Eat Out critic Marie-Lais Emond visits Breezeblock, a new cafe in Brixton, Johannesburg.
Breezeblock owner David du Preez lives a street away and upstairs is his business partner, architect Thomas Chapman of Local Studio, a practice known for sustainable urban transformation.
David thinks nothing of waiting tables himself, especially over weekends – that’s how easy and friendly it is around here. Justin Brett, who designed the interior, can often be seen with friends out on the patio, which he also had a big hand in, down to the indigenous plants and their containers. This is a place of integrity; the planet-conscious idea of waste versus responsibility is ever-present, so you won’t get drinking straws no matter how prettily you ask, and takeaways are always packed in biodegradable containers.
Serves: Brunches and lunches of the comfortingly home-made kind
Parking: Find a bay in the street. There’s a regular car guard on duty
Best for: Fantastic décor and happy-making food like pancakes, sandwiches and cake
Star rating: Food 4, service 3, ambience 5
This is easy, delightful eating, with nothing pretentious. On cold mornings, people appreciate the Tummy Warmer creamy oats with spiced cinnamon apple. And, whatever the weather, the egg dishes are satisfyingly delicious. Scrambled eggs on a choice of toasted home-made bread look and taste like a better version of home-made, yet cost under R20. The more luxurious huevos rancheros is a grand pile, with the option to add more chorizo or black mushrooms to topple it all.
The staff are justifiably proud of the Dutch baked pancakes, which come with out-of-this-world toppings such as honeyed ricotta and crumbled spekulaas. There’s also the uitsmijter Meneer Monsieur, delightful with molten, cheesy-mustardy sauce, or perhaps you want to try the Eggs Mirza, one of the most delicious and exciting brekkie dishes in Joburg, with eggs baked in garlicky, smoky-soft aubergine and served with home-made turmeric-tomato sauce on freshly toasted buttermilk bread, with a final flourish of minty oil. (Sigh.) The breakfast list is extensive but inexpensive, and there are vegetarian and vegan choices, too.
The Ultimate Sandwiches are just how you’d design them yourself if you had all the goodies, including avo, halloumi, juicy tomatoes, homemade tapenade and pesto-mayonnaise, on a choice of fresh breads. They arrive with some salad or rustic baked-potato chunks.
The lunch salads are hearty; try the wonderfully warming one made with lentils, chickpeas, bacon bits, sundried and fresh tomatoes, carrot, fresh spinach and moreish balsamic dressing. There’s a delicious version of Niçoise, a lovely linguine dish, and steak with those baked potato chunks.
Coffee and cake is a highlight here, so see what’s freshly baked on the day. You might find any of the following: home-made scones, home-made fresh biscuits (hope for spekulaas), fresh bread, real butter and great jam, and the ultimate baked butternut dumplings under hot butterscotch sauce.
A savoury platter can also be made up of interesting things. In addition to the olives and popcorn, those baked potato wedges appear again with mayo, alongside croquettes of beef and cheese.
Many of the prices are really rock-bottom, just right for ever-hungry students, and others are priced to suit the rest of the people who are lucky enough to have found this place.
Morning drinks like the Wakey-Wakey smoothie of coconut, coffee and peanut are beautifully served. All the veg and fruit drinks can be combined as you like, and are squeezed on demand. For now you can BYO without paying a corkage fee, so join the crowds out on the patio with bottles of bubbly or craft beer, on the weekends especially, socialising over long brunches or lunches. Breezeblock’s range of coffees is the business, and even the waters are beautifully decorated with herbs and fruit.
David can often be found taking orders and delivering food, doing “market research” as he says. Some of the waitresses have design jobs too or are senior students, Brixton being both an arty and student area. What they may lack in slick waitoring skills they make up for with intelligence and charm.
The details are seemingly haphazard, but stand back and you’ll see they all make sense. The wooden plant graphics above the kitchen were specially commissioned and evoke local indigenous flora with a 70s feel. The tile work is exquisitely executed in a retro way, and 70s green, yellow and blues are used with inherent skill. The furniture, crockery and glassware have fans squealing with delight. Breezeblock is both easy on the eye and the mood. Thanks to the owners, the décor and the pace, you just feel comfortable and happy.
There’s WiFi, so you can sit here happily at any time of the day, snacking or enjoying coffees while you work in a sunny spot.
Eat Out critics dine anonymously and pay for their meals in full. Read our editorial policy here.