Just as we received our drinks, a basket filled with warm Portuguese rolls arrived.
The historic Troyeville Hotel of downtown Johannesburg first opened in the 1930s, and its flamboyantly named restaurant – Flamingo – is still the place to go for amazingly good Portuguese prawns, juicy espetada and Mozambican chicken.
While the hotel is most certainly a Johannesburg icon, if you are expecting a stately building, with grand décor, that is steeped in heritage, you are going to be disappointed.
Blending in with the shabby factory shops and car dealerships around it, as you step through the barred entrance into the hotel and through the dimly lit corridor to the Flamingo Restaurant, you can’t help but hope that what the establishment lacks in aesthetic style, will be made up for in the food.
The Flamingo Restaurant is a sparsely decorated, open-plan hall, save for one of the walls that is painted from top to bottom in vivacious pink flamingos. Unashamedly kitsch, there are also neon pink down lights glowing from the ceiling.
The restaurant was half-full on a Friday evening, however the ambience was friendly, relaxed and inviting. Just as we received our drinks, a basket filled with warm Portuguese rolls arrived. Perfectly crispy and chewy on the outside and light and fluffy inside, we couldn’t help but devour these comforting carbs with lashings of butter, as we pored over the menu deciding what to have.
We knew that we had to order the prawns, as they are known to be superb, but with other delicious options on the menu like the grilled baby chicken, rump espetada, chicken and beef Prego’s and grilled calamari, it was hard to choose what to have.
We decided to share two starters: the pan-fried chorizo and the grilled queen prawns. The buttery chorizo had a nice, spicy bite to it, and the prawns were absolutely delicious. Served with soft chickpeas in a zesty lemon, chilli and garlic dressing, we were soon mopping up the sauce with the Portuguese rolls.
For mains I had the salt-crusted espetada with chips and a side salad, and my dinner date enjoyed the famous Mozambican baby chicken, also served with chips. The espetada was perfectly cooked, and the salty crust gave way to melt-in-the-mouth steak beneath. The chips are also a winner; hand-cut and fried to crunchy perfection, they were some of the best chips I’ve had in Jo’burg.
No frills and no fuss, but plenty of flavour. It is worth visiting Flamingo Restaurant to enjoy the prawns and espetada within a hotel that has been a hangout for artists, writers, musicians and creative revolutionaries during some of Johannesburg’s most trying times.