In Pretoria, an Indian feast of theatre worthy of Bollywood

In Pretoria, an Indian feast of theatre worthy of Bollywood
Prawn curry at Geet restaurant in Brooklyn, Pretoria. (Photo: The Nose)

Geet, in Brooklyn at the posh end of Pretoria, is serving arguably the finest Indian food (if one can even use the term due to the multitude of regional cuisines) in the country, in my opinion. I never use this term lightly.

This hidden gem lies in an anonymous (or should that be eponymous) location just off the Brooklyn Circle in the posh east of Pretoria. The Queen of her luxuriously appointed floor at Geet Indian restaurant is Gita Jivan, who reigns with an abundant talent of chefs from all over India, and a very competent serving staff headed by the gloriously named Wellington, who definitely did not meet his Waterloo on the evening, serving with a quiet competence and very good drinks and food knowledge.

Gita is a well-known ayurvedic practitioner and her food is frankly medicinal. A glorious smell meets you at the door of the softly lit dining room (full on a Monday night – something one rarely sees in contemporary South Africa), filled with many discrete and comfortable spaces broken up by chiffony curtains, multiple levels and racks of precious wines. 

The bar is very comprehensive indeed, and offers great Indian-influenced cocktails as well as the classics and has a comprehensive range of the excellent Indian single malt whiskies.

Geet is languid comfort. One is immediately at ease in the environment. An added attraction is the presence of the all-seeing uncle – Gita’s nonagenarian father who still has more verve than the delicious distraction and I put together. It is at once a family and a properly relaxed fine dining milieu.

Gita explains that she had been in India, travelling widely, as she does many times a year, and her menu changes constantly, bristling with new regional specialities all the time. 

When I am ill with dreaded man ‘flu I order takeaway dhal combinations of spicy soup with medicinal and truly delightful spices which the delicious distraction serves me in bed, confident in my rapid recovery.

Tonight I have come for spiritual healing after a particularly exhausting week. Gita obliges, serving us a smorgasbord (is that the right word for tons of regional Italian specialities spilling out of the generous kitchen?) inspired by her latest gastronomic jaunt, showing off her new bevy of chefs from different regions of India. 

We start with a canapé (allegedly) which turns out to be a rather large and gloriously textured plate of puri chaat. Done well, this is exquisite and this one did not disappoint. My mouth was a small musical of date, pomegranate, mint and tamarind flavours, with the crispy lentil swirl of the rhythm section. And a truly elegant presentation that lifted this Mumbai street food into the gentrified Pretoria East ambience.

Naan brushed with ghee flavoured with coriander and honey; saffron, blackened garlic and herbs. (Photo: The Nose)

Next was an interesting plate of tandoori specialities. This, which for me normally tends to be dry in South African so-called Indian establishments, sang. Each element was heightened by its own marinade, from the punchy Goa style prawns which left me like a blushing groom, to the gentle whole scallops gratinated with flavour. 

Kebab platter. (Photo: The Nose)

Also there were thread lamb (kebabs), nawabi chicken kebabs and nariyal tikka. All four corners of India covered in one dish then. Thank goodness for my apple- and herb-infused cocktail that extinguished part of my mouth. The distraction was glowing, as was the wine – a De Grendel Viognier – that caught my eye. So useful as in all cases for her then.

Next was a cornucopia of curries spanning the whole subcontinent with sides of gorgeous mini naans from a whole spectrum of colours and toppings and fluffy rice flavoured with burned garlic. 

Paneer lababdar (spicy cashew). (Photo: The Nose)

Ras malai. (Photo: The Nose)

I felt like a maharajah surveying a harem of food. Goan jhinga prawns with fresh coconut and what felt like tasty lava, Gosht Andra curry from Chennai (the distraction’s favourite Indian city), tender fragrant and alluring, Banjara paneer from Gujarat with Gita’s gorgeous homemade cheese set off with a mild makhni and cashew nut paste, and for me the one slightly unsuccessful dish of the evening, namely an ostrich curry in the Badam style. The ostrich was slightly stringy and chewy but the sauce redolent with almonds and saffron, so delicious that I just made an Indian scarpetta and slurped it up with my naan.

By now I was slipping into a food coma. But valiantly I suffered on as Gita bought us the famous Ras Malai made from fermented milk infused with cardamom. It was in a little sea of what can best be described as exquisitely flavoured thickened milk (almost like everyone’s childhood favourite ideal milk pudding, but layered with a heady rush of spices and sugar. I bravely forced it down as it was so pretty with its little platinum leaves on top. It was spongy and refreshing.

I couldn’t even fit in my customary chai at the end. It was an orgiastic feast. It was a Bollywood event. It was pure Indian Theatre but with all the substance of the best of Broadway. This is the finest Indian food (if one can even use the term due to the multitude of regional cuisines) in the country, in my opinion. I never use this term lightly. This is not a cheap restaurant, but a meal of this quality should not be cheap. It is, however, outstanding value for money. And very good for the soul.

On my restaurant scale of 10, Geet scores a solid 9.2 with small service niggles that appeared later when we ran out of cutlery. I can’t blame Wellington entirely though, as we were eating so much that it was hard to keep up. 

This is a restaurant of grace and flair, with true old-school hospitality but with the cutting edge of subcontinent cuisine. Go. As soon as you can. DM

Geet Indian Restaurant | 547 Fehrsen Street, Brooklyn | 012 460 3199 | Free parking outside with a guard off the street. | All credit cards accepted.

This is the first in a series of food reviews of SA food heroes and lesser-known spots serving great food and visited anonymously with the bill paid in full by our secret and highly qualified food reviewer. He is often accompanied by the delicious distraction, his partner in life and fellow gourmand.

The Nose byline image by Egor Myznik on Unsplash.


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • virat.chadha says:

    I used to love this place but theast time I took a client here I was embarrassed by cockroaches on curtains and even on the table constantly despite moving tables once already. Worried me since then that management knew of the problem already but still proceeded to open and serve. Action shows little regard for the customers. I’m not going back.

  • Slindo Shamase says:

    Used to be nice, I once took visitors there and we found the owner brushing and blow drying her hair right inside where we are supposed to eat. We left

  • Michelle du Preez says:

    We have been going to Geet for the past 18 years, at least once a month and the quality of the food, service and ambience in unsurpassable!! Definitely the best Indian restaurant in South Africa! The owner Gita is very ‘hands on’ and constantly trying out new flavours and ideas to meet her very high standards.

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