A mid-winter feel-good comedy to warm you up to the core
‘Baie lekker’ steaks at Mama Africa
All South African delicacies on one plate in Cape Town
‘Mama’s cooking for you’. Mama Africa Restaurant and Bar – an icon in Cape Town - lures you in. If you’re visiting Cape Town as a tourist, make sure to stop at Mama Africa for lunch or dinner.
The restaurant specializes in typical South African dishes and is situated on the corner of Long Street and Pepper Street. The outside murals give you a sneek peak of what to expect inside: an authentic African experience. At least, as authentic as can be on touristic Long Street...
When we enter through large wooden doors, the African rhythms of live band Abakhaya float through the colourful restaurant. Every single night one of the three marimba bands - Abavuki, Marimba Vibrations en Abakhaya – performs at the restaurant. The tunes make for a relaxed atmosphere and add to the African feel.
We are seated right next to the kitchen. It feels like sitting in an original African hut: African masks, wooden carvings of African animals, paintings and drums decorate the walls and floor. Mama Africa makes you feel African.
But from a restaurant with a reputation as Mama Africa you would expect more than just a nice atmosphere. You would expect great service and mouthwatering food. And Mama Africa doesn’t quite live up to that expectation.
Springbok, kudu and crocodile on one plate
I order springbok, my friends choose the warthog steak and kudu. The menu is extensive and has something for everyone: game, seafood, curry and vegetarian food. A complete game park on your plate, that’s what Mama Africa offers.
Dare to be different and opt for crocodile kebab. Not so adventurous? Then the ‘safe’ springbok steak might be more your cup of tea. Don’t know what to choose? Order Mama’s Game Grill: crocodil, ostrich, springbok and kudu on one plate. Why choose if you can have it all?
Mama Africa is more a brand than a restaurant. The space is packed, especially with tourists. During busy nights, it might take a while before Mama’s cooking actually arrives at your table. Because we’ve been waiting for over an hour, our waiter brings a plate of delicious spicy samoosas and creamy snoekpatés. The first hunger is stilled.
We’re a bit disappointed when the waiter brings our dinner. The plate looks basic and the food is expensive for what you get (approximately R110-R140 for a steak). The portions aren’t as big as expected, but my eyes might be bigger than my stomach after the long wait. But let’s be honest: the steaks are a delight. However, the rice and vegetables are a bit dry.
Touristic attraction on Long Street
It’s all about the exotic African experience at Mama Africa. Whilst eating on popular Long Street, you’ll still feel as though you’re having lunch or dinner in the middle of Africa. The atmosphere at Mama Africa is good, the food is nice, but that’s about all you can say about the restaurant and bar.
Mama Africa relies on hurdes of tourists. This touristic attraction almost collapses under the commercial pressure. Enjoy the atmosphere and the live music, but don’t expect gastronomical excellence. There’s not a single restaurant in Cape Town that’s bad, but Mama Africa is not one of Cape Town’s culinary masterpieces.
By Elske van der Velden
Address and opening hours
Lunch: Tuesday to Friday from 12:00 to 16:00
Dinner: Monday to Saturday from 18:30 to 22:00
178 Long Street | CBD
Wondering what other restaurants Cape Town has to offer? Browse through our Eating out Section.