Dreaming of a Narina Trogon in Braamfontein

The perfect setting for a quiet lunch where the bustling streets are muted can be found in the heart of Braamfontein. Narina Trogon, a sophisticated and stylish restaurant has a subtle presence in the part of the city that is constantly buzzing with student activity. Our lunch was drizzled with a silent magic that exists within this uniquely designed restaurant.

Meticulously curated, it reflects the ideas of its owner. American-born Carlyn Zehner, an art curator by trade, who moved to Johannesburg in 2006.After decades of living in New York City and London, she brought into fruition her dream of owning a restaurant. She has put much care into every detail from glassware, furniture, lighting fixtures right down to the salt cellars and teapots.

81 De Korte Street is the home of Narina Trogon, a perfect location for passers-by keen to grab a quick coffee or light lunch however, not ideal for guests planning to graze all day as parking along the street is limited. We eventually found parking – which tested my parallel parking skills to the maximum!

The restaurant’s striking green mosaic facade and wide-street side windows welcomed us into a blendof urban renewal with a strong design ethos. We made our way into the main dining room which seats up to 80 people. The venue also consists of a small courtyard and two smaller dining areas, which, with retractable glass screens can be converted into private or conference spaces.

A selection of locally sourced seasonal food on the menu leaves one with limited choice. My taste buds gravitated towards a roast pork belly dish with caramelised apples and mustard infused mash.

This happened to be the head chef’s signature dish – I had just signed up for a delicious feast. The rest of the table was decorated with Narina’s beef burger with blue cheese, caramelized red onion and avocado relish as well as chicken fillet sandwich with bacon, tomato, cheddar cheese and gherkins.

Narina prides itself with dishes freshly made by its head chef, Paul Barrett, a native of Warwickshire, England (where he trained). His meals are simple and succulent starting with a classic English breakfast, with surprises such as whisky oats or Eggs Benedict. Lunch can be light – homemade fishcakes flecked with dill and tucked into a bed of wilted spinach. Saturday is a different day with a specially evolved menu – it was the day we definitely let our hair down as glasses of chilled wine completed our meals.

Narina Trogon is also rich in history as its building used to house a sweet manufacturer with warehousing above. It is here that the original Turn ‘n Tender was later found in the 1980s. Carlyn Zehner has since transformed it into a modern day haven. The restaurant is named after an elusive bird, the Narina Trogon, whose bright green and red plumage informs the restaurant’s colour scheme. The bird’s theme also extends to the general architecture of the restaurant promoting a spirit similar to the environment of a sand forest, creating a serene and tranquil space associated with the dwelling of the elusive bird.

The restaurant can be easily located as it is situated within walking distance of Wits University, the Wits Art Museum, the Johannesburg, Alexander and Wits theatres as well as the Neighbourgoods Market and the Juta Street design shops.

Who would have known, deep in Braamfontein, a unique haven bursting with Afrocentric energy yet also serene and beautiful would be found, to create unforgettable lunch dates?

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