Category Archives: Cultural

Getting Lucky at the Good Luck Club

The Good Luck Club

And by lucky I mean free food, because we all know that that is the best score you can get.

I stumbled upon this neat little restaurant on a casual afternoon drive home from work when I was actually looking for another restaurant, and discovered that the Good Luck Club, which I had never heard of before, was going to be having a Grand Opening launching their new expansion. I wasn’t planning on staying for lunch, but a launch I could definitely count myself included in. And man, was I NOT disappointed.

 

The Good Luck Club has a branch in Illovo, so the quality of the food in this new branch in Emmarentia was unsurprisingly delightful. I love how the menu brings Asian cuisine into the suburbs of Jo’burg, without being too pretentious (although the restaurant was packed to the BRIM with hipsters on opening night – it was the craft beer they were there for, I’m sure of it!)

Good Luck Club Dumplings

After 2 hours of waiting (apparently everyone knew it was opening night) we were finally served our free dim sum platter of 6 dumplings in 3 varieties. Though they were late, they were still steaming hot, and coupled with a deliciously spicy dipping sauce.

It is cheaper than many of the Asian fusion restaurants that are popping up around Jo’burg, however it is still out of my price range at about R98 for the average main (so much, and just for noodles or curry!?) As a result, I had the miso soup for main. It was tiny, but full of flavour, and of course packed with protein-filled tofu. Mr Kendz had the Thai Chicken soup, which he was thrilled with: there was a delicate balance of coconut and undertones of subtle and beautifully combined flavours – not overwhelming, and really generous with the chicken. He was satisfied after his half of the dim sum platter and his soup, so it is still possible to make it a cheap date and get some great tasting good quality food.

Good Luck Club Miso Soup

Deep fried banana spring rolls with chocolate dipping sauce for dessert. Delicious (even though we got it before we even got our dim sum)

Deep fried banana spring rolls with chocolate dipping sauce for dessert. Delicious (even though we got it before we even got our dim sum)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The restaurant itself is stunning – it is simplistic, with concrete walls and simple wooden tables. The lights hang off the walls on neatly wound cords of wire (I’m sure it’s safe!), and there are Sir Cats on the wall. I would go there just for Sir Cat. He’s majestic.

One day when I’m big and rich I will go to restaurants like the Good Luck Club all the time! But for now, I will just save it for payday (along all the other exciting restaurants Jozi is tempting me with).

Bean Republic, Corlett Drive

You know those places that every time you drive past, you think to yourself: “I really need to go there!” Bean Republic is one of those places. The facade out onto Corlett drive is all wooden, echoing the trend of coffee shops everywhere these days, with huge green signage beckoning you in. The colour scheme and decor are reminiscent of Cuba, but owner Edwin Ndlovu explained that his coffee is absolutely not “single origin”, but rather a collection of coffee, a big coffee Republic, where the best of the best coffee comes together to give you great coffee. Under the supervision of experienced and passionate Edwin himself of course.

There are quotes and satirical fictional headlines from newspapers all around the shop, so you really get the feel that you might be in some sort of republic after all

There are quotes and satirical fictional headlines from newspapers all around the shop, so you really get the feel that you might be in some sort of republic after all

After years in the industry, Ndlovu finally decided he needed to branch out on his own and do the job better than the people around him, because why should customers receive anything less? Bean Republic has been open since November 2012. Edwin Ndlovu Despite the vibey exterior and his catchy enthusiasm, however, the coffee was a bit disappointing. The flavour wasn’t full or significant, leaving a slight taste of dirty water, as weak coffee tends to do. The interior also felt like it left much to be desired, with a greasy countertop and peeling menus. Apart from that let down, the interior was also a fun mix match of furniture which Ndlovu has developed a collection of over the past 20 years, since he started working towards his dream. Downstairs is a room that looks like it probably bustles with less mainstream entertainment, which Ndlovu has big plans for this year. Some of which includes wine and traditional food menus, poetry readings and other performances. Bean Republic Downstairs They didn’t have any cake when I was there, but their cake menu looked amazing. Ever had Hummingbird cake? I feel like I might just go back there to give it a try. Edwin was in the process of creating some pasta recipes to populate the menu, to accompany the rump steak and other main menu options. Their breakfast menu is also really extensive with a good range of recently repopularised recipes like frittatas and solid classics like French toast, all for a highly competitive price. This is important because lately all restaurants are charging so much for the most important meal of the day! It’s definitely worth giving a chance, even if it’s just to have a chat with Edwin. He says,

“For coffee to survive, tea must die”

While I’m quite a fan of tea (though my love for coffee hasn’t died either), his message has political undertones, which I encourage you to find more about when you pay him a visit.

Good ol’ G-Spot, EC

It’s been nearly a year since I finished up in Grahamstown. I was rather keen to leave, when the time came, but I miss it now. It’s the same as missing school though. You know, best days of your life and all that.

Now, I wasn’t particularly fond of Grahamstown. I was a city girl, from Johannesburg, and I somehow ended up in one of the most poorly run provinces of the country, in a town that didn’t even have a McDonald’s. Or a Woolworths Food. When people asked me if I was enjoying it, I would tell them how much I like the University, my course and the overall student life. I would explain how convenient being in a small town was because you can literally walk to any destination worth your while in the town. You hardly needed to worry about having a designated driver, the only time you really wanted a car was when it was raining or when you had to carry your 5L water up the hill (which is closer to 25L by the time you get to the top!). And this is where I would start talking about the problems.

We had no water. We would go for weeks with no running water. In my residence, we had 73 girls all sharing 2 toilets. There were minimal washing facilities – you could go to the gym, but that was so busy and eventually dirty and they ran out of water pressure too from trying to meet the demand. One benefit: the university paid for 2L of bottled drinking water every day. If you were smart, you would let this accumulate so you didn’t have to drink the tap water, which was sometimes brown, sometimes smelled like a chlorine factory blew up.

Water protest gif

One of the water outages was so bad, we held a march in protest. The truck that was meant to come fix the situation went missing, and then was found to have not even left Johannesburg yet. When they got to Grahamstown, they could not install the pump because there was no electricity. The electricity problem was another bad one. Slightly more liveable, because you don’t have to live in each other’s filth, but not cool when you are trying to study. Most of the power failures happened during exam time, naturally. Sometimes even in the middle of your exam. It was tedious, but I guess we all learned to live with it.

High street

The High Street, one of the most lovely views of the Cathedral and the quaintness of Grahamstown. Along this road you will find most of the restaurants, plenty of pharmacies, and plenty of dodgy car guards

I suppose, if anything, it taught us to be grateful. We learned to appreciate when we did have certain things, like water and lights on at home, because after all, these are luxuries that many people do not have access to at all, obviously in Grahamstown, but even in South Africa in general. But, you know, perspective only comes after the hard times… I’m very glad I don’t have to deal with that anymore, but I have new problems that have come about with living back in the city. Now I can just reminisce about the beauty and quaintness that was Grahamstown. I learnt a lot from being there, I had a fabulous experience, met the most amazing people, and met a lot of different people with different backgrounds and different opinions. We were all shoved into one teeny backwards town, forced to live alongside each other, and that is why Rhodents are generally so open minded and fun (but also well-rounded and responsible individuals).

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Once you get over the gnawing absence of things that were once a staple sight in a civilized town, you start to notice the beauty of the old buildings, and the heritage that came along with them. You eventually realise why people would want to keep making the trip down every year for the National Arts Fest (apart from general art-appreciation, of course).

Cnr High Street and Cuyler Cathedral with Jacarandas

Grocott's

Grahamstown is home to some lovely old buildings and some significant South African Heritage. The old newspaper buildings could have something to do with the Rhodes School of Journalism’s reputation perhaps?

High street court

Provost

Provost coffee shop was established here shortly before I left. While I wasn’t a massive fan of their coffee, their location was great – set in an old battalion-related building (or something like that), as were their delicious freshly-baked croissants

Grahamstown grows on you. But that doesn’t mean that everyone wants to stay there forever. I had an awesome time while I was there, great memories, but I am happy to be moving onto other things as well now in my life. For now, I think I will go have a reminiscent mare up in Northam.

Africa Part 1: The Beach

So it turns out that travel agencies are actually really good marketers. When I heard we had an opportunity to go to Zanzibar, I was like, “Score! Tropical island beach holiday, get in my face!” The posters make it look like Phi Phi island in Thailand, or Boracay in the Philippines. Maybe I didn’t go at a very good time of year, but it was fairly dull and muggy.

It's amazing what a few effects can do to a place - so maybe I'm not that great at editing photos, but it still looks like a pretty idyllic place to visit

It’s amazing what a few effects can do to a place – so maybe I’m not that great at editing photos, but it still looks like a pretty idyllic place to visit

Actually, I know I didn’t go at the right time of year – we were literally the only foreigners in the little village of Jambiani. It was a quaint little village, where you can really get in touch with the culture there, especially if you go when it’s only local cultures around.

When I told my English Grandmother that I was going to Zanzibar, she warned me of all the dangers that have been broadcast on British television; I was warned to cover up (which I completely respect: it is a Muslim island after all), and that I should be prepared for violence towards foreign women. It was quite dramatic. The truth is, when you go to a foreign country, it is more than polite to respect their culture and traditions, so I’m glad I at least found out what they were, and packed a pair of longer trousers for the Zanzibar leg.

It is most definitely one of those lands of bicycles - the likes of China

It is most definitely one of those lands of bicycles – the likes of China

We may have gone at the wrong time of year, but at least wearing trousers in that weather was still somewhat bearable (any hotter would have been unpleasant). It was incredibly muggy, just heat and humidity clinging onto your skin, and it had the vegetation to go with it. There was lush green jungle pretty much everywhere. We went on a “village tour” which included the guide showing us his veggie patch in the jungle behind the village, and we were taught all the medical properties of plants we will never see again. I didn’t learn about any history of the village or anything else you may expect from a guided village tour. But hey, that’s an experience in itself, I guess.

You know when your "village tour" happens alongside the main road next to some veggie patches that your preconceptions are not going to be met

You know when your “village tour” happens alongside the main road next to some veggie patches that your preconceptions are not going to be met

On our last day, before we took our overnight ferry back to Dar Es Salaam, we took ourselves on our own little walking tour of Stone Town, the other side of the island. There was life there, so much life bustling through the truly cultured little spice town. There were children boys playing in the ocean and in the parks, workers milling around, shop owners offering “good price” on an endless amount of boho/gypsy/comfy pants in every pattern imaginable. And, of course, the African artwork that you will never see the end of if you go anywhere tourists may be passing through anywhere in Africa.

As is custom, there weren't girls running around in their swimming costumes, but the boys were having a blast doing backflips and somersaults into the (shallow) sea

As is custom, there weren’t girls running around in their swimming costumes, but the boys were having a blast doing backflips and somersaults into the (shallow) sea

The remains of the old Mosques and ancient architecture from Zanzibar’s ‘Spice Island’ days were stunning – it is definitely worth seeing if that’s what you’re into. Beach holiday – not so much, building appreciation – gorgeous!

We got caught in an unexpected cloudburst, and this was the result once the rain had cleared

We got caught in an unexpected cloudburst, and this was the result once the rain had cleared

London Ice Sculpting Festival 2014

I had a huge list of events that I really wanted to get to on my stay in London, but because London is so huge and buzzing, I didn’t manage to get around to doing most of them! I am glad I got to go to this event though, it’s absolutely the kind of event you would not easily experience in South Africa, even in the middle of winter.

Faces through the ice.jpg

The London Ice Sculpting Festival was held on a particularly bright winters day in Wood Wharf. This posed a challenge for the sculptors participating because the glaring sun was melting their massive blocks of ice. The sun shining through the ice was beautiful though.

Tribal ice.jpg

There were a number of countries participating, and you could tell which countries were able to get a lot of experience in ice sculpting: Russia and Canada were significantly good, while Africa seemed to have a slightly different style. All the participants were incredibly skilled – the sculptures they worked on were certainly not easy or basic.

The tools they used were quite interesting too. Electric chainsaws (plugged in to a power source, even in the puddles forming below them), soldering irons, and even your normal domestic clothes iron (it seemed like a normal domestic iron – I could be wrong, but it would probably work just as well anyway). Sculptors were required to wear chainsaw-resistant trousers – those are seriously hardcore trousers!

Russian ice sculpting.jpg

Castles and stuff

USA vs. UK? My friend went to the USA over the December break and she absolutely loved it, particularly when she got a whirlwind experience of New York just before the Polar Vortex hit (it’s quite a contrast to our Sunny South Africa Decembers). When she met me in London just afterwards, she was surprised at how less urbanised London was. Yet London is such a progressive city too, how can there be such a difference?

She was expecting more of the Starbucks on every corner (or Costa’s in UK) and big chain stores like Primark and H&M to pop up wherever you decided you needed one, but we ended up having to Google these places and then walk for ages (well, more ages than you would in NYC by the sound of it at least) just to find the shop you are looking for. One of my favourite things about the UK, particularly London, is how accessible everything is. One of my other favourite things about the UK is that they offer you this accessibility alongside all their rich history and heritage.

Dramatically viewing the scene.jpg

After the family festivities of Christmas, Kenilworth Castle opened their gates for free public access, as a Boxing Day treat. It was rather chilly, but the sun was cheerily brightening up the crisp blue skies, as it attempted to heat up frozen children noses. This may sound cute, but not when a particular “children” is moaning about how cold they are and how they want to go home because they have no interest in the ruins of a castle that held many royals (including PRINCESSES, sweet child!).

Kenilworth Gardens .jpg

Thankfully, the organisers also hosted a duck race. We felt very foreign when we heard about this: isn’t animal racing like this considered to be animal cruelty? It turned out to be a really fun event involving thousands of numbered rubber ducks going downstream. You place a bet on a number, and if yours makes it to the end first, you win! It was all very novel, and definitely worth celebrating with some mulled wine.

Duck racing .jpg

Castles are definitely one of the things you absolutely HAVE to visit in the UK: each one has a pretty unique story, and to think that people actually lived in those freezing stone halls with no electricity, yet still managed proper grandeur – it’s a humbling experience (as in: how badly do we really need it?).

kenilworth characters .jpg