I don’t think there are too many restaurants in Sydney where you would find the banquette seating covered in zebra-print upholstery but since we’re dining at Out of Africa tonight, it seems highly appropriate. The restaurant, located near the wharf at Manly, is relatively quiet on a Sunday night save for a few couples dining and our rowdy table of 10. Since we have a large number, we have the option of getting the banquet menu but we decide to order a few dishes to share instead so we can try more things.
As with the zebra-print seating, the names of the dishes are also quite creative. We kick off the meal with the “Breathless” briouats which are spring-roll lookalikes but are made with filo pastry and filled with a spiced chicken and almond filling. The filo cigars are crisp on the outside with a chunky chicken filling and are very moreish. I find the saffron sauce a little too sweet but it provides a sticky counterpoint to the briouat.
The other entree that we share amongst us the spicy grilled calamari. It is presented on a bed of salad leaves and garnished with some grated carrot and spring onions. I prepare myself for some chilli burning but I find that it’s not really spicy at all, and some of us are a little disappointed in the lack of spice factor. The calamari still delicious though with a flavour-packed marinade and a slight charred taste from the grilling.
When something is touted on a menu as being a signature dish, I usually end up ordering it because a signature dish has to be good, right? We’re far from disappointed this time and the Moroccan meat balls are fantastic with almost everyone claiming it to be their favourite dish. It’s a definite crowd pleaser with spicy Kefta balls made from beef cooked in a tomato based sauce that’s filled with Moroccan spices. The dish is cooked in a tagine and has a few eggs cracked into the middle to cook.
We also order the two other tagines on the menu, the chicken tagine and the fish turban tagine. The chicken tagine has quite a lot of chicken in it but is slightly overcooked, making the chicken a little tough and stringy. The flavour is good though, with saffron flavoured potatoes, olives and preserved lemon in the tagine. The fish tagine is cooked in a spicy tomato chermoula with Moroccan spices with chunks of blue eye cod in the mix.
To go with our tagines, we order a serve of vegetable couscous including seven different types of vegetables. I’m not a fan of couscous at all having had a few versions which to me were just really gritty and unpalatable, but I find this couscous is fluffy and tasty and the perfect vehicle for all the delicious sauce. I even go back for more later, which is definitely saying something for someone who doesn’t like couscous!
To go with the “traditional mains” we also order some “modern mains” – main dishes which are more Western in appearance but with a Moroccan twist. The Afro BBQ chicken is another crowd favourite, with four pieces of grilled chicken breast lying casually against a mountain of potato wedges in a sea of spicy tomato coconut sauce. The mashed avocado is a nice creamy addition to the chicken, which is quite tender and flavoursome from the herb, chilli and garlic marinade.
Another signature dish is the Sud Afric Lamb Sosaties which consist of tender lamb backstraps, sour cream, a sweet apricot Madras sauce and dried fruit flavoured rice. They definitely hit the nail on the head with these signature dishes because the two of them happened to be my favourites of the night (before I knew that they were the signature dishes). The lamb is super tender and while the dish overall is quite heavy on the sweet flavours, it all goes surprisingly well together. The sauce actually reminded us of butterscotch sauce when we were eating it – ring any bells Suze??
The last dish is the Da’la aux dates which is a pork cutlet with a honey, date and cinnamon scented sauce, served with couscous. Again this dish was on the sweet side but the flavours were harmonised and played off each other well. The only disappointment was that the pork was quite tough and difficult to eat and on the whole I think the group enjoyed this dish the least.
So embrace the zebra-print and the African decor because there is some really delicious food to be had here. They definitely know what they’re doing with the signature dishes so stick to those and you can’t go wrong. I’m not that familiar with African or Moroccan cuisine so it was great to try some new dishes and flavour combinations (other than my usual Japanese). If all African food tastes that great then sign me up for more!
Out of Africa
43-45 East Esplanade
Manly NSW 2095
Ph: +61 2 9977 0055
Lunch: Thursday to Sunday, 12pm – 6pm
Dinner: Monday to Sunday, 6pm – 10:30pm