In the very heart of downtown Joburg, on a block no one would expect, is a magical corner of African style. Papy Nakuw, acclaimed Congolose-South-African founder of Urban Zulu, has his fashion design business there, as well as a hip backpackers and a hair salon.
But this post is about the culinary magic at the corner of Anderson and Van Brandis Streets. The culinary magic of Kafe Noir.
Kafe Noir is the restaurant attached to Urban Backpackers. It’s been there for a couple of years but up until recently it was more of a small coffee shop; Papy recently expanded the space and it’s now a full-on restaurant.
The menu at Kafe Noir looks quite basic at first — black type on white laminated paper, mostly sandwiches and burgers with a few South African dishes mixed in. But look again.
Find the listing for carapau, a grilled Portuguese mackerel, and order it. Don’t ask questions, just do it.
This fish, prepared by South African chef Bokang Legele and costing only a few dollars, is hands-down the best thing to eat in downtown Joburg. The fish is juicy and delectable, with spices tucked under the crunchy skin. The salads are fresh and tangy. The chips are crisp and well seasoned. The service is friendly and the atmosphere is hip and unpretentious. It’s all perfect. If you’re not in the middle of a workday, as I was, you could wash your carapau down with a cold beer or a gin and tonic.
After lunch, take a stroll across the street and you might find Papy with a mouth full of pins, fitting a starry ballgown onto an Australian gospel singer who traveled across the world to own an Urban Zulu original. But only if you’re lucky.
Papy with singer Laurette Chala, who came from Australia for this dress and I don’t blame her one bit. The man on the right is the ridiculously cool manager of Papy’s fashion studio but I’ve forgotten his name. (Papy, if you read this please remind me.)
Kafe Noir is at 100 Anderson Street, Marshalltown.