Johannesburg - Once a dying business precinct across the Nelson Mandela Bridge from the Joburg CBD, Braamfontein has had a new lease of life and is now chock-a-block with trendy venues to visit.
First we heard that Kitchener’s Carvery Bar, the second-oldest pub in the city, was good for a Saturday night jol. Then we heard about the Neighbourgoods Market in Juta Street for Saturday fresh food shopping.
Lately, The Orbit, a jazz club in De Korte Street, has been doing the hearsay rounds as the hottest night spot in Joburg. And in the background has been a soft buzz around the Euro-style coffee shops, eateries, galleries and design studios in the area, which slot into this rejuvenated hub like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.
Today there’s a wide variety of places to go to, at any time of day or night. Getting to this point has been slow, but today the block embraced by De Korte, Melle, Juta and De Beer streets in Braamfontein has become a recognised leisure destination in itself.
“It’s been 11 years in the making, but we’ve finally created a lifestyle epicentre for people of all walks of life. It’s a periscope into the utopia that could be South Africa’s future,” said Adam Levy, whose property development company, Play Braamfontein, has backed the gentrification of this part of the city. (See www.playbraamfontein.co.za)
The transformation has been fuelled by the gradual increase in people traffic. “The Neighbourgoods Market (which sells farm-fresh foods and specialty goods every Saturday) was the primary driver of this. Between 5 000 and 6 500 people come to it every weekend,” said Levy.
I visited Braamfontein on a late Friday morning, a time when the coffee shops and eateries are doing robust trade. I started in Melle Street at Doubleshot, which specialises in limited seasonal micro-lots of coffee and tea, sourced mainly in Malawi. It has been open for three years and although you’ll pay R18 for a cappucino, it has gathered a loyal following among the office workers, students (mostly from Wits University) and lawyers from the nearby Labour Court.
I had a bite at Post, at 70 Juta Street, one of the first little eatery-cum-coffee-shops, which – with its old vinyl record collection and contemporary menu and patrons – could easily double for a lunchtime hangout you might find in Amsterdam. And there’s a little surprise at the back of it… a mini open-air arcade with a clutch of design and clothing shops.
My final stop was The Orbit, which is packed out over weekend nights, and increasingly during the week, as owner Aymeric Peguillan is securing world-class acts like South African trumpeter and composer Marcus Wyatt and the salsa Afro-Cuban ensemble En Fuego, musicians Joburg jazz nuts have been longing to see in their own backyard.
“For the first time in Joburg we have a jazz venue with top-class, professional-standard music and sound equipment, including a Yamaha concert grand piano,” said Peguillan. “Joburg music lovers have been missing this kind of venue for a long while, so we have found a strong market for it.”
After a couple of hours in Braamfontein, it’s evident that the traders are a tight-knit fellowship with the same agenda – to create a 24/7 lifestyle for progressive thinkers, workers, students and global travellers.
“As South Africans we’re unique, and the international community is taking a genuine interest in us,” said Levy. “South Africans no longer think of themselves as the forgotten cousin. Offering what multicultural, forward-thinking young South Africans want is what this project in Braamfontein is all about.”
You need to walk around yourself to see all of the gems in the vibrant precinct, but I have listed some of them here.
l Near to the Gautrain station, Braamfontein is also on the route of the hop-on, hop-off City Sightseeing Joburg Red Bus.
VELO: This café and gallery serves fresh sandwiches, pregos, muffins and croissants. Ideal for brunch and lunch. Address: The Grove, Melle St.
86 PUBLIC: Busy gourmet pizzeria that has just obtained its liquor licence. Address: The Grove, Melle St.
POST: Contemporary café serving quality sandwiches and salads prepared on site. Fine coffee.
Address: 70 Juta St (corner De Beer St).
WYCKEDD FUN FOOD: This colourful eatery dishes out soulful, tappas-style meals (pitas and shawarmas and yummy fillings).
Address: 73 Juta St.
LOVE FOOD: Deli-style café serving up fresh salads, wholesome burgers, curries, bobotie, lasagne and pies. Address: 4 Ameshoff St.
DOUBLESHOT: Café serving quality coffee and tea from around the world to young professionals and creatives on the go. Address: Corner Juta and Melle streets.
FATHER COFFEE: An espresso bar and roastery in a minimalist, Scandanavian style (all bleached wood). Coffee puritans.
Address: 73 Juta St.
THE BEACH: A rooftop, sandy-floored cocktail bar with panoramic views of the city. Chilled music. Cocktails, Grolsch beer (because it’s sponsored by Grolsch) and hot dogs. Good for events. Address: Upstairs at 70 Juta St.
ANTI EST: Young metropolitan creatives at play are served cocktails, good whiskey, wine and beer, as well as rectangular-shaped pizzas, in deference to its philosophy of “non conformity”. DJs on Fridays and Saturdays. Address: corner De Beer and Juta streets.
GREAT DANE: Relaxed, trendy bar-cum-lounge, with DJs from Thursday to Saturday. Serves up great hot dogs and other American-style fare.
Address: 5 De Beer St.
KITCHENER’S CARVERY BAR: This venue is 100 years old with all the original fittings and trimmings, but dedicated to progressive music DJs so is always pumping with indie gigs, Afro-beats and everything in-between. On the menu is standard bar food fare, lunch or dinner, and lots of beer, wine and whiskey. Address: 71 Juta St.
THE ORBIT: Live music venue and bistro for jazz lovers, and there’s space for salsa. Tasty bistro offerings and drinks on the menu. Address: 81 De Korte St.
NEIGHBOURGOODS: A must to visit on Saturdays, between 9am to 3pm, for the farm-fresh foods and speciality goods. Easily comparable to the Bryanston Organic Market.
Address: 73 Juta St. Visit: www.neighbourgoodsmarket.co.za
These all located at 68 Juta St.
l Dokter and Misses: Furniture, lighting, and object d’art. Visit www.dokterandmisses.com
l RawHanger: Women’s clothing and jewellery. See www.rawhanger.clothing
l Parooz: Quirky, fun fashion. See instagram.com/paroozfashions
l A 2nd Life: Handmade lights and furniture designed and manufactured in Joburg. Visit www.a2ndlife.co.za
THE BANNISTER: Formerly the Metro Hotel, it’s been refurbished as a “luxury budget” hotel. Central, clean, comfortable rooms with Wifi, and a restaurant and lounge to watch the World Cup matches on flatscreen TV. Good value for money. Address: 9 De Beer St. To book, Visit www.bannisterhotel.co.za
EASYHOTEL (and Lamunu bar/restaurant): Stylish, vibrant hotel with compact rooms and decor nodding to interesting local historical characters – writers, musicians, paleoanthropologists. Lamunu restaurant next door is a colourful value-add, serving fresh, fuss-free food. Address: The Grove, Melle St. Visit www.easyhotel.com and www.lamunu.co.za