Greenside was once a super-serious restaurant haven, then morphed into a pub paradise, but is shifting once again towards Very Interesting territory. With one of the best video shops in the world, remarkable residents, and exciting food and drink, Greenside is one of the places to be in Johannesburg. Marie-Lais Emond guides us through the best of the area – because the locals don’t always share their secrets…
On Gleneagles Road, between Spiceburg, the mammoth Indian restaurant, and Dukes, which made its name a decade or so ago for unusual burgers, is The Artisan. There are three gourmet items: cocktails, coffees and sandwiches. The whole idea here is of fine craftmanship. The coffee is specially blended by Double Shot in Braamfontein and perfected by baristas. The reason the retro-trendy Old Fashioned cocktail is so good here is because there’s properly reduced orange in it. The many martinis are popular, too. The Artisan serves snacky things, but the sandwiches – with honest ingredients – are really something. A just-right rump steak, drenching fantastic bread with its own juices and homely chutney, pickles and real cheddar, is a wonderful thing to wolf down.
This fantastic secret is almost hidden at the end of the shops on the east side of Gleneagles. It’s family run and plastered with faded travel posters. Italian families know what’s good here, like the homemade pistachio gelato, real panini and good coffee, among other delights. It’s hard not to shout for the joy of the perfect fresh ravioli and tortellini. You can also take home fresh Italian cheeses and meats from the deli section.
The iconic Majestic, where cinema expert Henni Erasmus can be spotted on his dramatic sofa at the entrance, dispenses rare old film and doccie DVDs. In the same locale is gourmet vegan restaurant, Greenside Café. Weekends are crowded with food lovers, many of them vegans, but just as many not. Dimitri Gutjahr is a whizz with taste combinations and inventions; he makes his own parmesan substitute with walnuts and shallots. If you want macrobiotic or any other kind of vegan food, you will have a flavoursome meal here. This man is serious about planet saving but doesn’t want you to live without pleasure. Try raw maple cheesecake for afters. It’s easy to be virtuous when tastes are so sophisticated and moreish.
POP is about to do just that on Greenway. This lighthearted champagne bar is being completed as we speak, including the floral swings over astroturf out front. There or indoors, at little French-café tables, you’ll be able to order any South African champagne in the glass of your desires – the trendy-again coupe, slim flute, antique crystal beauty and more. The food is going to pop too: think champagne with duck egg, brioche soldiers and salsa verde; oysters done four ways; and cured venison with pear piccalilli, beetroot pâté and toasted rye.
Dinners are fab, with the rather pricey custom motorbikes keeping guests glinting company. The owners take their food as seriously as they do their machines, so expect accessible platters, burgers and beer for lunch, and contemporary marvels for dinner. For outright deliciousness, try the trio of pork, served with egg noodles and a spiced butternut-peanut purée, and the exquisite Nutella-choc marquise with crème brûlée and berry coulis. (There’s a real bike workshop in the back, too.)
Near the west end of Gleaneagles Road, this place has a USA-style cool factor, cold-brewed coffee on tap, and Morning Glory breakfasts to start the day.
Looking for a gourmet idea for accompanying the stunning brews? There’s a delicious mushroom salsa breakfast with perfect poached eggs that does the trick.
Over the way from POP, Trio is owned and run by TV presenter-chef Amori Burger. After a recent fire, it’s done a phoenix flourish and appears more bistro-like than ever, with blackboards for daily specials and favourites. Amori is famous for her basil-pesto gnocchi, but I defy anyone not to return for her aged sirloin with bone marrow and salsa verde, or new inventions like a poached fruit dessert with olive-oil sabayon and basil sugar. Everything is made from scratch. While many cafes experience the pros and cons of Harley gangs, the bike group that descends here every Saturday morning for breakfast is the greenie Vespa gang. Downstairs @ Trio is a sundown-, moon- and lantern-lit garden patio for deliciously clever drinks, which has become known for Courtyard Sessions with live music from up-and-coming soloists and groups.