Welcome to an occasional blog series called “This Is the East”, featuring hidden spots on Johannesburg’s East Rand. First up: the Croydon Bakery.
A few weeks ago, a nice guy named Kevin presented me with a takeaway container of peri peri chicken livers from O’ Peri Peri in Edenvale. I had been expecting a small portion — maybe four or five livers — with some sauce and a few chips (fries) on the side.
Instead I received: 1) A plastic tub the size of an unabridged dictionary containing the livers of at least a dozen chickens swimming in half a gallon of sauce; 2) A large bag of “slap chips” (South African term for soggy french fries — oddly delicious) too big for me to hold in one hand; and 3) two large rolls combining to the size of a small baguette. All for R70 (about $5).
I stared at the pile of food. “How will I eat even HALF of this?!” I cried.
Kevin cocked his head, spread his hands wide, and said: “This is the East.”
If you’re from Joburg then you know what he meant. If not, let me explain.
“The East” is the East Rand, aka Ekurhuleni, aka Joburg’s far eastern suburbs. The East Rand is its own municipality and many East Rand towns — Benoni, Brakpan, Springs — are far from from the city, too far to even be considered suburbs. (Joburgers often joke you need to take your passport with you to the East Rand.)
But there is something quintessentially Joburgian about the East, filled with sprawling shopping malls and crumbling Art Deco buildings and eccentric people and divey food joints. The East Rand, like Joburg but also in its own specific way, is grimy and charming and weird.
I’ve always liked the East and lately I’ve been spending a bit more time there. Hence, this series.
The Croydon Bakery
Croydon is a small suburb between Edenvale and Kempton Park, right next to O.R. Tambo International Airport. The Croydon Bakery stands proudly in a sprawling parking lot next to Brabazon Road, surrounded by run-down offices and apartment buildings and a liquor store and a Chicken Licken.
I arrived at the Croydon Bakery on a Monday afternoon, starving, with nice-guy-Kevin. We bought two pies — one chicken and mushroom, one pepper steak. (South African pies are not like American pies. Usually they are savory, not sweet, and served in individual portions. A pie is a classic South African fast-food lunch.)
We also ordered a piece of “apple slice”, which is also kind of like a pie but not.
It was all delicious.
I fell into a chat with the Croydon Bakery’s owner, Tim Moustakis. He told me the bakery is 38 years old, opened in 1980. Tim runs the bakery with his son, Jimmy.
The Croydon Bakery serves coffee and has a couple of small tables for eating in. If you find yourself near the airport and craving a pie (or an apple-pie-like slice), give it a try.
Croydon Bakery is at 90 Brabazon Road. Call 011-974-4549.