Restaurant Review

Written By: The Lowdown - Jan• 31•01

Eating OutVoodoo Lounge

With Christmas just around the corner, it was time to make arrangements for a Christmas lunch for the Lowdown Bunch and for one of the ladies from Businet, downstairs (Paul was too miserable to give both of them time off!). Always hardworking, we agreed that this should be at one of the new restaurants that have opened, so that a review could be done at the same time. Voodoo Lounge was our choice.

Because of appointments that had been made for the afternoon, we agreed that we would meet at noon so that we could be back in the office by two or shortly thereafter. Claire was the first to arrive and she had to hang around in the well-stocked bar until the rest of us got there.

It was a fairly chilly day, so we chose a table away from the wind blowing through the door, which, in retrospect turned out to be the wrong table, because it was also the one adjacent to the traffic route from the kitchen to where the cutlery is kept.

First business was to order something to drink, soft drinks all round which arrived promptly and were well chilled. Then, down to the business of deciding what to eat. Beautifully designed and printed menus were distributed, but all the prices had been written in my hand, either directly onto the menu or on tatty little stickers which in some cases partially covered the description of the dish.  We sympathize fully with the need to increase prices, especially with the way the Kwacha is sliding just now, but a separate piece of paper with the prices would have been perfectly acceptable.

Having decided that we would all have a starter, the choice was easy – two Seafood Cocktail a la voodoo and two Jungle Palava Mushrooms. The Jungle Palava is fried, crumbed mushrooms served on a vegetable omelet and was not only tasty, but also filling. The Seafood Cocktail was made from a few very tiny shrimps, some calamari and artificial crabsticks. Unfortunately, the calamari had been overcooked, so was rubbery and the crabsticks were still in large chunks, but the flavour was as good as I have had anywhere else.

Selecting the main course was not as easy, because of the large selection of dishes which all sounded delicious. As we were trying to decide, Dina, the owner, arrived and she explained that the food is mostly cooked in the Lebanese way, in a coconut batter. After some discussion, we decided to order one meza, a Voodoo Seafood Platter and a Pharaoh’s Delight. For the meza, we selected six items from a list of eighteen. Our choice was Kibbi balls, grilled halloumi cheese, olives, chicken wings in a peanut based sauce, calamari rings and mini meat kebabs. In accordance with the menu, these would be served with a basket of ‘fresh vegetation’ and a selection of pickles. The seafood platter was to consist of prawns, calamari, fish fillet pieces, mussels and smoked salmon, or at least that is what four of us heard, and it was because of the smoked salmon that we decided to order this platter. We were also assured that a full portion seafood platter was sufficient for two people and would be served with a selection of French fries, fried plantains, sweet potatoes, sweet saffron rice and vegetables of the day. The Pharaoh’s Delight was two skewers of kafta (parsley and minced lamb) and two skewers of lamb kebabs served with a minty-cucumber and yogurt sauce. An additional sauce, Voodoo Shashilik sauce was ordered.

This order created confusion – did we want it all at one time? Yes please, as we shall all share the different dishes. This was too difficult, the meza and kebabs arrived and after some delay, the seafood platter.

The first disappointment was the halloumi cheese. Rather than grilled, the four small pieces had been cooked in what appeared to be breadcrumbs, but could well have been coconut. If it was coconut, the flavour was not apparent. The cheese inside was soft and not our idea of halloumi at all. The four Kibbi balls (we decided that kibbis are probably very rare and that would therefore account for the price of K18,000) were tasty, as were the kebabs. Again, the calamari had been overcooked and was tough. Through some mix up in the kitchen, we never did receive the chicken wings, although they did appear on the bill when it was presented to us. The fresh vegetation was just that – enormous pieces of lettuce and carrots with some cherry tomatoes. The pickles consisted of a few gherkins and some achar-type pickle, which certainly had a bite to it. At a total cost of K 69,000, we did not think that we were getting value for money.

The lamb kebabs in the Pharaoh’s Delight were the same as the kebabs we had ordered with the meza and were tasty. The kafta were very nondescript. The Shashilik sauce looked and tasted very much like the chilli sauce made by one of our local producers, but did look very pretty with the piece of mint stuck into it. We again questioned whether we were getting value for money for this dish at K 36,000 including the sauce.

Finally the seafood platter arrived, and this was the biggest disappointment. At K 70,000, and when one has been told that it is sufficient for two people, one does expect something larger than an ordinary rectangular shaped dinner plate with the seafood laid out in a single layer. Again the calamari was rubbery and when we asked about the salmon were told that it was steak salmon, not smoked salmon. This could well have been a slip of the tongue, but even then, none of the pieces of fish on that platter was salmon. Sweet potatoes were not served as they were concerned about the quality of what they had, which was acceptable and the plantains (or bananas) were cooked in a batter again, probably coconut, but again the flavour was not apparent.

Somewhere in the middle of the meal, another round of drinks was called for, and this time, we were served ginger ale out of tins which still carried the Shoprite price tag of K1,200. The price on our bill was K 2,500, a mark up of more than one hundred percent.

Since Christmas only comes around once a year, we decided that we should partake of dessert. Desserts are not included on the menu, but the waitress did tell us what was available, although we were confused at what exactly banana grape was. It subsequently turned out to be banana crepe. We finally agreed on two Lebanese chocolate ice creams which were more like a chocolate mousse that had icicles in the centre and a pastry which had cream cheese in the centre, which was extremely tasty.

To round it off, a cappuccino was just what was needed, except that the first one could well have been hot chocolate. After the first sip, it was spirited away and the second cup tasted a lot more like cappuccino.

A lot more training, mostly in English language, needs to be given to the waiters and servers, so that they can understand what the clientele requires and so that the clientele can understand what it is they are saying. With a total bill of K 309,000 for four people, with only soft drinks, we did not feel we got value for money, but at the same time, every dish was delicious and full of flavour.

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