The new spot in town
As my date and I walked into Mpoto Yathu what really caught my attention was the African-inspired décor. The lampshades in the ceiling were well thought out. Curiosity getting the better of me, I couldn’t help but ask about the décor, and we learned that the materials used to make the lampshades were imported from Malawi. Yasmine who runs the restaurant with her daughter, Jelena, was born in Malawi and moved to Zambia when she was three years old, hence her strong connection to Malawi. The mats hanging on the wall were purchased from Zanzibar, where Yasmine’s sister lives. The traditional masks and the bicycle ornaments hanging on the wall were all sourced within Zambia.
We hadn’t been in the restaurant long, and I was already starting to fall in love with the place. Not only was it family-owned, it also had a heartwarming story.
Our pleasant waiter, Ba Geoffrey, quickly came to our service, taking down our orders. We discussed wine options and I settled for the Lands End, a 2018 Sauvignon Blanc, which I had never tasted before. It proved to be well balanced and easy-going on the palette.
We ordered the shoka steak, which is T-bone steak accompanied with chips, selected from their outside butchery, then grilled over charcoal. The portions are generous. I also appreciated having the option of choosing the specific cut of meat you desired. In addition, outdoor seating affords patrons the choice of watching their meat as it’s prepared. I’m an avid believer in kitchen transparency. In a restaurant, what happens behind closed doors is my business.
For starters, we ordered the grilled veg skewer, which was my favorite. It was grilled to perfection, with the juice still flowing by the time it reached our table. To top it off, Ba Geoffrey picked up the bib that had been laid on the table and tied it over my neck. He was giving me world-class treatment and that’s just what I like.
Yasmine and Jelena joined our table to ask how we were doing, which organically transitioned into them telling us how this had been a dream for seven to eight years before it came to fruition. Everything was thought through in great detail: the cutlery, setting, serving bowls, you name it. I smiled and shared how I loved food. Yasmine smiled and cheekily said, “I can tell,” poking at my T-bone-filled belly and making me chuckle.
Mpoto Yathu, which means our pot in some local languages, opened in the last week of June 2021 and is a perfect metaphor for the business. Mother and daughter taking a leap of faith to venture into a business in a sector new to them amidst the Covid-19 pandemic; a challenging climate for all entrepreneurs.
However, what really tugged at my heart is that Jelena has employed her domestic help’s daughter and son as a waiter and cleaner at the restaurant. In addition, her driver’s wife was also provided with work. So when I say that this is a family business, I truly mean it.
We were the last people to leave the restaurant and it felt like we were leaving an auntie’s house, filled with food, openness and love which is not something you experience every day.