Sunday, December 30, 2012

Best of Travelife 2012: Lunch at Sabi Sabi's Bush Lodge, with good food and lots of laughter


Reflecting at year-end on the wonderful TRAVELIFE that was in 2012, this is part of a series of blog entries that will look at the best aspects of our never-ending, and never-endingly eventful travels. 

This year was so full of indescribable and inspiring experiences -- and we're certainly looking forward to an even more amazing Travelife in 2013

Happy New Year to everyone
from all of us at Travelife Magazine.


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Lunch at Sabi Sabi's Bush Lodge

I have four contenders for lunch of the year, in a never-ending Travelife, and all of them are in South Africa.

SOUTH AFRICA'S MOST FAMOUS RESTAURANT



The most obvious choice would have to be our lunch at La Colombe, one of South Africa's best restaurants and still perhaps its most famous dining venue, on the last day of our two-week trip.

We'd had the best table in the house and an excellent meal, where I'd ordered everything completely not good for me: oysters poached in champagne and foie gras to start, a big Chalmers beef steak as a main, and something terribly fattening for dessert.

But this day was actually a package deal, as I loved this entire day, which was also the last day of our South African trip.

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THE WHOLE DAY IS LOVELY

After lunch, we'd driven to the Cape of Good Hope -- the very tip of the African continent -- for a last sightseeing hurrah. That picturesque drive along the coast from the wine valley of Constantia to the Cape of Good Hope, full of quaint towns and quietly beautiful bays and coves, was perhaps our most memorable drive.

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So full from lunch, we ended up eating dinner at the restaurant of our hotel, the lovely Steenberg in Constantia, and we'd ordered a repeat of everything we'd liked on our first dinner here: I ordered oysters again, and we had one plate of mussels in a lemongrass broth and another plate in white wine, plus salad and dessert. And, of course, some champagne.

It was a really wonderful day to end a great trip.

SPUR OF THE MOMENT LUNCHES

Steak lunch by the waterfront in Cape Town


Then there were two spur-of-the-moment lunches that stand out in two weeks of nothing but enjoyable meals: a dry aged steak at the waterfront in Cape Town and, of all things, a club sandwich lunch at the equivalent of a fast-food joint at Johannesburg airport while waiting for our connection to Cape Town.

Club sandwich at Joburg airport


We ate the club sandwich with a strange mixture of hot mustard, ketchup and mayonnaise, that actually tasted very good.



Both meals were more about my memories of them rather than solely about the food.

MY REAL FAVORITE LUNCH

But now when I really think about it, my best lunch was a long and fun one at the Bush Lodge camp of the Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve, one of the most luxurious safari experiences in the world.

Sabi Sabi has four stay options on its 65,000 hectare private game reserve (read more about this in the current issue of Travelife Magazine, by the way), and we'd chosen the very nostalgic, vintage and intimate Selati Lodge as our main base.

Selati Lodge and the ultra-futuristic and jaw-dropping Earth Lodge at Sabi Sabi are two very special experiences, and these were the two places we chose to stay at for our safari.

And next time I find myself at Sabi Sabi, I think I'd like to stay at the Little Bush Lodge, which is Sabi Sabi's ultra-stylish contemporary camp.

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Selati Lodge is a full-service deluxe camp -- certainly no roughing it up whatsoever here -- with highly personalized service and all the luxuries in the world. My presidential suite was an entire villa with a private pool, antique furniture and amenities on par with the best hotels in the world.

At Selati Lodge, we had most of our meals on an open terrace and they were very social affairs. It's a small lodge so when we were there, there were only three other couples as guests and we got to know everyone quite well.

THE CHIC AND MODERN BUSH LODGE

Bush Lodge at Sabi Sabi


But one day, we decided to venture to the bigger Bush Lodge nearby, which caters to tourist groups and families or friends traveling together en masse, just to see what it was like and to sample the food.

I'm very partial to exclusive experiences so I didn't have high expectations of Bush Lodge, frankly, as it's a much bigger venue compared to the Selati Lodge.

But one day we decided to have lunch there anyway and see it.

Bush Lodge at Sabi Sabi


The lodge itself was really beautiful. It was full of the kind of interesting contemporary African art and accents that I wanted to take home for my own house. I kept oohing and aahing over everything, and taking photos, so it took us forever to get to the restaurant.

Bush Lodge at Sabi Sabi


A HEALTHY BUFFET IN THE BUSH 

A healthy lunch at Bush Lodge


The restaurant itself is on a terrace, and lunch was buffet style and excellent.

We had all kinds of salads and a very good vegetable quiche which we ate with pesto salad dressing that wasn't really supposed to be for the quiche, for a well-matched kick.

For the main course, we had shawarma, and neither of us got the pita bread that went with it.

Lunch at Bush Lodge


Again, an excellent plate of meat, especially when I got the chef to warm it up again.

So the food was very good, and I remember that we sat for about 2.5 hours just eating and laughing about all kinds of nonsense. Actually, on this trip, we were averaging an hour for breakfast, two hours for lunch and at least three hours for dinner, so the duration wasn't new.

But for some reason, the combination of fresh and healthy food, lots of laughter and this chic contemporary setting in the middle of absolute wilderness has left a very good memory with me.

Lunch at Bush Lodge

STRANGERS WANT US IN THEIR JEEP

We must've made a pretty good impression on the people around us as well. We were laughing so much at that lunch that people around kept looking at us.



And later on, while we were buying stuff in the gift shop, two girls staying at Bush Lodge, who'd apparently seen us at lunch, had suddenly said to us: "We were told that two people were joining us in our safari jeep from today. You guys looked like you were having so much fun at lunch, so we were hoping it would be you two joining us."

No such luck, unfortunately. Each lodge or camp has their own set of rangers and jeeps, and we had our own assigned jeep and ranger team from Selati Lodge for our stay.






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