Last Supper at Gramadoelas

Gramadoelas is the most famous restaurant in downtown Joburg. It opened 46 years ago in a Hillbrow garage, and has been in its current location next to the Market Theatre in Newtown since 1992. Gramadoelas serves traditional South African food with an exotic twist, and has hosted some of the world’s most prominent politicians and celebrities.

Gramadoelas is one of those places where I’d been meaning to eat for years, and I finally went last Friday night. Unfortunately my first supper at Gramadoelas was probably also my last. The restaurant is closing at the end of this month.

Gramadoelas crowd

Dinner at Gramadoelas.

Gramadoelas was founded by Brian Shalkoff and his life partner Eduan Naudé, who lived together in Hillbrow. A few weeks ago Brian was brutally attacked during a robbery at his apartment building. After some time in a coma,  Brian died from his injuries on 1 July. (Read more about this horrendous story, and the history of Gramadoelas, in the Mail & Guardian.)

Eduan is far past retirement age, and the Market Theatre hasn’t renewed Gramadoelas’ lease. Lease notwithstanding, I doubt Eduan would want to continue running the restaurant anyway under the circumstances. So, this chapter of Joburg’s history will end on 31 July.

As soon as I heard the news, I made a reservation for dinner at Gramadoelas with my friends Anita and Johnson. We were there on an interesting evening, as the entire restaurant (with the exception of our table and one or two others) was filled with people attending a woman’s surprise 40th-birthday party.

While stuffing ourselves with samoosas, bobotie, chicken curry, and mopani worms (yep, that’s right — mopani WORMS) from the all-you-can-eat buffet, we listened as the birthday girl was regaled with stories and praise from her friends, colleagues, family, and nearly grown children. (The nearly grown children kind of freaked me out, as I am only one year shy of my own 40th birthday.)

mopani worms

I’ve always said I would never eat a mopani worm but Anita bullied me into it. It didn’t taste too bad, actually. Kind of like escargot, probably because of all the butter and garlic. One worm was enough for me though. I have no idea why I didn’t think to have someone shoot my photo while I ate the worm.

At one point Eduan sat down at our table — he is good friends with a friend of Anita’s from the States and Anita wanted to deliver her condolences. Eduan is a such a gentle, lovely man. My heart really went out to him. I’m glad I got the chance to meet him, albeit briefly.

The whole evening was surreal, and made me feel strangely reflective. I suppose that’s why I hardly took any photos.

If you want to eat at Gramadoelas before it closes, you have virtually no time left. I wouldn’t be surprised if things start to shut down even earlier than expected. Call immediately before it’s too late: (011) 838 6960.

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8 Comments

  • Reply roetsuprooted July 9, 2013 at 4:53 pm

    So sad. Glad you could experience it.

    • Reply 2summers July 10, 2013 at 9:28 am

      Thanks Mia. Yes, very sad.

    • Reply N. CALL August 15, 2013 at 8:42 am

      Was happy we were able to experience this restaurant which has been in operation for 46 years before it closed.
      After having trouble with their card machines our table was requested to pay cash, only to find that our cards were debited a few days later for a total amount of R2800.00.
      Understanding that this could be an error, we went in to discuss the issue and get reimbursed but no effort has been made to resolve this from their part.
      I wonder if we would have been treated differently if the restaurant was going to be trading still.
      I wonder just how many people on that night had the same experience.
      So Disappointing.

      • Reply N. CALL August 15, 2013 at 8:43 am

        LAST SUPPER AT GRAMADOELAS LEAVES BAD TAST IN MY MOUTH

      • Reply 2summers August 15, 2013 at 9:16 am

        Wow. I am very sorry to hear that.

  • Reply Howlin' Mad Heather July 10, 2013 at 2:52 am

    It’s always sad to see an institution close like that. (The worms? I’d try them.)

    • Reply 2summers July 10, 2013 at 9:28 am

      Haha. I’m glad to hear you are up for the challenge, Heather. I would expect nothing less from you.

  • Reply Sine July 11, 2013 at 8:21 pm

    that’s a terrible story, Heather! Glad you got to go. I’d always heard of it and never made it there, so I’m glad I got to get a last glimpse through you.

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