Sanza Sandile isn’t an average chef. Which makes sense, because Yeoville isn’t an average suburb.
Actually I’m not even sure Sanza calls himself a chef — if you ask him he’ll probably say he’s a cook or a journalist or a philosopher or an entertainer. He’s all of those things and more. But above all, as I see it, this man is a chef.
Sanza’s story is best told by Sanza himself and trust me, he will tell it to you. His food is as much about story-telling as it is about cooking. I’ll run through things briefly:
Sanza came of age as apartheid ended and South African democracy began. He went to university, became a radio journalist, but all the while he cooked. He spent most of his adulthood in Yeoville, which was a gathering place for South Africa’s black intelligentsia in the 1990s and early 2000s. Over the past two decades Yeoville has become an African melting pot, with immigrants flooding in from Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Mozambique, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, among other places. Many of Sanza’s peers left Yeoville and relocated to wealthier suburbs like Melville, which Sanza calls Smellville. Sanza stayed on in Yeoville and his cooking took on the ingredients and flavors of his newly arrived neighbors.
The Yeoville Dinner Club
Sanza used to have a tiny food stall on Rockey Street, which I wrote about once. That tiny stall is no more. But Sanza has revived his business just upstairs from the old one, serving “Pan Afrikan Plates” in a small room he converted into the Yeoville Dinner Club. I had dinner there for the first time on a recent Friday evening.
I’m not a talented enough food critic to properly describe Sanza’s Pan-Afrikan plates. (Marie-Lais Emond is much more talented than me though — read her review of the dinner club on Eat Out.) All I can say is that — like Yeoville and like Sanza — the Pan-Afrikan plate is not an average meal. If you’re looking for a unique African culinary experience, the Yeoville Dinner Club is the best place in Joburg to find it. You won’t find more creative, better-tasting food than this.
Mozambican fried fish and Moroccan cabbage salad. The fish was the only non-vegetarian food on the table.
Falafel with peanut sauce. This was my favorite dish of the evening — Sanza’s falafel is so much better than any other falafel I’ve eaten.
Sanza’s take on West African jollof rice.
A few tips for eating at the Yeoville Dinner Club:
- Sanza generally prepares meals every day of the week but you must arrange in advance. Meals cost about R375 per person, which includes food and homemade African cocktails. It’s a pricey meal by Joburg standards but worth every cent.
- Food is served family-style and you never know who else will be there. Be prepared to get to know new and interesting people.
- Sanza’s food is mostly vegetarian, but you won’t miss the meat.
- There is an incredible Cameroonian-owned fabric shop/tailor next door to the Yeoville Dinner Club. If you like fabulous African prints, be sure to stop in.
- Catching an Uber from the Yeoville Dinner Club is tricky. Uber drivers are often harassed by metered taxi drivers on Rockey Street and don’t like to stop there. If you want to catch an Uber, walk around the corner to another street and call from there. Or negotiate with one of the many metered taxis parked outside.
- Don’t let Yeoville intimidate you. It’s one of Joburg’s most interesting, vibrant neighborhoods and the Yeoville Dinner Club is one of the best ways to experience it.
The Yeoville Dinner Club is at 24 Rockey Street. You can book a meal by contacting Sanza on Facebook or calling +27-83-447-4235.
My meal at the Yeoville Dinner Club was complimentary. Opinions expressed are 100% mine.