During my almost three week stay in South Africa, I barely ate any South African food. I ate a lot of different cuisines. However, very little of it would be classified as South African cuisine. The great thing about South Africa is that there is a diverse collection of foods available, so nothing ever feels too far away. As a result I was constantly eating things I craved, but were ultimately familiar to me. I had braai but that was basically just South African barbecue.
Therefore I didn’t really deep dive into South African Food until my very last day. Luckily I choose Karibu on the V&A Waterfront. Karibu at first glance struck me as an upscale South African dinning experience with well-dressed waiters on the beautiful waterfront, a lovely view, and over-priced dishes. For the most part my first impressions were correct but there was so much more lingering underneath that exceeded my expectations.
While looking at the menu I noticed that there was a long list of dishes available. From Braai to Malay, everything under the South African sun was obtainable. Personally this made ordering daunting for me since I didn’t have any reference for what may be good and what I may like. Fortunately, a strength of Karibu is their willingness to educate. By putting a glossary at the back they make the food a little bit more accessible by explaining the jargon. You still aren’t quite sure what you are eating, but at least you are a bit more familiar with what you are reading.
Another strength of Karibu was the service. Luckily for me, I went for lunch which meant that they were less busy and I was able to have a lovely conversation with my server, Lisa. Asking her what I should eat, opened a wonderful can of worms where we discussed everything; food, travel and even a little bit of politics. Lisa was attentive, knowledgeable and interesting. Similarly to my eating habits in South Africa, I didn’t speak to as many South Africans as I would have liked. Between the other travelers and people who moved to South Africa that I spent most of my time with, there wasn’t much space for people who were actually from there and better yet were originally from more rural areas. Talking to Lisa was a breath of fresh air. There is nothing better than being served food from an expert.
The food itself felt familiar. The lamb stew tasted like stews that we may make in the Caribbean, which I believed to be a testament to the Caribbean’s African roots. Personally the food could have used a touch more basic seasoning to truly make the cuisine pop, however it was beautifully presented and enjoyable. What I appreciated most about the food was the use of local products. Having local game meat, sea food and, wine made the food feel more authentic even if it is influenced by hipster cuisine.
Ultimately, I am delighted that Karibu was one of my last dining experiences in South Africa. It left a lovely flavor on my palate. It may not have been the most authentic experience possible but it was enjoyable and I think incredibly symbolic of my stay.
To check them out for reservations, visit them online at https://www.kariburestaurant.co.za.