Mzoli's - Gugulethu’s church of meat

Sunday mass just got meaty

I don’t know what I was expecting. Hang on, let me re-phrase that – I don’t know what I was thinking. A sophisticated affair, a few people, and a campfire in the middle of nowhere? Pfff! How embarrassed I was at my misconception. Mzoli’s is one of those rare occasions when you can rip chunks of meat apart with your bare hands, feast and get your groove on. A few people? Try a few hundred. Mzoli’s is more house music and a sexy crowd than camp fire and; as it’s more like a twenty minute drive from Cape Town than out in the tribal wilderness, neither you or I have any excuse not to go.

Mzoli’s. Mzoli’s Place. Mzoli’s Butchery. Mzoli’s Meat is the more fitting of a variety of names bestowed on Gugulethu’s Church of Meat. Founder, Mzoli Ngcawuzele (I’ll be damned if I can pronounce his second name, but all I know is that the man is a genius), opened Mzoli’s in 2003, selling meat informally from a garage. Since then, Mzoli’s has catapulted to one of the most popular hangouts in Cape Town and one could even go as far as to call it a meat institution. It’s endorsed by famous faces such as, DJ Fresh, Tony Yengeni and TV chef, Jamie Oliver.

Mzoli’s is not a posh restaurant by any stretch of the imagination – it’s rustic, tasty and a real township experience

A big crowd of us met at the supermarket on Sunday morning. We stocked up on bread, paper plates and serviettes (shops close to Mzoli’s also sell these items), before piling into a shared taxi. As we pulled up to Mzoli’s, we were greeted by plumes of smoke from the braai. Mzoli’s is a large, covered canteen with plastic tables and chairs. There were already crowds of friends sat around drinking and feasting from tin bowls filled with mountains of sausage, beef and chicken. I hadn’t had a large breakfast and the scent of their ‘secret’ marinade induced secret pangs of hunger. I would recommend calling Mzoli’s to book a table in advance or to arrive before midday. When we arrived, many of the tables were already sporting reserved signs and we were lucky to seat our party of twenty.

Before ordering our feast, we visited a nearby shop to buy alcohol and peanuts (you can also bring your own). We sat sipping cold beers in the sunshine, indulged in conversation. A DJ was playing deep house in the background. On the table next to us, were some American travelers, who were already tucking into a plate of marinated beef. ‘This is incredible, dude. It’s so addictive’ I heard them announce, through satisfied mouths full of meat. Rather than wiping their meat-covered hands on a serviette, they placed their greasy thumb prints in a journal – something to remember their Mzoli’s experience by.

Succulent strips of meat, fired in a sublime marinade. Nom, nom, nom, indeed!

Of course, Mzoli’s is all about meat and that’s all you really want to know about. Right? You can choose your own meat from the meat counter, which is rather exciting. You then take it to the grill to be marinated in their ‘secret’ sauce and then you wait for it to be fired up. I can tell you that the moment our meat arrived was magical. I’d never seen so much meat in one bowl and my eyes were so wide that I thought they may pop out of my head. Without hesitation, we all got stuck in, ripping apart chicken and tearing beef from the bones with our teeth (this is where serviettes came in handy). The taste? Certainly not something I would easily forget. Succulent strips of meat, fired in a sublime marinade. Nom, nom, nom, indeed!

You find yourself talking to people with whom you wouldn’t normally interact

By 15:00, Mzoli’s was heaving with people. Locals, tourists, businessmen and, well, everyone, mingled in the same space (there were literally hundreds spilling out onto the streets). At Mzoli’s, it’s not only the meat that stands out, but also the young, fashionable crowd. We’re talking bright, African colours, funky hair styles and sexy designer labels. It’s a crowd full of life, that knows how to party and can throw some serious moves on the dance floor. Mzoli’s vision was that all races could hang out in the same space and you certainly find yourself talking to people with whom you wouldn’t normally interact. It’s a crowd that can’t help but make you smile.

Video Mzoli on the Africa Report                                 Vide of DJ Milli Mbali & others at Mzoli's 

What makes a perfect Sunday afternoon? A few beers, a braai, a group of friends, house music, and a gorgeous crowd, beneath a blanket of sunshine. Everyone, at least once in their life, should make a pilgrimage to Mzoli’s – Gugulethu’s Church of Meat.

Best time to go: Sundays, from 11:00-late.

NY115 | Gugulethu | Cape Town | +27 (0)21 638 1355

Read our directions to Mzoli's in Gugulethu.

There's plenty more to do in the townships besides chowing down on meat. Why not get down with gospel or execute some fancy footwork with a little soccer? Check out our township tours section.

By Lisa Nevitt | pictures by Antonia Heil

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