There are no waiters at the Cedar restaurant, only the owners, David and Marlene. And although they charge corkage, it's advisable to bring your own wine.
It's not a glamorous spot by any stretch of the imagination. You will park outside a very drab building (that always puts me in mind of my local police station) right on busy Sommerset Road in Sea Point, ring the buzzer and then climb a grotty stair case to the second level, where you will find the restaurant. You may have had low expectations about the decor to begin with, but even so you will probably be disappointed.
And yet this is one of my favourite restaurants. Has been for years. I love the cloth that adorns the roof, bedouin-style. I love the plastic tables, the quaint 'big five' bronze artworks, the large mural of broken pillars and countryside. And the food... The fried cauliflower, soft homemade pitas, stuffed grape leaves, baba ghanoush, kibbeh, the most addictive hummus topped with coriander, garlic and olive oil, crispy sardines, eye-watering Turkish coffee...
But this isn't a restaurant review, believe it or not.
Last time we were at the Cedar, David sat chatting with us after the meal, keen to impart a little of his not insubstantial knowledge on Lebanese food. I inquired about the pomegranate molasses he uses and where he buys it, and he told me he imports it — and sells it. So of course I bought some.
It's thick and syrapy, obviously, but the flavour is quite extraordinary — a bit like sour figs.
Then David made me memorise four ingredients — walnuts, cumin, garlic and pomegranate molasses — that, when combined, can be used as a marinade for chicken and any kind of red meat.
So, a few days later, I crushed five cloves of garlic, toasted a generous tablespoon of cumin and combined these with 100g walnuts and about three tablespoons pomegranate molasses with a pestle and mortar.
I rubbed the paste all over a deboned leg of lamb and left it to marinade overnight, then roasted it to perfection. The result was a glorious, distinctly Middle Eastern flavour, which was beautifully complemented by lemony full-cream Greek yoghurt. I suspect it would also work a treat slathered over cauliflower florets before roasting.
Just putting it out there... Use it. Don't use it. It's an unusual combination of ingredients, one I'll be revisiting soon.
The Cedar: 021 433 2546
Pssst: I would like to apologise for an inaccuracy in this post that I've just corrected – I originally said that the Cedar does not charge corkage, when, in fact, they do. R30. A cheek, since they don't really have a much of a wine list, but there you go.