Our inner cities have undergone some major changes over the past 20 years. For a while, Johannesburg looked as though it would follow the example of certain parts of New York: a place few people would dare to venture after dark. Fortunately, that has changed. There are still small pockets of Jozi that are not as welcoming, but large, vibrant parts of the CBD are revelling in their regeneration, characterised by trendy areas with art galleries, coffee shops, small theatres, food markets and assorted hipster hangouts.
The changes in Pretoria’s inner city have been a little slower to emerge and are perhaps not quite as dramatic. The capital city CBD still has some way to go before it will be a desirable domicile for young professionals starting out. However, it’s making strides towards a ‘lived-in’ city, with office workers and shoppers going about their business during the day; lovely open markets on pedestrian streets; and a growing nightlife, with people visiting the odd restaurant.
City Properties, a long-standing property developing company, has played a considerable role in this revival, not only actively working to develop and rent out more than 8 000 apartments in the city over the past 20 years, but also making spaces available for markets and other events to stimulate a return to the inner city.
Here are five reasons to visit the Pretoria CBD right now.
Situated right on Church Square, Café Riche remains one of Pretoria’s iconic spots. The building features beautiful art deco elements such as large wooden windows with original bevelled glass and exquisite tiles. You enter at street-level right into a room dominated by a large bar stocked with Belgian beers. There are two smaller dining rooms, but it’s always more interesting to sit outside and watch the interactions of the inner city. In an attempt to make the area vehicle free, there’s currently massive construction on the go, making Church Square dusty and dishevelled, but still passable on foot. Café Riche’s menu offers such delights as a hard-boiled egg with salt (R4), a perfect snack on the run, or your choice of eggs and bacon with a bread basket (R30). They still offer the famed tongue-in-cheek breakfast called Boer en Brit, consisting of bacon, ham, eggs, boerewors, fried potatoes and bread (R55). There’s also a bistro dish of the day, as well as a soup of the day. And for those who are truly hungry, options like rack of lamb (R78), beef fillet (R95) and bockwurst with potato salad (R60) should satisfy.
As the name suggests, this eating house serves great South African Indian food with a good pinch of Cape Malay thrown into the mix. This is an everyman’s convenience store (cooldrinks and Lotto tickets) and cafeteria with large jugs of water and glasses for customers to help themselves. The standard samoosas (mince, chicken, potato and cheese and onion at R3 each) are an ideal snack to take back to your desk. They offer a large selection of toasted sandwiches, burgers, some steak and chips options and – for those living large – even a mixed grill consisting of steak, chicken, russian, vienna, egg, polony, cheese, chips and salad (R100). But it’s in the curries, biryanis (Fridays only), filled rotis and bunny chows that the authentic flavours shine through. There’s nothing fancy here: plates are durable and potions large, such as the full loaf of mutton bunny chow at R105. (It could probably feed four or five people, so it’s a great deal). Mutton curry with rice, roti and sambals sells for R35 and will fill you up for the rest of the day.
Situated in the architecturally impressive Colosseum Hotel (looking like a tiny version of the Guggenheim in New York), a curved driveway leads to the parking lot one level up from the street and into the foyer of the hotel. This is one of those restaurants where ordering too much food is inevitable, and you always ends up with delicious takeaways. With this in mind, order breads with the main course and not as a starter, otherwise those straight-from-the-oven naans, parathas and rotis (ranging from R7 to R40 for a full bread basket) will be devoured straight away and you won’t be able to eat anything else. Because this is a Muslim establish, no alcohol is allowed, but the lassis are heavenly – once again, guard against gulping them down too quickly else they’ll fill you right up. Nothing comes close to their prawn curry or prawn madras (prices on request), but if you need something simpler for lunch, try the chana masala (R65), a Punjabi speciality featuring chickpeas, onion, garlic, chilli and fresh ginger.
A stone’s throw away from iconic Church Square and surrounded by gorgeous buildings such as the Old Reserve Bank, the Palace of Justice and the Old Raadsaal, this day-time-only venue is usually packed with lawyers and business people, and on occasion a few wandering tourists. Tribeca fans might know the other branches in Brooklyn and Tribeca Standard in the Lynnwood Bridge Mall better, but there’s also this gem and a massive coffee-roasting factory that one can visit by appointment. The corner shop has a modern look with tall glass windows, and its location on a smallish thoroughfare with additional seating outside gives you an opportunity to observe the daily bustle. They serve a tasty California breakfast wrap (R62) with scrambled eggs, avocado and salsa in a soft tortilla (add bacon at additional cost). French toast can be enjoyed three different ways: with bacon, fried banana and Maple syrup; with salted caramel and vanilla ice cream; or with bacon and mature cheddar (all for R62). For lunch they serve a number of delicious salads, such as the Tribeca Caesar, with grilled chicken, rocket, crispy bacon, croutons and parmesan shavings (R72). Other options include some pasta dishes, great open and toasted sandwiches, burgers, wraps, and, of course, the best coffee and a range of other beverages.
A delightful new addition to the Pretoria food scene, this bright and airy spot is tucked away behind the tall treasury building on a small courtyard, away from the direct buzz of the city. In shades of blue and grey, it’s contemporary and looks the part of a modern urban eatery. They do not serve alcohol at present and may not in future, so the focus is on good coffee and cool beverages. It’s not a typical coffee shop, so the baked items are slightly more substantial to meet the needs of office workers that need fuel to get through a busy day. Gourmet sandwiches are made with either tramezzini or bagel, with toppings such as spinach, feta and olives (R42), grilled halloumi, peppadews and cream cheese (R45) or chicken mayo, bacon and avo (R48). They have great burgers, salads and pasta dishes, and a blackboard to advertise the specials of the day.