Ever since I moved to Joburg I’ve been driving past a shabby restaurant building across from the Westdene Dam, at the corner of Lewes Road and Motor Street. The restaurant used to be a Portuguese place called Tasca do Sol and once looked vaguely intriguing, with a wide patio and a retro, 70s/80s vibe. But it was never quite intriguing enough for me to actually go.
The Portuguese place closed at some point and the run-down building remained, deserted-looking, for many years. What a shame, I always thought as I passed by. (Westdene is adjacent to Melville, where I used to live, so I passed by often.) Westdene, similar to Brixton, is a vibrant residential neighborhood with almost no restaurants. We could use a nice restaurant in that spot, I thought.
So I was really excited to hear a couple of months ago that a new restaurant has indeed moved into that spot. The shabby old building has a fresh coat of paint with cheerful signage. And this new restaurant, called Emzini, has potential.
Emzini is a Zulu word that translates roughly to “in the city”. The new Emzini restaurant is everything a community like Westdene could hope for: a highly visible, welcoming location right across from the neighborhood park; a huge outdoor patio; a friendly, artsy vibe with a diverse clientele; and simple, affordable, delicious food.
I went to Emzini for lunch this past Saturday. Every Westdener I know seemed to be there too, so the word is already out among the locals that Emzini is the place to be.
Emzini is owned and run by Richard Griffin, who ran Reception in Kensington (I blogged briefly about Reception, now closed, in this 2019 restaurant round-up post) and was also chef for the Madame Zingara traveling dinner theatre. Richard is intimately involved with the Joburg arts scene, and Emzini has the quirky kind of vibe that Joburg artists — at least Joburg artists like myself — love.
I went to Emzini with Thorsten and our two friends Gail and Koulla. We ordered two plates of fish and chips, a big plate of nachos, and a generous serving of calamari, along with a variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. Everything was fantastic and we paid less than R150 ($10) per person, including tip.
We had a delightful afternoon at Emzini; it’s a simple, unpretentious, fun restaurant in a neighborhood that suits it perfectly. I also love that Emzini is five minutes from Brixton. I can’t wait to go back in the early evening for sundowners on the patio.
For a comprehensive story about Richard Griffin and a more detailed review of Emzini, I recommend this Daily Maverick article by Joburg food writer Marie-Lais Emond.
Emzini is at 12 Lewes Road, Westdene. Open Tuesday through Sunday from 7:00 a.m. (they serve breakfast, too!) to 11:00 p.m. Call 067-776-8455.