Thursday, July 21, 2011

In literary heaven

If you’re anything like me and can happily spend hours weaving between the shelves of a bookshop, you have to pay Skoobs at Monte Casino a visit. It’s my new ‘happy’ place, housing most of my favourite things: divine coffee, a multitude of books of every imaginable description, a champagne bar and nooks and crannies in which to curl up and lose yourself in a literary find.

Whenever I’m there I feel like a kid in a toyshop, and yet it’s so calming! On my last visit, the quiet lilt of a Celtic voice drifted over the bustle of Saturday browsers, blending with notes from the upstairs piano player’s efforts, adding to the vibey atmosphere.

The double-storey space combines a raw roof structure and dangling glass bauble chandeliers with wooden floors and steel banisters … somehow creating a big city, yet cosy feel. The coffee shop, a wide range of novels, reference books and a kiddies play section is on the ground floor and upstairs you’ll find the champagne/whiskey bar, more books and stone-tiled balconies overlooking the ‘street’ below.

Best of all, you can enjoy your coffee in comfort at the coffee shop or in whatever nook you manage to get, including cane egg hanging chairs on one of the balconies. The impressive range of coffees is from Coffee Republic, ‘roasted in Milan’ and is pretty good. I may even be converted to its vanilla lattes ☺.

The bustling coffee shop

I can lose myself in a good book for hours, even days – it’s the ultimate form of escapism and one we don’t seem to have enough time for. So while waiting for a late date at Montes or if you’re seeking the perfect gift or just temporary escape, give Skoobs a try – you won’t be disappointed.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Farm fresh in Harties!

I’m one of those gals with a propensity to do seemingly nonsensical things, which are perfectly logical to me (I can hear my friends giggling)… like trekking out to Hartebeespoort once a month to have my nails done. (There’s method in my madness, I swear!). This does however provide me with the perfect excuse to find a new eatery or quirky place between Harties and Fourways each time, and of course share my find.

I was in no rush on the last trip and on a besties recommendation, explored Jasmyn Plaas Produkte – a farm stall with a difference! It’s the huge thatched building next to the iconic Windmill restaurant (, found on 1 Jan Smuts Way, Meerhof, just off the main road entering Harties, the R27/R107.
The Windmill restaurant next to Jasmyn

The place is an obvious tourist draw and, in the winter at least it’s (comfortably) teaming with visitors.

On the ground floor you’ll find a welcoming, country-feel farm stall, complete with bottled jams and preserves, nuts, dried fruit, a diverse range of fresh fruit and vegetables, pot plants, a butchery, an awesome bakery, frozen foods and a gifts section. What shocked me was how well-priced it generally is, considering most of its patrons must be out-of-towners.

It continues the Dutch theme inspired by the windmill and its bakery and confectionary section boasts a range of pastries, sweets and biscuits from the homeland and Germany. There’s also a well-stocked section devoted to Asian sauces and condiments. I can recommend the cook-in Indian chicken korma sauce (which costs a whole R7).

Walking up the wooden stairs to the second floor, you’ll find a bookshop and coffee shop. The bookshop stocks the usual genres on tall dark wood shelves but what stood out for me was the history section, with everything from Afrikaans culture to the Vikings and glassed-in displays of old ships, guaranteed to capture the imagination of any maritime enthusiast. Its centre also boasts old and new dvds and the type of CDs my parents would love (think Barbara Streisand’s first few albums).

To the right, the small, unassuming but welcoming coffee shop awaits. There are a few tables inside and on its wooden deck which provides a panoramic view of the dam and silhouetted mountains in the distance.

The service is good and the menus cater for English and Afrikaans visitors. The menu is limited, with a few breakfast options (until 11am), pies and toasted sandwiches and a good variety of desserts on display at the entrance.

The cappuccino is just strong enough for my taste, if slightly shy on foam and volume. But … I’d been craving apple pie and ice-cream for the longest time and Jasmyn’s more than hit the spot! The hot spicey apples and tasty pastry immediately transported me to my country childhood. I’m so tempted to try out the other desserts too ☺

Picnics seem to be allowed outside and kids are free to roam and play. Across the road you’ll find the Lemon Tree Art Gallery, displaying paintings of beautiful, vivid landscapes, nguni cattle, various portraits as well as luxurious carpets.

If you're in the area, or just keen on a drive out of the city, Jasmyn is definitely worth the trek.


Monday, May 30, 2011

In search of Joburg’s gems

I have a passion for finding hidden treasures. It started in my childhood home – a quaint village called Henley-on-Klip – where I would dig up and hack away at rocks I was convinced held precious gems and proudly display them to my ever-patient parents. It sparked to life during my varsity days in Grahamstown … you know, the place where students major in Castle Draught and Crackling and are remembered more for their bush-diving skills, creatively explicit trivarsity overalls and hundreds’ clubs, than academic pursuits.

Despite student antics, I couldn’t have wished for a better place to ignite my love of all things quirky, arty and charming than in a little student town tucked away in the Eastern Cape, and celebrated for its annual National Arts Fest.

My passion has followed me to Joburg – a city constantly reinventing itself and perceived differently by all who pass through it. A hobby I developed (and recently rediscovered) is driving through its suburbs on a lazy Saturday, finding little gems in the form of cosy coffee shops, markets, quirky art galleries, spoil-yourself girls’ night venues and art-deco joints. All treasures should be shared and that's what this blog is about: sharing my 'happy-places'!

One of my favourite spots has to be the super trendy and yet oh-so-chilled 4th Avenue in Parkhurst, Joburg. This treasure trove of antique stores, tiny art deco stores and cafés is tucked away in suburbia and boasts some of the most renowned restaurants in the city.

Empty shop floors are quickly filled with pop-up stores such as the latest, Egality (for the time being at no. 38 cnr 4th and 13th). Felicity is warm and welcoming and showcases clothing, footwear and accessories from local designers, including Arwen Garmentry, Ninon shoes, Terrence Bray, The Summit, Tjerrie shoes and Willow jewellery. Check out her website for more details:

Bottega (‘little workshop’ in Italian) is a new firm favourite of mine. This unassuming eatery offers reasonably priced meals throughout the day, with friendly, efficient service and an inviting, Italian ambiance. The walls are covered with black and white Peroni-inspired photos and chalk boards displaying the specials, with dark-wood tables grouped cosily together.


The food is exceptionally well-priced and this little spot is in the perfect position for people-watching (a secret hobby of mine) with a view of Georges on 4th (another hotspot) and the quirky Saturday market across the street. Make sure you book for supper though, or else its patrons are bound to beat you to its welcoming seats.

I could spend an entire morning on this street and write about it here, but you’ll have to catch future blogs to find out more ;)

x Elle