A surprise, last-minute invitation had me off to Zwelihle for lunch today. Added bonus was that I was asked to bring two friends along. We found Empolweni -meaning a place to chill – at 9090 Uthando Street Zwelihle easy enough and our host, Mpumelelo Sobantu, was waiting outside. Empolweni was officially opened on Saturday and the very next day the first tourists arrived to sit down for a traditional menu of samp and beans, umxhaxha (sweetcorn and butternut), fried beef and tripe. Two jugs, filled with water and juice concentrate, made sure we had enough to drink while eating and sharing memories of our different styles of home cooking.
Mpumelelo learnt his cooking skills from his grandmother and is the cook in his family. He has a small potted garden of homegrown herbs which he plans to extend.
Before opening he did some research by visiting restaurants in Kayamandi, Maphindi’s in Nyanga and Mzoli’s in Gugulethu to see how things are done. He took note of the importance of creating an inviting environment and kitted out the dining room with yellow printed table cloths and has African music playing in the background. It was a great and new experience in line with Tourism Month’s theme, #TourismForAll, and I appreciated the opportunity to introduce two friends to something new in our area.