I’ve been in Johannesburg for nearly a month now. And although I’ve hardly even begun to explore one of the biggest cities in the world, it’s beginning to feel like home. Despite being a comparatively young city – it’s the product of the discovery and mining of the significant deposits of gold beneath the Witwatersrand during the late 1880s – partly because it’s had such a transient population since its founding, and has changed so profoundly over the past century (and continues to change), the city feels composed of layers of work, and experience, and change. In other words, for a newish city, it has a lot of history.
The city itself is often a strange – and rather ugly – mishmash of old and new buildings, businesses, houses, and developments. But I like how older ways of living often exist side-by-side with the new. What I mean is that for all of Joburg’s malls – and there are a lot of malls and they are very, very big – for instance, there are still surprising numbers of small, independent shops which seem, to me, to be very well patronised.
So here are a few food-related observations, made by a new, often ignorant, and probably over-optimistic resident:
1. There are so many lovely cafes and places to eat. I can’t comment about the fine dining scene – I don’t have enough money to eat in those kinds of restaurants – but it’s easy to eat well here, I think.
2. Also, as is the case all over the world, these cafes and restaurants are agents of change and gentrification. I spend a lot of time in Braamfontein – I work near there – and have been struck how much this inner-city suburb has changed since I visited at the end of 2011, when it still felt distinctly dodgy during the day. There is now a hipster café with either flat whites or burgers (obviously) on practically every corner.
3. I’ve yet to visit Arts on Main in the city centre. Just about every person I’ve asked about it has a different opinion of the development. Broadly, half say it’s a deeply problematic gentrification of a desperately poor area which serves only further to marginalise the residents of inner-city Joburg. The other half argue that it’s bringing the middle classes back to old Joburg, after the long flight northwards to Sandton.
4. The Spur in Braamfontein, a quick stroll from Cosatu House, must be the most politically influential steakhouse in South Africa.
5. There are so many markets. So far, I’ve been to the Neighbourgoods Market in Braamfontein (and I’m still trying to understand how that stands in relation to Braamfontein’s gentrification) and the organic market in Bryanston. But there’s also the boeremark in Pretoria, the market at the Pirates Sports Club, and the farmers’ market in Fourways. And others.
6. In this city of malls – and I have yet to visit that ur-mall, Sandton City – it’s more possible for me to shop locally and from independent businesses than it was in Cape Town. There’s a butcher in Parkhurst, and my amazing fruiterer in Tyrone Avenue – one of dozens across the city – sell fresh produce, meat, cheese, milk, flowers, polenta, pasta, tinned tomato, and fish sauce. And the FT Weekend. And soap. I love it with an intensity which borders on the unreasonable.
I have yet to sample the delights of Fordsburg, Rosettenville, and the new and old Chinatowns. There are still the vast, sprawling worlds of Soweto, and the East and West Rand to explore. But as the city changes, I know I’ll enjoy visiting and revisiting areas that feel at once familiar and new.
Tangerine and Cinnamon by Sarah Duff is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
And there I thought all those places were just criminal infested nests… how wrong can one’s perceptions be!
Loved reading this Emily – and what great photos. Tyrone Fruiterers was my local when we lived in Jozi and I miss it. Cape Town doesn’t have proper greengrocers like that one.
Oh wow – I didn’t realise that you used to live in Parkview! I really do love it.
You’re always going to have some problems with poverty, and you try and minimize those as much as you can, and it’s up to the individual for the large part, but it is up to the community – not just the neighborhood, but I think the city as a whole to do something about it.
I’m so glad you’re enjoying Jozi. So many people write bad things about it! I also used to frequent Tyrone Fruiterers. They’re so awesome. You should try Rembrandt Butcher’s in Linden. They’re amazing and will give you precise quantities of meat if you tell them what you’re doing and how many you’re feeding. (You can conveniently get coffee at The Whippet or hang out at the Argentinian bakery across the road at the same time.) Also, my friend Jo Buitendach runs Past Experiences which does walking tours in the city – they’re a great way to find out more about Jozi, it’s history, spaces, and people… (You can find them on Facebook.)
Oh brilliant – thanks so much for the suggestions! I’ve heard about The Whippet, but must still investigate it and Rembrandt (and Linden). Past Experiences looks like the most amazing venture – I’ve planned to go on several of their tours…