Sandwiched between Louis Botha Avenue and Houghton in Johannesburg, Norwood was once renowned for its vibrant nightlife. The suburb has quieted down significantly since its heyday; now you’ll find a multicultural mix of residents reflected in the food on offer in the ‘burb, and steady local restaurant patronage from daybreak until after dark.
There was a point at which fast-food outlets appeared to be opening up at an alarming rate on the main strip. It seemed that every available space was quickly plugged by a Pizza Hut, Burger King or Ocean Basket. But in the past few months the tide seems to have turned, and new, original, homegrown eateries have begun to pop up. Here’s my choice of where to dine in the neighbourhood of Norwood.
I don’t often feel like eating Indian food, but when I do, Thava always hits the spot. Because there’s such a deliciously tempting selection of food, there’s always the danger of over-ordering… which is actually not really a problem, because Indian food tastes even better on the second – and even third – day. You’ll need to ask for extra hot if you’re a fan of curries that pack a flavoursome punch: you might need to show the waiter you mean it by giving him an unwavering and serious look when you place your order. Expect to spend at least R90 per meat dish including rice, and flat breads cost an extra R10 to R22.
A restaurant located right next door to a busy petrol station doesn’t necessarily inspire confidence, but Nonna Mia’s Kitchen is not to be dismissed. It’s a homely and authentic Italian eatery, where pastas are fresh, sauces with flavours like marsala wine, lemon, and spicy tomato are made to order, and square pizzas come with a slightly thicker crust than has become du jour. My favourites are the Frittura di Pesce (R90) consisting of crisp, lightly fried calamari with prawns, the odd tentacle and baby marrow (the perfect accompaniment to an ice-cold beer); the Filetto di Modena (R165), which is grilled fillet served with rocket, parmiagiano shavings and a balsamic reduction; and the Linguine Vongole (R98) comprising clams, white wine, garlic and olive oil sauce.
I’m not a keen gardener, but I do love buying the herbs and pot plants at Anderson’s Nursery, which is a casual stroll from my house. Next door to the nursery is Anderson’s Nursery & Coffee, which has a wonderful indoor craft centre for kids and a small play area with sandcastle, slide and a playpen filled with balls. As for the food, you’re guaranteed light and easy meals ranging from eggs and bacon (R40 to R70) to mince pancakes (R55), homemade chicken pie (R77), run-of-the-mill hotdogs (R38 to R47) and freshly baked cakes (from about R35 per generous slice).
New to the ’hood is Baha Taco. The formerly mobile Mexican food vendor that many Joburgers might recognise from festivals and markets has transformed into a brick-and-mortar restaurant on Norwood’s Grant Avenue. The bright-yellow signage and branding makes it difficult to miss; it’s a welcoming space to enjoy your soft, gluten-free, hand-rolled and fresh-pressed tacos with pulled pork, chilli beef and halloumi, or veg and bean filling (R40). They’re not into supporting corporate South Africa, so you won’t find your regular SAB beers and wine here, but how about a craft tea or two? The owner is quick to encourage you to order drinks from next door, pull up a chair and regale you with stories about conspiracy theories while you tuck into wood-roasted nachos (R50), quesadillas (R25 to R40) or corn on the cob (R25). The warm churros with chocolate sauce (R30) are a definite highlight.
When I’ve got a bit of time, I love to sip leisurely on a flat white (R22) in the courtyard at Vovo Telo, situated inside The Factory on Grant, a crafty alternative to mainstream malling, or I grab a cortado (R22) when I’m on the go at another new addition to the area, Loof Coffee. For a treat, try the Vovochino (coffee, chocolate and salted caramel for R35).
For a cheap Chinese takeaway or mid-week dinner with family or friends, Hokkaido is my go-to. Each visit presents itself as an opportunity to try something new, such as sushi (R99 for a 15-piece salmon or tuna combo platter); tempura (R58 for four pieces of prawn tempura); grilled or deep-fried vegetarian, fish and meat options; rice and noodle dishes; teppanyaki (all the mains are under R100); soups (R15 to R30); dim sum; and desserts (from R3 per fortune cookie to R25 for deep-fried ice cream).
Do you live in Norwood? Let us know about your local favourites in the comments section below.