I’ve fallen behind on my Port Elizabeth posts — I have too much to blog about and not enough time. But this post can’t wait any longer.

The southern part of Joburg is the one area of town that I have yet to properly explore. I’ve been hearing about the amazing Portuguese restaurants down there for years and I need to go check them out. In the meantime though, let me tell you about Cubata, the Portuguese restaurant I went to in Port Elizabeth. I’ll reserve judgement on the Joburg Portuguese joints, but I’m not sure any other Portuguese restaurant in South Africa will be able to top Cubata in my esteem.

Cubata is in a gritty PE neighborhood called Sydenham, next to Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium. The place doesn’t make much of an impression from the outside.

Cubata strip

The little strip mall where Cubata is. Cubata is on the far left, with foggy windows and no sign.

Cubata outside

Cubata’s entrance on the side of the strip mall.

Our band of bloggers arrived at Cubata at around 7:00 p.m. on a Saturday night. Every table was full, with the exception of the table reserved for our group. (Do not show up at Cubata without booking ahead.) The crowd was jovial and diverse.

Inside Cubata

People waiting for take-aways inside Cubata.

We sat down and unloaded wine and beer from the cooler we’d brought along. Cubata doesn’t have a liquor license so it’s BYOB. There are no corkage fees. If you want cold drinks (sodas), just take them from the self-serve fridge and pay up at the end using the honor system.

I never actually saw the Cubata menu. But there’s really no need because everyone knows what to order: ribs and prawns.

We waited quite a while for our food. (That’s part of the deal at Cubata — all the better for working up an appetite.) Cubata’s owner, José Carlos Rodriguez Nobrega — I’m using his full name because it’s awesome, but you can call him José — came out of the kitchen periodically to talk to us.

José is a ridiculously charming and interesting man. Born in Angola, a former Portuguese colony, José was interned in an Angolan concentration camp during the civil war in the 1980s and fled to Portugal with his family. (I hope I’m getting this story right — the restaurant was noisy and my head was swimming from drinking wine on an empty stomach.) Eventually José decided he missed Africa and moved from Portugal to Port Elizabeth, where he founded Cubata. I think José said that Cubata is about 12 years old.

At long last, the food came.

Jose and prawns

José emerges from the kitchen amidst great fanfare, bearing prawns and garlic bread.

Cubata ribs

An enormous platter of ribs. There were seven of us but we had enough ribs for 11 or 12.

Words can’t describe how much we enjoyed our dinner at Cubata. But I think this picture can.

Cubata food

There you have it.

Cubata represents many of the things that I love most about South Africa. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Cubata Portuguese Grill is at 16B Arthur Street, Sydenham, in Port Elizabeth. The phone number is 041 487 3737.

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