Emzini: The Place to Eat in Westdene

by | Jan 18, 2022 | Food and Drink, Johannesburg, Melville and Surrounds | 10 comments

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.

Cyclist driving past Emzini Restaurant in Westdene
Emzini in Westdene.

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.

Emzini's cheerful patio
Emzini’s large, lovely patio.

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.

Emzini entrance
The Emzini entrance, complete with a subtle salute to Richard’s old restaurant.
Bar area at Emzini
The bar area.
Ceramic dogs
Vintage ceramic doggies.
Emzini decor
Quirky decor near the kitchen.

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.

Fish and chips
Beer-battered fish and chips with a garnish of fried onions.
Calamari from Emzini
Yummy sautéed calamari.
Nachos from Emzini
A rare find in South Africa: perfectly grilled nachos with tasty cheddar and salsa, spread evenly across the platter so each chip has good cheese and salsa coverage.

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.

Sign outside Emzini Restaurant in Westdene

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.

10 Comments

  1. dizzylexa

    I definitely want to go back and what better time than a Friday for their buffet.

    Reply
  2. Nancy McDaniel

    Yum. So, a question to you and all your South African friends, can you tell me why/how South African calamari is cut in those sort of shell shapes? I LOVE grilled calamari there and it is is so tender and yummy. Not so in the US – and almost the only way to get it here is deep fried. My favorite lunch in Rosebank is Greek salad, grilled calamari and a glass of sauvignon blanc at Ocean Basket,

    Reply
    • 2summers

      I also love Ocean Basket 🙂 This is a good question about the calamari here — I had never thought about that! I need to ask around.

      Reply
    • Julie

      Hi Nancy, it’s not how they are cut, but it’s that in SA people eat the entire calamari, so you can get tubes (what I think you’re referring to), rings, and heads. In the US people tend to use the tubes mostly. And calamari in general is most amazing in SA!

      Reply
      • 2summers

        Thank you for clarifying that Julie 😀

        Reply
    • 2summers

      It’s 5:45 am here, so I don’t. But I get you.

      Reply
  3. Peggy Laws

    Can’t wait to go there. I loved “Reception”, when it was here in Kensington, and again the food and vibe were great! He seems to have the magic touch.

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Yes, Emzini definitely has the same energy.

      Reply

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