Braamfontein’s trendy insiders know the neighbourhood’s dotted lines. They link the Great Dane in De Beer Street to the design houses along de Beer and Juta streets; the Black Forest Bakery to The Neighbourgoods Market, Dokter and Misses design studio with Father Coffee; and Doubleshot Coffee and Tea in Melle Street to the Love Food Kitchen, Deli and Café in Ameshoff Street.
All of these people frequent each other’s places. Love Food’s Ottolenghi-inspired chef-owner, Jamie Lorge, will visit almost all in a day – and everyone who can, will stop in at hers. While Love Food is open for breakfast, most fans queue for the harvest table lunch and grab their one-on-ones when the throngs clear. It’s a good place for singles, too, because everyone shares tables quite naturally, especially the big one at the top of the steps. Even the pavement is busy; it’s prime for the designers and stylists.
Sensational tastes is the main reason for food lovers flocking here. If you judge a restaurateur by their salads, this is quite a high level for such a young chef. Her salads are exciting, really exciting: they can be the heroes of any lunch. Recent examples (they change daily) include chilli-hot nori with shaved carrot, radish and sesame oil salad and a beetroot and pink grapefruit salad with green onion, baby spinach and lemon zest.
The breakfasts are featured on the blackboard and, for lunches, people crowd around a table where Jamie holds sway, guiding through the dishes of the day with their surprise elements: salads with an optional choice of protein, such as shredded beef, chicken pieces or warm fishcakes; gourmet sandwiches; and daily specials, like beef lasagne. The salad is quietly dressed before you get your plate, so the mostly local garden-grown ingredients can shine.
These are globally conscious people with taste, which is why they eat here. The men, if they aren’t in their own designs, wear spotted bowties, hats and Laduma Ngxokolo cardies. The women are the double-swathed scarf types, probably arty academics from Wits or the various galleries. Most patrons are in their 20s or 30s, and the vehicles that roll up, Vespas or e-tuktuks. Many walk from the nearby Braamfontein hot spots.
It’s pro and friendly. White-aproned staff do more clearing than serving, as diners select their culinary finds from the table.
Order the excellent coffee, or go for Frankie’s gingerbeer and lemonade, a healthy smoothie, or iced, herbal or ceylon tea. There’s a R20 corkage fee if you’d like to bring your own wine.
Strangely, there’s no great art on the walls. (Perhaps the customers have enough of that where they come from.) It’s gentle, warm and lovely. There is a collection of Jamie’s gran’s vinyls and the vibe is one of upbeat excitement.
Every month Jamie has a dinner club evening (which tends to sell out quickly) to show off her more formal skills, at R330 for three courses.