Chef Banele's funky dishes pack them in at Lush
Most nightspots look a little shy during the day. It is no surprise that many of these establishments are looking for ways to keep the vibe going during daytime hours, namely by expanding into eateries.
This formula seems to be the winning ingredient for one-year-old Ruimsig establishment Lush Lounge.
The unassuming eatery and nightspot is fast becoming a prominent feature in its neighbourhood. The interior is an eclectic mixture of sombre masculine tones witnessed in the dark furniture namely the heavy octagon table set, with long tables that can be booked for private functions.
These are offset by white plastic furniture paired with distressed wooden tables framed by faux green climbing plants which carry over to the bar which is all mosaic tiles and wrought-iron high chairs with the Big Five embossed on them.
The interior is further enhanced by shelves holding books, ceramic busts, African masks and jazz records, which lend a homely feel to the place.
The décor is very indicative of the establishment's personality. Sowetan arrived during the day where the mood was relaxed, almost too much, with a minimum of patrons who had booked for a special occasion. After waiting more than an hour for the executive chef Banele Mazalwayedwa who had gone on an emergency supply run, we finally were able to talk about his menu.
Lush initially was modelled as a "premium shisanyama".
"When I joined Lush they wanted it to be a premium shisanyama but I found that limiting in terms of the people that want to eat. Somebody will want to eat a burger and we don't want them to go to shop B to get a burger and then come back to drink here. We didn't want to make it a shisanyama alone," the 35-year-old chef says.
The business has an extensive menu with pasta, prawns, burgers, traditional South African fare and it recently launched a children's menu.
"We're also going to do little pizzas for the kids to enjoy. we only took part of the menu to launch for our first birthday weekend but as for the next week going forth we will be running with the full menu," Mazalwayedwa says.
He added their shisanyama tag is still very much in effect.
"It's because of where we get our supplies, we're not scared of spending so that the end user gets the best quality. Even for our chakalaka wors that we make here, it's a recipe that we did and we get our supplier to make it for us. It's only here where you can get that chakalaka wors," he said.
The Zimbabwe-born Mazalwayedwa says that his favourite dish and one of their bestsellers is the wings, which come in various flavours such as peri-peri, barbeque and one with an Asian sauce that is made in-house.
"We want to cater for everyone from almost every walk of life. There are people who like Asian, and I have the prawns, they're very Asian in flavour, through some sauces, the ginger, some garlic and things like that. I've got a Tex-Mex burger, I try to incorporate everyone so that the [client] can dine here instead of just drink."
Mogodu Mondays, on which traditional fare is served, is their busiest day, including people ordering takeaways.
Mazalwayedwa says that the staff have a lot to do with the establishment's "popularity".
"There is synergy in the kitchen, which makes our service fast and efficient so that you don't get bored sitting and waiting for your food."
We were given the opportunity to taste a few of the chef's dishes. Such as the Tex-Mex burger, with salsa and chips.
A Caesar salad with blue cheese dressing and honey and garlic prawns. The burger is a hunger buster, it's large with a juicy patty and a soft bun, which means you must not delay wolfing it down lest the bun gets too soggy.
The garlic and honey prawns are truly an acquired taste. I found the prawns overwhelmingly sweet.
Sowetan photographer Antonio Muchave loved them however.
Mazalwayedwa said: "I'm an exotic kind of chef. I enjoy playing with flavours, I enjoy having my patrons have an explosion of flavour. "
The establishment opens at 8am and Mazalwayedwa is very involved in running it.
Sowetan went back to the establishment at night and the place was packed, omunye phezu komunye vibes, as some patrons were standing because all the seats were taken. It was good to see security personnel among the crowd even though the clients were well behaved.
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