4Roomed eKasi Culture

4Roomed eKasi Culture
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R190 (second course meal determines price)
Groups, Kids, Local cuisine, Views
African, Modern, South African
Mastercard, Visa
No Charge

Critic's review

Jenna Abraham

Abigail Mbalo is the enigmatic personality behind 4Roomed eKasi Culture, a new restaurant in Khayelitsha. After working passionately as a dental technician for 17 years, Abigail changed her path when she reached the top six on MasterChef South Africa season 3. What originally started as a food truck has expanded into this space, a concept inspired by her childhood spent in four-roomed homes that would be shared by many families. This upbringing instilled in Abigail a strong sense of Ubuntu, the connection between the self and others. Her desire to work with food mostly stems from her observations of “the impact that social imbalances had and still have in our communities”.

Through 4Roomed eKasi Culture, Abigail’s ambition is to foster change through healthy eating habits and encouraging everyone to grow their own gardens. She remembers eating fresh raspberries, peaches and anything else that was abundantly growing in Gugulethu – except the mushrooms, which were forbidden – as a child.

At the restaurant there’s a nostalgic touch to the food, as she pays tribute to South Africa’s local cuisine with a different touch to suit the 21st century palate. The business also caters for fine-dining private events, offers takeaways, and sells homemade organic and locally sourced pantry items to take home.

It’s important to arrive at 4Roomed eKasi equipped with an empty stomach and hungry eyes, keen to experience an unconventional reimagining of the food and furniture of Khayelitsha.

On offer are three different main meals accompanied by a starter and a dessert. All the food has been slowly cooked and prepared with care.

The starter is a lightly spiced lentil curry roll and gently smoked snoek on a homemade sweet-chilli sauce. If more heat is to your liking, just lean over into the vegetable garden to grab some chilli.

For the main course, Abigail recommended the mleqwa (run-away chicken), which is more free ranging than free range. This chicken was chased and caught after having spent its life roaming the streets of Khayelitsha. You might expect it to be tough due to its muscly nature, yet it has been slowly cooked and melts off the bone. The best feature of this dish is the creamy, gourmet butternut mqa (pap) with truffle oil, accompanied by a sweet tomato relish. She also recommends the dumplings wors roll. The roll was freshly made that morning along with the sweet tomato relish and crispy caramelised onions. It tastes like everything it promised to be.

The third main course is a butter-chicken bunny chow. The curry is nestled in a freshly baked and hollowed-out bread, the top of which is great to dip in the sauce. The addition of cardamom takes the complexity of flavours to another level.

Thankfully, the dessert is not an enormous portion after the generously satisfying mains. A moist slice of red-velvet cake arrives with a dollop of tangy cream-cheese icing and a garnish of nasturtium. Next to the cake stands a tiny toffee apple, which is inspired by the burnt sugar that resulted in the end of Abigail’s MasterChef career – but this time the caramel coating is perfect. Alongside, a ball of amasi cheese, made by the chef herself, has been rolled in pepper and rosemary and served with preserved gingered figs. The vegetables on the side may be an odd thing to find on a dessert plate, yet they work well to mop up the remaining cheese. This amasi cheese can be purchased to take home.

The restaurant is not licensed, so come equipped with your own alcohol. It will be kept cold in a light-blue vintage ice bucket. There is no corkage fee. Rosemary-infused water is available in jugs on an old wine barrel, which adds to that vintage atmosphere, and soft drinks are also on sale.

After getting a bit lost, I was relieved to be warmly welcomed by Abigail in her red heel, black pleated skirt, silver top and apron. If you choose to sit down for your meal as opposed to a swift takeaway, Abigail and two young women are quick to see to your needs. The seating area has only been open for the last five weeks and the service is faultless despite the relaxed environment.

As the courses are served, Abigail explains in detail what goes into each dish. Plates are swiftly cleared away and fresh utensils arrive with the next course. Every detail is taken care of, from the customised embroidered-cloth napkins to the Laguiole cutlery.

The premises is placed on a well-trodden road in Khayelitsha, where impeccably dressed locals pop in to grab some padkos. Within, you are surrounded by baths filled with growing vegetables, some light cover from the sun and white walls, which complement the darkness of the exterior. The seating space is informal and naturally encourages an interaction between all the guests. Abigail’s love for the vintage is made possible – and practical – by her husband, and realised in the old school chairs and refurbished school desks. 4Roomed eKasi Culture transcends the environment of the township; all the décor has been sourced from nearby, yet the way it is placed and refurbished transforms the space.

If you don’t have the time for the three-course sit down meal, grab a quickie take-away and eat it with a view of the township around the corner.

(January 2017)

Eat Out critics dine anonymously and pay for their meals in full. Read our editorial policy here.

  • Ambience
  • Service
  • Food

User reviews

  • What an experience!!! A friend recommends 4Roomed and we are attracted by the presentation alone, our minds are made up. Finally, we have something to do on a Sunday afternoon, we eat out eKasi. We heat the road after a great service over the phone, a professional online booking system and a location sent on WhatsApp. Already, an impression is made and expectations grow. While my husband winds and carves the bends of a well known Khayelitsha route, following uVitoliya (the ladylike voice on Google Maps) I browse through their website, the excitement mounts. On arrival, my husband and I are met by two genuinely smiling ladies, and I'm sold. The ambience evidently still has to be worked on, but the loxion school theme that runs across the dining area at the backyard, accompanied by the garden of organic herbs behind us makes up for anything one would expect to get in a restaurant but doesn't get here. Why should we expect to get anything usual here, anyway? What was ever "usual" about our upbringing elokshin? This couple made a pure blend of historic and contemporary combined. The atmosphere alone reminded me of those days when we would all steal groceries from our homes to go and cook outside with friends. We called it ukuphekisa. The conversations start. Clearly, this couple has deep rooted ubuntu, a term overly used these days it has lost its meaning. They equally ARE ubuntu personified. They engage everyone individually, uniquely, making one feel like you are the only patron, while skilfully encouraging open conversations for all, as they invite you to "emthonjeni" a common place for water. That too has it's story in African cultures. This is meant to be about the food. I am known for not tolerating anything that isn't palatable. My husband, however, whispers that he won't trust any great comment that comes out of my mouth, seeing how "at home" I feel at this new home away from home. Dinner is served. I ordered a seafood starter. I don't remember what it's called but has Salmon and mussels dipped in a very tasty sauce. I'm told Abigail's mom was great with sauces, that's where she seems to have learnt most of her lessons. Prawn meat curried, but dry....accompanied by a peeled fresh carrot and reddish. The plan was that I would get a taste of my husband's butternut and beetroot salad and he gets a taste of mine. I guess I got too glued on what was in front of me, I forgot to ask for..... a taste of at least the home made salad dressing which invited me so..... I look over my shoulders, lest someone is watching before I down the remaining sauce from the bowl.... this place is enchanting.... I should've mentioned I never tasted curry better than my mom's. I don't even risk ordering it anywhere, not even in Indian restaurants, but after my starter, I decide to take the leap of faith. Lamb curry it is for me....and I must confess, it far outclasses that of my moms. (I trust she won't ever get to read this, lol) Almost the same tastes, but a perfect blend. No risk of a bitterish taste after accidentally crunching a clove, a podamom or coriander seeds. My mom uses what she calls a muslin bag (don't ask me why it's at times called a cheese cloth, I don't know)...but the risk of being called names in our culture should anyone see that bag in your food is too much at times. So you will still have to be carefully while enjoying her curry.... But with Abigail's, the only spice or herb evident was just a small bay leaf. But the aroma, the texture, the taste...what a tingle on my taste buds. I could almost taste ginger but certainly not ginger powder....I won't know... A dessert of a custard with a tinge of rhubarb is another story. Devine! I just have no words to express the joy I had when I had my dessert ... I felt like sleeping on the couch we had shifted to after our main course. The experience at 4Roomed and the people, are to die for....
    • Ambience
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    • Food


  • Accepts credit cards
  • Dinner
  • Eat Out reviewed
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