I was raised in a coastal American city where seafood was plentiful, varied and cheap. One of my toughest adjustments as a transplant to landlocked Jozi has been dealing with the dearth of affordable fish, and the lack of diversity in the fish I can afford. I've eaten more bland hake than I care to remember. Enough already.
Fortunately I've discovered La Camerounaise in Yeoville and now I can stop whining. I know what you're thinking: Yeoville is dodgy, where will I park, too much hassle, etc. Stop with the excuses and read on.
La Camerounaise is easy to find - across from the House of Tandoor, which is at 26 Rockey Street, near the corner of Bezuidenhout St. (Look for La Camerounaise's glowing yellow sign.) Street parking is easily available if you don't go late on a weekend evening. And Yeoville isn't half as dodgy as you think.
Head inside and sit at one of the plastic outdoor tables next to the charcoal braai. (There's also a bar inside, with a pool table.) Wait for Lucy, the regal Cameroonian queen of the fish braai, to saunter over and welcome you. Order a beer and a fish.
Lucy will probably ask if you want the "red fish" (red jack) or the "black fish" (Portuguese mackerel). I recommend both. A whole fish right off the grill, basted with a mysterious spicy mixture and served with chips, tangy mayonnaise, and a side of chili, costs R50. Order some piping hot vetkoek and Cameroonian red beans on the side.
Relax with your beer and enjoy the West African tunes pumping from the stereo. If you're lucky (or unlucky, depending on how you see things), a friendly junkie might sashay past and twirl like a dervish around your table for several minutes. Smile politely and ignore her. Your food will arrive soon, without utensils. Dip your hands into the bowl of warm water that has been provided to you, and chow down. Watch out for bones.
As you finish, a bottle of scented body lotion will be deposited on your table. I eventually learned that the lotion is meant to dispel the fishy odor from your hands.
Before leaving, take 20 minutes to chat with Lucy and her patrons. Maybe do a quick dance in the bar. I've often heard that Cameroon is the friendliest country in Africa and after eating at La Camerounaise, I believe it.
What? La Camerounaise
Where? Opposite House of Tandoor, which is at 26 Rockey Street, Johannesbur.
Why? Because where else will you find fresh fish cooked on the braai?
by Heather Mason