Where: 199 Peter Mokaba Road (North Ridge), Morningside
Open: Tuesday to Sunday, 7am to 9pm
Food courts - places that one must use in airports or malls - are usually depressing. The food is invariably bad, the staff bored, the eating areas noisy, over lit, draughty and uncomfortable. They’re soulless places that I avoid like the plague.
But The Food Box is a concept that’s shaking things up in the overfed suburb of Morningside. A food court that isn’t a food court, but a collection of small and passionate eateries with interesting and artisan offerings, in one venue with a communal eating area that is fun and funky and visually appealing.
The brainchild of My Kitchen Rules South Africa finalists Kamisha Naidoo and Pashi Reddy, it’s a trendy destination aimed at attracting foodies from all walks of life. And it works, with a wonderful buzz late on a Tuesday evening.
First stop was the bar, which stocks a range of interesting wines, beers and gins. We let the barman suggest a drink for us and he came up with a new purple gin we’d never seen before, with pomegranate, rosemary and tonic (a double came in at R65). These were good.
Food offerings included the Kung Thai Express, with an interesting selection of Thai tapas and some curry options. Then there was Shot, which offered a range of juices, muesli and granola, and a thousand and one ways with eggs, or brioche or oats etc. Not in the mood for breakfast at that hour, I now know where to come when I feel like an eggs Benedict in the evening. And I often do.
Then there’s Salt, which specialises in burgers and other tasty stuff of that ilk, and The Rolling Pin, which specialises in pizzas and Turkish pides, pastas and naanwiches. And a spot specialising in waffles.
Also in the mix is Kofu, which offers authentic Japanese cuisine and fresh sushi prepared by Chef Louis, who has more than 20 years experience. You can watch your food being prepared as you sit at the teppanyaki tables.
We started with some Thai tapas, making up a platter of fish and prawn cakes, paper prawns and duck spring rolls (all R42 each). The duck spring rolls were very good, as were the spicy fish cakes with a super-crispy crumb coating.
There are some options on the famed Thai tom yum soup, and red, yellow and green curries for those who want a more substantial main course, as well as the usual noodle or rice stir fries.
We opted for one of the boat-shaped Turkish pides stuffed with butter chicken (R55) from the Rolling Pin, and enjoyed it immensely. The butter chicken was mild but had good flavour and the bread was beautifully crisp. They also do snack platters.
For mains we went to Salt and shared a portion of soft-shell crab in crispy crumbs and coated in a Korean garlic sauce (R160), which was recommended by the cashier.
My friend was amazed you didn’t have to pick it out of the shell. It was very good, and I understand why that pungent garlic sauce was recommended. We battled to finish it. Salt’s burger patties also looked good and are definitely home-made.
And then - the only mild disappointment. By the time we got to waffles, it was after nine and everything was closing up.
There’s no real service as such. You order at the counter and get an electronic buzzer, which fires when your order is ready to be collected. But because each food unit is entrepreneur driven, they know their stuff.
A big thumbs up.
Food: 3 ½
Service: N/A. But everyone is very friendly.
Ambience: 4The Independent on Saturday