South African world fusion using the freshest ingredients from Cornwall.
In a Word
Big – on flavour, bold décor, large meals and full of character, I’d like to be more poetic, but the most descriptive word comes in as big!
Focusing on making the most of the Cornish seafood and bringing the best tastes of South Africa, it attracts diners from as far as Plymouth, who come to sample its homemade and restaurant quality tastes of Africa. Owned by couple Carolyn and Ian, both South African, it has a big heart and warm atmosphere and appeals to large groups who fancy trying a bit of everything. I went on a date with my love, and it was romantic and cosy too, although at that stage quite early in our relationship, I remember feeling it wouldn’t have been right for a first date, simply because the portions were so big!
Booking is advised, since Amanzi never fails to be bursting at the seams with happy, full diners from all over, and my advice to anyone considering it, is to come hungry!
Falmouth has always been a place in Cornwall with a distinctly international flavour. I’m not just talking about Club International, famously rumoured to be owned by none other than the mighty Phil Mitchell.
Walking through its main streets, restaurants offer tastes of Thailand, Nepal, China, Italy and more recently Japan. Something new and different, however, is somewhere offering South African cuisisne. In fact, there is nowhere else this side of the Tamar offering it, which puts Amanzi under some pressure to deliver!
Amanzi is a South African restaurant with a Cornish bent. Despite my obvious proclivity for seafood, when I took my other half to Amanzi, I thought it best that we tried something that was actually South African.
What is South African food?
The proprietor and waitress for the evening explains that South African food is largely fusion food, and therefore comprised of different dishes from around the world. In our short time at Amanzi, this visits Brazil, Portugal, Holland and some unusual dishes that seem to be invented by the resourceful South Africans.
With a wooden, palm fringed bar and artefacts made from recycled materials all over its walls, Amanzi creates an atmosphere that takes guests away to somewhere different. Native art really brings the flavour of South Africa to Falmouth. Not being South African, I don’t know for sure how much it feels like home, but there is a relaxed ambience and interesting artefacts adorning the walls.
We were looked after from the moment we walked in, and whilst we were lucky to be served by owner Carolyn most of the time, the other staff were highly knowledgeable too. Besides their generous hospitality for the purpose of a review, I could see that each diner was treated with the same respect, and made to feel comfortable – starting as a customer but leaving as a friend.
I started with a Boerwurst – spicy sausage and shakalaka with sadza chips. Made from pork and beef, this was tender and delicately flavoured meat with a delicious spiced vegetable accompaniment. Sadza chips were reminiscent of polenta and crunchy on the outside, but soft and tasty inside. Really memorable, though, was the sheer size of the thing. Dom opted for Trinchado Bunny Chow – slow cooked beef in a bap. Flavoured with chilli, garlic and red wine, it was not a starter that could go unnoticed, and was sizeable enough to be a main.
With delicious almonds, spices and mutton, Dom decided to try out Bobotie, a South African national dish. Apparently, rather like the paella in Spain and Bolognese in Italy, this varies from town to town, and home to home. Served with rice and Mrs Balls Chutney, it was one of the most interesting main dishes I have seen on a menu, and not being a lamb fan, I was lucky to try it and enjoy it.
Similar in makeup to a moussaka, bobotie is comprised of lightly spiced meat fleshed out with almonds and breadcrumbs, which is then topped with a sort of savoury custard. Apologies to South African readers that I don’t have another to compare it to, but this was a truly tasty dish. The meat was delicate and tender with a really interesting texture, and slightly sweet, the topping creamy with a depth of flavour. Writing about it now brings back the memories of a complex and comforting winter warmer, perfect for trying at this time of year when the nights are drawing in.
For my main, I went for a Portuguese espetada – a delicious steak chunk skewer, which was dripping in delicious garlicky butter. Amanzi, if not South Africa as a whole, does not do things by halves, and this was a large meal, big on flavour and in size. Garlic butter permeated everything and if I close my eyes now I can almost taste it.
We couldn’t rightly go to a South African restaurant without trying a Pinotage, so this was the option we went for on Carolyn’s commendation. It perfectly complemented the dark meats and flavours of our meal, with a full bodied and floral character of its own. Carolyn and Ian pride themselves on a homemade South African liqueur, which was served with our desserts and tasted just like Christmas.
Despite being very full from the two courses we started with, Carolyn was proud of the food and invited us to try a combination the two most iconic desserts on the menu. Cape Dutch Melktart was a custardy dessert flavoured with cinnamon and coconut, which we were lucky enough to try alongside Koeksisters – sweet pastry tarts with ginger syrup. I’ll be honest that by this point I was so full, I don’t think I appreciated them as best I would, but this is testament to the South African hospitality.
Amanzi is a real treat – great service, delicious food and no risk of leaving hungry. They also do sharing nights in the quieter season, in which groups can book to get a set menu, sampling many different flavours. Perfect for a team building evening or celebration, Amanzi has it all.