REVIEW weekday Indian fix at Eastern Food Bazaar

A yummy weekday lunch stop in the CBD made me so pleased I’d bothered. Parking may be tricky, but merely passing through on four wheels means missing out on the bustle and pedestrian vibe of Cape Town’s inner city. dsc_009.jpg

I’ve torn out clippings about Eastern Food Bazaar, determined to try it ever since its 2009 opening. I was under the mistaken impression that it was a smart casual, cosy walled-in space. Not so. The Bazaar’s predecessor Wellington Fruit Growers always fascinated me with its narrow space lined with long shop counters of edible wares, accessed via doors on both streets. The current conversion features two open entrances with a tunnel of food stalls in between. The only attempt at décor is a seating area surrounded by painted walls and a few Indian carved screens.

I felt like I was back in Asia during a lunchtime office break – Eastern Food Bazaar is modelled on those food courts found in Singapore to Thailand, electronic menu boards offering descriptions and prices above cooks manning stainless steel catering counters.

I shared a lunch table with the lovely Vanessa Quellac, who recalls cake recipe quantities and methods in the way most of us remember our telephone numbers. I consider this plucky American to be one of the most talented pastry chefs Cape Town has ever seen. Vanessa was enthusing about her recent time in Germany learning about breadmaking, since leaving The Roundhouse. She is considering various business options - a city bakery and cake shop is on the cards. If you’ve ever tasted her desserts you will so hope it happens…

Lunch at Eastern Food Bazaar is simple. dsc_005.jpg Alongside doner kebabs, Indian snacks and plenty of pre-made curries in sauces in bain maries, there are vegetarian savoury alternatives. Some of it looks dried out or highly coloured, but the volumes of people eating suggest that nothing sits there too long. The majority of items are in the R20 to R30 price range, so you can eat well without much hassle or expense. We split up and collectively ordered and paid for a chicken biriyani (R25), mildly spiced and fried potato wedges called Jira aloo (R20) and a personal favourite, masala dosa (R20). Portions were plentiful.

The biriyani was average, orange-toned chicken pieces on a bed of multi-coloured rice, but the jira potatoes made a tasty extra. However none of it came close to the delicious masala dosa prepared on the spot. If you’ve never had this southern Indian delight, a ground rice and lentil batter is poured on to a heated surface, forming a round, super-thin wafer. When it’s cooked, a mildly spiced potato mixture is plonked in the centre and the dosa circle is folded over. You tear pieces off and dip them in lentil gravy and coriander ‘chutney’ for light-as-a-feather bites.

We didn’t try more spicy options, moving to a dsc_0006.jpg charming old-style café called Bread Milk & Honey for a cappuccino and chocolate ganache cupcake (For Vanessa a meal without something sweet is incomplete). The cupcake frosting was pretty good but the cake mix was dry. I can’t wait for Vanessa to set up that bakery.

Value: Outstanding. Flavour rating: good to great, depending on the Indian dishes you order. Plenty for vegetarians or carnivores with spicy tastes.
EASTERN FOOD BAZAAR, 96 Longmarket Street, Cape Town CBD. Tel (021) 461-2458. Open daily from 11.30am – 10pm.