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Cosmopolitan outside in 2014

Joburg’s Cosmopolitan Hotel: Then and Now

The Cosmopolitan Hotel, at the corner of Commissioner and Albrecht Streets, is one of Joburg’s most legendary buildings. Built at the turn of the 20th century, the Cosmopolitan is big and Victorian, its columned, curly-cued cupola looming high above the street. The crumbling facade is strangely magical, like something from a Tim Burton film. The Cosmopolitan, once a prominent gentleman’s club, was in a state of disrepair for decades, its lower-level windows bricked up to prevent trespassing. (Read more about the Cosmopolitan’s history here.) But there have been rumblings of change for a few years, especially since the Maboneng Precinct started sprouting up around the Cosmopolitan. Now, the wait is over. The Cosmopolitan has been made over into a restaurant/retail/gallery space, and it’s officially open for business. I was lucky enough to take some photos inside the Cosmopolitan in May 2014, when a soon-to-be-stalled renovation had just begun and the place was a complete mess. I’ve been sitting on these photos for two years, waiting for the renovations to finish so I can show the before-and-after. While the renovations aren’t 100% finished yet, I can’t wait any longer. Outside the Cosmopolitan Hotel: 2014 and 2016 The front of the building looks more or less […]

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Fair lawns high tea plate

Quirky High Tea at Fairlawns Boutique Hotel

It is a well known fact that I love high tea, as does the rest of Joburg. I’ve written about it a couple of times before (see here and here), and perhaps it will soon be time for a “Top Five High Teas in Joburg” post. But for now I just want to provide a quick update about an excellent high tea that I enjoyed this week at the Fairlawns Boutique Hotel and Spa. My Fairlawns high tea plate, ready to be devoured. (There were several more plates to follow.) Traditional High Tea at Fairlawns As I’ve said before, I love traditional high teas. While I won’t say no to spinach mousse cups or expensive sushi on my tea table, all I really want are those cute little cucumber sandwiches, moist scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam, tasty mini desserts, and of course, good tea. You would be surprised at how many upscale high tea venues in Joburg don’t prioritize these most basic requirements. I attended a very expensive high tea in which the waiter didn’t seem to know what clotted cream is, and another in which there weren’t enough scones to go around and the waitress acted surprised when […]

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Quickie Restaurant Reviews: Hell’s Kitchen and Pablo Eggs-Go-Bar

Up until 18 months ago, the east side of the southernmost block on Melville’s 7th Street (between 1st Avenue and 2nd Avenue) was a merry-go-round of opening and closing restaurants and shops. During the six years that I’ve lived in Melville I remember (just off the top of my head) a combination-cupcake-flower shop, a Scottish kilt shop, a bead shop (which moved around the corner), a pizza place, a bland café, an antique shop, a print supply shop, and a bridal shop (where I never spotted a single bride, or even a customer, in the two-plus years it was there), all open and close on that small stretch of street. This is generally the way things roll in Melville. But that half a block has recently become a hotbed of culinary, rock-and-roll trendiness and I have high hopes that the shops and restaurants there now will hang around for a while. I happened to eat at two of the restaurants on that block this week, and thought I’d do quickie reviews of them both. Hell’s Kitchen Hell’s Kitchen was the first new place to move into the merry-go-round block in late 2014, along with Freedom Hair, which I’ve reviewed before. Hell’s Kitchen […]

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Inside Industry Bakery

Quickie Restaurant Review: Industry Bakery in Emmarentia

A few weeks ago I organized an Internations coffee gathering at Industry Bakery in Emmarentia. I had been to Industry briefly once before, but didn’t sit down to eat. This time I ordered a couple of coffees and a full breakfast, so I thought I’d give the place a quick review in 400 words or less. Inside Industry Bakery. Before this recent visit I already knew that Industry has a pleasant atmosphere (I love the industrial feel of the interior) and good coffee. But I was surprised by the interesting breakfast menu. Unfortunately I forgot to take a photo of the menu and now I can’t find it online, so I don’t know the exact description of what I ate. But it was innovative and tasty. I wish I could remember exactly what this breakfast dish is called. It was a burrito-like wrap, which tasted sort of like a thin crumpet, with a spicy egg mixture inside.  The man sitting next to me ordered these beautiful chocolate flapjacks, which contain no sugar and are therefore “Banting-friendly”. I didn’t try them. The man said they were good but could do with a little Banting-unfriendly sweetener. Either way, I love the look and would […]

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Breakfast in the Jozi ‘Burbs: My Top Five Picks

I’ve been meaning to write a breakfast installment of my Jozi Top Five series forever. It’s a tricky one though because there are so many restaurants to choose from. Breakfast is big here and a huge percentage of Joburg restaurants open for breakfast. (On the flip side, a large percentage of Joburg restaurants are closed for dinner.) I don’t make it out for breakfast very often, as I’m hungry in the morning and usually too impatient to leave the house, go to a restaurant, place my order, and then wait for the food to be served. And when I do commit to going out for breakfast it’s usually somewhere close to home. So my list of top breakfast spots is unabashedly biased toward my own neighborhood: I’ve included picks in Melville, Milpark, Parkview, Parkwood, and Parkhurst. The list is by no means comprehensive, but hopefully helpful for those who frequent Joburg’s inner suburbs. 1) Salvation Café 44 Stanley Avenue, Milpark I can’t believe I’ve never written about Salvation Café before. It was one of the first Joburg restaurants I ever ate in — I had lunch there on my maiden visit to Joburg in 2008 — and I’ve been at least 25 times since. Salvation Café is in the courtyard of Milpark’s renovated 44 Stanley complex, […]

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I Ate South Africa

Seriously. I ate it all. I’ve been all over South Africa this month — four provinces, seven cities/towns (I think), and more hotels and restaurants than I can count. I did a lot of stuff. But mostly I ate. First I spent three days at the Grootbos Nature Reserve, and in those three days alone I ate more spectacular gourmet food than I’d eaten the entire year before that. Immediately after the Grootbos trip I participated in a weeklong #MeetSouthAfrica journey in which we literally ate our way across the country. It will take me a while to tell all the stories. In the meantime, here are some shots of the food. (I apologize that these photos aren’t all up to my usual standards; most of them were shot in really low light and I was under the influence of wine.) Grootbos: Gansbaai, Western Cape Grootbos is a five-star resort on a private nature reserve southeast of Cape Town. There are many wonderful things about Grootbos but the food is the most wonderful of all. Most of the food is organically grown and locally sourced right from the Grootbos farms. A traditional English breakfast at Grootbos. So simple and yet so scrumptious. Lunch at Grootbos: […]

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The Best (Only?) Arabic Pastries in Joburg

My list of favorite places to eat in Mayfair, Joburg’s ever-expanding Muslim quarter, is growing. King Arabic Sandwich is the newest addition. Here’s my review of it, which recently appeared on JHBLive. I heard a rumor about a new place in Mayfair: a Lebanese bakery run by refugees from Syria. I googled but found nothing, so I turned to Facebook. Within a few hours, the mystery was solved. The place I was looking for is not a Lebanese bakery run by Syrians, but rather a Palestinian restaurant run by Gazans. I drove to King Arabic Sandwich, at the corner of Hanover Street and 9th Avenue, the next day. King Arabic Sandwich. I don’t really feel qualified to write a proper review of King Arabic Sandwich, as one visit is not enough for someone – especially someone who knows nothing about Palestinian food – to get a feel for what’s on offer there. But I will say this: King Arabic Sandwich’s pastries, which most South Africans would describe as pies but are actually so much more than that, are enough to keep me coming back. The delicate pastries – some oblong, some half-moon-shaped, some triangular – are sprinkled with fragrant Arabian […]

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Indian Food Returns to Melville

A year or two ago there were no Indian restaurants in Melville. This was a sad state of affairs, as quick, tasty, affordable Indian food is a staple in the average South African diet. Sure, Fordsburg is just 10 minutes away from Melville and all the best Indian food in town is there. But it just wasn’t the same as having an Indian joint right in my own neighborhood. But life has recently improved for curry-craving Melvillians; we now have not one, but two Indian restaurants within our boundaries. I’ve recently eaten at both of them so I thought I’d do a quick double review. 1) Bismillah If you’ve ever eaten in Fordsburg then you probably know Bismillah, a Pakistani/Indian restaurant with three different locations on Fordsburg’s Mint Road and another location in Lenasia. But you probably don’t know that Bismillah has now expanded beyond the confines of Joburg’s traditionally Indian neighborhoods, opening a restaurant on Melville’s Main Road last month. The new Melville Bismillah, in a rather odd location at the corner of Main Road and St. Swithans Avenue. As soon as I heard the news, I descended upon the new Bismillah with several friends and wrote a review for You can read my […]

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Five Secret Spots for a Romantic Dinner in Jozi

I’ve had the privilege of eating at a lot of nice Joburg restaurants over the years, especially around Melville and the northern suburbs. For some reason, I’ve found that the best restaurants tend to be the ones that are trickiest to find. The best restaurants also tend to put little focus on publicizing themselves (or simply don’t know how to), and hence not many people know about them. For the past few weeks I’ve had a list of romantic, hidden Jozi restaurants bumping around in my head. Here are my top five favorites. (I like to present my lists in fives.) UPDATE (OCTOBER 2017) I wrote this post two-and-a-half years ago and as anyone in Joburg knows, the restaurant scene changes fast in this town. I need to do a complete overhaul but in the meantime, as an alternative to some of the places that have closed, I’d like to recommend Urbanologi. Urbanologi’s stunning interior. Urbanologi opened in 2016 and has fast become my favorite fine-dining spot in Joburg. You can read a brief review in this post. As you were. The original list appears below. 1) Eatery JHB Corner 11th Street and Victoria Avenue, Sandton UPDATE (OCTOBER 2017): I recently learned that Eatery […]

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Jozi Pizza Wars: Episode 3

Most of you probably know about the JoziPizzaWars by now but if you don’t, read here. The war rages on. Today’s post includes reviews of four diverse pizzerias. My co-conspirator Tim reviewed most of these places in his first JoziPizzaWars post, so check that out if you’d like to compare our opinions. Here we go: 86 Public The Grove, Melle and Juta Streets, Braamfontein 86 Public is, as far as I know, the only legit pizza place in trendy Braamfontein. It’s in a good location, off a courtyard in a popular student square called the Grove. 86 Public offers crazy topping combinations — bacon, dark chocolate, feta, and pear is just one example — sized medium or large, ranging in price from R60 ($5.00) to R100 ($8.50). The prices are comparatively high but you’re paying for the nice location and atmosphere. 86 Public’s pizza crust is light and crispy and I love the variety of toppings. But I think the sauce could use a few more herbs and spices. The veggie pizza I ordered was a bit bland, especially later on when eaten cold. On a positive note, 86 Public has good, free wifi and plays great music. Ratings: Base/crust: 4 Flavor/sauce: 2.5 Cold factor: 3 Atmosphere/service: 5 Overall rating: 14.5/20 I really […]

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Jozi Pizza Wars: Episode 2

Just before Christmas, my food-blogger friend Tim and I started a blog series called Jozi Pizza Wars. Our goal is to try as many of Joburg’s independently owned pizza places (no big franchises) as possible and rate them on a variety of factors. Eventually we’ll compile our scores and come up with a list of the ten best pizzas in Jozi. I reviewed five pizza places in Episode 1, but for Episode 2 I’ve managed only two reviews. A girl can only eat so much pizza, you know? But the two places I’m reviewing today are important, as I’ve eaten at both of them countless times and they are popular spots in their respective neighborhoods. Café Picobella Trattoria 66 4th Avenue, Melville Picobella was a must-review for me because I eat there so often; it’s within walking distance of my house. Picobella is great to have in the neighborhood because of its opening hours — breakfast, lunch, and dinner, 356 days a year (including Christmas!). Along with the Ant and YOLO, which I reviewed previously, Picobella has some of the most popular pizza (as well as pasta and other dishes) in Melville. Picobella happens to be on Melville’s prettiest street corner, and […]

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Newtown’s South African/Ethiopian/Vegan Coffee Shop

Just before the holidays, asked me to do a review of Kaldi’s Coffee in Newtown. (Read the JHBlive review here.) I’m really glad I did that review, because I’ve been overlooking Kaldi’s for years and now I know that it’s one of Newtown’s gems. I enjoyed Kaldi’s so much that I’m posting my JHBlive review here too. Enjoy: I must have walked past Kaldi’s Coffee at least 100 times before going in. I was under the impression that it was just another Joburg coffee shop, and my list of favorite Joburg coffee shops is already far too long thanks to the saturation in Braamfontein. But oh, how wrong I was about Kaldi’s. Kaldi’s unassuming entrance. Kaldi’s Coffee was founded eight years ago by an Ethiopian guy named – you guessed it – Kaldi. An Ethiopian coffee house/sandwich takeaway shop in the middle of Newtown (right across Mary Fitzgerald Square from Museum Africa) is an interesting concept in itself, but the story gets better. Two years ago, Kaldi’s Coffee was purchased by South African vegan Mmabatho Mokwena and her husband. Mmabatho kept the old Kaldi’s coffee and sandwich menu – “South African” and “vegan” are two words that don’t appear […]

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