DETAILS: Dhs169 (soft drinks), Dhs229 (house beverages). Fri 7pm-10.30pm. Southern Sun Hotel, Al Zahiya (02 818 4888).
Whether you have a taste for home or a taste for the never-had-before, you can find an abundance of cuisines from around the world in this city. Indian, Chinese, Filipino, Indonesian, Lebanese, Latin American, Caribbean, Ethiopian, even Irish… The list of brilliant, authentic cooking is endless thanks to the revolving door of expats coming and going from Abu Dhabi.
Usually, a melting pot makes for a better cooking pot, however, it must be said that one nation from the southern hemisphere is often under-represented despite the wealth of its residents relocating here: South African food can be a tricky bite to find. Many big supermarkets stock meats and confectionary known and loved by the Rainbow Nation.Head to any Carrefour and you’ll find spirals of boerewors at the butcher’s counter, tins of Milo in the tea and coffee aisle, proper electric-orange Fanta in the fridges, you’ll even find Ouma Rusks in the cereal aisle. But when it comes to dining out, options to reminisce or have an introduction are not so aplenty.
So, when we found out a proper braai has arrived in the city there was only one thing to do: put down our chopsticks, dig out our Springbok rugby jerseys and say “Howzit!” to the Southern Sun Abu Dhabi’s rooftop feast.
And boy, the Friday night braai is lekker. (Translation: “excellent”). For the uninitiated.
We take the elevator to the 27th floor and as the doors open, we’re hit by waft after waft of barbecuing meat. And, most importantly, the unmistakable fragrance of sizzling boerewors. We follow our noses to the outside area of Hytes, where staff have set up the braai and pop-up bar. And, as we’re led to our tables, we’re beamed back to childhood nostalgia. Look, this may not be exactly the real-deal braais from back home – it’s on a rooftop pool in the world’s richest city for a start – but it’s as close as we’ve found here.
Like all good braais, food is help yourself – with meat options including swirls of said ’wors, lamb chops, two cuts of steak, bunny chow complete with mini hollowed out breads and chicken legs. There’s even lashings of shakalaka relish and pap on the side. The salad selection is small, but sufficient. Options include potato salads, coleslaw, mixed kale, quinoa and nuts and some variations on classic Mediterranean salads.
We charge back to the table and dig in. The food is delicious and the smells (or maybe our stories about it) have clearly piqued the interest of others as a crowd of South Africans and other expats with a curious nature are turning up in their droves. Even more pleasingly, the small space is full – couples, groups of friends and families with small children pack out the deck.
Smiling and attentive staff ensure our drinks are never empty and there’s a selection of hops, grape and frozen mixed drinks.
With the first sitting of nostalgia complete, we wind our way back to the grills. “Fancy doing some braaing yourself?” asks a cook. “Yah bru,” we reply while donning a white apron. We season our steaks, throw them on the grill for finers and cook with glee. Can it get any better? Well, actually, it can.
It’s then that we spot a dark wooden shelf with bottles of olive oil, some spices and glass jars brimming with biltong. The ultimate South African bar snack – like a beefed up American jerky. And as we dish up our self-cooked meats, we pile our plates high with biltong and troddle back to the table, grinning from ear to ear.
WHAT IS IT...
A South African braai on the deck of a rooftop pool
For the ’wors, the steak and the novelty of the chefs letting you have a go for yourself