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Family-style Feasting at 4Roomed Foods
It feels just like home
If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life - Marc Anthony
This ethos is epitomised by the modest restaurant I walk into on a lazy Friday afternoon. Tucked between two houses on the busy Makabeni Road in Khayelitsha, you’ll find 4Roomed Foods.
“It all started in 2014 when I was on MasterChef SA. I had to find a purpose as to why I was in the competition. I decided to return to the township and offer a unique culinary experience,” founder and Head Chef Abigail Mbalo says. Sis’ Abi, as she affectionately prefers to be called, creates a homely environment where everyone is welcome and fed until they can’t manage another bite. So if you’re fixing for a hearty plate of umngqusho (samp and beans), craving umleqwa (‘runaway’/free range chicken), or just feeling adventurous enough to try some traditional Xhosa food with a gourmet twist, then this is where you need to be headed.
4Roomed Foods has two components; there is an efficient take-away section out front and a seating restaurant area towards where diners can relax and chat to one another emthonjeni (at the watering well).
“We don’t want people to feel reserved like they would in a formal restaurant, that atmosphere can get stuffy. We want diners to feel like kusekhaya apha (it’s home here),” Sis’ Abi says as her husband, Sam, floats from table to table interacting with and enjoying the company of their guests.
This rustic eatery had humble beginnings. In 2014 Sis’ Abi started the 4Roomed eKasi Culture brand with a food truck that had a pop-up restaurant component. You could catch the nomadic, vintage Bedford bus roaming from one shisa nyama, and township, to the next serving healthy, balanced meals. Popularity among locals, and curiosity among tourists, grew at a rate the former dental technician never expected, which is when she decided to venture into fine dining. That passion project that is 4Roomed Fine Dining eKasi birthed 4Roomed Foods which is quickly overtaking the popularity of its predecessor.
Started as a place to get typical township food, diners began to want a place to eat their bunny chows, kotas and stews. “We just wanted (with 4Roomed Foods) to introduce diners to different flavours, but we’ve found ourselves here now,” Sis’ Abi reflects as she looks around the ekhaya-inspired dining space she’s created.
Sis’ Abi insists on calling her meals an experience, and they are exactly that. From the minute you walk in you feel like you’ve come home to something familiar and comfortable. If she isn’t in the kitchen whisking, stirring and sauteing, then Sis’ Abi is serving and chatting to diners.
Cooking is love made edible and 4Roomed Foods will spoil you in a way that you will feel very loved! The food you’re treated to can only be described as just-how-mama-does – it’s that nostalgia for home cooking that we all long for at some point. Every bite is sentimental and the tastes transport me to holidays spent in my grandmother’s kitchen, watching her as she cooked for the whole family – sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, cousins, grandchildren… and all their friends!
When I visit 4Roomed Foods, Sis’ Abi seats me for the three-course winter meal. It starts with an exquisite butternut soup with hints of orange and ginger, and nasturtium-flavoured olive oil drizzled on top. It takes a memory of my mother yelling at me for licking my bowl clean as a toddler to not do the same after finishing the soup!
The top 12 MasterChef SA finalist pairs flavours beautifully and the portion is enough to satisfy my hunger pangs, yet keep me excited for what is to come. The second course is umleqwa served with mqa (stiff pap) and vegetables. I’m not one for pap but the addition of butternut looked too good to resist, and I’m glad I tried it. Sis’ Abi asks if I needed time to let the feast settle before dessert but, like a little kid, I didn’t want the goodness to end. For finishing everything on both plates (veggies too) I am rewarded with a chilli chocolate mousse with orange flavoured crumble and berry coulis. As if that isn’t enough, there is a spicy warm chocolate cake with white chocolate fondant drizzle on the plate too. I was the fat lady and I sang Sis’ Abi’s praises.
Note: 4Roomed Foods is rolling out a spectacular three-course spring/summer menu that promises to be as satisfying as their warming winter menu. The rustic eatery doesn't have a liquor licence yet so you are welcome to bring your own drinks and no corkage fee will be charged.
The Bill: Take away meals: R45 and R115 | Three-course spring/summer menu: R150 – R225
A605 Makabeni Road | Khayelitsha | Cape Town | +27 (0)76 157 3177
Words by Inga Sibiya
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