Have I written about Red Chamber since it moved downstairs at Hyde Park Shopping Centre? If I have, I apologise. I go there all the time, but last Thursday was different. I had such an incredibly happy meal there. I know, I know. I have great meals there all the time with my children.
The customers are a diverse bunch. The service is always prompt and excellent. The food is outstanding. But then one forgets just how great it is to get all these things. Why?
It is a bit like SA, really. There are so many great and wonderful things here. There is a gorgeous mountain in the Cape, fabulous wildlife in Limpopo and the weather in Durban feels like it is summer right in the middle of winter. We have everything. The problem is that we also have Penny Sparrow, Jacob Zuma, the Gupta family and their like.
But don’t even for once think that this sort of thing is stopping the winners from winning. The other day I met a young entrepreneur at a conference. He congratulated me on the talk I had just given. He told me that he had decided that the grimmer the news is, the harder he will work on his business.
"No matter how bad it gets, it will get better. I want to be involved in getting it better but for now I am concentrating on making sure I make loads of cash and create thousands of jobs," he said. I don’t agree with him wholeheartedly, but I like the optimism. I see many South Africans like that and I know we are not all doom and gloom.
Which is why, when my lovely wife and my kids hopped off to the movies, I put in a bit of extra work. Apparently it never killed anyone, hard work. Finding Dory was the name of the movie they went to see. The animation is amazing, they said. But I had to work. So, as is tradition, after the movie they went off to Red Chamber. I joined them.
Oh, happy day. My lovely wife was already sniffing and swirling and quaffing the Thelema Sauvignon Blanc when I arrived. That’s why I married her.
We started with dumplings. We always have the same: steamed har gow (prawn dumplings), but because there were five of us we ordered a double portion. We were plain wrong. The children were still at the cozy new Exclusive Books, getting novels about vampires. Before you could say "Where are the kids?" we had schnaffled the whole lot down.
Guilt is a terrible thing. It’s also joyous. So we quickly ordered another portion for the kids because we know they love the dumplings.
Fortuitously, our standard dish arrived as the children got back: half a Peking duck with pancakes, plum sauce, spring onions and cucumber. This is a great dish to be enjoyed in a group. I was sad we had gone for the half. But the kids had smiles on their faces. So did the adults.
I like Red Chamber for its food, its easy-going ambience and its sense of humour. For example, the menu says if the Chinese waiters don’t quite get your English, just shout: "Lai ren na!" (Call somebody else!)
The festival of eating was not over. We had noodles, sizzling beef, sizzling chicken and my absolute favourite: a stir-fried pak choi with hints of garlic and maybe ginger. So delicious. I last had pak choi that delicious in a restaurant on Phi Phi island in Thailand. I ate so much I made myself sick. It was worth it. The pak choi at Red Chamber is worth it too.
Why am I going on about this meal? I have had many like it at Red Chamber, after all. Then I realised why. I was with my family. And so was everyone else. And they were happy.
Shop No 68 U, Hyde Park Corner Shopping Centre,
Corner of Jan Smuts Avenue & 6th Road,
Hyde Park, Johannesburg
Tel: (011) 325-6048
***** Thuli Madonsela