When I think of travel to Africa the first thing that comes to mind is a safari. I’m not a big fan of animals except for my dogs but going to Africa has always been on my bucket list. It’s a continent I’ve never been to and I wanted to see the beauty in that side of the world. My dream came true last April 11, 2016 when I flew to Johannesburg.
Africa is the second biggest continent in the world in terms of size and population. Deciding where to go is so hard but with the help of A2A Safaris we were able to come up with a two week itinerary. Their support was amazing in terms of planning, booking and support. A few days before I trip they sent a travel kit complete with our itinerary and guides we will need during the trip. The cloth travel pack even included a leather notebook, ballpen and luggage tags.
We had to stay overnight in Johannesburg before we can proceed to the safari in Sabi Sands which is part of the Kruger National Park. It’s a long story but we had to wait for the arrival of the rest of my friends who took Singapore Airlines. We were booked in Southern Sun O.R. Tambo International Airport which was 5 minutes away by free shuttle. By the way, we changed US dollars to South African Rand in the airport. There were a lot of money changers and the rates weren’t far off from each other. My tip is to collect all your money together and change it as one so there will be only one transaction fee. We chose Travelex since it promised to change back any unused Rand at the same rate and without commission when we leave.
We got to hotel by 7:00 am and they had our rooms ready so we proceeded to have a buffet breakfast then waited for my friends to arrive.
It was standard in all the places we stayed for the shower mixer to be on a different wall from the shower head. It was unusual but it made sense for turning on the water and getting the right water temperature right without getting shocked with ice cold water.
Our first breakfast was dismal. There was nothing I wanted from the buffet so I chose the smoked kipper which tasted like soft ‘daing’, fried potatoes and a meatball. The fruits weren’t sweet either but the rehydrated dried peach wasn’t bad.
I wasn’t excited for breakfast the next morning but I was surprised with the much better selection.
We didn’t tour the city on our only day in Johannesburg but we hired a taxi van to bring us to Sandton for dinner. Before we left we had some snacks at the hotel lobby where they served free wine, juice, cheese, crackers and fruit every afternoon. Sweet!
The drive to Nelson Mandela Square, a shopping center in Sandton City, took about 30 minutes and I was amazed at the roads in the city. It felt like driving in the USA and going to the suburbs. Even at rush hour there was no traffic!
The restaurant was split into different seating areas that’s why it didn’t look so huge. I asked our waiter how many waitstaff they had and he said 200.
Give a hungry group good bread and free sausage and you’ll get an empty platter in seconds.
Boerewors is a type of sausage that’s very popular in South African cuisine.
Our first meal in South Africa was a revelation. The portions were big and the prices were very reasonable and sometimes even cheaper than eating in Manila. 1 Rand is about 3 Pesos.
Before I left my friend told me to try the langoustines and she was right. Langoustines look like large prawns but taste like lobster, sweet succulent lobster. I didn’t care for any of the sauces. Just a squeeze of lemon was perfect.
Our favorite dish was the Izimbambo Zemuu or salted lamb ribs. This appetizer portion had about 10 pieces of perfectly grilled tender lamb ribs all for P270!! My friend was going to order the entree portion but the waiter wisely warned her that it was a BIG portion. So listen to your waiter.
The restaurant is popular for game meats which are exotic for us but normal for them. We tried the ostrich and the antelope. I was delighted by how tender the ostrich was unlike the one I tried in Manila. It tasted a little like liver to me. The antelope was a tougher meat. Each entree came with a choice of carbs.
Two thick giant pork chops for P450, cheap but boring.
I ordered the oxtail from the recommendation of our waiter. He was right again. The oxtail was tender and the sauce incredibly tasty. I ordered mashed potatoes to go with it and it was a good match until I tried Kate’s sweet potatoes.
Another entree I really liked was Kate’s cubed fillet cooked in olive oil and fresh rosemary. So tender and flavorful.
What I really envied was Kate’s amazingly sweet baked sweet potato. It tasted like it was drizzled with honey and butter. There’s something in their soil because even their potatoes have a touch of sweetness.
We had a really good and filling meal at The Butcher Shop & Grill. I recommend it to anyone going to Johannesburg.
For dessert we went to Remo’s Liberta next door. We were enticed by their cake display.
The cakes looked better than they tasted. I only liked the baklava cheesecake. The service was incredibly slow and they even got our order wrong.
That’s it for our first day in South Africa. Next up is the safari.
The Butcher Shop & Grill
Shop 30 Nelson Mandela Square, Sandton
telephone: +2711 784 8676