When you walk into Ocean Basket in the Mall of Qatar, you’re met with a genuine seaside charm. In real South African style, the FACT team was greeted by friendly faces to enjoy an oceanic feast unlike anything we’ve ever seen (or tasted ) before. Let’s go…
Every now and then, we get a major craving for seafood but don’t want to go into a 5-star hotel or luxury neighbourhood to find appetising cuisine. Instead, a casual atmosphere with a chilled-out vibe, where the staff will make you feel like family and the food is both quality-made and incredibly delicious – that’s all we’re asking for. It’s not too much, right? Not for one of the newest culinary players in town; enter Ocean Basket.
The story behind this much-loved South African restaurant chain is as inspiring as its menu. When the first Ocean Basket restaurant opened its doors in 1995, South Africa had just held its first democratic elections. The air was charged with optimism and apprehension. And now, the delicious smell of seafood too. Founder Fats Lazarides saw an opportunity to create something that customers were calling a restaurant that served delicious affordable seafood. In those days the restaurant included a fresh fish deli. Seafood restaurants were reserved for the upper crust, and a portion of prawns was a real extravagance. But Fats had always been one to swim against the current.
The first Ocean Basket in Menlyn Park Centre, Pretoria was a measly 60 square meters, with just six tables. The menu offered only a handful of dishes, including prawns, hake, calamari and Kingklip. That was it. Plus, the landlord imposed restrictions on what could be sold, only one wine and a small selection of soft drinks could be served. In true Ocean Basket spirit, Fats invited customers to bring their own drinks and even their own salads. It was only a matter of time before Pretoria had fallen in love with this loud, crazy, Mediterranean deli and restaurant.
Now, much of the menu is inspired by the freshness of Mediterranean cooking and the love of good food in South Africa. We started with a taste of the MediterrAsian Sushi. This delicious fusion of Ocean Basket’s traditional Mediterranean flavours combined with classic Asian tastes result in a very unique spin on a popular dish. Our favourites were the Lemon Salmon Roll and the Wasabi Prawns. Both extremely well prepared with a slight kick that leaves you wanting more. Even a non-sushi lover would be converted by these beauties. Next we had the Village Salad with both Fried and Grilled Halloumi Cheese. JUST. WOW! The ingredients were fresh, tastefully presented and served family style. At Ocean Basket it’s all about coming together and sharing an amazing dining experience. This was proven to us by the delectably-decadent platter of seafood that followed.
We shared the Platter for Two which had a variety of mouthwatering seafood including fried Calamari, Mussels soaked in the most heavenly Lemon Butter Sauce (it was so good that some of the team ordered a separate bowl of sauce which was then used for dipping and drizzling at will – yum!), and grilled prawns, to name but a few of the choices. All of this was served on a bed of rice. To say that we ate like kings is an understatement – and we’d highly recommend this platter for groups of friends and families. The final part of the seafood madness and perhaps, the most important as this is where Ocean Basket’s roots lie – Fish and Chips. Served in a stainless steel pan, with a golden batter that is deep fried to perfection, and your choice of rice or french fries. The fish – Hake – is imported from South Africa and this only adds to the authenticity of the experience.
Needless to say that by the time the dessert was served we were almost incapable of enjoying the Baklava that we were served. ALMOST. With golden flaky layers of filo pastry stuffed with nuts and topped with syrup, this was the most incredible way to end what proved to be a magnificent meal. During the entire evening we had an endless supply of truly delicious Mint Lemonade served in a Carafe, again adding to the family atmosphere. This was an experience that we won’t stop bragging about anytime soon!
GO: Visit Ocean Basket at the Mall of Qatar. Call 4490 2944 for reservations and more information.