A great Lowveld Tale

She bills herself, very misleadingly, as the naked chef. Admittedly there was an unseasonably chilly Lowveld wind the night we were there, which would have carved an edge to any nudity, but, with Cindy’s regretful clothes firmly on, things were cooking anyway.

“My vissie is dood” came the SMS to one of my dining companions’ cellphones. Her husband, Danie, a 6’2″ butcher, interrupted our evening to announce the demise of his Siamese Fighter named Chan (after Jackie – well, they all look the same don’t they?) and, with touching poignancy, closed the message with one of those crying smileys that looks like Nemo in distress.

“Ons sal vir jou nog een kry”. She promised him a replacement. He wasn’t to be consoled though, and replied in plaintive English “but I liked this one” so she crushed him with a “Flush it; I’ll buy you another one tomorrow.” End of conversation.

We couldn’t bring ourselves to order the trout but then we’d known beforehand, anyway, what we were going to have as a starter. Cindy’s crispy guinea-fowl spring rolls, plumped full with tasty stuff and dunked in mother-in-law Pat’s (she of Pat’s Stall) fine Sweet Chilli Sauce.

We were at Treetops in Hazyview. Not Treetops in Kenya where the Queen became Queen or Treetops in India where the tigers live. Treetops in Hazyview beats them both because they are not quasi-Alpine log cabins, they do not have horse-brasses on the walls, they do not have baths in the restaurant loos, they don’t offer you a glass of OBS when you arrive, they do not have the bespectacled, studious-looking Raephi as a Pedi waitress in white blouse and pink V-neck, and they don’t have Cindy.

Home-made bread, a bottle of white, a bottle of red and glasses like goldfish bowls (sorry Chan). We wolfed the spring rolls with all the gusto of a Siamese fighter and awaited the main course with unashamed and ill-disguised drooling. Two oxtails and a stuffed chicken breast; garnish that’s edible, not silly, and comes straight out of the garden.

My other colleague (whose girlfriend keeps cats, and a ridgeback called Shaka for the cats, entertainment, instead of exotic fish named after kung-fu experts) was entering into the food critic thing with enthusiasm and professed his chicken-filled-with-mushrooms to be moist and humid without being fetid but with a gravid depth added by its dark accompanying gravy. In other words, he really liked it.

I know many people who won’t eat oxtail because they know which part of the ox it comes from. Well, it doesn’t take much working out does it? All I can tell them is that by turning down the opportunity to eat Cindy’s oxtail (even if she won’t show them her nakedness) they are turning down the second best thing in the world. It is amazing. It is also moist and humid and far from fetid. It, too, is in a dark rich gravy. But there is more. It comes with extra butter beans if you want it to make you extraordinarily fat (me) instead of just a bit fat (fish-flushing dinner guest on weigh-less). It is gorgeous. You can pick it up and suck it clean and schlupp the lovely bone-marrow out and you’ll need a bath afterwards (lucky that there’s a bath in the loo) and Oh Yes.

Gluttony as usual getting the better of me at this stage (and never having been one to worry too much about deadly sins), I ordered the Bread and Butter Pudding which is attributed to Anton Mossiman who luckily never threatens to take his clothes off and who, I am willing to bet, does not make his Bread and Butter Pudding anything like as well as Cindy does. The apple pie, too, according to one of my grateful dinner guests, was better than mine.

We ordered a coffee, polished off the Merlot and mused back to the days when Hazyview’s only restaurants were the now sadly-defunct Tembi and the sadly-still-operating Chicken Licken. Many had come and gone in the past and many new ones have opened in the past six months and are as yet unproven, but Treetops stands out as the work of a professional.

Raephi had pulled a black cardigan over her pink V-neck and the likelihood of the chef-proprietor’s reducing her clothes-load seemed to be reducing rapidly. It was time to go home. We felt far from misled but we needed a bath.

Treetops Restaurant
Open for Dinner Tuesdays to Saturdays
12km out of Hazyview on the R536 to Sabie
Tel 013 737 8294