We’ve all heard of pop-up restaurants, but how about eating dinner in an exhibition? Find out how you can go to Cape Town and back over a glass of wine and a savoury doughnut at Tate Modern

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  • Gaba Museum Restaurant Feast for Friends 23 July 2013 Tate Modern

    Yes, that is a napkin with Nelson Mandela’s face on

  • Gaba Museum Restaurant Feast for Friends 23 July 2013 Tate Modern

    South African wines on offer: a Peacock Ridge 2011 Merlot and Papegaai 2012 Chenin Blanc Chardonnay Semillon in case you were wondering

  • Gaba Museum Restaurant Feast for Friends 23 July 2013 Tate Modern

    Mielies (corn on the cob) with chili jam

  • Jade and Roelof Gaba Museum Restaurant Feast for Friends 23 July 2013 Tate Modern

    Jade and Roelof share their philosphy behind the dinner, ‘A Feast of Friends’

  • Gaba Museum Restaurant Feast for Friends 23 July 2013 Tate Modern

    Nail-biting moment: the bunnychow is unveiled with Roelof’s guidance

  • Gaba Museum Restaurant Feast for Friends 23 July 2013 Tate Modern

    Diving into the bunnychow

  • Gaba Museum Restaurant Feast for Friends 23 July 2013 Tate Modern

    Sweet, sweet koeksisters (sweet doughnuts)

While Canteen style tables and communal dining are nothing new, Meschac Gaba’s Restaurant doesn’t just serve up food. It takes you on a trip. Let me explain…

The night I visited - the second of four dinners prepared and hosted by guest artists - was hosted by the Cape Town-based Jazz student, and cooking adventurer, Jade de Waal, who had been slaving away in the kitchen since the day before, and photographer Roelof Petrus van Wyk from Johannesburg.

Gaba Museum Restaurant Feast for Friends 23 July 2013 Tate Modern

Sweet potato chips to plunge into peanut dip

We were offered a glass of South African wine - and printed napkins with Nelson Mandela’s face on (more on that later). And if you’re wondering whether you actually get fed properly at an art dinner, the answer is yes, oh yes you do. Terracotta pots bulged with chakalaka (vegetable) chutney and groundnut dips, lined-up next to wooden boards piled with fried slithers of sweet potato, chunky stywe pap (maize chips) and vetkoekies (savoury doughnuts).

After a few moments, our hosts gave a speech on how they took their cue from the unlikely friendship between Winnie Mandela and Adele de Waal (Jade’s grandmother), two women on opposite sides of the political spectrum in apartheid South Africa. Roleof spoke of how in 1977, the women became true friends and in doing so broke a boundary ‘that crossed right through the heart of apartheid’. This was ‘the beginning of a complex personal history of reaching out, breaking down barriers and perceptions’ and our meal was to be a small way of exploring the African philosophy of Ubuntu, meaning, ‘we are each other. I am me, by virtue of you’.

With this in mind, I turned to my neighbour and discovered over a platter of vetkoekies that she was Jade’s mother and had made a special trip from Cape Town that day as a surprise. Talk about crossing boundaries! Although, soon after popping a vetkoek on the Mandela napkin, Roleof revealed ‘you’re not allowed to print fabric with his face on anymore, so this would be apparently be the last of the fabric. We have them here for you to take home’. Oh dear. I’m sure the grease stain will come out…

Gaba Museum Restaurant Feast for Friends 23 July 2013 Tate Modern

The perfectly packaged parcels of chicken and vegetable bunny chow arrive

Soon we were literally digging into the bunnychow, a loaf of bread filled with curry and encased in paper. Whilst unravelling our packages, Jade’s mother said how this is historically a ‘utilitarian dish, a real workers meal’ and that there are now tiny, trendy versions in Cape Town. This didn’t sound too disimilar to me from the ‘street’ food trend now causing queues at restaurants around London, where if you want a bit of pulled-pork in a bun, you’ll be waiting on a street corner for it.

At dessert, Jade sat with us and we were sharing a love of the aforementioned vetkoek - ‘one of the ultimate ultimate tastes’ - when a sticky, sweet version of these balls of doughy joy arrived (called koeksisters). And so with that, I felt like I got a little glimpse of dinner with friends as they do it in Cape Town - no passport required.

Gaba Museum Restaurant Feast for Friends 23 July 2013 Tate Modern

Fresh orange cut through the silver-leaf topped creamy sago based Boeber pudding

Love food and art? Join our Recreate with Tate BritainThe Cooking Google Hangout on 1 August, 13.00-13.30 via Tate’s YouTube Channel

The ‘Museum Restaurant dinner series’ continues with ¡Lotería! Sunday 15 September 2013, 18.30 – 22.00 and Garden of Adonis Monday 16 September 2013, 18.30 – 22.00

Comments

There's so much more to the bonny chow than a ‘utilitarian dish, a real workers meal’. The bonny chow was produced during apartheid, and one story goes that a restaurant run by people known as Banias (an Indian caste) first created the scooped-out bread and curry dish, in Grey Street, Durban. The way of serving the curry in a loaf of bread was a means to serve take-aways to i.e. the black people who were not allowed to sit down in Indian restaurants.

Thanks Pernille for your thoughts on bunny chow, that’s one interesting story! Roelof did share more on the story behind this ‘cheap version of a roti’, of how workers from India came to South Africa to work in sugar plantations, and this would be their meal at work - a bread container filled with leftovers and wrapped in yesterday’s newspaper. The version I had was delicious and very filling. Have you ever tried it?