In full Joburg City Festival mode we took to the streets of Braamfontein on Friday night, a pack of travel and food bloggers – among us @mzansigirl, @2summers2010, @hasmita, @wisaal, @hitekani_m, @SarahDuff and others – in search of a night out. Around 5.30 pm you could find us at The Grove, the piazza in front of Braamfontein’s Easy Hotel, formerly Hotel Lamunu, sampling craft beer. Truly. beer is not something I usually consider a beverage although I would be lying if I said I have never cast an envious look at people who drink the stuff on a hot day. But the taste usually never lives up to the image. My brew of choice was the Dragon Fiery Ginger Beer, from the Dragon Brewing Co one of many new craft beer companies that have popped up from Joburg to Cape Town. I think I might be a convert.
Inside, and out of the sudden cold, Lamunu restaurant was packed with people, loud with music and a perfect retreat from one of Joburg winters’ last icy bites. [On Sunday I was at the M&G literary festival and panelist City Press's Deputy Editor Adriaan Basson joked that earlier in the week he had told colleagues that it would snow Prez. Jacob Zuma actually made the appointment of a much-needed new head to the National Prosecuting Authority. By Friday afternoon the weather gods showed they were all ears.] We fortified ourselves with endless plates of tasty vegetable spring rolls, chicken wings, biltong and chips – and then headed out back into the cold to watch the start of Critical Mass, Joburg’s ever-growing night cycle through the city.
Braamfontein’s streets were packed with cyclists – clustered around 70 Juta Street where the very social race starts on the last Friday of every month. Lots of crazy fairy light-bedecked bikes, men in tights, girls in shorts and stockings and helmeted children hung out waiting for the start. Even in the icy wind, the mood was festive, so festive in fact that a group of bearded hispters appeared to forget themselves and their duty to be ironic and were getting very drunk on the corner of Juta street. Critical Mass started and we left the cyclists behind for Kitchener’s on the corner of De Beer Street, said to be the city’s second oldest bar (in Joburg a century is as good as it gets), which on Friday night was wall to wall with people, there to drink, listen to music and dance in a setting redolent with history with its pressed ceilings and what we now call retro embossed wallpaper.
From Kitchener’s we walked up De Beer Street past the quirky interior of the Bannister Hotel, definitely the city’s hippest budget hotel. I particularly loved the Sarie Marais [an Afrikaner icon] light in the foyer – probably a Brett Murray creation – and the typography [in my next life I will be a typographer]. My faith in Braamfontein irony restored …
We rounded off the night at Narina Trogon at 81 De Korte Street. This restaurant opened in 2008 – the first new restaurant in Braamfontein when the future of the area still looked a little uncertain. I wrote a post on the appearance of that rare bird then, saying: “The last time I ventured out for lunch in Braamfontein the Nationalist Party were clinging onto their final days in power and I was wearing T-shirts that had slogans like “Subvert the dominant paradigm”. Bird life
Now under the management of Melrose’s Peech Hotel [a perfect suburban hideaway] that rare bird is prettier than ever and oh-so-settled. On the menu was a three-course meal especially put together for our blogger’s dinner. I had planned to stop at two courses – the first was a deliciously light roasted vegetable tart with feta on puff pastry, the second a rich and warmly spiced sweet potato and butternut curry with flattened almond naan bread.
But my supreme discipline was disrupted by the offer of a peach and almond tart, with moist and dense pastry, a poached peach and drizzled in sweetness. A taste was never going to be enough.
And so ended the night in Braamfontein – on a super sweet note. Outside the next shift was only getting started with a huge youthful crowd swelling the pavement – hoping to get into the Puma Social Club. So much for nothing to do in Joburg …
* Thanks to Lamunu Restaurant for our #bloggersJozi snack attack and Narina Trogon for serving up a beautifully presented and delicious three-courses at a very special price.