A year after opening, And then there was Fire is still an exciting discovery for Gauteng diners, with its allure steadily glowing. A lot of its charm is steeped in the location, which inspired the eatery’s ethos and design. The Maropeng and Cradle of Humankind countryside in Krugersdorp, 30–40km outside of both Johannesburg and Pretoria, has a humbling effect that echoes the history of our collective ancestry.
Nestled under a canopy of trees, within the vast greenness and the affecting art of the Nirox Sculpture Park, And then there was Fire is a stylish extension of its meditative environment. The wood-fired grill and tapas café is a collaboration between Nirox owner Benji Liebmann and restaurateurs Bernado Corti and Manuela Gutierrez. Bernardo and Manuela together with their partner, Oscar Farraldo, are the owners of another cool spot, Che Argentinian Grill, which moved from Maboneng to its new location in Parkwood.
Benji is behind the architecturally chic design of And then there was Fire, which is structurally minimalist and open, allowing plenty of natural ventilation (important in these Covid times), with understated tones, natural wood and monochromatic art. Artistic all-rounder and genius Manthe Ribane continuously helps with the interior décor, which is in-sync with the design. Adding to this is the subtle charm of the waiters who are in service in cotton robes. There’s a profound simplicity that resonates in this place that adds to its style.
Fire is at the heart of the cooking philosophy here.
“Fire defines us – it’s the energy that has moved humans since they discovered how to harness and control it here in the Cradle, where our ancestors evolved many millions of years ago. And then there was Fire takes its name from this idea, celebrating the best of being human,” says Manuela.
The food is as exciting as the space. Bernado and Manuela offer a tapas, wood-fired grill and farm table menu with Argentinian, Italian, Spanish, Asian and some South African influences.
“Bernardo had the idea of having dishes from the places that represent him as well as the places of people he was meeting in his life. When the opportunity to open And then there was Fire came to us, we invited friends from around the world to cook with us and share the recipes and secrets of the most typical dishes from their countries. So our friends Bernardo and Leah Tonye (a great chef we had the opportunity to meet) created the menu together. We focus on simple and traditional food from different countries, finding beauty in simplicity,” Manuela says.
To start, the canasta de panes boasts super soft and artisanal focaccia and sourdough bread packed with comfort, served with sun-dried tomato tapenade, herb butter and baba ghanoush. Mix it up with their tapas, which include the glossy textured fish from their fritto misto (fried vegetables, fish, calamari and prawns); the moreish Parmigiana di melanzane (a brinjal and parmesan dish); or the nostalgic mateng (the Setswana word for offal). Their version of the latter is an ox liver and kidney stew served with polenta. From the grill, the pork belly served with fennel, celery and apple salad is popular. There’s an extensive and varied wine and drinks list with plenty of options for those preferring something non-alcoholic.
With food made for sharing, everyone is represented. And this is the resonant vibe and the magic of the place. And then there was Fire buzzes on weekends, with people coming for different occasions all in the same setting – from big and small get-togethers to baby shower celebrations and individual retreats by those staying at the nearby Farmhouse 58.
Entrance to the sculpture park is R120 for adults and R60 for children under 12 years. Entry for a confirmed booking at And then there was Fire is at a reduced rate of R70. The restaurant is open from Thursdays to Sundays from 11am to 4:30pm.
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