Established in the early 1870s for the purpose of conserving and propagating rare and endangered indigenous plants, the Pietermaritzburg Botanical Gardens is always a great venue for anyone looking to relax and unwind amongst the beauty of nature. Flowers of every description birth forth a kaleidoscope of colours and hues while tall trees shade visitors strolling along the neatly manicured lawns creating a sense of utopia seldom experienced in any city setting.
These beautiful gardens are home to the Strelitzia Room restaurant, which some friends and I decided to visit for Sunday lunch recently. Owned and managed by well known local restaurateur Penny Hatting, the Strelitzia Room has a reputation for serving great tasting food with style and professionalism and I was eager to experience these claims first hand.
The menu is a relatively simple one, comprising a few meat and fish dishes and the usual selection of sandwiches and salads. With nothing from the menu particularly tickling our fancy, my mom and I opted for the Sunday lunch special, which consisted of a beetroot and pear soup starter, a main course of roast pork and vegetables rounded off with a helping of malva pudding and ice-cream and chocolate sauce for dessert. Avid meat-eater Mary-Anne, on the other hand, decided that an offering of steak and chips (R65) would be more to her liking.
The beetroot and pear soup had an unusual albeit pleasant taste, while the main course was well presented and tasty with both the meat and the vegetables containing plenty of flavour. However, the pork contained a little too much fat for my liking and the portion was rather small, which was disappointing considering the careful presentation of the dish.
With my mom expressing similar sentiments it was left to the malva pudding and ice cream and chocolate sauce to save the day and although it was delicious and a mood enhancer of note, it wasn’t enough to convince me that the meal represented value for money. At R85 the Sunday lunch special was at least R15-R20 overpriced and with the service (our waitress was either having a very bad day or was completely untrained) virtually non-existent, I was left decidedly disappointed.
Nevertheless, although Mary-Anne agreed that the service was poor, she was delighted with her steak and chips (which came with a French salad), describing it as “delicious and great value for money.” It certainly looked the part and would no doubt have been a much better choice for both my mom and I.
After settling the bill we took a stroll through the gardens and were soon becalmed by the beauty and splendour of the many species of plants, flowers and trees (some of which are over 140 years old) that surrounded us. The stillness and tranquillity was periodically interrupted by the harsh squawking of the resident Egyptian geese but even their unpleasant vocal emissions did little to dampen my enthusiasm to drink in the majestic beauty that is the hallmark of the gardens.
Even though our visit to the Strelitzia Room was not exactly what we had expected, it certainly is worth a visit if not just to experience some of the magnificent sights the surrounding gardens have to offer. They are truly impressive and something rarely encountered in the hustle and bustle of any modern city.
Tel/Fax: +27 (0)33 344 2207
Address: Botanical Gardens, Prestbury, Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu Natal