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Parkhurst’s buzzing 4th Avenue

Any newcomer to Fourth Avenue in Parkhurst, Johannesburg, when trying to choose a dining spot, will doubtless feel like the proverbial chameleon placed on tartan cloth: not knowing which colour to choose, which way to turn, the poor chap explodes. The street is simply awash with places to plonk your bum, and feast on some of Joburg’s yummiest food. So to avoid explosions just read on for the lowdown on the street’s best bets.

A good place to start is the strip’s smallest member. A coffee shop rather than a restaurant, but no less important for that, 4th Avenue Coffee Roasters gets top marks for charm and sustenance. A cosy glass-walled space accommodates perhaps four or five inside on bar stools and another eight on the pavement. The freshly roasted coffee is deeply flavourful (it’s also for sale in bags), the food chic and delicious and the service cheekily personal but not invasive. The food quality is kilometres beyond what ‘coffee-shop’ conjures up: a perfectly fried free-range egg, melted cheese and chile cherry tomatoes on flapjack are delicately flavoured with fresh thyme, and presented on the prettiest antique plate imaginable. And the chocolate and custard danishy affairs are so tender, so flaky, so very full of filling, they could prove a lethal addiction.
One block south, The Attic’s pine chairs and tables pepper the pavement. Chef-owner Tom Hughes (who also owns The Office in Greenside) offers a global style menu which includes some truly inspired combinations. There’s a food consciousness here that’s great to see: chicken is free range, beef too, and the salmon is from a reputable, NSPCA approved farm. Sauces are so generous they become lovely mysterious broths, dumplings are home-made and the delicate panna cotta is wobblesome perfection. But customers are not as revered as ingredients: trying to get the waiter’s attention while the owners sit at the next table eating lunch together and scanning You Tube without noticing that your hand’s up, is the sort of thing you kinda have to live with here.
A few shops along the block is Vine, a relatively recent arrival on the scene. Long-time restaurateur Daniel Vine has created a lovely calm bistro-esque nook on this busy strip, and he knows exactly what food his customers want: steak with green peppercorn sauce and chips, simple roasted tomato soup, chocolate torte that is seriously compelling. It’s no-nonsense fare bolstered by very good service, for a grown-up crowd. His customers are the foil to the younger trendier crowd filling up long-time favourite Espresso across the road. The food is at best incidental at Espresso, yet, amazingly, it’s still the busiest pavement-cafe on the strip. If vibe is first for you, food second, then head straight here.
And then there’s Nice. Nice is much nicer than nice. It’s wonderful. Has been since the day it opened a few years ago. Stylish and multi-talented owner Carla Edgar (she owns a beautiful book shop and a clothes shop which flank Nice) is all bonhomie and the place oozes good vibes along with the good food. The cheesecake, roulades and dinosaur bedecked cupcakes are all resplendent, the chicken-pie is sublime, and the breakfasts are perfect. You might also like to know that Nice has the cleanest kitchen I’ve been into in a very long time.
And of course no self-respecting food hub is complete without a market. ‘The Super’, kick-started by food whizz Jono Cane, is tucked into a tiny courtyard next to George’s on 4th, and presents a cunningly edited selection of the best edibles about. Catch it on Saturdays from 9 am to 3 pm. That’s if you have space to eat anything else after grazing along the fabulous fourth avenue.
By Andrea Burgener
Image courtesy Willow Lamp.

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