Often it’s the places that look the least impressive that end up making the best impression. This was the case with Joita’s.
Housed in the courtyard of the Protea Mall on the Chartwell Drive strip, it’s not visible from the street, but if the wind is right, you may find your nose will guide you there.
Simple is the best way to describe this little gem. The ‘restaurant’ part is basically just a tiny shop front that looks like a takeaway place. It’s clean and sparse and has just two tables inside. Outside in the courtyard though, Joita’s has commandeered the space that used to belong to a couple of other shops and a small restaurant – all of which are now absent.
A table of 5 on a Friday evening, we were situated just outside the Telkom shop – an unusual place to dine and one that may cause some digestive trouble – but before long it seemed like we completely forgot where we were.
A couple of chilled Lauretina’s later, our gracious host Luis Fernandes, who runs the shop with his family, came to greet us personally in his chef’s apron and presented us with some complimentary livers and bread.
The menu is basic. You can order peri-peri chicken (the house speciality), prawns, calamari, livers or Prego rolls, and combinations of the latter.
Really speaking I’m not much of a peri-peri chicken eater, but after some persuasion on the part of a regular diner, I went for this instead of the garlic and herb option, combined with some calamari. When I received my food I couldn’t have been more grateful for the tip. If all peri-peri chickens tasted this good, I would be eating it all the time!!
The freshly prepared sauce is a flavour explosion. We were all in agreement. Everyone wanted more chicken and the one person who didn’t add the sauce was beside himself with remorse. The calamari was also superb; fresh, meaty and basted in the same delicious peri-peri sauce.
While we ordered more Laurentinas a steady stream of diners changed tables around us, all equally enamoured with their meal and the quaint ambience of the not-so-restaurant.
We left and promptly set about telling everyone we could to go and eat the Joita’s chicken. It was that kind of experience.
My prediction is that Joita’s is not going to last long in that little shop. I think Luis is going to need a bigger restaurant. Soon.
Why did the chicken cross the road? Ask this question around the world and there will be a number of different answers. If it relates to Chartwell Drive in Umhlanga, on South Africa's East Coast, there is only one that fits.
The chicken crossed Chartwell Drive hoping to reach Joita's, the 'Home of the authentic Portuguese chicken', the legendary eating house where chicken's can be the best they can be. This small, family-run, out-of-the-way sort of place produces Portuguese meals that are consistent and seriously good. My coriander mussel starter was heavenly with a hint of coriander and loads of flavour. The chicken livers were great but it's really their Peri-Peri chicken that deserves the most praise. In my humble and unbiased opinion it's about as good as Portuguese chicken can get. Succulent, rich, crisp, with the perfect balance of heat and spice and the flavours you'd want from a worthy chicken.
If you're in the area a visit to Joita's is an absolute must.