Chillin' with Joburg's cafe kings

Australia's favourite food blogger, Not Quite Nigella, aka Lorraine Elliott rugs up for an adventure through Johannesburg's surprising cafe scene.

We’re on our last day of our South African trip. The rise is difficult on just a few hours sleep. It was all my fault really.

You see, I was persuaded to come along to the Montecasino by the fun film crew and that was quite surreal indeed. On these trips, you really live off fumes (jet fumes really) and you tend to be in a state of confusion and sleep deprivation.

So it’s made all the more surreal when you step into a casino and see a ceiling with clouds and a sky and shops of all sorts. It’s sort of like gambling in Disneyland.

I managed a few hours sleep before my alarm woke me and Neil Perry’s wife Sam, Anthony and I headed to 44 Stanley which is one of the newest up and coming areas in Johannesburg or 'Joburg'. Formerly a laundromat, it has been converted into a cool collective of cafes, shops and galleries all with a design focus.

"What is that?” we ask the driver as he pulls up outside 44 Stanley.

"Oh my god, is that…snow?” I say. "Snow in South Africa?”

Indeed, the flakes of snow start off light and in this zero degree weather, they fall softly. "It’s snowing!” we say to people as we walk past and it’s so exciting to others that we watch locals excitedly talking about the snowfall.

Our place for breakfast that morning is Salvation Cafe. Beautifully styled, we take a seat by the fire and warm up our hands. Their philosophy is simple and the menu has an excellent selection of breakfast items as well as lunches. We could almost be at home in Alexandria, Surry Hills or Melbourne.

johannbesburg south africa food

The beetroot, pear and carrot juice (28 rand or $3.27) is squeezed to order, a layered juice served in a glass jar with a straw. I take a sip not knowing what to expect and it has to be one of the best juice combinations I’ve had. I make plans to make it at home it’s that good and the sweet pear and carrot balances out any earthiness from the beetroot.

The waiter mentioned that the breakfast duo was popular and says that it’s a good way to get the savoury and sweet in one. I couldn’t agree more. The eggs benedict is served on an English muffin with juicy bacon and has a gooey runny egg yolk and a tangy hollandaise sauce. The right hand side is equally as good; the Caribbean French toast is eggy and spongey and topped with a selection of sweet, fresh fruit and syrup. On the side is some whipped cream and raspberry compote.

44 stanley soweto south africa

We’re all tempted by the shops outside, particularly Lucky Fish where I buy up big. Before I know it, I’ve spent quite a bit there (and that’s also because I’m hopeless at maths and missed the crucial zero on several price tags ... please don’t tell Mr NQN!). The other stores are also worth browsing as they have a covetable range of items from designer clothes, homewares to art.

As more snow falls and the clouds in the sky turn a ghostly white, our next destination is Soweto.

We drive past the sports stadium, designed to look like a bowl. Soweto stands for South Western Township and there are between 4.5 and five million people out of South Africa’s 11 million living here. There are 49 suburbs within Soweto and there are affluent areas as well as shantytowns. Currently, Soweto’s population is a mixture of black and coloured people (the term here in South Africa for mixed race) although our guide tells us that white people do like to visit there to go out at night. There are 167 schools in Soweto, five technical colleges and one university.

On our way we pass the matchbox houses. Each matchbox house has a total of four rooms: two bedrooms, one dining room and one kitchen and a toilet outside. They now have electricity. We also pass shantytowns..

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