Fresh bread. Picture: ISTOCK

Fresh bread. Picture: ISTOCK

IT’S NOT easy, methinks, to run an establishment after you’ve had legends come before you. Think of poor Jacob Zuma, the captain of our humble boat. Everywhere the poor man goes these days people remind him of the colossus that was Nelson Mandela. They talk of Mandela’s dedication to the constitution of the land. Then they smirk and make mention of Nkandla. That’s the point at which our Jacob’s eyes start welling up and he wants to cry.

It doesn’t stop there. People point out that seven years into Thabo Mbeki’s tenure he was overseeing an economy that touched 6% growth.

The black middle class was growing. The tills were ringing and the ratings agencies were happier than Larry.

Now look at poor Jacob. Seven years into his tenure and everyone is asking him to step down. The economy will grow at 0.8% this year, if we are lucky. Unemployment is high. Protests are up. And what do the people Zuma refers to as “the clever blacks” say? “Go home to Nkandla, baba! We have had enough of you.”

The people at Central One, at the Radisson Blu Gautrain Hotel, must feel a bit like Zuma. They had a famous chef once. We all flocked there to sample his wares. Accolades poured in. You couldn’t get a table.

Most of it was justified, too. Service was excellent. International visitors said this was world-class as they gazed out at the wonder that was the Gautrain and Sandton City. Those were the days.

I visited Central One with my mates Fose Segodi and Frans Mojela recently. The place was virtually empty. Everything, from service to food, was so far below par we vowed to go back in case we had got things wrong.

So we went back last week. This time there were four of us. Now, it is not that Central One is bad. But it has lost its way.

On our first foray there, staff kept disappearing. Our waitress, Phumza, would go missing in action — much like deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa — for huge chunks of time. When she was around she ignored us despite the fact that we were one of about four tables at the place. On our second visit the place was nearly full. There were only two waiters around. The two managers ran around trying to fill in. They were failing. At some point we asked Siyabonga, our waiter, why he was ignoring us.

“Eish!” he exclaimed. I suspect that’s how Zuma feels sometimes when he is under pressure.

My rump on our first day was tough and came well done instead of medium rare. The lamb tagine was dry. The lamb shoulder was, well, inedible. The one good thing about that first evening was that right at the beginning the manager brought us piping hot bread from the kitchen. It was delicious.

On our second visit the bread arrived cold and hard as if it had been left over from the day before. This time Fose had the rump, but it wasn’t well done as he had asked. It was burnt to a crisp. The pork belly left Frans, a chef, whingeing and whining. Our new member, Kabelo Kgatla, enjoyed the chicken penne, which was not too bad at all.

My chicken Thai green curry was bland. After a lot of seasoning it woke up a bit, but I can’t say I am in a hurry to compare it to some of the excellent Thai curry I have had in SA.

Verdict? Try harder to get back to your winning ways. It is the advice I would give to the ANC, too, but they are too busy defending Zuma to listen.

** Radisson Blu Gautrain Hotel Sandton

Corner Rivonia Road and West Street, Sandton
Tel: (011) 286-1000

***** Mcebisi Jonas
**** Excellent
*** Good
** Poor
* Jacob Zuma