2017 Update: I’m very sad to break the news that the Capital Café has closed. Sniff.
2017 Update #2: A new coffee shop has moved into this space. Yay! It’s called DM Coffee. I haven’t been yet but I’ve heard good reports.
Secret coffee shops are popping up in downtown Joburg, in strange, wonderful little corners where the city is coming alive. Craft Coffee in Newtown was my favorite discovery last year. This year’s discovery is Capital Café in the center of the Joburg CBD.
I first glimpsed Capital Café a few weeks ago on my friend Jay Jay’s Instagram feed. (Jay Jay’s feed is fantastic, by the way. You should follow him.) I have been looking for an excuse to go there ever since, and finally found one last weekend when I scheduled an Internations Coffee Time get-together there.
Capital Café’s coffee is decent. The café also serves nice breakfast sandwiches, baked goods, and other light fare. But this café’s big selling point is not the food or the coffee. It’s the ceiling.
The Capital Café is in Corner House, built in 1903. The Capital Café’s location was once the main entrance of this building, which was the tallest building in Johannesburg when it opened and is considered to be one of the grandest historic structures in town.
Once owned by Barclays Bank, and South Africa’s National Bank before that, Corner House now belongs to a property development company called Urban Ocean. Urban Ocean owns several other buildings in the area, and quite a few of them are in the midst of being redeveloped. Lots of exciting stuff is happening on the stretch of Commissioner Street between Rissik and Simmonds Streets.
Anyway, back to the ceiling. I don’t know the exact history or meaning of this spectacular stained glass dome (maybe some historians will chime in), but I do know that the beautiful lady depicted above and below it is Tyche, the Goddess of Fortune. This makes sense in a building that was once owned by the bank.
There is a very nice-looking hair salon on one side of the Capital Café, and a spacious co-working space on the other.
The co-working space next to Capital Café, which is called Urban Collective.
The whole place is great but honestly, they had me at the ceiling.
A few people who came to coffee on Saturday said they struggled to find the place, but it’s actually very simple. Capital Café is at 34 Simmonds Street, at the corner of Commissioner and Simmonds. Walking west on Commissioner, make a right onto Simmonds and the café is immediately on the right. The café is open Monday to Friday from 8:00 to 4:00 and Saturdays from 8:00 to 1:00. It’s around the corner from the Library Gardens Rea Vaya station and one block from Bridge Books.
It’s easy to get there. Go have a coffee and gaze at the ceiling.