Under the Volcano

Feasting on leitão assado with the Honorary Consul, a cameraman from Al Jazeera and the Johannesburg bureau chief of the Portuguese equivalent of SAPA at the Troyeville Hotel sounds like a verse from one of those rollicking Dylan epics. Lilly, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts perhaps or Black Diamond Bay or even Changing of the Guards. Although the bit about “her ebony face is beyond communication” didn’t apply to the waitress. Or maybe the scene was the opening chapter from Emile Joubert’s much rumoured about Murder in the Winelands currently squatting under some publisher’s desk.

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Honorary Consuls are invariably alcoholics as Graham Greene and Malcolm Lowry can confirm but ours was the exception that proves the rule although all the other boxes ticked by Under the Volcano and The Honorary Consul remained ticked. Like the feeling of dining under a volcano.

The oppressive air had exploded into a spectacular Highveld thunderstorm that very afternoon. It was already clear we were in for some atmospherics around 3pm when the clouds had cut-off lows cutoff so neatly they were downright coplanar; as horizontal as the lights in the Ponte skyscraper later that evening that mysteriously start at the 32nd floor with Stygian darkness beneath and that dancing blue hula hoop Vodacom sign on top.

Travelling to Troyeville was an unexpectedly time consuming epic thanks to the double whammy of the storm clogging up all the highways and the Johannesburg Roads Department digging up all the major thoroughfares in the city at the same time. We’d taken the urban option through the heart of Hilbrow from Killarney, down Claim Street, past the Nigas Bar and left into Market, through a massive police roadblock-cum-street party to the Troyeville.

So everyone was late. After a glass of chilled Pink Port from De Krans as aperitif and reminiscences of Alan Pick at Mi-Vami in Hillbrow circa 1980 with Herbie and Braam Kruger dinners at Kitchen Boy in the former Troyeville pet shop next to Bob’s Bar, Laurence Jones’s signature starter of chickpeas, prawns and calamari were served along with Lona Sauvignon Blanc (which turned out to be Iona). The suckling pig was thankfully not served anatomically correct, but rather hacked up à la Chinoise and accompanied in the first instance by De Krans Touriga Naçional and latterly by Boets Nel’s Tempranillo 06 which was impressively exotic.

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An impulsive bottle of Beyers Truter’s 04 Field Blend turned out to be a Hansie Gericke (prematurely aged) but an even more impulsive bottle of Johan Reyneke’s biodynamic Reyneke Sauvignon Blanc 07 confirmed that if Laurence only accepted Diners Club cards, he’d be a shoe-in for a Platinum Wine List Award.

The Troyeville babefest was forerunner of a Sunday Times initiative to add reader value which kicks off with an Italian extravaganza at the Michelangelo on Thursday 26th March. At R250 a head including wines from L’Ormarins (Pinot Grigio and Sangiovese spring to mind – in fact they’re curiously the only ones listed in the 2009 edition of Platter) the Troyeville tryout will be going LARGE. E-mail Jacqui Gunn ([email protected]) for more information.

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