Guest Post: Avoiding 'Hanger' + South Africa's Best BBQ

Guest Post: Avoiding ‘Hanger’ + South Africa’s Best BBQ

What could be better than a fantastic vacation coupled with a “to die for” dining experience? Just think: fresh vegetables, mouthwatering fruits, sinful desserts, velvety wines and the most juicy, flavourful and perfectly grilled meat (*drools*) all set against the backdrop of a stunning savannah, exotic jungle or the sound of waves lapping softly against the sand. The effervescent Jess (the brains behind Jess in Belgium) was fortunate enough to indulge in all that (and more) in her recent sojourn to South Africa.

Luckily for us she came back with an Intolerant-worthy tale that had to be shared…

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I have come to realise there are few things worse than a disappointing meal when you are traveling.

I simply cannot tolerate it.

First, there was the warning I didn’t heed when visiting Rome for the first time. Countless friends told me not to eat at a restaurant with a fantastic view of something old, as the best affordable restaurants are those tucked away in a back alley somewhere. I learned the hard way with a stunning view of the Parthenon, but some un-cooked pasta to accompany me.

Then there was the time we didn’t plan ahead in Annecy, France. We arrived – on a Sunday, in the middle of summer on a roasting train from Grenoble – and proceeded to walk around in circles for AGES, not finding anything we wanted to eat. I think we settled for a baguette and some cheese in a lakeside park {ok, so that didn’t end so badly…but those hours of “hanger” that proceeded the cheese were pretty horrible. See Jay’s definition of ‘hanger‘ in a brilliant post here}.

The point is, so often when travelling, that it is tricky to find the perfect balance of ambiance and deliciousness. But luckily, there are trips where nothing you eat or see disappoints. In fact – you just want to go back to have some more, and that brings me to our recent trip to South Africa.

Mountain view_small

As an American, I just have to say, we have nothing on South African BBQs. They even have a better name for them: braais. The braai has an identity that is bigger than your average BBQ – I guess you could say some see it as uniting the country in a way (just see this movement afoot). And we found them everywhere we went during our 4000km drive across the country.

I ate two of the best steaks I have ever had during our recent trip. And when I say “steaks”, I kind of mean half a cow. The first was at a braai at the seaside made by some lovely friends. I was informed that vegetables did not make a regular appearance at this kind of braai. I chopped up a cucumber and later realized I wasn’t going to eat it.  You just don’t want to eat anything else when the world’s best t-bone is in front of you.

{In fact, the steak was so good, my brain was incapable of thinking of anything else and I didn’t take a picture – but here is the sunrise view which awaited us the following morning.}

Sunrise_small

The second steak was to be found in one of the more excentric restaurants I have been to: The Bombay Bicycle Club in CapeTown. This is one of a series of restaurants belonging to the Madame Zingara chain, which describes itself as “CapeTown’s wonderfully wacky bohemian love den at the top of the hill, where everything is possible and always ensues”. We wanted to order everything on the menu, but at least two of us in the party were delighted we chose the chocolate chilli steak (yes, it is as amazing as it sounds). Paired with a Pinotage (South Africa’s bold, chocolaty red wine), candles everywhere and some great conversation,  it turned out to be a wonderful evening.

The Bombay Bicycle Club (their photo).

The Bombay Bicycle Club (their photo).

Those were the special meals.

But my favorite meal during our trip to South Africa just may have been when it was just the two of us in our little bungalow, after a full day’s safari, making lists of all the animals we had seen that day and debating tactics that would allow us to hopefully see a leopard the next day.

Safari BBQ_small

We threw some corn-on-the-cob in tin foil and had a glass of wine for an hour while we waited for the meat to cook. We listened to the wildlife all around us in the pitch black and ducked giant flying beetles {some of us had big problems with that part, but that is a story for another time}. We ate our food and were happily asleep by 10:30…ready to start  all over again at 7:00 the next morning. When this little guy – a monkey with a penchant for stealing blackberries – would greet us.

Cheeky monkey_small

Yes, meals in South Africa will very possibly make you intolerant of eating elsewhere.

And I didn’t even get to tell you about the avocado pizzas and the strawberry juice.

*Jess on the world wide web: Blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

*All photos by Jess in Belgium apart from that of the Bombay Bicycle Club, sourced from their website.