I’m calling it. All that energy and moolah invested in Braamfontein got a little closer to paying off this morning with the opening of Cape Town’s favourite Neighbourgoods Market in Braamfontein. But before I talk about that let’s rewind… The week stared with an invitation from Southpoint Hospitality for an overnight stay at its Hotel Lamunu in Braamfontein. The plan was to spend the night at the hotel, with drinks at the bar, dinner at Ramen, breakfast at the hotel followed by coffee at Velo in The Grove Square (on Melle Street) opposite the hotel and finally… a visit to opening day of the Neighbourgoods market (one of my favourite Cape Town haunts).
The 10 or so people invited were all writers, bloggers or tweeters, and share an abiding interest in Joburg. We drove into Braamfontein around 6pm and checked into the hotel. Lamunu (at 90 De Korte Street) with its bold orange splashes (a Southpoint trademark) opened just before World Cup 2010. It’s the poster child for Southpoint’s remaking of Braamfontein. It’s fresh, bold, a little flashy and full of interesting design flourishes.
I particularly liked the literary and cultural references scattered across the place. The fourth floor where we stayed had a tribute to Manfred Mann, a musician who studied at the University of the Witwatersrand, across the way. On Ground level was one to a fellow African Literature student and a most gentle soul Phaswane Mpe whose Welcome to our Hillbrow was one of the first novels to engage with the contemporary inner city and its multiple lives and layers. I also liked the Lee Berger meeting room with its evolutionary take on wall art and the first floor bar area with a balcony looking over the square – the perfect venue for a chic private party in the city. At the entrance is an incredible wire sculpture of the Nelson Mandela Bridge complete with traffic and pedestrians. Beautiful really.
So there we were sipping cocktails in Braamfontein, eating noodles at Ramen (since moving into Braamfontein it appears that the Ramen idea has been expanded to suit more local tastes – cue the curry and rice). Very tasty.
We then did a night stroll across a few blocks to get a feel for the place, passing by Narina Trogon and into the darkened streets (some a little edgier than others) and on to Kitchener’s (the bar was a little flat last night but usually is a friday night DJ destination), with a stroll along 70 Juta Street to window-shop some vintage clothing and cool retro furniture. It’s still not quite a nightspot for those inclined to get a little wild-eyed when hearing the city mentioned (and a little white-knuckled from clutching so hard onto that handbag) but daylight brings a different city.
Then into the alleyway to see the final preparations for the Neighbourgoods Market (they were still painting the banisters at 9pm last night). The market occupies a few floors of a 70’s city building and what looks like a parking lot. The venue has great views of the street, lots of fresh air and a brilliant deck for a dining space. In all it’s really a clever use of urban space with some great touches, and it feels right for Joburg. Perfect in fact. The clever market crew also created a vertical garden along the alleyway, strung with hanging lightbulbs. Too pretty for words.
Back at the hotel the bed was comfy, and I am handing out top marks for fresh white linen and plush towels. (My own little hotel quality measure). The rooms are compact (nice way of saying small), intimate (very nice way of saying there is no toilet door) and the city isn’t the quietest place to spend the night (friends who have grown up in townships will know this is code for being a white suburbanite, who is used to just that persistent ticking of the electric fence as a South African lullaby). But then for around R225 per person sharing per night this ain’t the Four Seasons. And who needs that. I would highly recommend an overnight stay if you are planning on a night out in the city. Cheaper than being caught for drunk driving plus the breakfasts were never so good in prison. Fresh delicious croissants, a fruit platter that would make the fruit feel proud of their associations (no cut up apples or glassy looking melon slices), and good eggs. Enough said. Coffee from Velo was great, both times. And then it was on to the Market.
A beautiful Spring day, loads of people, delicious food, lots of it, and everybody looking like they were having a good time. The formula works. Lots of fresh stuff, from flowers to bread, exotic mushroom kebabs and hugely appealing red velvet cupcakes. It’s a great venue to pick up weekend food and to kill a few hours on a Saturday morning, marveling at how nice it is to be in the city and feel a part of it.
Take a bow Braamfontein.
* To read another account head for Spillly with 3 L’s blog. He also has some amazing photos. For directions to the Market see the map. Its open 9am – 3pm on Saturdays. To book a room or find out more about Hotel Lamunu. The Hotel also publishes a great map of the Rea Vaya stations around the city so you could also plan to visit some top attractions (the bus stops a block away). There’s also a Happy Hour special running through September – 25% off all drinks on Thursdays and Fridays between 4pm-6pm. Book a table (011) 242 8600.
** I have been remiss in not mentioning my other favourite Joburg Market, the uber stylish Market on Main at Arts on Main every Sunday. This to be corrected soon with a review.