Gwynne Conlyn

Gwynne Conlyn

How much does it cost to mess up a dining experience? We paid through the nose at Banjaara in the broader Fourways area.

It’s next to another in-and-out, don’t-mind-the-food place (Spur) so I knew this would not be a gourmet experience.  But since it was a chilled-to-the-bone evening we didn’t relish the long trek from Lanseria to Spiceburg in Greenside, where you really can find good Indian food.  Besides, I’ve had good fast-food curries in Delhi so how bad could it be?

The 20-minute drive from our front door to Banjaara seemed more feasible so off we went only to find a small huddle of anorak-clad people clutching glasses of house wine in an enormous room.

Not exactly the “we’re so good we can’t fit in another diner, but gee, step into the warmth of our magic circle anyway” sort of welcome I’ve come to expect. I wondered how much rent Banjaara paid.

We contributed thus:

One bottle of Beyerskloof Pinotage, a classic, and usually pocket-friendly wine, well matched with a good spicy dish. The price? R165.95.  Ouch.

My husband’s Lamb Korma was a fistful of chewy sheep in a sauce. If there were any fresh spices, they were very well disguised. R142.95.

My Prawn Masala was flat. Clearly the 10 shrimps had been reclining in a Bain Marie for a good few hours. They tasted like the blotting paper we used to stick under our tongues to make ourselves faint at school.

Pass out? I nearly did when the bill arrived.

For the aforementioned dishes, garlic naan for one, salad – a misnomer for the small withered concoction smothered in pink sauce  – and a bit of rice, the bill burst into a flaming  R528.20 (10 percent tip included).

Look, I don’t mind paying for creativity, taste and feeling abundantly satisfied afterwards but Banjaara was not one of those places.