The Midlands Kitchen branch in Nottingham Road, KwaZulu Natal, is exactly what South Africa needs in terms of road-side dining – and its in the right spot for it too, on the Midlands Meander right off the N3 highway at exit 132.
The SETUP: Indoor food market and restaurant put together. You can either order direct from each outlet or make use of restaurant section, with an all-inclusive menu of each outlet, plus gracious and sharp service. I visited on a Sunday for lunch, and the flow of people and cars was constant; they also all had seemed to have one thing in common: happy faces.
The hours are 06:00 – 16:00; there is a large outdoor area with antique wagon & some sort of steam engine, making popular for tired parents and stiff-legged travellers. There is also a completely separate Midlands Kitchen shop at the service station for a stop-and-go experience.
The FOOD: If I had to use two words: fresh and variety. Variety of food is fantastic, from Mexican to artisan coffee and woodfired pizza, gelato to burgers and Durban curry; and my favourite, the Vegan outlet.
I had the Wular Casserole (chickpea, coriander & lentil casserole with coconut milk & red pepper) – so so yum! And my partner had a Lamb Shwarma, he couldn’t stop remarking how flavourful & fresh it was. The value for money is also another attribute of the Midlands Kitchen, the casserole R50 and the shwarma R65 – and we were so full we wondered if we would need that wagon to get to our car.
Also, in the nature of my love for everything cow, I adore the names of the coffee sizes: Bull, Cow, Calf!
The SERVICE: You can tell many of the staff are invested in what they are doing, you can almost smell the enthusiasm. What also stood out was the speed in which the meals arrived, so fast and yet so tasty!
The CSI: The Midlands Kitchen employs local from the KwaZulu Natal Midlands area. From the beginning the owners decided their ingredients would be supplied by local farmers, even though it sometimes take 3 or 4 to meet demand which means more work. But the management team is as dedicated as the owners to uplifting the community and take the extra planning in their stride.
The OVERALL: One of my favourite anonymous quotes is “Time is precious, he who wastes the least has the most,” and this is why I enjoyed the Midlands Kitchen. We were able to get in and out within 45 minutes but have an experience as full and delicate as a 2 hour lunch; and this my friends is exactly what many travellers are after.