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Charcoal-grilled chicken and calamari a showstopper at Mozambik in Honey Bear Lane.

AFRICAN Birds Eye Chilli is the magic behind the legendary charcoal-grilled chicken that originated in Mozambique and took the world by storm.

While every country has its own version of grilled and barbecued chicken, and each will swear that their’s is the best, there’s little doubt that Mozambican chicken, flavoured with peri-peri, a unique spicy chilli sauce combining garlic, lemon juice, salt and Birds Eye chilli, takes some beating.

Failing to capture the elusive flavour after trying first one spice combination and then another, and even using a chicken’s feather dipped in butter and garlic to baste the bird (said to be a failsafe secret trick), it is time to concede defeat and book a table at Mozambik in Honey Bear Lane, Borrowdale.

Rustic cut chips and salad at Mozambik.

Formerly the home of Honey Bear Restaurant and Guest Lodge, this rustic venue has reinvented itself as a beachside resort complete with sea sand, and a menu with the exotic flavours associated with excursions across the border to Mozambique. All this I discovered when every foodie I spoke to said they were going to Mozambik for the second or third time, and FOMO prompted me to phone and make a booking for Sunday lunch.

Given the clamour for bookings at Mozambik, I rallied a large-party group of ten foodies, and made a reservation a week in advance. Popularity is something you can’t manufacture, no matter how many culinary awards  you claim to have won, so why were rival restaurateurs in such a tizz about this new destination? I was about to find out.

Starting with the broad smile and welcome from the gate keeper, all the staff at Mozambik seemed delighted  to see us, and after we were led to our table, waiters attended to our every whim. Our group was seated at two picnic benches pushed together, not far from a well-stocked bar, with a view of the swimming pool and a large wall-mounted TV screen. For smaller groups, square tables and chairs with backs are available. Ladies and gents loos are located on the beach outside, so wear flip flops if you want to feel the sand between your toes.

The menu offers many choices, all combining  the savour of a traditional cuisine of fresh seafood, coconut and cashew nuts, with the Portuguese colonial influence of garlic, chilli peppers, olive oil and wine.

Chocolate Volcano and ice cream at Mozambik.

A rich and flavourful starter of chicken giblets simmered slowly in red wine, tomato and peri-peri was served with a large, freshly baked bread roll. At the far end of the table there were rave reviews of another starter, Prawn Bilene, described as ‘Mozambik’s original, legendary starter of prawns cooked in a creamy cheddar and feta sauce.’ More intriguing starters included olives stuffed with cashew nuts, flash fried squid heads, and grilled calamari.

Charcoal-grilled chicken peri-peri and calamari.

George’s main course, a half chicken with calamari in a peri-peri sauce, served with rice, was a show stopper, and possibly one of the most popular dishes on the menu. I tasted the calamari, and was immediately transported to days on Macuti beach next to the lighthouse at Beira, sipping from a can of Mac-Mahon 2M (Dois Em).  Readily available and in demand at Mozambik, 2M is also Mozambique’s favourite tipple.

Hake Zambeziana served in a coconut, chilli and lime sauce, was a popular choice with some of our guests; others were tucking into butterflied and grilled queen prawns. Portuguese style steak, chargrilled with pepper, coarse salt and bay leaves, is the dish that will take me back to Mozambik again. It took a while to get it cooked to medium rare, but when it came back a second time from the kitchen, it was perfect. A side salad of cucumber, tomato, black olives, red onion and Danish feta, and a side of rustic cut chips, were both extraordinarily delicious.

After searching in vain for pasteis de nata (Portuguese custard tarts) on the menu, I shared a chocolate volcano with George. Well-made, and attractively presented with a scoop of ice cream, it had  the required chocolate ooze when cut down the middle.

The imaginative combinations and sensational flavours of many of the dishes owe much to the genius of Chef Brett Michielin, the Swiss-trained co-owner of Mozambik. While Chef Brett’s training at Swiss Hotel Management focused on Swiss hospitality and quality, his love of what he describes as Afro-Porto flavours has helped him create a highly successful brand, with 31 branches in South Africa.

While Mozambik in Honey Bear Lane may be the brand’s latest venture, Chef Brett and his unique take on exotic flavours and the African Birds Eye Chilli, seem set to take on the rest of the world.

A Matter of Taste with Charlotte Malakoff