With mild-weather mornings throughout the year, Johannesburg is a brunch lover’s paradise. In summer, take your feast outside to soak up the sun with a leisurely glass of champagne. Come autumn or winter, and the cosy cafes serve up hearty dishes and hot coffee.
At the weekend, the frenetic pace of the city cools down, so temporarily postpone your sightseeing and do what the locals do: while away a whole morning people-watching over a plate loaded with your brunchtime favourites. With so many tempting cafes to idle in, don’t be surprised if your first meal of the day stretches out to afternoon drinks or even segues right into dinner. Here are our top stops for a laidback brunch in Jo’burg.
Fresh blooms decorate almost every surface of the aptly named Nice, where the aesthetics are almost as delicious as the food. Once your eyes have stopped feasting on the eclectic furniture and crockery, the breakfast baskets or crumpets with bacon will satisfy your more physical hunger. A visit to Nice is not complete without trying the heavenly macarons or flourless chocolate cake. Afterwards you’re perfectly situated for a wander down Parkhurst’s buzzing high street, which is filled with stores showcasing local design.
Croft & Co
At Croft & Co, a sidewalk breakfast spot on the high street of suburban Parkview, early morning exercise enthusiasts and post-party brunchers dine side by side. This comfy cafe serves up huge portions of eggs with locally produced organic sausages and bacon, and the knowledgeable baristas will brew your flat white or cortado up to perfection. Don’t be put off by how packed this place always looks. Somehow a table of just the right size will magically become available when you arrive.
Bread & Roses
The colourful, breezy interior of Bread & Roses, adorned with African prints and mismatched mirrors, naturally lends itself to lingering as the morning turns into afternoon. Lose track of time over the potato rosti with smoked salmon and crème fraîche, which is a simple but delicious delight. Choose a table on the sidewalk to feel Melville’s bohemian energy and observe the neighbourhood from its best vantage point: the street.
Pablo Eggs Go Bar
The geometric doors of this art deco-style cafe open to a chic, plant-filled interior that’s Instagram gold. Brunch at the devilishly named Pablo Eggs Go Bar centres on the humble egg, elevating it to kingpin status. Try one of the addictive dishes like the gourmet boiled egg and soldiers (with bacon-wrapped asparagus instead of toast), Yemeni flatbread with hummus or red or green shakshuka. It’s worth treating yourself to each of the three variations of bloody mary on offer.
New kid on the block Shadowboxer is fast establishing itself as a go-to spot for breakfast. Both the leafy balcony area and stylish interior have a subtle undertone of wildness, so don’t be surprised if brunch ends with trying out some of the harder drinks, like alcoholic iced tea or bubble tea cocktails. The wallet-friendly prices will leave you with enough dosh to have another round at one of Greenside’s other nearby watering holes.
Vegans and vegetarians will notice a scarcity of dedicated restaurants in Jo’burg, so the bountiful offering at Fresh Earth is a welcome addition to the dining scene. Meat eaters shouldn’t be frightened away because the extensive menu and generous portions are sure to satisfy even the most devoted omnivores. Tofu and mushroom breakfast stacks followed by vegan brownies and washed down with freshly pressed juices or kombucha on tap are great for topping up the energy levels before an afternoon of exploring the city.
Service Station is a favourite with the trendy Melville bohemian crowd who fill up the tables under huge chalkboard menus. Join the aspiring writers and creatives at one of the bar stools looking out onto the street while enjoying eggs benedict with well-balanced hollandaise or muesli from the morning harvest table. When you’re done people-watching and reading the weekend papers, mosey over to the neighbouring clothing stores and bookshops for a browse.
Nothing is off menu at Neighbourgoods Market in hip Braamfontein, where numerous food and coffee vendors will make sure you don’t leave hungry, no matter whether your favourite brunch treat is eggs benedict or oysters and bubbly. The toasted sandwiches from Tutto Food Co and burgers from Balkan Burgers will leave you licking your fingers. The market is crowded, so it’s worth starting your day here before the rest of the city wakes and then you can keep exploring this vibrant, student-filled neighbourhood.
Every aspect of owner-run Glenda’s is a floral tribute, from the fresh blooms that adorn all surfaces to the tropical wall murals and the impeccable way flowers are integrated into the presentation of each dish. The menu choices aren’t overly fancy (think smashed avo toast and croque monsieur), but the meals presented by Glenda might qualify as art. The pink hues and flower theme beg you to indulge in a glass of bubbly with your breakfast.
The Whippet Coffee
A major contributor to the rejuvenation of the high street in Linden, The Whippet Coffee offers a packed menu in a minimalist and trendy setting. Naked lightbulbs hang from the ceiling in front of large glass windows, which give a great view of Linden street life. Go for the imaginative pap medallion breakfast, made with sausage, apple and poached egg drizzled over pap cakes, or start your sugar rush with the choc nut banana french toast. The espresso and peanut butter shake is a glorious caffeine-protein explosion that works wonders on a hangover or as a post-workout treat.