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Restaurant of the Month

Fish from Kafe Noir

November Restaurant of the Month: Kafe Noir

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.

Papy at Kafe NoirPapy, the King of Cool, at 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.

Entrance to Kafe NoirThe entrance to Kafe Noir. 

Inside Kafe NoirCool people hanging out in Kafe Noir.

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.

Fish from Kafe NoirGrilled carapau with chips (fries) and salad.

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 and his tailor at Urban ZuluPapy 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.)

Laurette Chala in her Urban Zulu dressLaurette in all her starry glory.

Kafe Noir is at 100 Anderson Street, Marshalltown.

Read the rest of my 2018 Restaurant of the Month series.

Schnitzels at Die Kneipe

October Restaurant of the Month: Die Kneipe in Kensington

Thursday is Schnitzel Day at Die Kneipe.

Die Kneipe, which means “the pub” in German, is — you guessed it — a German pub in Kensington. (I think I’ve said this before but I don’t blog enough about Kensington. It’s the Melville of Joburg East.) My friend Tecla suggested we meet there for lunch yesterday because Die Kniepe has the best schnitzels.

Outside Die KneipeDie Kneipe.

Tecla didn’t even realize Thursday is Schnitzel Day, when the pork and chicken schnitzels are R77 instead of R99.

I like this place because it’s exactly what it advertises itself to be. I went to Germany recently and had dinner at a pub that was pretty much identical to this, just in Berlin and not Joburg. Die Kneipe has everything a German pub should have: dark wood furniture, soccer memorabilia, schnitzel, eisbein, sauerkraut, German beer, and a million kinds of sausage.

All of this plus Die Kneipe has fantastic service — one thing I personally did not experience when I was in actual Germany.

Lunch at Die Kneipe

We both ordered schnitzels — one chicken and one pork, with pepper sauce. (Unfortunately there was no spaetzle in stock yesterday.) The schnitzel was delicious and huge — I ate it for both lunch and dinner yesterday — and I especially enjoyed my potato roesti side.

Schnitzels at Die KneipeChicken schnitzel (top) and pork schnitzel, one with chips and one with potato roesti, with pepper sauce on the side. A schnitzel is a thin, breaded-and-fried cut of meat — usually chicken, pork, or veal.

It was a beautiful day so Tecla and I sat outside. But the interior has a classic sports-pub vibe that’s perfect for hanging out and watching soccer or rugby or cricket. Die Kneipe also hosts live music events.

Inside Die KneipeInside Die Kneipe.

Die Kneipe outsideThe outdoor seating area, which has a great view of Kensington’s iconic Queen Street.

By the way, Joburg has several other great places for German food. Check out my posts on the Black Forest Bakery and the Schwaben Butchery, and there are some others I haven’t blogged about yet.

Go get your schnitzel on.

Die Kneipe is at Queen’s Place, 139 Queen Street, Kensington. (Parking is a bit tricky: You have to turn into a funny little alley to get to the parking area.) Call +27-11-616-8760.

Read the rest of my 2018 Restaurant of the Month series.

Inside Lexi's Healthy Eatery in Sandton

September Restaurant of the Month: Lexi’s Healthy Eatery

Halfway through my recent book club meeting, I felt compelled to interrupt the robust literary conversation with an important statement and follow-up question.

“These salads are amazing!” I exclaimed to Cingashe, the host. “Where are they from?” The other women around the table nodded vigorously.

The salads, Cingashe said, came from Lexi’s Healthy Eatery.

Inside Lexi's Healthy Eatery in SandtonLexi’s Healthy Eatery.

The salads had names like “Glow Bowl” and “Omega Punch” and “Italian Stack”. I can’t tell you now what they looked or tasted like — unfortunately I don’t have photos — but I know they were the best salads I’ve ever eaten. And trust me, I am not normally a proponent of salads as book club fare. When I host I normally serve cheese and brownies.

In fact “salads” is a very poor descriptor for the platters of deliciousness we ate that night. I just don’t know what else to call them.

Lexi’s is a brand-new, mostly vegetarian restaurant in Sandton. I almost never blog about Sandton these days — traffic there is a nightmare and I don’t get up that way very often anymore. But those salads convinced me to make a pilgrimage to Lexi’s.

Brunch at Lexi’s

I arrived at Lexi’s at a time that was not quite breakfast and not quite lunch. The decor was the first thing I noticed — it was pretty and cheerful and bright even though it was a cold, cloudy morning outside.

Sandton can be a stuffy, corporate place but the atmosphere and clientele in Lexi’s does not fit this Sandton stereotype.

Inside Lexi'sPeople eating at Lexi’s.

Lexi’s menu is enchanting. With one or two exceptions, everything is vegetarian and lots of items are vegan. The non-vegetarian items are marked with a little cow or fish symbol. The descriptions make everything sound delicious yet healthy, which I’m pretty sure everything is.

I ordered a red velvet latte made with beetroot and almond milk, and a salted caramel smoothie bowl with frozen bananas and berries, Himalayan salt, nut butter, toasted buckwheat and a bunch of other things.

I picked these two items quickly, without really reviewing the entire menu. But I could not have chosen a more tasty, visually pleasing meal.

Red velvet latteMy red velvet latte, which had a cinnamon-y flavor.

Salted caramel bowlSalted caramel bowl. I nearly squealed with delight at its beauty. It was so filling I couldn’t finish it.

Brunch at Lexi'sThe two together.

Lexi’s is delightful. It’s ethical and sustainable, and for the vegetarian-haters among you there is even some meat.

Go.

Lexi’s Healthy Eatery is at 24 Central Centre, 6 Gwen Lane, Sandton. Call +27-83-300-1210.

Read the rest of my 2018 Restaurant of the Month series.

Pizza from Ben's Pizza in Marshalltown

August Restaurant of the Month: Ben’s Pizza in Marshalltown

There’s a brick oven pizza restaurant in downtown Joburg and it’s open on Saturdays. It’s called Ben’s Pizza and it’s delicious.

Entrance to Ben's Pizza in MarshalltownBen’s Pizza.

Really, this is all you need to know. It’s not easy to find decent restaurants in the Joburg CBD. And Ben’s is more than a decent restaurant. It feels almost exactly like a New York City pizzeria, right down to the red-and-white checked tablecloths.

Ben's Pizza counterThe sign off to the side reads: “You can’t buy happiness but you can buy pizza and that’s kind of the same thing.” Although it’s not visible in the photo, Ben’s has a brick pizza oven behind the counter.

I went to Ben’s on a Saturday evening with my friend Koketso. We split the Brigadier pizza, which has bacon, spicy chicken, and salami, and paired it with bottles of a Belgian cherry beer called Liefman’s. It was perfect. (Ben’s also serves pasta, burgers, calzones, and some other dishes. But I can’t imagine going there and not having pizza.)

While we were eating, Ben himself walked in wearing an Old Navy t-shirt with an American flag on it. There couldn’t be a more quintessential New York pizzeria owner. Don’t ask me why I didn’t take his picture.

Pizza from Ben's Pizza in MarshalltownPerfect dinner at Ben’s.

I love the location of this restaurant — Marshalltown one of my favorite parts of downtown Joburg. Ben’s is on Loveday Street, right near the little Joburg turret, Gandhi Square, and the pedestrianized section of Main Street.

If you’re still nervous to venture into the CBD, please check out this part of town. It’s safe, clean, and delightful. Street parking is freely available on weekends, although parking can be tricky during the week.

Ben’s is open Monday through Thursday until 7:30 p.m. and Friday and Saturday until 8:00 p.m. This is meaningful because lots of restaurants in this area are are only open during the day on weekdays. Ben’s is closed on Sundays.

Ben’s Pizza is at 21 Loveday Street, Marshalltown. Call +27-11-492-0313.

Read the rest of my 2018 Restaurant of the Month series.

Staff at NGC Blairgowrie

July Restaurant of the Month: NGC Blairgowrie

NGC is not what you’d expect to find at the busy intersection of Barkston and Conrad Drive in Blairgowrie. There’s a tire store across the road and a lawnmower repair shop next door, and it just doesn’t feel like the right place for a classy restaurant.

And yet here it is, amidst the Joburg sprawl: a little bistro that could pass for a Paris pavement café.

Outside NGC in BlairgowrieOutside NGC: The man in the photo is the chef, Gareth, who owns NGC with his wife Emma. In case you’re wondering, NGC stands for “Neighbour Goods Café”.

I had lunch at NGC on a Saturday afternoon when I was really, really hungry and busy catching up with friends. So I don’t have many photos and this will be a short post. But I don’t want to delay writing it any longer. This is a restaurant not to be missed.

Saturday Lunch at NGC

In many ways the NGC menu is standard 2018-style bistro food, with a selection of “small plates” and larger main dishes and burgers. All very classy and what a lot of nice Joburg restaurants are doing. But NGC stands out because it’s particularly unpretentious, and because the food is So. Freaking. Good.

My two friends and I ordered four small plates: the beetroot salad, the pulled pork sliders, the tempura aubergine, and the fried mac and cheese bites with bbq sauce. Then we were still a little peckish later and ordered the fish cakes.

“Small plates” is a term that has become almost as cliché as “hipster”. I usually hate small plates because I feel like they’re a ploy to convince groups to order lots of food without paying attention to how much it will all cost in the end.

But in this case, the small plates tasted so good that I didn’t give a f*ck. (Plus they don’t even cost that much.)

small plates from NGCPulled pork sliders, fried mac and cheese, and tempura aubergine (eggplant).

Fish cakes at NGCSmoked fish cakes.

It was all delicious but my favorites were the tempura aubergine and the mac and cheese bites. Actually I’m pretty sure if I had to choose only one food to eat, three meals a day, for the rest of my life, it would be these mac and cheese bites.

NGC also has a nice-looking wine list, although we didn’t order from it on this particular day, and craft beer on tap.

Inside NGCInside NGC.

Staff at NGCFriendly waiters.

This is a tiny restaurant — bookings are essential. Small plates range in price from R55-80. Mains cost R85-175, and burgers are around R90.

NGC is at 75 Barkston Drive, Blairgowrie. Call +27-79-581-0725.

Read the rest of my 2018 Restaurant of the Month series.

Andrew, owner of Sumting Fresh

June Restaurant of the Month: Sumting Fresh

I can describe Sumting Fresh in one (not so) simple word: South-African-Asian-American-fried-chicken-street-food.

Sumting Fresh entranceSumting Fresh, on Grant Avenue in Norwood.

Inside Sumting FreshInside Sumting Fresh.

Really though, Sumting Fresh is hard to explain. It was once a food trailer in Midrand, then became a food truck, then a full-on food party bus feeding thousands of festival-goers, then a brick-and-morter restaurant in Norwood. (Also, the food bus is still going strong today.) Sumting Fresh serves creative and sophisticated cuisine in a casual, fun, almost-fast-food environment.

Sumting Fresh doesn’t fit into any particular genre. It’s just delicious.

What is Sumting Fresh?

The magic of Sumting Fresh can be summed up through its signature dish, Gujon Chicken.

Here’s the Gujon Chicken description from the Sumting Fresh menu: “crumbed deep fried chicken strips / asian slaw / aioli / sweet chilli / parmesan / fries / watermelon”.

It’s a crazy combination of ingredients served in a big, cheese-covered, deep-fried pile that I wasn’t quite sure what to do with at first. But I was enchanted by the first bite. I didn’t stop eating until I was way too full, even though I hadn’t even come close to the bottom of the dish yet.

I asked co-owner/chef Andrew Leeuw — a charming guy with a backwards baseball cap and a dazzling smile who happened to be my server the second time I ate lunch at Sumting Fresh — how he got the idea for Gujon Chicken. He said he was inspired by his travels in New York City, and also by his grandmother who, while Andrew was growing up, worked as a cook at both a Chinese restaurant and a KFC.

Chinese food and KFC, with a hint of real American soul food. By god, yes. This is exactly what Gujon Chicken tastes like, only without the MSG and all the who-knows-what horrible things KFC puts into its food.

Back in the food trailer days, Andrew started out using Wellington’s sweet chilli sauce on the Gujon Chicken. But eventually he realized it was cheaper to make it himself and the sauce tasted way better. Sumting Fresh now produces its own sweet chili, aoli, and sriracha sauce. They’ll even start producing tomato sauce (ketchup) soon, and selling the sauces to the public.

Gujon Chicken, and everything else at Sumting Fresh, is South African ingenuity on a plate.

Gujon chicken from Sumting FreshGujon Chicken — cheese and fried chicken served over fries and cole slaw and chunks of watermelon and various sauces. It’s a heck of a difficult dish to describe, and to photograph. And yet it’s perfect.

The Sumting Fresh Menu

In addition to Gujon Chicken, Sumting Fresh serves baos (Taiwanese steamed buns) filled with fried chicken or duck breast, Italian-style deep-fried chicken breasts, deep-fried mac and cheese, and a freaking delicious beef burger.

Bugatti burger from Sumting FreshIf you don’t love chicken, try the Bugatti Burger.

Everything on the Sumting Fresh menu costs R110 ($8.40) or less. The restaurant is also about to release a new weekend brunch menu, which will include chicken and waffles.

To drink, I recommend the delightfully fruity jam jar cocktails, available with or without alcohol.

Sumting Fresh jam jar cocktailsSumting Fresh jam jar cocktails, filled with real fruit.

I can’t think of a single criticism of Sumting Fresh, except that there are limited options for vegetarians. And I guess it won’t work if you’re on a low-fat diet.

Oh, and I object to the fact that Sumting Fresh is Norwood and not in Melville.

Andrew, owner of Sumting FreshChef Andrew poses beside his likeness on the wall.

Sumting Fresh is at 79 Grant Avenue, Norwood. Call +27-11-025-7591.

Read the rest of my 2018 Restaurant of the Month series.

Outside Toninos in Orange Grove

May Restaurant of the Month: Tonino’s

Tonino’s has been on my hit list forever.

Outside Toninos in Orange GroveTonino’s: Is it a sports pub? A blues venue? A casino? A Portuguese restaurant? A pizza take-away? Yes. All of that.

I first noticed Tonino’s a few years ago during a visit to the fabulous Kalahari Books, which is across the street. The restaurant caught my eye immediately with its bright yellow facade. I made a mental note to check it out sometime, then forgot about it.

Then last month I saw this article in Hello Joburg magazine about Jozi’s top five dive bars, and Tonino’s made the list. I also noticed the restaurant has a buy-one-get-one-free deal on the Entertainer app. (Side note: The Entertainer app is awesome. Here is a post I wrote about it a few years ago.)

The universe seemed to be telling me I should go have fun at Tonino’s. So I did that.

Having Fun at Tonino’s

I first visited Tonino’s on a Friday night with a group of friends. I’m really not much of a bar fly normally, but I loved this place the moment I stepped through the door. The walls are full of character, decorated with interesting pictures and neon signs and old-school car bumpers with functioning lights. The bar area feels divey but not dingy. The crowd is rowdy but not rude, with a nice mix of ages and races. The beer costs R15 a bottle. Also, I hear there is karaoke although none that night as far as I could tell.

The front bar area at Tonino'sThe front bar area.

Back bar area and pool table at Tonino'sThe back section of the bar, with pool table.

We sat in the balcony upstairs and looked down over the pool table, where an ancient man played like his life depended on it and danced funny jigs in between shots. We sang along to Kenny Rogers and enjoyed the beer and it was all so cheap and so much fun that I forgot to use my Entertainer discount. So I had to go back the next week for lunch.

I met my friend Tecla for pizza at Tonino’s on a freezing-cold Tuesday at noon. It wasn’t the same vibe as a Friday night but it wasn’t totally empty, either. The pizzas are tasty and well priced, with thin, very flaky crust. The service was fast and friendly.

Pizza from Tonino'sPizzas from Tonino’s. The smaller size (which both of these are) is perfect for a one-person lunch.

Tonino’s bills itself as a Portuguese restaurant and there are quite a few legit-looking Portuguese dishes on the menu (trinchado, chicken livers, bacalhau, etc.), which I’ll have to try next time.

But even without the food, this is a restaurant worth visiting. It’s…real. I’ll be back.

Tonino’s is at 3 Dunottar Street, Orange Grove.

Read the rest of my 2018 Restaurant of the Month series.

Bagels at Bagel Zone

April Restaurant of the Month: The Bagel Zone

A few months ago I blogged about Feigel’s Kosher Delicatessen in Glenhazel. I was excited to find Feigel’s because they sell authentic boiled bagels, which are hard to find in Johannesburg.

Through my post about Feigel’s I learned about another Joburg shop called the Bagel Zone, which opened less than two years ago. I took one look at the Bagel Zone website and knew I had to check it out. This place offers some things I hadn’t found in Joburg before, even at Feigel’s.

Bagel Zone entrance
The Bagel Zone, in the Genesis Shopping Centre in Fairmount.

Bagel Zone counterLunch rush at the Bagel Zone.

A Parade of Bagels at the Zone

Unlike Feigel’s, a full-service delicatessen with a wide range of kosher foods, the Bagel Zone is a straight-up bagel shop. The Bagel Zone — I’ll call it the Zone for short — does offer salads and a few other extras, but essentially this is a place to buy bagels, cream cheese, bagel sandwiches, and that’s it.

Bagels at Bagel ZoneThe Bagel Zone’s impressive bagel spread.

The Zone reminds me of all the bagel shops I frequented in the U.S., with a long row of freshly baked bagels in a variety of flavors. I was overjoyed to see “everything bagels” (bagels covered with tons of different seeds and seasonings) on offer, although they happened to be sold out yesterday.

I also discovered a new bagel I’d never seen before called za’atar — a Middle Eastern seasoning with oregano, basil, thyme, and other seasonings. Za’atar is my new favorite bagel flavor.

Za'atar bagels at Bagel ZoneZa’atar bagels at the Zone.

The Zone also sells cream cheese in several flavors. I’ve struggled to find really good cream cheese in Joburg, but this is it. The Zone sells cream cheese in plain, jalapeño (my favorite), olive, pesto, and salmon flavors.

For my lunch I ordered egg mayo (egg salad) on a health bagel with lettuce, tomato, onion, and pickle.

Bagel sandwich in progressMy sandwich in progress.

Bagel sandwich with coffeeReady to eat.

The sandwich was great but to be honest, from now on I’m going to skip the full-on sandwiches and just get bagels with cream cheese. The jalapeño cream cheese is too freaking good not to order every time.

I almost left the Zone without learning about the za’atar bagels or the amazing jalapeño cream cheese. But fortunately Velvy, the manager, realized I was there to blog about the place (my bright red hair and huge camera make it hard to stay anonymous) and brought us a sampler of all the different bagels and cream cheeses to try. Again, I was overjoyed.

Heather and bagelsBagel joy. (Photo by Fiver Löcker)

I left the Zone feeling very full.

The Bagel Zone is at 3 Bradfield Drive in the Genesis Shopping Centre in Fairmount (not far from Glenhazel). Order online or via whatsapp at +27-79-317-8230.

Read the rest of my 2018 Restaurant of the Month series.

Bergbron Plaaskombuis breakfast

March Restaurant of the Month: Bergbron Plaaskombuis

Afrikaans is a crazy language, with super-long words filled with many vowels, guttural g’s, and rolling r’s requiring acrobatic tongue movements. Afrikaans food words are no exception; they are delightful and I have no idea what they mean or how to pronounce them. Such were my thoughts as I pondered the menu at Bergbron Plaaskombuis.

Bergbron PlaaskombuisBergbron Plaaskombuis. “Plaaskombuis” means farm kitchen. “Plaas” is farm and “kombuis” is kitchen and the two words are combined together into one long word, as often happens in Afrikaans. “Kwekery” means nursery.

What is tuisgebakte and how on earth do I say it? What about boepensbroodjie, roosterbrode, sonop jaffel, vaaljapie? Skilpadjies?

Menu at Bergbron PlaaskombuisThe menu at Bergbron Plaaskombuis, which the server delivered with a tiny tin cup of homemade ginger beer. 

Bergbron (another inscrutable Afrikaans word) is a western Jozi suburb, adjacent to Northcliff, Greymont, and Florida Glen. I was excited to discover an interesting restaurant there (thanks to Gail for the tip), as I find the sprawling West Rand suburbs difficult to penetrate from a “things to do” perspective. The Plaaskombuis is definitely something worth doing.

Breakfast at Bergbron Plaaskombuis

Marie-Lais and I went to the Plaaskombuis on a cold, rainy Friday morning. The restaurant sits on the property of a garden nursery, so you have to walk through rows and rows of pretty aloes and other indigenous plants to get there.

succulents at the Bergbron nurserySucculents on display at the kwekery.

Looking in at Bergbron PlaaskombuisLooking in on the Plaaskombuis.

I expected the restaurant to be empty on a day like this, but several tables were taken and it was so warm and cozy on the enclosed porch (or “stoep”, as they say in Afrikaans). At the center of the dining area was a giant iron stove with actual flames coming out of one of the burners.

I knew we were on to something good.

Plaaskombuis dining areaThe Plaaskombuis dining area, with the requisite decorated tin cups hanging from the ceiling. (Every Afrikaans restaurant seems to have these.)

Stove at Bergbron PlaaskombuisThe wood-burning stove.

I ordered the snoop jaffel — two waffle-like circles fused together with egg, bacon, and cheese in between. I’m not sure if I was supposed to do this but I drizzled the whole thing with syrup and it was absolutely delicious. Marie-Lais had the skilpadjies, which is basically two balls of liver, and a side of fried eggs.

Breakfast at Bergbron PlaaskombuisBergbron breakfast.

I loved everything. My only complaint is the coffee — the cups are way too small and two americanos felt like barely enough for me.

After paying the bill (only R180, including tip, for two breakfasts and four coffees), we were lucky enough to catch our server pulling homemade bread out of the wood-burning oven.

Bread coming out of the oven at Bergbron Plaaskombuis

Homemade bread at Bergbron PlaaskombuisI love this.

The Plaaskombuis also has a small “padstal”, or roadside stall, next to the dining room selling various homemade goods. I didn’t investigate closely but a friend tells me they have very good cordials, jams, etc.

Bergbron Plaaskombuis is at the corner of Bergbron Driver and Helderberg Road in Bergbron. Call +27-76-932-4333.

Read the rest of my 2018 Restaurant of the Month series.

Pizza and beer at Impi Brewing Company

February Restaurant of the Month: Impi Brewing Co. in Lorentzville

It’s time for the second installment of my 2018 Restaurant of the Month series. This month I’m featuring the Impi Brewing Co. in Lorentzville.

I almost hesitate to call Impi a restaurant, as it’s really more of a hangout. But Impi has such a cool atmosphere, in such an interesting Joburg location, that I feel compelled to include it in this series.

Outside Impi Brewing Co.Outside Impi Brewing Co. Impi means “war” in Zulu.

Impi is in the new Victoria Yards complex, in the tiny suburb of Lorentzville, which is between Bertrams and Troyeville. My friend Gail just wrote an interesting post about Lorentzville, which I recommend. Lorentzville is also home to the legendary Fama Deli.

The first cool thing about Impi is it’s in Victoria Yards, this sprawling warren of artists’ studios and gardens and galleries and workshops that just opened a few months ago. (I briefly mentioned Victoria Yards in a post last month.) The second cool thing is the decor: It’s a tiny place filled with an eclectic mix of Zulu art/artifacts, modern industrial furnishings, and quirky antiques.

Inside Impi Brewing CoInside Impi Brewing Co. with owners Nico (left) and Tsietsi (right), and bartender Kgomotso (middle). I love the headdresses on the wall behind them.

The third cool thing about Impi is its simplicity: It serves pizza, beer, and a selection of drinks.

Impi menu
The pleasantly simple menu.

Lunch at Impi Brewing Co.

I had lunch at Impi on a Friday afternoon. I ordered my drink: an Impi Homestead lager. (Impi also produces a pilsner.) I chose my pizza toppings: pepperoni, peppadews, and chili. (Choosing your own pizza toppings is a novelty in South Africa, as most pizza places sell ready-designed combos.) That was it — simple and delicious.

Pizza from ImpiPizza and beer.

Impi pizzasPizza from above.

I’m definitely no beer critic but I found the Impi lager smooth and tasty. I really liked the pizza too — just the right thickness and distribution of cheese, and choosing my own toppings was a fun change of pace.

My only complaint was the slightly long wait for food. My pizza and Fiver’s came quickly, but then another friend showed up a few minutes later and waited well over 30 minutes for her pizza. I’ll chalk this up to growing pains.

I love the vibe at Impi and I’m sure I’ll return again and again — every time I find an excuse to go to Victoria Yards.

Impi beer
Impi Brewing Company is on Viljoen Street in Victoria Yards (secure parking on the premises). Open from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily. Call +27-66-207-1895.

Pork belly from Reserved Cafe in Melville

January Restaurant of the Month: Reserved Cafe in Melville

Since I finished my #Gauteng52 series in 2017, many people have asked what my 2018 campaign will to be. I actually wasn’t planning to do anything. But upon further reflection it might be nice to do a couple of shorter projects.

Hence, I bring you the 2018 Restaurant of the Month series. My January feature is Reserved Cafe in Melville.

I stumbled upon this restaurant a week or two ago. It’s on 4th Avenue in Melville in 27 Boxes — a shopping center made from shipping containers. (27 Boxes has received some disdain from the community since it opened a couple of years ago, but the centre is under new management now and I think it’s finally finding its feet.) Reserved is on the ground floor in one of the spots opening out onto the street.

Inside Reserved Cafe in MelvilleThe interior of Reserved Cafe, the size of a single shipping container.

Iced coffee from Reserved CafeAn iced coffee from Reserved Cafe, at an outdoor table overlooking 4th Avenue. Normally I get annoyed by iced coffees that are more like milkshakes than coffee. But this one was particularly good — not too sweet — so I didn’t mind.

I had walked past Reserved a couple of times before and didn’t consciously notice it. It’s a tiny little place and I thought it was just a coffee shop. Also the name didn’t really jump out at me.

But in actuality Reserved is way more than a coffeeshop: It’s a legit restaurant, opened by a chef who cooks serious food.

Lunch at Reserved Cafe

I went to Reserved with my friends Fiver and Stuart. There is a small blackboard menu with a few specials, as well as quiches and salads displayed on the counter. Fiver and Stuart both had the pork belly and I had the gazpacho.

Pork belly from Reserved Cafe in MelvillePork belly.

Gazpacho from Reserved CafeBeautifully presented gazpacho.

Pouring gazpachoYum.

Quiches and salads at ReservedQuiches and salads.

I got really excited when I saw gazpacho on the menu; it’s one of my favorite soups and I rarely see it in South Africa. This version didn’t disappoint. I also tasted the pork belly and it was great.

Daniel Riberio, the owner and chef of Reserved, is a South African of Portuguese descent. He bakes his own Portuguese custard tarts, or pasteis de nata. I bought a couple to take home and they were delectable.

Custard tarts at Reserved CafePasteis de nata and other Portuguese goodness.

So Reserved was a nice surprise. I went there expecting coffee and instead had a delicious meal with great service.

Reserved Cafe is open Tuesday through Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. I’m bummed they don’t serve dinner but this food would work well as take-away. There are only a few tables so reservations aren’t allowed — ironic considering the restaurant’s name.

Staff at Reserved CafeThe friendly staff at Reserved Cafe: Leandro, Nelson, Andre, Mankind, and Daniel.

Got a suggestion for the February Restaurant of the Month? Bring it on.