Design Quarter, Johannesburg

The Design Quarter in Fourways has just been awarded a Retail Development Award for innovative excellence and named by CNN as one of the top ‘must see places’ during the 2010 Fifa World Cup.

And it’s not hard to understand why. The concept takes the consumer beyond a shopping mall retailing experience and in more in line with international trends of ‘inspired spaces’ where people can ‘be’ and not just shop. The ‘beyond retail’ concept is not so much about the products on sale but how they make the consumer feel, according to the developers.

To most of us though, when the Design Quarter opened early last year it seemed to lack a sense of completion as restaurateurs were still busy moving in and shops were in the throes of setting up. But now it has settled into a hub of activity throughout the week and has become a favourite weekend dining venue for families and home bodies.

Its a lifestyle thing…
So not only are you surrounded by premium home décor tenants, the Design Quarter is set within a larger lifestyle node, including a Golfers Club, a Cycle Lab and gym, a spa and various vehicle showrooms. The idea is experiential, niche retail and an awakening of the senses. Which is where our palates come into the picture.

The restaurants are placed in a central piazza-type area, focal to the design of the precinct. Because of the outdoor appeal, the venue is popular for sundowners after work and has hosted a few fashion shows and events.

The ambience is social and relaxed, and shoppers can enjoy our South African climate, yet not feel like one is on a sidewalk or pavement.

The avant-garde architecture of the building features lots of raw steel and glass, and even the tenants have been chosen for their contemporary appeal. Restaurants had to be a standalone concept rather than a chain, also to break away from a typical food-court-in-a-mall paradigm.

And the result is fresh, contemporary eateries like Kitchen Bar, Mythos, Fish & Wine, Tribes and Primi Extreme. All are innovative, well-designed concepts, with large aesthetically pleasing spaces and an edgy appeal.

Even Woolies has come to the party with its concept. Not just a normal Woolies coffee shop, has various designer breakfasts, sandwich combos, tapas, noodle dishes and a seafood bar serving fresh oysters and sushi.

Kitchen Bar
Kitchen Bar (011-465 5011) was ready and waiting to woo chi chi shoppers when the centre opened and have established a regular clientele. Its prime, sunny location, with designer outdoor chairs is a welcome invitation to sit down and relax. It’s normally full for dinner on weekends, so booking is essential.

The restaurant also tends to be a meeting place for after work cocktails and is popular with the breakfast club. It is a large double volume space with seating inside and outside for up to 500 people. It has a rather funky central chandelier inside the restaurant, and the stylish décor varies from inside to outside.

The menu tends to focus on popular Italian, French and seafood dishes. On Thursday nights there’s a live band performing, and a DJ playing music on Friday and Saturday nights.

The stylish all-white interior at Mythos (011-465 3468) is very cool with its backdrop of coloured bottles on the wall and offers diners contemporary Greek fare. You’ll find all your favourite Greek dishes on the menu, from Meze platters to traditional Moussaka and Kleftico. You’ll also find a range of Greek wines on the menu.

Primi Extreme
Primi Extreme (011-465 6054 ) is an offshoot of the popular Primi Piatti brand, designed specifically for the Design Quarter precinct. You’ll immediately be awed by the bright orange-clad waitrons, the energy and modern appeal of this eatery. According to the owners it’s a ‘high speed urban adventure’ with a focus on a healthy dose of carbo-loading. Known for its deliciously adventurous pastas and pizzas, the owners have partnered up with Ultimate Sports Nutrition to bring together lifestyle and sports nutrition. Check it out here –

The Fish & Wine Co
The Fish & Wine Co (011-465 6266) has a feast of fresh seafood, shellfish and sushi on the menu, and is set in a double volume space offering upstairs and downstairs seating both inside and outside. Natural woods and soft shades of green and brown make it a warm space to be in. It’s just the place to kick back and relax with a platter of finely crafted fashion sandwiches or California rolls. And a bonus is that one can also buy fresh fish from the shop.

Tribes (011-465 1175), with its striking double-volume designer look by Maira Koutsoudakis, featuring handmade wooden Mokoro-style seating, is focused more grills and other African dishes.

Aged steaks, burgers, karoo lamb, ostrich, poultry and seafood are all on the menu, all prepared with an African twist (like mielie pap as an option instead of chips or potato). Other Seffrican favs like malva pudding are also on the menu.

Lighter spots…
For light snacks and good Italian coffee, there are some really classy eateries like the My Café (011-465 8008) and Kaldi’s Coffee (011-465 8119) in the retail arena.

For the ultimate outdoor food experience and the place to people watch and be seen, you’ll be spoilt for choice at Design Quarter.

Restaurants are open daily, from 9am til late.

Design Quarter, Nicol Grove, Cnr William Nicol and Leslie Avenue, Fourways, Johannesburg

Words Rosanne Buchanan.

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