My friend Jonathan Everitt is a photographer, IT specialist, and occasional (like this is the first occasion) restaurant reviewer. I thought it would be interesting to see his take on the past, present, and future of the Caravela on his first visit to Botswana last month.
Over to Jonathan:
The restaurant officially opens its gates at 6pm, so I spent some time waiting outside and taking photographs until the new managers, James and Sue, arrived. I was welcomed in and told to make myself at home as they prepared for the evening. I chose a two-seater table in a corner, and made my way around the restaurant with camera in hand. I familiarized myself with the bar, and menu as the waitresses busily prepared tables and cleaned up. I went outside and took some photographs of the courtyard section, empty given the cool weather. Still, I could visualize the lunchtime bustle as customers enjoyed the shade provided by the large trees, the wall allowing one to forget the neighboring suburbs. By this time, Tony, the owner of the Caravela, arrived, and was kind enough to spend time with me, giving me some background on how the restaurant began.
Originally from Mozambique and then Rhodesia, Tony arrived in South Africa in 1982 where he began a catering business. He remarked how different the people were when he first arrived in South Africa, and although welcoming, he found them quite reticent in developing the easy friendships he was used to from his Rhodesia days. In 1996 he and his wife, Lou, left South Africa and settled in Botswana where they started the Caravela, following the dream they both shared of owning and operating a distinctive establishment that offered Portuguese food in an intimate and comfortable setting, without a pretentious air about it. My impression was that the restaurant was to be regarded as a special place, as though one was visiting a friend's home. Certainly that was how they made me feel. Tony brought James and Sue on board to operate the restaurant as he wanted more time to relax and enjoy his life with his family. My observations of the four together during the evening were of a close-knit family working in synchronicity- a refreshing change from the majority of Johannesburg restaurants.
From the starter menu I chose the prawn cakes (4 in a serving), which were delicious, while I enjoyed the house red. For my main course, I chose the Bife a Portuguese, grilled fillet steak with wine and garlic sauce, topped with bacon and fried egg and served with rice or chips.The steak was a sizeable portion, but the flavor was what made it. It was prepared as I always prefer, medium-rare. At the risk of being boring, I would choose the same meal again. Given the satisfaction I got from that dish, why choose anything else? But fish lovers can select from seafood kebab (Espetada De Peixe), two styles of southern Africa's delicious local Kingklip, Sole, Calamari, Cod fish, and finally Portuguese sardines. Then there are meat and chicken specialties which all looked excellent.
At times the electricity went out (Tuesdays and Thursday are the days that this happens apparently), but in a couple of seconds a generator somewhere at the back of the restaurant started up and everything resumed once more. No one expressed a murmur of discontent when the electricity failed - indicating that the diners were regulars, used to this.
During the course of the evening, the atmosphere was warm, and the conversation levels kept low, befitting the intimate atmosphere of the candlelight, especially when the power was off. The tables were well spaced for privacy and the service was attentive, but not intrusive.
The conclusion to this evening was that, funds permitting, I would fly to Gaborone just for supper at Caravela!
Thanks, Jonathan! I can't wait to get back to the Caravela. And everyone thought Stan and I go to Botswana for the wildlife when, as you see, it's all for research...
Michael - Thursday.