As much as one can appreciate the skill, flare, and passion that goes into haute cuisine, is there anything better than a home-cooked meal prepared with love, fresh ingredients, and tried-and-tested recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation? This is the core philosophy of the beautiful and the talented Caribbean supermodel Mala Bryan, who has just opened a Caribbean-style restaurant at Botanik Social House. We were fortunate enough to secure a seat at the exclusive launch of Kwéyòl, the Caribbean word for “Creole”, where we were treated to wave after wave of Caribbean-inspired fare.
Teleported to the tropics
Located across the road from the leafy, historic Company Gardens in Queen Victoria Street, Kwéyòl’s venue is visually sensual with living, growing trees comprising its décor, an enormous feature wall thickly dressed in vegetation, and gaily-hued downlights casting overlapping veils of colour over the space below. Here, it is easy – especially after a few rum cocktails – to imagine that you have been teleported to some quaint, jungle-side restaurant in St. Lucia, where the chairs are on the rickety side, the mix-matched décor vivaciously colourful, the atmosphere laid-back and rum-soaked, and the food generous and utterly delicious.
A childhood in the Caribbean
The menu at Kwéyòl draws influences from Mala’s extensive travels but is most firmly rooted in the Caribbean, specifically the island of St. Lucia where she spent her childhood learning to cook from her grandmothers. There isn’t an ounce of pretention here; Kwéyòl does not affect any airs and graces, nor does it attempt to masquerade as fine dining. The food here is honestly and lovingly prepared, simply presented, and exuberant, delicious, and satisfying in texture, flavour, and portion. It is essentially honest Caribbean fare served without any intention of being “Instagrammable” and, you know what? I kinda like it that way!
For starters, we tried the kachumbari – thin slices of tomato topped with creamy avocado, a seasoned tomato and onion salad, and house dressing; medallions of grilled corn in a rich coconut milk, tomato, and curry sauce; and tostones – twice-fried plantains (a cultivar of banana reserved for cooking) accompanied by a divine garlic dipping sauce and cabbage salad.
For mains, we tried two dishes from the menu: grilled jerk-style chicken with rice, beans, steamed cabbage, and carrots (as well as a sensational Haitian style slaw that was all kinds of pickled, zingy deliciousness), and tender, flavourful, slow-cooked, fall-off-the-bone lamb neck served with Kwéyòl rice and stewed red beans. Both were sensational.
Side note: falling within the house of what is considered to be West Indian cuisine, you can rely on there being plenty of hot sauces as accompaniments to the food, and at Kwéyòl, they are all house-made and potent! In fact, Mala blends all of her spices, curries, seasonings, and bastes.
Dessert was a simple affair, as it often is in tropical locations around the globe: homemade rum n’ raisin ice-cream (boy, could you taste that rum!) and a delicate, fresh pineapple sorbet because, in Mala’s words, what is a Caribbean-inspired meal without pineapple?
Why you should go
I have never been to the Caribbean before, never mind the island of St. Lucia, so I absolutely loved the opportunity to be educated in what is considered authentic and honest island-style Caribbean fare. More than that, you can practically taste the love, history, culture, and passion that Mala seasons her cooking with – she is a remarkably talented chef. Also, it’s a pleasure to find a restaurant that delivers outstanding food at wholly affordable prices (R80 to R125 for a main meal).
Kwéyòl serves the kind of delicious, soul-satisfying, love-steeped food you would eat if you were invited into a St. Lucian family’s home for dinner. And on this night, I felt as if I were at a good friend’s home, being treated to a wonderful meal (washed down with homemade cocktails) that filled both the stomach and the love tank.
Kwéyòl is open at Botanik Social House, Monday to Saturday, 18:30 until late.
For bookings and enquiries, please call 021 424 5306 or email email@example.com