VERSATILE: The dancers and other entertainers at Gold also double as your waiters.

Bianca Coleman

ALL over the world you will find places that offer tourists a traditional meal accompanied by cultural dancing, singing and so on. I’ve been to this kind of thing in the Far East and while it’s are nice and pretty and all, I found it a little cheesy. There are quite a few venues here in Cape Town that promise the visitor an African experience but I reckon few do it better than Gold.

The restaurant used to be in Strand Street, adjacent to the Gold Museum, which provided a certain synergy, but when the lease came to an end recently, Gold relocated to Bennet Street in Green Point, in the same multi-level building as Trinity nightclub. With the different floors and dining areas decorated with African art and items like a multi-coloured beaded tunic from Chad, Fulani earrings from Mali, original Kenyan beaded collars and Nigerian bronze and cuffs, an Ashanti stool, gold-leafed Fulani calabash lights, as well as a Moroccan-themed roof garden, it lends itself to both big groups and corporate functions as well as intimate dinners for two.

Perhaps obviously, a night at Gold is very much geared towards foreigners; they come in by the busload, chattering in German, Italian and Chinese. But it would be very arrogant of us Capetonians to turn our noses up at something like this, because we occupy only a small piece of this continent and this experience is African from top to bottom.

Looking at the map on the back of the menu I am pretty sure there are a lot more countries than there were when I did geography at school, and Gold represents many of them.

It begins with an interactive djembe drumming session. I am not a team player and things like this normally make me break out in hives. My date wasn’t too keen on the idea either and it was almost a deal-breaker when I invited him. But we manned up and joined the group, led by a man named Easy. We sat at the back, which made it easy for us (sorry).

Everyone gets a djembe to bang, and Easy taught us some simple rhythms and techniques, with the very optimistic goal of getting us all to do it together, at the same time. Some of it was a terrible noise, but to his credit Easy managed to get something not too bad out of us by the end. It was fun, and a bit more energetic than you’d think. Our hands were quite sore when we were done, but we were smiling.

One of the things I love about any African dining adventure is the hand-washing ritual, which is what follows the drumming. After that you are shown to your table, and given a welcome drink spiked with edible gold leaf. The staff, gracious, welcoming and friendly, are from all over Africa and do double duty by serving the food and drink, as well as performing energetic music, dancing and singing between courses.

There are also appearances by willowy Mali puppets, all of which provide memorable photo opportunities.

The menu is halaal, and is a feast of 14 dishes, each of which is explained as it is served. It starts with warm Xhosa pot bread with biltong dip and smoked snoek paté. We loved the Malay roti with ostrich mince and chutney cream. Tunisian briouats (pastries with potato and garlic) and Zambian imfino patties made with mielie meal and spinach formed part of this course. A South African chicken pie was presented before the “main” course of Namibian venison pot (springbok), North African couscous with corn, herbs and dates, Tanzanian mchicha wa’nazi (spinach with coconut cream and ground nuts), Malay lentil dhal, and tabouleh inspired by our very own Evita Bezuidenhout’s recipe. If you don’t know who the most famous white woman in South Africa is, go to – that’s a whole other story on its own.

The meal finishes with Moroccan almond and orange cake topped with Amarula crème fraîche and more gold dust, and a platter of fresh fruit – banana, apple, watermelon, pineapple and the most amazing plump, red, juicy strawberries I have had in years.

Wherever you come from, this will be a night to remember. It costs R250 a person excluding drinks which, if you are familiar with dining out prices in our fair city, you will know is very reasonable.

Gold Restaurant is at 15 Bennett Street, Green Point, Cape Town. Telephone 021 421 4653 or go to www.GOLDrestaurant.

l Some Holiday EsCape Times activities are sponsored by the suppliers.