The fine line between Portuguese and Mozambican food finds its resolution at +258 A Taste of Mozambique

18 Oct 2023
It’s been an interesting trend to watch in local cuisine: the changeover from restaurants calling themselves Portuguese in food style, to Mozambican. This also tracks the shift in the origins of the owners of these establishments post-1994 and the patrons; truly, what we know of Portuguese food in South Africa has always been strongly influenced by the colonial encounter between Europe and Africa.

Search for the history of peri-peri chicken online, and you’ll get competing versions, but that’s to be expected when you are talking about something that different people love. Everyone wants a piece of that history.
+258 Mozambique Johannesburg in Your Pocket
Fresh, bright and breezy. The patio at +258 A Taste of Mozambique at Design Quarter in Fourways. Photo: Johannesburg In Your Pocket.

Some call the cuisine Afro-Portuguese, while others attribute the peri-peri chicken to an “Algarvian culinary speciality that involves spatchcocking a chicken, throwing it on a hot grill, and brushing its tawny flesh with piri piri sauce.”

According to an Australian food site we found, "variations of the sauce have been around since the 15th century when the Portuguese settlers in Africa came across the ingredient – an African bird’s eye chilli – and made a marinade with garlic, red wine vinegar, paprika and other European imports. Five hundred years on, the exact origins of this recipe are still debated as both Portuguese-Angolans and Portuguese-Mozambicans claim to have created the special mix. Regardless, the recipe remains a celebration of the cultural legacy and culinary fusions of the region.”

Peri-peri and piri piri differ, but let’s cut to the chase. When judging the quality of food at a Portuguese or Mozambican restaurant in Joburg, we take the standard of peri-peri chicken as a barometer.

At +258 (the dialling code for Maputo) A Taste of Mozambique, the peri-peri chicken is excellent. It’s enormous and served with lashings of sauce and crispy fries. Like it should be. 

+258 Mozambique Johannesburg in Your Pocket
The giant prawn with an unforgettable sauce at +258 A Taste of Mozambique. Photo: Johannesburg In Your Pocket. 

The restaurant is unique. Opened in mid-2023, and located at Design Quarter in Fourways, it’s a food hall, deli, frozen fish store and indoor and outdoor restaurant all wrapped in one. The space is vast but highly attractive and opens to a patio with couches and other seating options. Woven grass light fittings resembling fish traps swing across the tables, and there is a flurry of activity at different food stations, plus plenty of colourful décor touches.

+258 A Taste of Mozambique is authentically Mozambican, owned by a family that has restaurants in that part of the world. Bringing the culture of Maputo to Joburg, its focus is on fresh seafood, authentic produce and products (you can even buy six different Mozambican coffee brands to take home – we wished we could taste them there, but they are not on the menu as yet), offering Mozambican beers and a universe of options when it comes to the menu.

It can be a little confusing, but it’s worth taking the time to read through all the menus offered – five in total, that include vegan, tapas, meat, seafood and a casual Café de Mozambique menu. There is also an innovative sharing concept for two or four – which brings together tastes of the different menus with either a bottle of wine or beers.
+258 Mozambique Johannesburg in Your Pocket
A small tasting portion of the excellent espatada. Photo: Johannesburg In Your Pocket. 

We were also told that if we loved one dish in particular and wanted to cook it at home, a visit to the freezer would yield the ingredients ­– from prawns to frozen matapa leaves – and the chefs would supply the secret herbs and spices needed to get that perfect taste. We have to applaud the enthusiasm and originality; it’s fun to eat out knowing your hosts have spent so much time and effort to make the experience unique.

We started lunch with a prawn and tuna rissole each, lightly fried, crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside and reminiscent of a long-ago trip to Maputo. From there we moved on to the giant prawn, served with what rates as the best garlic butter sauce we have tasted. A rich symphony of slowly simmered garlic until all that’s left is the flavour, without the pungency. We tried the beef espetada and were impressed by the quality of the meat and the presentation. Succulent skewered beef cubes separated by generously-cut coloured peppers. The savoury rice also hit the high notes. And of course, there was that chicken. 

The main courses here are huge, and we only managed to taste as much as we did by getting half portions (a reviewer’s privilege). We shared a dessert – the chef’s creation of the day, a lemon-flavoured tart slice, moist and dense, and highly satisfying with a coffee.
+258 Mozambique Johannesburg in Your Pocket
A perfect ending. Dessert at +258 A Taste of Mozambique. Photo: Johannesburg In Your Pocket. 

+258 A Taste of Mozambique is a relaxed spot. An easy, casual dining experience and with enough tasty options and space to keep busy youngsters and just about any fussy eater happy. Inside the restaurant, in a particular section, there is also a long table that is ideal for a more private group experience. Highly recommended as a weekend hangout.

*Johannnesburg In Your Pocket was invited by +258 A Taste of Mozambique to review a meal. Views expressed here are our own.


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