By John Fraser
I would need the tentacles of several Oscar-winning octopi (or octopuses, if you prefer) to count the number of enjoyable, cheap and cheerful beer and pub-grub lunches I have enjoyed in the bar at Jo’burg’s Wanderers Club.
However, I do not intend to go a-wanderin’ in there ever again after a recent, truly memorable meal. Memorable for many of the wrong reasons.
It was a Monday. Apparently they follow the teachings of Bob Geldof and don’t like Mondays. While we are told that Monday’s child is fair of face, but Wednesday’s child is full of woe, it seems that Wednesday had arrived two days early in this Jo’burg institution.
The website tells us that the newly-renovated Wanderers’ Chariots bar is one of Joburg’s top restaurants. It “is not just a place to watch sport, have a few drinks, or grab a bite to eat. It is a place for you and your friends to come together, have a laugh and shout and cheer for your favourite team.”
I won’t argue about the sport-watching, as there is no shortage of TV screens. The shortage is of decent, well-priced food.
They allow non-members like me into this club, and I was the first to arrive.
The renovations, I observed, seem to have involved removing the comfy sofas and stripping the place of any really comfortable chairs. I had preferred it comfortable and a bit shabby.
Seated near the entrance in what I hoped was an area with minimum risk of Covid, I was brought the menus. A reasonable choice, I thought, of reasonably-priced grub.
When I had been joined my my buddy Norman, who is as much a member as a fixture, I decided to order a club sandwich. I like club sandwiches, and I was, after all, in a club. And fancied a sandwich.
Then came the first blow. Having brought me a menu, the waiter proceeded to explain that I couldn’t order from it. It was Monday, where woe is the dominant theme, and the choice was minimal. Instead, he pointed us to a chalk board with a limited, but acceptable, choice of nosh.
“Why not have a curry,” I said to myself – and Norman, who was eavesdropping, copied my choice.
I asked whether the beef or the chicken curry was the better, and was advised to order beef, as most people ordered chicken. I am still not sure of the logic of this, but dead cow it was. What we were NOT told was that while the price was R120 for the chicken, it was a ridiculously inflated, exorbitant R165 for the beef curry. In a pub. Which clearly expected me to fully subsidise the cost of the recent renovations.
After an exceptionally long wait (in a nearly empty bar) the food eventually started to arrive – in relays.
The chariots were clearly in for repair, and someone must have nicked the trays, so one of us got a curry, then later some rice, then later the other curry was delivered…..it took a while.
What of the food? Well, the curries were served up in frying pans. Not plates. Not bowls. Fucking frying pans!
On a separate plate, each of us received a small mound of nice and half a roti bread.
I was initially disappointed by the side of the roti. And then I tasted it and disappointment was eclipsed by relief. It resembled a cardboard cutout more than it resembled an Indian-style bread. It had no date stamp, but I would have been surprised if it had been made that week. It was the worst thing since sliced bread.
I proceeded to drown the rice in the ample gravy which surrounded the chunks of beef. And it didn’t taste too bad.
My big problem was with the texture of the beef. I like a curry or a stew when the meat has begin to break down, to become soft and moist.
These cubes of beef were still so cubist that Picasso himself would have wanted to paint them.
I ate half of it, more to curb my hunger than to arouse my senses. Not impressed.
We each had draft Windhoek lagers, although my first beverage was a bottled lite beer. Either the draft lager had spent too long in the barrel, or the staff had failed to clean out the pipes properly. Either way, it tasted a bit flat, with not much more life than the parrot in that legendary Monty Python sketch.
Worse was to come. I asked for the bill. It arrived. I queried it.
Not having initially asked the cost of my meal – and the menu board was priceless in the wrong sense – I was told that we were, indeed, being charged R165 each for our curries. This place was cheap and cheerful no more.
Not being a member, I was unable to claim the members’ discount. I paid, and cried all the way to the car.
Don’t get me wrong. I have every sympathy for SA businesses which have suffered from the government’s illogical and vindictive shut-downs and booze bans.
However, if they are now able to trade, they should provide food which will delight their customers and make them come flocking back, having told all their friends and posted a pic of each and every course on social media. At least twice.
Sorry, Wanderers. You let yourselves down badly by serving over-priced, underwhelming food.
I won’t be returning.
Rating: I give it 1*
Key to the Ratings:
1* Dog food is nicer
2*. Cat food is nicer
3*. Not bad if Woolworths is sold out of ready-meals.
4*. I like it
5*. I love it. Not to be missed.
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