Jozi’s plethora of pop-ups in the run-up to the mad season
Joburg is never short of limited-edition and pop-up events, and in the gallop towards the festive season, November is brimming with epicurean bliss.
This Sunday, 24 November, chef and restaurateur James Diack is hosting an exclusive Sunday lunch at his family farm, Brightside, in Magaliesburg. The farm supplies 95% of the produce used at Diack’s restaurants, La Stalla, Coobs, Il Contadino and Douglas + Hale.
The farm rears pigs, chickens, lambs, ducks and Diack’s legendary acorn-fed wild boar. Various fruits, herbs and vegetables are also grown at Brightside, and rambling pea and tomato vines clamber up willow structures.
“The farm is central to our business and our everyday life, and we get loads of requests from people who want to visit. But we have to be respectful of the animals and plants we have there, that’s why we’re keeping it small,” says Diack.
There are only 60 tickets for the Sunday lunch, which will consist of five courses, including confit-duck ravioli with lemon and thyme crème, and an Eton mess with summer berries picked from the garden. The menu is paired with acclaimed wines Cape of Good Hope and Jean Roi Rosé from the Anthonij Rupert portfolio.
Guests will get a behind-the-scenes look at how the Diack family farm is run. Animals are hormone free and grass-fed, and you can watch them roam freely around the farm.
In stark contrast to the tranquility of Brightside Farm, Victoria Yards is the dynamic, urban setting for the Gin & Tonic Festival on 30 November. At either, you might encounter a tipple you’ve never tried (or even heard of).
“We’ve always chosen iconic Johannesburg inner-city venues for the festival, and Victoria Yards is a perfect example of an historical, reclaimed industrial space that offers a lot of beautiful, dynamic environments for us to create and curate themed and theatrical spaces,” says Jocelyn Richter, marketing manager for the Gin & Tonic Festival.
The festival is a celebration of South Africa’s favourite summer spirit, and will feature more than 70 craft gins for tasting, including Bloedlemoen’s limited-edition Christmas gin, Kumara’s sweet-potato gin, and Primos, a lemon-fermented gin from Hoedspruit.
This year, Richter is excited about hosting start-up distillery Gologo Spirits, who produce a smooth Zulu dry gin and a sweeter pink gin called Queen Nandi. “Gologo is new to the festival and we’re excited to have them. They’re an experimental distillery with a great story,” says Richter.
On 16 November, Victoria Yards was the setting for the second annual Publik Wine Fair, where a curated portfolio of 30 independent wine producers with small-batch wines in rare varieties was presented.
“There’s a couple of wines from grape varieties that you’ll almost never be able to find, and grenache gris is one of them,” said David Cope, owner of Publik Wines, as he took me through some of the tipples on offer.
Maanschijn, new-wave winemakers near Hermanus, poured a tasting of their Easy Tiger grenache gris, the rare pink-skinned cousin of grenache blanc.
“You can get it elsewhere, but in South Africa there’s only three or four wines from grenache gris. It’s a mutation in the vineyard. It’s a totally unique and interesting style of wine,” said Cope.
Other lesser-known grapes, such as gamay, a light, fresh fruity red, and Mount Sutherland’s tempranillo, a black grape native to Spain, are rare in South African vineyards.
Mount Sutherland is situated in the arid Karoo, at the foot of Sneeuberg Mountain, where the vines experience extreme weather conditions and freezing winters.
At an altitude of 1,500 metres above sea level, and 350 kilometres inland from the ocean, it’s the highest and coldest wine-growing region in Africa.
The extreme conditions under which the grapes are grown means Mount Sutherland is purely a passion for the winemakers. “That’s the embodiment of an artisan wine that’s 100% not doing it because it’s a great business, but doing it because it’s interesting,” said Cope.
Fruit-forward cinsault has been the flavour of the year, but it seems semillon could be the next trend in artisanal winemaking. “There’s lots of different styles of semillon, like a gris that is pink, and skin-contact semillon.”
Publik favourite, Raised By Wolves, has a semillon gris: a natural mutation in the vineyard where green grapes turn red. Winemaker Adam Mason explained: “Its antique colour and savoury texture serves as a time capsule to a distant age of winemaking.”
And for a pop-up like no other, Sanza Sandile is bringing the quintessential Yeoville experience to Rosebank through a Yeoville Dinner Club pop-up at MESH on Saturday, 23 November.
Host and chef Sandile has been cooking in Yeoville for almost a decade. After starting a street kitchen called Eat Arabi in 2010, and after appearing on CNN (with Anthony Bourdain!) in 2011, he eventually opened a dinner club on Rockey Street in 2016.
Sandile serves a Pan-African plate from fresh ingredients available at the Yeoville market. Open-table, family-style dishes include Ghanaian okra, Tanzanian-inspired chicken with coconut milk, Kenyan mandazi, and Mozambican fried fish, which are meant to be discussed and shared.
Many of Sandile’s dishes cater for vegan diets, such as West African egusi soup. “Vegan egusi, I think it’s a revolution, the way I’ve been doing egusi. Everybody else puts chicken, or biltong, they put a lot of offal, and I’ve been able to make it a rich, wholesome vegan dish,” says Sandile.
Sandile’s aware that some people are fearful of coming to Yeoville, so instead of moving out of Rockey Street, he’s creating an awareness in suburban spaces. “I’m defiant not to move from my hood, so we do monthly pop-ups in spaces we appreciate, like MESH.
“People love what I’m doing, and I love Yeoville, but I need to grow as a cook and reach other mouths,” he says.
Sandile is looking forward to collaborating with professional mixologists at MESH. At the Yeoville Dinner Club, he experiments with juices and cocktails made from fresh ingredients like ginger and pineapple skins. His signature welcome drink is made from grapefruit, cranberries, lemon, Egyptian aniseed liqueur, and finished with Alomo, a Ghanian herbal bitters.
Sandile intends to share his experiences of Yeoville, and the flavours of the African continent, through pop-ups around the city. His narrative and presentation of each dish is sincere and heartfelt because, he explains, “I’m always cooking with a big heart.” DM