Victoria Yards: Joburg’s Hidden Gem
In the heart of a dilapidated suburb, Victoria Yards has emerged as one of Joburg’s trendiest artisanal working spaces.
Along the dusty streets of Lorentzville lies an unexpected urban oasis. Victoria Yards is an expanse of exposed-brick structures juxtaposed against patches of lush leafy greens.
The plot is located on the eastern edge of Joburg CBD, opposite the Nando’s Central Kitchen. In the heart of a dilapidated suburb, Victoria Yards has emerged as one of Joburg’s trendiest artisanal working spaces.
Developer Brian Green and his partners have transformed a derelict industrial space into a trendy, functional venue. Green is co-owner of Group 44 properties – the developers behind Joburg hotspot 44 Stanley. Both venues have a similar aspiration: to transform inner city properties into trendy, integrated urban working spaces.
Victoria Yards’ featured work spaces include studios for acclaimed artists Roger Ballen and Blessing Ngobeni. On weekdays, artists and artisans use the rustic, industrial units as studios; and on market days, the units double up as galleries to showcase their craft.
“We believe there is a massive opportunity for skills development and Victoria Yards has the space to show many different artisanal manufacturing opportunities,” says Green. The design destination is home to various artisanal workshops including ceramics, glass blowing, carpentry, and tailoring.
On market days – the first Sunday of every month – Victoria Yards transforms into a foodie paradise. The aroma of burgers on the grill and sizzling salty fries lead you to gourmet food trucks through a waft of flame-grilled goodness in the air.
For the carnivore, there’s Che Argentine Grill serving up spider steak so tender it melts in your mouth. Spider steaks, taken from the hip of the cow, are marbled with fat and therefore more juicy and tender than rump. These rich steaks are paired with an herbaceous chimichurri sauce and fresh Portuguese roll.
The Wagyu Bros serve up rich and hearty pulled beef brisket and pork belly; and The Fish and Chip Shop serves hake and chips so authentic you could be in a London chippie. If it’s variety you’re after, try the abundant harvest table lunch at Food I Love You.
For the more health conscious, you can find vegan falafel wraps, plant-based nachos, and guilt-free ice cream and sorbets flavoured with Victoria Yards’ fresh produce.
Foakes Coffee Roastery and Bakery welcomes you with the comforting aroma of freshly brewed coffee and baked goods. The bakery prepares freshly baked cakes, sourdoughs, ciabattas, and seed loaves daily.
To satisfy your sweet tooth, you have to experience the Southern charm of Sweet Tea & Chickadee’s vintage caravan bakeshop. The delightful little caravan serves homemade treats like key lime pie, pecan nut pie, and sweet potato rum cake.
The beauty of Victoria Yards food stalls is the spirit of reciprocity between suppliers. You may see stalls using rolls from the same bakery, or a stall using kale from the yard’s edible gardens.
“We do try and source from within Victoria Yards, our tenants, and from as close to the Valley as possible. The real point is to expose the public to a food market and a craft market that is practical,” says Green.
Just outside the entrance to Victoria Yards is a free community garden.
“The area that surrounds Victoria Yards is poor and we couldn’t exactly plant roses. The gardens had to be edible. People can pick the food in the community garden on the pavement. The vegetables inside are for sale.”
Along the pathways and outside studios there are abundant vegetable patches bursting with spinach, sunflowers, nasturtiums, pak choy, tomatoes, and other seasonal veggies. The Victoria Yards urban agriculture project promotes job creation and skills development for growing and harvesting fresh produce.
When it comes to seasonal produce, Green is finding creative solutions to do more with what’s available:
“We are looking at adding value to products grown in the yards by bottling produce, pickling jams, using herbs in baking, and establishing a Victoria Yards Deli.”
Just above the maze of food stalls and studios is the Growers and Makers Market. You’ll find fruit trees, indoor plants, and succulents for sale. Sticky jams, chili sauces, pickled olives and other homemade delicacies are available to enjoy at home.
Whether you’re looking for a craft beer and wood-fired pizza, or a box of pesticide-free fresh vegetables, Victoria Yards has what you’re looking for. This urban oasis is constantly evolving to nurture creative talent and develop skills within the community – it’s a hidden gem in the heart of the city. DM
Daily Maverick © All rights reserved