The Spice Queens is an intimate new spot in Duncan Yard, Pretoria, that focuses on Pakistani cuisine, with the owners sharing recipes passed down by generations before them.
Cost: R90 average main meal
Parking: On the street, with car guards
Food type: Pakistani
Star ratings: Food and drinks: 4; Service: 5; Ambience: 3
The menu is a mix of familiar tastes and new twists. For starters, try the crispy lamb samoosas with mint sauce or the pakora chilli bites. The karachi biryani comes highly recommended as a maing and has a depth of flavour without being too spicy. It is served with a light tomato, cucumber and onion raita. The balochi dum pukht is a rich and fatty slow-roasted mutton dish with potatoes and spices.
There are several vegetarian mains, including the popular red kidney bean curry, while everything on the menu is halaal. There is an easy, refreshing focus on breakfasts on the menu. You must build your own, picking what you want from predictable options like eggs, Pakistani nibbles and – the only noticeable deviation from the theme – boerewors and chakalaka. Sundays see the option of special traditional brunches for two, with options like paya beef knuckle curry and naan bread.
The dessert menu is short, with only a bread pudding and semolina halwa as option. With the generously sized mains, intended to be shared, you won’t need much more.
The restaurant is halaal, meaning no alcohol is served, but the drinks menu offers options like mango lassi and a fascinating mocktail based on chickpea leaves that changes colour as it’s poured in front of you. A special treat is the kashmiri decadent pink tea, which is served with small bowls of almonds, pistachios and coconut.
The small, family-run nature of The Spice Queens translates into wonderful service. From being greeted at the door to paying your bill, you’ll be well taken care of without being crowded – though occasional busy times do impact this. The waiters know the menu well and are willing to explain Pakistani cuisine carefully, while also being willing to give recommendations.
This spot is pleasantly small and quiet – at times there isn’t even music. The inside is colourful yet a little sparse and casual, making it more suitable for lunch. The outside terrasse is lovely, with fairy lights and subtle decorations making the few tables seem spacious, although they could be slightly more comfortable. A delightful feature is the takhat, a hard lounging bed where several people can sit on rugs and cushions while enjoying their food. There’s also the option of hiring a hubbly. The vibe is relaxed and suitable for families.
Small family gatherings or an out-of-the-ordinary brunch.
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