark Ale. Napier’s Dark Ale used to be almost overbearingly smoky, almost burnt, but this batch is a lot mellower: soft, wispy and very quaffable.
Durban’s central suburbs are a bit of an anomaly. Half chic, half stuck in time, it’s the sort of place that the hip and frighteningly uncool rub shoulders quite easily. Seemingly frozen in the amber of its Eighties and Nineties heydays, a suburb like Musgrave isn’t exactly known for progressive dining. But in an unassuming corner of Durban’s most famous once-famous suburb rests one of its best-kept secrets.
Unity Brasserie and Bar on Vause Road admittedly isn’t the sort of place that jumps out from the sidewalk. But once you enter into its mute-palette world of painted brick, polished concrete and slick illustration, chances are you won’t want to go back to the rough-edged outside world too soon.
Somewhere in between upper-crust gastropub and relaxed brasserie, Unity is immediately inviting and intriguing. Silhouettes of livestock adorn the windows and walls, reflecting Unity’s focus on their use of locally sourced and ethically raised animals. It’s stressed on their menus and specials boards. It’s even printed out on the steps of their entrance stoep.
Fittingly, a lot of care goes into their ambitious menu of gastropub favourites and new inventions. You’ll find superlative burgers – from venison to veggie – inexpensive bunnies and, unsurprisingly, a damn good cut of cow. That is, if you’d want to look past such decadences as the bone marrow on toast or the tagliatelle ragu. For such a seemingly meat-geared establishment, Unity also offers a pleasing number of well-constructed vegetarian dishes, of which the lentil and butternut bobotie is king. Frankly, it’s better than most meat boboties.
“Most people say that Unity’s for carnivores,” says owner Sean Roberts, who also runs the classic Mediterranean eatery Café 1999, which is literally next door, with his wife Marcelle. “But I’d like to have a hand held out to the vegetarians as well.”
But the best thing about Unity isn’t its ambidexterity, its commitment to good produce, or even its bar menu for game-time snacks; it’s the beer.Unity is one of the very few restaurants in South Africa that offers its own house craft beer. Brewed a half-hour’s drive away at Shongweni Brewery (whose Robson’s range is considered by beer critics to be one of SA’s best) the aptly-named Cowbell is an astonishingly creamy pilsener with light citrus notes and hoppiness that slakes the itchiest thirst. Its richness accompanies most of the menu superbly, but it’s just as good sipping it by itself with one eye on the cricket.
In a few months’ time, Unity will become exclusively a craft beer affair. Additions from Darling Brewery and Jack Black will soon accompany Cowbell and their current European craft options supplied by Brewers & Union.
“Craft beer and me have a love affair going,” Sean enthuses. It shows. Even now there is, quite literally, nothing like Unity anywhere else in the city. Cowbell itself will be bottled and available locally soon, but world domination isn’t the plan.
“It’s not my game to want to get it out to bottle stores and lots of other restaurants,” Sean says. “We hardly have enough for ourselves.” And that’s no surprise, as they don’t seem to sell any other beer here: they go through 1500 litres of Cowbell a month.
Unity is a welcome tonic in a city in need of more thoughtful dining, not to mention alternative drinking options. Bringing together just the right amounts of sophistication and fun, it goes to show that innovation breeds in places sometimes thought stale.
This piece was written for GQ.co.za, and may be found in its original format here.
This might sound incredibly presumptive, but I would hedge a large bet that most young, unsheltered people in Cape Town have at the very least heard of Royale Eatery on Long Street. As such, I’m not going to ramble on too much about it, but for those of you who haven’t heard of it, consider this a decent recommendation.
Somewhere in between boho chic and eclectic café, Royale is unadulteratedly Cape Town. Even their menus are attractive. Known for their superlative burgers and milkshakes, Royale is a place where the food is morish, the waitresses pretty and the tables sought-after. During the afternoon and early evening it’s pretty relaxed, but come here at night and could be hard-pressed to find a table.
Luckily, on the third and fourth floors of Royale’s Long Street premises is The Waiting Room, a bar at which, well, you can get a drink and chill while waiting to get into Royale. It’s a beautiful spot in its own right - with a rooftop liberally swathed in fairy lights - and quality folk acts play there regularly.
The beer choice at Royale is better than most. They have the whole Brewers & Union range as well as a handful of beers from SAB. Interestingly, they offer Laurentina, a Mozambican beer made by SABMiller for which I have tepid feelings, and a Portuguese beer called Super Bock which, disappointingly, is neither a bock nor super. Despite a failure of nomenclature, it’s an OK beer. It has a decent malty backbone for a pale lager, but I think a lot of people might be disappointed in it, given its name.
Any bock-related disappointment, however, is swiftly mitigated by pure burgery pleasure. They are burgers that, in Royale’s words, “make your soul tingle and your dreams come true”. I agree. You can choose between normal fries, sweet potato fries, potato wedges or a mixture of two to accompany your burger (I usually get the sweet potato fries). All of the burgers I’ve tried so far - the Cosa Nostra, the Santori and the Baa Baa - have been delicious, but seeing as this was the first time I’ve come to Royale since I stopped eating mammals and concentrated rather on decimating our local fish population, I ordered something new: their Thai fish burger, which at R66 was entirely satisfying. They have over 50 burgers to choose from to suit any tastes or dietary preference.
Royale also do salads, pizzas and a few other things but, as any Royale regular will tell you, the burgers are where it’s at. They’re not cheap, but they’re certainly worth it.
For a pleasant meal with minimal fuss - and plenty of opportunity to people-watch - Royale Eatery’s a great pick, with good atmosphere and a great location in the middle of town to boot. Line your stomach before a big night on Long Street, or just relax with a beer and burger during the day. It’s all good.
A great article from the Wall Street Journal about pairing food with your beer. Or beer with your food, whichever catches your fancy.
Includes good pairings with burgers and ICE CREAM SUNDAES.
Good ol’ Robsons, eh? Winners of a bajillion awards every year, including SA’s Champion Beer or whatever with their West Coast Ale in 2009, it’s no wonder that Shongweni Brewery’s Robson’s range (website here) contains some of South Africa’s best loved craft beers. It’s also because they are, by all accounts, uniformly delicious.
I’ve always liked them, what, with their 550ml bottles, which have ample compensation for the 50mls you generally have to leave in the bottom of any bottle-conditioned beer. It means that you still end up with a full half-litre without the risk of yeast floating in your glass. Common sense, really. And, so I have been told, unlike most craft brews in this country, Robson’s beers reward careful cellaring and develop different characters with age. (I once left a bottle of Nottingham Road Pilsner in my fridge for a year and I’m pretty sure the yeast had formed its own parliament by the time I opened it.)
I had this one fresh, though. The Durban Pale Ale is Robson’s take on the Indian Pale Ale, but with an East Coast twist. Immediately drawn to anything with my hometown’s name on it - I am a shallow, patriotic man, after all - and having never tried a Pale Ale before, I looked forward to pouring it.
It’s an inviting looking beer for sure. It pours light amber with a thin head that dissipates quickly. The aroma that wafts from the beer is wonderful: it’s lively and floral; grapefruity and cinnamony.
On the palate, one dominant flavour emerges: orange. Immediately sweet from a ton of malt and slightly bitter from a liberal use of Cascade hops (which are traditionally used in a lot of American Pale Ales, by the way) the orange develops from naartjie flavours on the hard palate into tangy zesty notes right at the back of the throat. It tickles a bit. It’s lovely.
Although it has quite a full mouth feel, it has an astonishingly clean aftertaste. A hint of orange and grapefruit zest lingers like the last whiffs of menthol from a breath mint, lightly coaxing you into your next sip.
With it being a Durban Ale, I sort of had to drink it with curry. I made a tikka masala with some cheap dorado I picked up in Claremont, and it was excellent. The sweetness of masala and the fruitiness of the DPA worked really well together, although I’m afraid it caused me to guzzle everything far too quickly.
For R20 a bottle, it isn’t your cheapest tipple, but shit, it’s worth it. Robson’s reputation is well-founded: the DPA, which is not by any standards their best known or most celebrated beer, is clean, delicious and refreshing. Recommended.
Robson’s Durban Pale Ale; 550ml bottle; 5.7% abv.
Pros: Complex full palate; refreshingly fruity; clean, crisp aftertaste; excellent with aromatic meals.
Cons: Not the best looking bottle, but I suppose the substance is what’s inside.
I still think it’s a bit weird how I made that thing into a tikka masala, though.