Now if you know me (you probably do ‘cause who else would be reading this?) you’ll know that there is NOTHING I love more than prawns. Not seafood or even lobster. Prawns.
I don’t know why… I didn’t even grow up with them but then, once my mom married husband 5, we started to mission to Richards Bay for prawn lunches on the harbour (read harbour sarcastically) and it triggered in me this belief that prawns were a celebration. And this girl loves a celebration (my next bests are margaritas and cake, as you’ll know)
So whenever given a chance, I choose prawns. No matter the restaurant. No matter the time of year. No matter the distance from the sea. Infact we used to go to a seafood restaurant in Morningside so often that they gave us a gift when our baby was born!
And when I heard whisperings of this new restaurant, no distance (I mean, Kyalami to damn Illovo) could keep me away.
I called and made a reservation for the next Friday. Despite usually a table for 4 (we more often then not have Friday night dinners with my inlaws) my mother-in-law will only, exclusively, eats langoustines. No other seafood (she’ll tell you how she was raised in Swiss mountains with no fish) but at the last minute she decided she’d come and starve (at least this wasn’t a café in a bookstore)
It was a bad day. Our 91 year old Oma was on oxygen and it looked like the end. On the trek to Illovo we were back and forth chatting with Switzerland to get updates… but it somehow seemed fitting to be going for prawns. To celebrate 91 years of life.
Illovo is not known for its masses of parking. Infact there’s one teeny parking lot in front that is always packed like a sardine can; but luckily there’s a secure, guarded lot just a hop across the road (albeit crossing Corlett is tricky), and the Prawnery was easily spotted; light and white and shining bright. Exposed brick walls and greenery hanging from the ceiling. A deceptively cool looking restaurant, but luckily toasty warm inside.
I couldn’t find the menu anywhere online so had no idea what to expect; but as the name predicted, there was VERY little that didn’t include prawns (is this heaven?) and while distracted on the phone with her brother, we ordered the prawn dumplings (there was a chicken option but they were sold out) and 6 king prawns for my unsuspecting mother-in-law. As well as the biggest long island ice tea (she had no idea what was in it but by the end of the night had finished 2) I had the dumplings & a kilo of king prawns. My husband the famous soft shell crab and his own kilo of king prawns. And my father in law the legendary (it says so on the menu) mussels and 8 King prawns (these prawns better bring the magic!)
Sipping my margarita (shaken; deliciously cold and refreshing) while eyeing my father in laws giant frozen one; we took in the bustling restaurant and eagerly awaited our food…
The waitress recommended the dumplings, and as soon as I saw them, I knew why. 4 or 5 plump balls of dough sat in a bowl of spicy soy broth. Tastes of coriander and heat muddled in my mouth to create the perfect winter starter. I had a bite (read ‘insisted on’) of my husbands crab and it was crunchy and unique. Not my vibe (remember, prawns are the shellfish of the gods) but I could see why it was popular. And despite a bit of a delay, my father in law enjoyed his mussels. But the true proof of quality was my mother in law happily slurping down her soy broth and dumplings; proclaiming them delicious and what moist chicken (we’d forgotten to mention they were out), only to be flabbergasted that she was eating prawns. Maybe a convert in our sights?
The mains came shortly after (more cocktails ordered while we waited) and they did not disappoint. A pile, 16 prawns high, of the freshest, generously sized prawns. For the price, the quantity and quality was second to none (we often frequent Pigalle so these prices were some kind of exceptional to us) with delicious hand cut chips (not crispy, more slap chips style but scrumptiously moreish) The only thing I missed was a dipping sauce (maybe a sin to true seafood connoisseurs but it just adds to the yum factor for me) and once again, even my suspicious mother in law enjoyed and, dare I say it, raved about her meal.
Dessert was ice creams and malva pudding (warm and traditional) and a rich, hot cappuccino (decaf; I’m not rebel enough for caffeine after 8!) and the evening had come to an end.
Thoroughly impressed, and an evening well celebrated, we all cheersed to Oma and knew she’d be disgusted by the ‘too cold’ drinks and strange ‘the eyes are looking at me’ food.
At 4am the next morning she passed away.
And let me tell you there is something to be said for Swiss chocolate; she lived alone, in her own flat, cooking and cleaning for herself, into her very late 80’s! Lets just hope it’s not avoiding prawns that gave her such longevity, or I wont see 40.