Some friends and I recently visited Ba Lonkas in the beautiful KwaZulu-Natal Midlands and, a few quibbles aside, we were rather impressed with our findings. Situated just opposite Gowrie Village in Nottingham Road, Ba Lonkas is certainly unconventional, sporting a confectionary, delicatessen, a delightful curio and gift shop and a snake and reptile park in addition to its main attraction – the Bohemian Restaurant and Pub.
The restaurant specialises in German cuisine like eisbein and sauerbraten and kloesse, but also offers a selection of original favourites such as Hungarian lamb stew, roast duck, Moroccan chicken prawn curry, peposo, Thai chicken curry, smoked pork ribs, rump steak and chicken sausages.
Starters include a choice of home cured Italian cold meats bathed in Mozzarella cheese with pickles and bread while the Bohemian bites are comprised of bratwurst wrapped in bacon, deep-fried and served with gherkins and mustard. The Cheese platter consists of a selection of cheeses, pickles, breads and crackers with the peri-peri chicken livers and the sausage baskets (traditional German sausages served with potato wedges, gherkins and sauerkraut) catering for those with a hankering for something spicy and meaty.
A wide selection of salads are on offer for the more health conscious while seafood lovers have a choice between the battered hake fillet, prawns and squid rings (all dishes served with potato wedges). Other items on the menu include a selection of burgers, toasted sandwiches, pizzas, pastas and wraps.
After ordering our drinks, we decided to pass up on starters and go straight to the main course. Mary-Anne ordered the peposa (An Italian beef stew cooked with red wine), I decided on the Hungarian lamb stew (R69) while Cally settled for a classic burger (R59).
Mary-Anne absolutely loved her dish which was served with rice and roast vegetables. She described the eating experience as ‘awesome’ and felt that, at just R69, the peposa represented great value for money.
I was also impressed with my lamb stew, which consisted of sliced lamb shanks cooked goulash style and served with rice and sauerkraut. It was delicious and definitely, R69 well spent to say the least. Cally, however, was unhappy with her burger, which wasn’t served with a sauce as indicated on the menu.
Although the dessert menu, which consisted of offerings such as apple pie, pecan pie and Danish twirls (among others), was very tempting to say the least we decided to pass up on the opportunity to indulge ourselves and asked for the bill. With plenty of time to spare, we were in no hurry to return home and decided a visit to the snake and reptile park would be perfect to while away the time.
I’ve had a fascination with reptiles and snakes (actually all creepy crawlies really) since childhood and, at one stage, was seriously considering a career in nature conservation. However, I eventually decided to put my writing skills to good use and became a journalist instead and uh, well, here I am.
In an earlier travel review, I got up close and personal with a Red-tailed boa constrictor (an unforgettable encounter to say the least) and I decided that if I ever got the opportunity again I’d definitely try to repeat the experience. And, although the species of serpent on this occasion differed, I managed to do just that.
My fork-tongued companion on this occasion was a Ball python, the smallest of the African pythons and popular in the pet trade. These serpents, which are also known as royal pythons, generally do not grow to more than 120cm in length and the Ba Lonka’s specimen was no exception.
The little guy (or was it a gal?) could not have been more than 60cm in length and handling it was a lot less intimidating than the much larger constrictor I had got to grips with at the Crafty Duck Village back in December. The tiny reptile eventually tried to wiggle its way under my armpit to escape all the curious looks it was getting and that’s when I decided it was time to return it to its cage – enough said.
My next reptilian encounter was with a rather large lizard – a Green Iguana to be exact. Native to Central and South America, Green Iguana’s grow on average to around 1.5m in length although the specimen in question was a lot shorter than that – most probably measuring between 50 and 60cm at most.
However, that’s still pretty big when all you are accustomed to seeing in your back yard is the occasional blue-headed lizard – a potential lightweight by comparison. Although iguana’s can be tamed easily and are quite docile by nature, their sharp claws can present a problem.
There have been some cases where scratches from an iguana that weren’t disinfected led to nasty infections, which made the unfortunate owners rather ill. Not wanting to take a risk, I decided to refrain from handling this exotic attraction, even though I would have loved to.
In addition to the reptiles on display, there are also a few birds to see at Ba Lonkas, the most interesting of which was a rather vocal and feisty Red-fronted Macaw. Endemic to a small semi-desert mountainous area of Bolivia, these parrots are highly endangered with only about 150 left in the wild.
They usually grow to between 55 and 60cm in length and the specimen in question was certainly no exception. Freed from his cage (if only for a little while) he certainly proved a handful, squawking and clamouring for attention and even wanting to have a go at the iguana who he probably felt was stealing some of his limelight.
Although I enjoyed my visit to the snake and reptile park, I felt the R30 entrance fee was a little steep considering the parks rather small size and scope. A charge of R15 or perhaps R20 would have been more reasonable, but then again there’s not much you can get for that sort of money these days.
Quibbles aside, Ba Lonkas is definitely worth a visit. The mellow atmosphere, tasteful décor, great tasting food and friendly staff made me feel right at home. I’ll definitely be returning, and sooner rather than later.
Tel: +27 (0)33 266 6038
Cell: +27 (0)72 440 2037