#196. Ditch the city for the East Rand on a lazy hazy Sunday that definitely beats the grey rainy days we have been having. We drove out of Joburg – a city that is alive to the World Cup, now almost a month away. The city’s commuters show their enthusiasm by hanging the nation’s flags off their cars. The flags are also flying proudly from the gate posts of some houses and wherever you go there is talk of what’s ahead. Yesterday I overhead three men in the main street of Parkview arguing over whether England would win. “Of course we support Bafana Bafana” is the standard refrain before you launch into who you think will be able to actually score some goals.
We headed for Boksburg about 25kms away to an old favourite, a Portuguese restaurant called Verde Minho. We have eaten meals there for about 15 years and I have to say it – in 15 years we have never been disappointed. The newest owner, Ricardo, is Argentinian – Buenos Aires-born – and over the seven years that he has presided over the place it has developed a more global feel. There’s a Mexican banjo-player on one wall (a de rigueur decor item on the East Rand – growing up in Benoni if you didn’t have one plus a clay cactus somewhere near your front door you were one up from a pariah), a few Portuguese hand-painted pieces of crockery, a travel poster advertising Argentina and a glittered-up polystyrene sign bearing lots of cut-outs of chillies and the word “Fiesta”.
To add to the mix are some maroon stackable chairs and turquoise table cloths and a lot of wooden trellises. The sounds of Abba were being piped through the place as we ate our way through delicious chicken livers and vinegar-drenched Portuguese salad, garlic and herb encrusted medium rare espetada – the juices soaked up by the fat chips below – and peri-peri chicken. There was creme caramel – a dessert that harks back to a 70s childhood – for twenty bucks on the menu but by then regrettably, no place to put it. Around us most people were tucking into heaps of delicious-looking prawns, a house speciality.
It’s cosy inside and we struck up a conversation with our neighbours about where’s the best local Portugese restaurant. The table across the way joined in saying that we were sitting in it and we then all spent some time comparing notes and discussing the difference between Portugese food from Portugal and Portugese food inspired by Mozambique and Madeira. We were told that if you want peri peri chicken in Portugal you have to order it LM-style (which stands for Lourenco Marques, the city now known as Maputo). As a nation, we are definitely feeling friendly. I think it’s in anticipation, but then again it could also be an East Rand thing.
Outside, the wide streets of Boksburg central business district were mostly deserted save for an old slightly disheveled and limping white man who stood on Bloem Street as a car guard. “I see you like Souf Africa,” he said as we walked past. “I checked it”, he said, gesturing to his eyes and then the flag atop the car with his forefinger and baby finger extended.
* Verde Minho is on 5 Bloem Street, Boksburg CBD. 011 917-2410. “Open Monday to Sunday” it also has its own pub. Ricardo also proudly invited us to an Argentinean Braai – held each Saturday to the sound of Tango music and the tastes of Spanish and Portuguese cuisine. Tables for this are for a minimum of six people and need to be reserved a few days in advance.