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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. Continue reading

Drink Pisco with a dash of Lima

In December 2012 a unique new restaurant opened in Cape Town. Keenwa celebrates all things Peruvian with a menu that highlights some of the country’s most famous dishes like Salchipapas, Empanadas, tequeños and Ceviche, prepared with love by Chef Fabricio Durand from Lima.

Owner German de la Melena was also born in Lima and travelled the world as a model before deciding to settle in Cape Town.

Now German has gone one step further by opening the country’s first and only Pisco Bar above the restaurant. Pisco is the national liquor of Peru, made from grapes and is particularly popular when combined into a sour cocktail.

We chatted to German about bringing a taste of Peru to Cape Town.

X: Can you explain the concept behind a “Pisco Bar”?
G: Pisco is a Peruvian liquor and it is very well known to every tourist that goes to Peru and it is at every party in Peru as well as in every bar and restaurant there. When I opened the restaurant (Keenwa) the venue was perfect for a bar as well so I thought, why not make it as unique as the restaurant and serve Pisco? P.I.S.C.O. Bar comes from a trip we did with 20 friends to Peru to do the Amazon Jungle and the Inca Trail. The guides started calling us the Pisco group because that was what we always drank and we had a joke about the D.I.S.C.O. song from the late 70′s or early 80′s.

X: What makes P.I.S.C.O. Bar unique?
G: The fact that we are the only ones in the whole country that serve Pisco and not only the popular Pisco sour but also a couple more cocktails made with Pisco. Our tapas Peruvian style and also the decoration and venue are very different.

X: Can you tell us a bit about some of the beverages you have on offer?
G: We import the Pisco from Peru and we serve Pisco sour – lime juice, sugar, Pisco and a little bit of egg white. We also make these with passion fruit, chilli, raspberry and chichi – the last is a drink from Peru made of purple corn. A different cocktail that we also make is Chilcano, the trendiest drink in Peru nowadays, with Ginger ale and Pisco and a dash of lime juice. I just go with whatever is trendy at the bars in Lima and Peru in general.

X: How has the local community reacted to the bar?
G: The bar is still new and not well known yet but the people that come around love it! They love the decor, they love the vibe and especially everybody loves the Pisco sours! Continue reading

Daily Collection

Do Dim Sum – Dumplings for Dinner!

Similar to hors d’oeuvres and a bit like Spanish tapas, “Dim Sum” literally means “to touch your heart,” and consists of a variety of dumplings, steamed dishes and other goodies served in Asian restaurants.

Though Dim Sum has been around for centuries in the East, it’s only fairly recently been gaining popularity in the West and South Africa is also jumping on the buffet trolley.

Currently Cape Town leads the way once more with the largest selection of venues and flavours, but there are also a handful of places serving traditional as well as more modern Dim Sum in Joburg and Durban.

Falling in love with the laundry

Guaranteed you’ve probably never actually WANTED to do laundry, and certainly you’ve never raced down to the laundromat with great excitement! But Clayton Howard & Mico Botha have decided to change all that. They’ve made laundry fun.

In April this year the dynamic and creative pair opened the doors of I LOVE MY LAUNDRY in Cape Town, giving life to South Africa’s one and only destination laundry! I LOVE MY LAUNDRY is not just a laundry you see. It’s also a quirky coffee and Dim Sum Bar and entertainment venue.

We chatted to Mico about this unique business.

Xtra: What kind of menu can customers expect at I love my laundry?
Mico: We are a Coffee Bar & Dim Sum Bar specializing in Korean Dim Sum and we offer vegetarian and meat flavours on our ever-changing Dim Sum menu. I LOVE MY LAUNDRY also caters for private functions and events around our 14-seater dining table and on Thursday evenings we host our popular fondue evenings. It’s an off-the-wall and unique venue offering a personal touch and client specific service.

X: What factors do/did you consider regarding your business location?
M: Definitely visibility for the brand.

X: Would you say you have a defined target market?
M: We attract like-minded creatives, people who understand great value and appreciate style.

X: As far as the laundry side goes, what kind of services do you offer?
M: We wash dry and fold your laundry at only R10 per kg. Ironing, alterations and dry-cleaning services is also available but what really defines our service is the fact that we only use organic top quality chemicals on all your fabrics and we package and fold your process parcels in our eye -catching orange wrapping paper. A “gift” to all our loyal clients and a mark of our caring attention to detail when it comes to your laundry needs. Continue reading

Daily Collection

P-Town Taste – Best restaurants in Pretoria

Far from how its’ often portrayed, Pretoria is actually a stylish and cosmopolitan city filled with vibrant culture, bustling business and delicious cuisine.

In this collection, we’ve highlighted some of the city’s best dining spots as recommended to us by various online and personal sources.

There’s plenty of variety too – from Korean, Chinese and Indian to excellent Italian and fabulous French and even a healthy dose of African tastes.

Daily Collection

PE Cuisine – The best of Port Elizabeth Dining!

Smaller cities are often neglected in the “best nosh” lists and we don’t think that’s fair! We want all popular establishments to get their dues!

That’s why we created this latest collection highlighting some of Port Elizabeth’s best places to wine and dine.

As a tourist city, PE can’t afford to rest on its’ laurels in the entertainment arena and that’s why it’s no surprise there are a solid group of restaurants, bakeries, delis and bistros that keep the locals and tourists smiling, serving everything from steak to sushi to fresh seafood.

24 hours in paradise

It’s a sorry state of affairs when you sneak off for a weeknight getaway in the winelands and you pack your laptops, external hard drives, USBs and flash drives because you intend to work while you are away.
As it turned out, we couldn’t connect to the wifi at Holden Manz and the 3G was iffy. It was all we could do to manage to keep the world updated with our pictures on Instagram. So, work went very quickly out of the window and I swear it had nothing to do with the complimentary bottle of estate rose in the room, nor the pre-dinner drinks. Not even the wine with our meal. The lack of connectivity was a blessing in disguise, forcing us to kick back, relax and enjoy the gorgeous surroundings, excellent food and great company.

The Franschhoek valley is one of my favourite places in the Western Cape. A little – okay, a lot – more commercial than it used to be, but that’s mainly in the “village”.
I visit fairly often, but this was the first time I had reached the Monument and turned right. We stopped to take pictures of orchards of blossoming fruit trees on a glorious not-quite-yet-spring day before turning off to Holden Manz, where the Franschhoek and Stony Brook rivers converge on the 22-hectare farm.

The Cape Dutch-style guest house and spa has a light, airy communal area with couches on the deck overlooking the lawns, gazebo and small lake complete with Egyptian geese. The long courtyard has a water feature filled with monster Koi, and everywhere you look there is art. For all intents and purposes, the Holden Manz guest house is a gallery.
Instead of the high tea laid out, we klapped that first bottle of wine on the patio of our room, with its view of the vineyards and mountains. In the right light, and if you squint just so, you’ll be able to spot the massive elephant in the rocks; the region was once called “Olifantshoek” (Elephant’s Corner) on account of this.

The cellar, wine tasting room and restaurant are situated a short distance away. It can be walked, but we drove to our dinner prepared by executive chef Cheyne Morrisby, who has cooked for celebrities such as Kylie Minogue and Kate Moss – and now us. The menu is tweaked seasonally, and the estate tries to grow as much of its own produce as possible; the next day when we took an exploratory stroll accompanied by the enthusiastic trio of resident dogs, besides the orchard and vegetable garden, we discovered a coop full of chickens and turkeys. The former are so far earmarked for eggs only, but I suspect the gobblers will see their fate come Christmas.

Cheyne’s menu is deeply Pacific Rim inspired, with lots of coconut, miso, lotus root and so on. Presentation for several dishes is artful arrangements of colour and shape on unglazed black tiles.
Miss Christy started with the recommended warm Asian mushroom salad with cucumber kimchi and braised pistachio puree which was delicious. I had the grilled tiger prawns (thankfully entirely shelled, lord I hate having to take the face off my food) atop a perfect lemon and pea risotto with garlic croutons, also good.

We followed with duck breast with sweet miso, sweet potato puree, and red wine and star anise syrup for her, and pork belly with sweetcorn and cumin puree, coconut and potato dumplings (a bucket of those to go, please), soy and maple, lotus root crisps, and airy crackling for me.
I had to admit defeat but Christy had the Belgian chocolate mousse with salted caramel to finish. I had more wine.

When we got back to our room, the fire had been lit to warm it in anticipation of our return and I embraced my inner cavewoman by feeding it into a roaring blaze. With more wine, of course. Bliss.
Needless to say, the next morning got off to a very slow start and it was extremely difficult to get out of the wonderfully comfortable bed.

We eventually declared ourselves presentable enough not to frighten anyone and took our breakfast, of Earl Grey tea and what Christy claimed to be the best eggs Royale she’s ever had, in the dining area.

It was with great reluctance we finally headed back to the smoggy city. So what if we had to work all weekend?

Daily Collection

Route 62 – the Great Karoo!

It’s an area of South Africa that many who live elsewhere may not even have thought of, let alone visited, but this scenic tourist route covering the Western Cape and Eastern Cape is one that could keep you good and lost from civilization for some time.

Adventure is never far away on Route 62 where you’re surrounded by a wealth of natural resources from mountains, passes, rivers to vineyards and orchards.

This collection contains just a small selection of some of the more interesting places, sights and activities you could sample on your Route 62 road trip like adventure activities, wine farms, antiques and collectables, nature reserves, animals and water sports- just enough to peak your interest in the magical Karoo…

Joburg’s mad for Moemas’ Muffins

They say husbands and wives should never go into business together, but if that were true Moemas Patisserie & Food Shop would never exist!

Danielle Postma believes her husband Mike is the backbone of their popular Johannesburg eatery, having put in place all the systems & procedures necessary for its success.
“We work together,” she says, “but I am more of the creative side, dealing with outside catering and new products, whereas he deals with staff issues and the day to day running of the business.”

Mike & Danielle met in London where she was studying (and dreaming of owning a pastry shop of her own.) Then Mike followed her across the ocean, where their plans started to come together.

“I convinced myself I would sit on a chair in the corner and watch the happy customers. The reality is that I’m always too busy! I always knew I’d return, and when we did, we started seeing a life coach who helped us break it all down into manageable steps so that it became a reality.”
They now have two children, Charlie (3) and Jess (1), who keep them busy when they are not being more busy at Moemas.
“When you have a young family you never seem to spend enough time with them – balance is a daily struggle, but when you’re trying to create a strong successful business maybe even more so,” Danielle admits, but she’s proud of how her marriage and family life are holding fast amidst the mayhem.

Moemas has earned a reputation – not just in plush Parktown, but all the way across the city – for exceptionally high standards and the ability to surprise and delight their patrons time and again with their daily selection of cakes, pastries, sweet and savoury tarts, steaming pies and delicious fresh salads.

“Our window display of pastries is a popular drawcard. The fact that customers can’t make up their minds, compelling them to return works well. At the moment our cupcakes are super popular, our customers know they can rely on the fresh deliciousness! I think it’s our ability to evolve and continue creating beautiful food that our customers enjoy.” Moemas also won the 2012 Joburg’s Choice Award for Best Muffin with an unprecedented score of 5 and a half. Continue reading

Top 5 Durban Indian Restaurants

By entering into a debate about Indian food in Durban we do realize we’re wading into treacherous water! There are almost too many options and everyone has their own particular favourite! With this in mind, we tried to stick to certain parameters in our judgement – not including restaurants outside of the “Durban” area or restaurants that qualified more as take-away spots.

That said, honourable mentions need to go to the following favourites: Seabelle in Westbrook, the Salt Rock Hotel, House of Curries, Little GujaratHollywood Sportsbook and the famous Goundens, who incidentally won our Top 5 Durban Bunny Chows handsdown!

1. Britannia

A landmark in every sense of the word, it’s incredible how Britannia and it’s accompanying restaurant Capsicum are consistently recommended for their curries. There was simply no contest when asking locals and out-of-towners alike. A full refurbishment in 2000 has elevated this spot to cult status, which is visible by the continuously packed parking lot, especially on weekends!

2. Indian Summer

Tucked away in Durban North, Indian Summer’s food has slowly but surely developed a sublime reputation in and out the area. Hailing from Mumbai, friendly owner Bimal might talk you through the menu, offer recommendations and take orders. His authentic, tasty and value-for-money alternative to run-of-the-mill starters are a hit!

3. Vintage

An upmarket and beautiful restaurant perfect for romantic date, you can’t help but love Vintage. The multi-Indian menu runs the gauntlet from traditional North Indian to Goan and Hydrabadi. The Kababs from the Tandoor oven are best teamed with a good wine from their carefully selected wine list.

4. Jewel of India

One word comes up time and again when people talk about Jewel of India at the Elangeni Hotel – Authentic. This is one of the handful of Indian restaurants in the city that is just as popular with Indians as other clientele. Thanks to its location, Jewel also serves a wide variety of foreigners who often remark on the friendly service & sumptuous decor.

5. Indian Connection

One of the newer establishments in this list, Indian Connection has nevertheless begun to make a big impression on the Durban foodies, owing to a tasty and authentic menu & friendly service. The venue is well situated in a beautiful old Morningside house where beautiful Indian art, modern decor and twinkling fairy lights all add to the delightful ambience.

McDonalds mobisite is lacking in taste

For some its’ an occasional guilty pleasure, while for others it’s a do or die daily affair – I’m talking about McDonalds. It’s quick, easy and often more affordable than other healthier options and ultimately McD’s know that convenience is King.

I’m just not sure why they (McDonalds SA) didn’t remember that when they created their mobisite. It’s simple enough, but I just expected so much more from a big brand like this! Interactivity? A few fun extras for the kids? PRICES?
Yes, this is the strangest thing. They have an entire menu on this mobisite (and website) with not a single price in sight?! Do they take for granted that people are so familiar with their meal deals that they know the prices off by heart? Do they think the pretty pictures will lure you in no matter what the meals cost?

All I know is that I’ve never encountered a menu with no prices on it on a website or mobisite. Add to this the fact that the menu is the main focus of the mobi and you’ve got to wonder why they even bothered? Although the menu tab on the front page looks as though it should close so that you can view the other areas clearly, it doesn’t and results in unnecessary scrolling – plus, in my mind it just looks a bit messy and unfinished.

On the plus side, all their latest specials are highlighted on the top of the home screen in turn as well as under the Promotions tab. But the promotions are such a huge part of the McDonalds experience, I’m surprised that they didn’t do something extra to make them jump out at you or incorporate something like competitions or kids games to entice and delight their littlest fans who, let’s face it, are there biggest and most captive audience? Their main site has a ‘Kids Zone’, why not add it to the mobi?

The Store Locator is very basic, doesn’t give you the option of GPS location and I couldn’t help but notice that my local branch’s address was incorrect.

All of this, to me, results in a mobisite that doesn’t really add much to the company and certainly doesn’t reflect the massive popularity of the brand. It just seems a little careless. Maybe they’re still busy with it?


Finding your Bliss in the city

While meandering through a series of specialty boutiques, restaurants and art galleries at 44 Stanley Avenue in Milpark, you will find Bliss, an oasis that offers an opportunity to escape the hurried streets of Johannesburg and recharge before launching back again.

Nestled in the serenity of 44 Stanley, this chic and sophisticated lounge serves to offer an atmosphere of bliss from the doorstep. Black and pink boutique chairs stand decorative against crisp white walls and floors. Inspirational quotes written on a chalkboard encourage guests to live the bliss experience through the tapas-style meals, sushi and cocktail offerings on the menu.

Classy patterns and brightly coloured cushions adorn the corners of this upmarket restaurant. Owner, Katleho Tsoku joined the 44 Stanley community 2 years ago when she opened her doors to embark on an unknown journey. She says her sense of style caters to a particular niche. The look and feel of Bliss is unique to her and resembles nothing else found on the streets of Johannesburg. Continue reading

Play with your food at Cube

The brainchild of renowned Joburg chef Dario Dario de Angeli, Cube Tasting Kitchen opened just over two years ago and has since had foodies swooning all over the city. More of a food experience than a regular restaurant – a place where you can tantalise all your senses with food that’s unique, playful and creative, but most of all tasty!

One of the things diners often remark on, is the warm hospitality extended by Dario and his team of mad scientists, engaging personally with their guests throughout the culinary crusade.

We chatted to the man behind the menu about his own journey into food & bringing innovation to the Joburg food scene.

Safindit: Can you tell us a bit about the concept behind Cube and how it came about?
Dario: The idea came about after I travelled to a few restaurants abroad and noted that this was the trend – 5, 8, 12 courses… some even 20! I liked the idea from a cooking perspective. No more boring line cooking the same thing over and over every night!

S: What kind of food does the Cube team strive to create?
D: Nothing specific. We dabble in elements of Molecular Gastronomy. Our base is classic and we blend flavours in a bit of a fusion style. I suppose we just aim at good tasting food.

S: What makes the Cube dining experience unique?
D: Other than it’s the only restaurant of its kind in JHB… nothing! Maybe it feels a bit like you are sitting in a kitchen with your own personal chefs cooking and presenting the food? I really can’t say, but I am glad people like it….whatever it is.

S: Of Cube’s achievements, what are you most proud of?
D: The fact that we are still in business 2 years after opening. My customers mean the most to me so repeat business, a full restaurant, people taking the time to write to me to say how much they enjoyed the night? These to me are real achievements.

S: What have been some of your most popular dishes to date?
D: Tom Yum jelly with crab. Chicken with sweetcorn and gem squash creme brulee. Venison, blue cheese, beetroot and fig. Foie gras and chocolate…..there are quite a few I am proud to say.

S: What kind of food do you most enjoy preparing?
D: Duck. I really like cooking duck. I like working with different techniques too, to make foams or powders. If it’s interesting to work with I enjoy it.

S: Would you ever consider opening branches outside of Johannesburg or moving to another city?
D: I am considering moving in a few years but not to continue this. Cube will have a life span. I’m a realist. I know it won’t last forever and it appeals to such a small market, opening elsewhere just wouldn’t be viable. Continue reading

Become a Gourmet Guru with Richard

Gourmet Gurus’ Richard Rust has appeared in food expos, on TV, radio and print, delivering fun and educational food demonstrations. He now also runs a restaurant at The Farmstall in Kyalami where his demonstrations, cooking classes and chefs tables to delight and tantalise his guests and students.

Richard trained in the UK as a pastry chef at the world renowned Russacks Hotel before studying food culminating in a HND at Manchester University. After holding several prestigious Head Chef positions in the UK he then moved to Gauteng and worked as the regional TASTE Chef Manager for Woolworths where he wrote for various publications, appeared on TV and Radio and cooked with many local and International celebrity chefs including Ainsley Harriot, Alan Coxon, Sharon Glass, The Giggling Gourmet.

Richard’s food philosophy is all about fresh, natural ingredients and classical cookery, avoiding over complication to create stylish, clean, natural and elegant plates of food with a modern twist.

Safindit: What made you decide to start Gourmet Gurus?
Richard: I felt there was a niche in the johannesburg market for ‘honest’ food using 100% natural unprocessed ingredients that moved away from the franchise offerings.

S: Do you feel that professional training is a requirement to succeed in the chef industry?
R: Most definitely, but I feel the level of training in SA differs in a negative way from overseas. I believe there is a perception in SA that the food industry is not a profession but a stop gap or for unskilled workers.

S: What makes Gourmet Gurus unique?
R: We use only the best ingredients that are free range, organic and natural, which is so important in today’s world as more people are becoming conscious of what they eat, especially those with allergies. Our customers know we can tell them all the ingredients and have traceability back to source with our products. Our restaurant is made from recycled materials and our waste is recycled as well. Continue reading