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Extra time in… Johannesburg

The Johannesburg skyline

I’ve just returned from a holiday in my home country of South Africa. The sun was (mostly) out, I was in fabulous company and the food was incredible. I’ve been lucky enough to grow up in a household where both my parents are keen cooks, my dad being something of a food enthusiast long before Jamie Oliver graced our TV screens and made it acceptable for the average male to show an interest in cooking. Suddenly, it was OK to wear an apron and talk about how to cook asparagus spears, provided of course there was a rugby game on nearby.

We ate very well on this trip, and not just at home. The great thing about South Africa is that although it’s well developed, foreign currency still tends to go further than it does in first-world countries. It isn’t what I’d call a cheap destination, but one certainly does get a good deal when eating out. Johannesburg can seem like nothing more than a sprawling urban mass to the unitiated, but like most places, you’ll find some incredible spots if you know where to look. And actually, it’s not all that built up. Interesting fact: with all the trees that have been planted over the years, Johannesburg is officially the world’s largest man-made forest. Here are some of my favourite places to eat and be seen if you find yourself at a loose end in The City of Gold:

44 Stanley Avenue is a small collection of boutiques, restaurants and coffee shops in an outdoor setting close to central Jo’burg. Now in its seventh year, this little spot has its finger on the pulse and some of the best shopping around. There’s a stunning bakery, a coffee shop that roasts its own beans inside the store, a range of high-end vintage furniture and fashion stores, a bookshop and several highly acclaimed eateries to sample. Not cheap, but a great place to relax and definitely worth a visit.

Post. A recent addition to a re-emerging area of downtown Johannesburg, Post is a daytime eatery and coffee shop focussed on simple, well-made food and great coffee. The UK’s East London coffee fanatics will feel right at home here, and there are several other stores to explore here too, including a Lomography store (for the analogue photography nuts) a gem of a record store and several clothing outlets stocking great clothes from local designers. Poke your nose in at Bam Bam Online; a small clothing operation that will be shipping internationally soon.

Wolves. If you need another caffeine injection to counteract the jet-lag, head north of the city centre to Wolves. They also serve cakes, pastries and light meals to fill the gap. They’re also licensed, so if you’re in the mood for a cold one, sample Brewers and Union’s really excellent range of bottled beers. This is where Jo’burg’s design crowd hang out, so there’s plenty to be inspired by as you eat and drink in trendy land. One more thing: this is a great place to hang out on a Thursday night! Look out for some of the best local indie bands and tasteful DJs playing here every week.

Moyo. This is a great place to experience authentic African cuisine with a modern twist, with beautiful decor and expert service. If you want to go out for a really good, memorable meal in Africa, then Moyo is your best bet. I had an East African curry with cous cous that changed my life.

So there you go; if you find yourself at a loose end in ‘Jozi’ before you head to the Kruger National Park or any of South Africa’s other amazing destinations, then that should keep you busy!

Have you got any top tips for places you’ve been in Africa? Leave your comments below.

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