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Vusi Ndlovu (L) & Absie Pantshwa
Photograph: Bruce TuckVusi Ndlovu (L) & Absie Pantshwa

In The Kitchen With: Vusi Ndlovu

Drawing on travel, collective memory and a deep love for the cuisine of his continent, chef Vusi Ndlovu dishes up delicious at MLILO 'Fires of Africa'.

Richard Holmes
Written by
Richard Holmes

Chef Vusi Ndlovu is passionate about sharing – and celebrating – the diverse flavours of Africa. From a genre-bending pop-up in the heart of a colonial-era hotel, to vibrant inner-city eateries that pulsate with African rhythm, Ndlovu is almost single-handedly beating the drum for a culinary celebration of the continent in Cape Town.

And at MLILO 'Fires of Africa' in the Time Out Market Cape Town, Ndlovu together with business partner Absie Pantshwa, brings a contemporary taste of African cuisine in a country-hopping odyssey that ranges from traditional Zulu shisanyama barbecue to a taste of Senegal in the delicious lamb didi. Still hungry? Try the classic Kenyan nyama choma of thinly sliced beef with a fresh kachumbari salad.

Whatever dish you choose, you’ll discover a brave and bold new approach to creating world-class cuisine imbued with the unmistakable flavours of Africa. We asked Vusi to step out from behind the grill and tell us...

How would you describe the food on offer at MLILO 'Fires of Africa'?

Bold African street food, all cooked over fire.

Is the menu at Time Out Market Cape Town different from your other restaurant?

It’s all designed to be faster and more streamlined without the comprise in flavour or excitement. The dishes are bold, but yet beautifully understated.

As a chef, how do you go about creating new dishes? What’s the starting point?

There’s not much room to be experimental at the Market, but I always work from memory. We rely on the memories people shared around the fire and we lean in on that notion. After that, we explore the technical aspects.

MLILO 'Fires of Africa'
Photograph: Time Out

Tell me a secret about one of the plates on offer at MLILO 'Fires of Africa'?

The spice rub we use on the suya (grilled pork/chicken skewers, served with plantain ketchup) contains about 23 ingredients! It’s also one of our best sellers.

What is the most popular dish on the menu? Why is it such a hit?

The braai plate (with beef chuck/lamb chop, chicken wing and traditional boerewors) is killing it! I think it works because it’s just wholesome and very tasty.

OK, but what’s your personal favourite? What do you love about it?

Lamb dibi (flame-grilled lamb pieces served with black pepper & citrus sauce) for sure! When we first had it in Senegal we couldn’t stop thinking about the time we would eat it again.

Lamb dibi at MLILO 'Fires of Africa'
Photograph: Time Out | Lamb dibi

What’s the best drink from the Market to pair with it?

A beautiful Shiraz from Culture Wine Bar.

What’s your favourite other eatery in the Market?

Nøsh has the best sandwiches. They really come through when we arrive early at work and we haven’t had breakfast yet.

Outside the Market, what is your favourite restaurant in Cape Town?

Bouchon Bistro in the CBD is pretty cool. Tasty small plates in a cool little space.

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