Pick of the week – eateries in Church St Mayfair

Rainbow cakeWell it all started with Janet, a school-friend whose birthday was last Sunday. I had promised to bring a cake and not being a fabulous baker I of course turned to the professionals. And now I realize that it all started even before this, as I had been to lunch with a friend, Bart, the week before and he had produced the most un-Swiss Swiss roll cake you could ever imagine.  Here rainbow nation, met gay pride, met paint by numbers, met Indian delight, met bright plastic kid’s toy.   Ranbow cake - sliceSo off I went with more friends, David and Gordon … a lot of different friends are getting involved in this story – to Saleh’s bakery  in Church Street Mayfair to buy said cake. It certainly did not disappoint as it too was the talking point of Janet’s birthday party for some time. ‘How do they get the inside colours different from the outside colours’  ??  Yellow becomes red, blue becomes purple … the sheer joy and delight of garish kitsch! It’s sweet and cake-ish but that’s what one would expect from a fabulous creation like this.

While at Saleh’s bakery we decided to duck into Shayonas’ diagonally across the road at 74 Church St (Saleh’s is at no 81) for some take away vegetarian curries. They sell their takeaways by size (i.e. small, medium and large containers). And even with small containers, I came away with far too much – saying ‘no’ and making choices are not my strongest suits. So I left with a to-die-for brinjal curry, a mung dahl, mixed veg, potato curry and spiced roti. For at least 2 meals it came to just over R70. That’s hard to beat. And it was really delicious. Certainly on my menu when I next have people for supper.

Burhans Butchery and Kebab And then while there was all this scurrying and excitement between curries and cakes,  David realized that Turkish clients of his had recommended Burhan’s Butchery and Kebab House as an excellent Turkish restaurant in Joburg – and it turns out to be right next door to Saleh’s bakery. So off we went a few nights later for supper. Don’t expect atmosphere and glamour but expect huge portions at very cheap prices. We (4 of us .. yes another friend Viv joined)  arrived early – around 6.45 (they say the kitchen closes at 8). We were all quite peckish so ordered a platter of 3 Lahmacun to share as a  starter – not really knowing what to expect. For R45 we thought it would be a small portion.  At the same time we ordered the chef’s platter as a main course, also for the table. Next thing our little appetizer arrived comprising 3 medium size Turkish flat bread (like pizzas) with the most delicious spicy meat topping, along with a fabulous yoghurt, cucumber, mint and dill sauce and a mild spicy tomato sauce. Plus a large salad. This was enough for a meal in itself.  Our faces must have been a picture when our chef’s platter arrived with at least 6 more large Turkish flat breads as well as a portion for each of us of chicken cubes, kofte, lamb chops, shawarma,  steak cubes and, the most delicious thing of all, chicken chops (which we initially thought sounded a little alarming). They manage to get the chicken into a chop shape using thighs and I think pieces off the drumstick which are subtly spiced, cooked over an open flame and are incredibly succulent.  Those chicken chops alone are what we would all go back for. And the whole meal with drinks (sadly no alcohol) cost us each R100!  Also hard to beat.  We didn’t even have room for the baklava … next time we’ll know not to order so excessively.  Burhan’s  also do a big business in take-aways – served through a window directly to patrons standing on the pavement.

We thought next time we’d try Al Hamra further along Church St but we will certainly be back to Burhan’s for their chicken chops.

 

 

 

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Newsletter from Liz at Lancaster January 2014

A riot of colour in our window boxes - thanks to Alick's careful tending

A riot of colour in our window boxes – thanks to Alick’s careful tending

 

Another year has flown by and again although it is already 2015, it’s hopefully not too late to wish you all the very best for the year ahead.  As always we’d like to thank you for your ongoing loyal support over this last year: returning guests; first-time visitors; those  who booked in clients, colleagues or friends; those who simply made an enquiry; suppliers providing us with ongoing excellent service; friends and family.   We have had season’s greetings from many guests around the world and are grateful for the privilege of being able to develop these long relationships over the many years we have been in business. In May 2015 it will be 20 years since our first guest came to stay.  I look back to the times when we started with only one room, with just Ellen Khumalo and myself, when we had no laundry and no breakfast patio, when keeping noise levels down with teenage boys living at home was a major challenge and when I had no separate office (if I say the office was in my bedroom it might give the wrong impression!).

One of our most special endorsements

One of our most special endorsements

 

When we first started, emails were not in common use and so I did not predict the confusion that would arise between the ‘at’ in our name Liz at Lancaster and the computer @ sign!.  However 20 years on, we’ve established our branding; have 7 rooms; have a wonderful breakfast patio opening on to the garden; employ 3 full time staff and 2 part time staff; have won multiple awards; and for 4 years now have been ranked number 1 on TripAdvisor amongst 259 B&Bs/Inns (current count) in Johannesburg. This ranking is thanks to your feedback as guests and we are truly grateful for your reviews. If you haven’t yet reviewed us and would like to, you can go to http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g312578-d574068-Reviews-Liz_at_Lancaster_Guesthouse-Johannesburg_Johannesburg_Gauteng.html.There is a ‘write a review’ button at the top right corner. It is always useful to get feedback on what it is that our guests value.

 

 

zacOn the service front, Zac continues to do airport transfers and transport people around Johannesburg with his amazing knowledge of the city and its traffic patterns.  He was very chuffed in February to be able to buy a second vehicle – a Mercedes sedan 250 Elegance.  It is much more economical on petrol than his Microbus and is in excellent condition.

And guests have been particularly impressed with our internet speed – currently at around 9 MBS which for South Africa is very fast. And the even better news is that Craighall Park is currently installing fibre optic cabling which will give access to 100meg speed.

2014 has been a difficult year for South Africa. There have been corruption scandals in the corporate world and government, the most infamous involving the presidential home at Nkandla; in May the electorate returned a largely incompetent and ineffectual ANC Government  to power; there are major on-going problems with parastatals such as the Post Office, South African Airways and Eskom (our electricity provider); we have been in the news headlines with parliamentary brawls, service delivery strikes and two high profile trials for the murders of two young women – the Oscar Pistorius trial of course and that of Shrien Dewani.  So it is not a year we can look back at in pride. In fact, to quote another more famous Elizabeth, 2014 has indeed been an annus horribilis for South Africa.

In your pocketOn the positive side Joburg continues to develop in an exciting way. In February this year the 1st Johannesburg In Your Pocket appeared. In Your Pocket is the largest publisher of locally produced city guides in Europe and this Jozi guide is the first city guide to be produced outside Europe. Appearing quarterly, it is published and edited by Laurice Taitz who has for years blogged on Joburg. We were delighted when Liz at Lancaster was included as one of 4 recommended guesthouses- another great honour for us.  Guests can pick up a copy of Johannesburg In Your Pocket when they stay at Liz at Lancaster or you can go on-line http://www.inyourpocket.com/southafrica/johannesburg

According to the 2014 Good City Index, http://magazine.good.is/guides/good-cities-index-2014  Jozi is the second-most inspiring city in the world – after Hong Kong. I love Good City’s  way of evaluating:

At Good, we believe that a city’s heartbeat is best measured in “possibility”—the pervading sense that though a place may be far from perfect, its citizens are taking a bold stake in its future through a mixture of creativity, hustle, and civic engagement.

Early in December a travel writer for Lonely Planet came to see me and he endorsed Good City’s view saying that compared to the 1990s, he found Joburg to be a totally different city – vibrant, buzzing, extraordinary inner city developments and alive with possibility. And further endorsement comes from Rough Guides who have chosen Johannesburg as no 1 of their top 10 cities to visit in 2015. http://www.roughguides.com/best-places/2015/top-10-cities/

If you are visiting Johannesburg, it’s useful to know what is available to see and do. So, as always, I continue to keep abreast of what is on and happening in Joburg and have added a window on the home page of our website www.lizatlancaster.co.za where you can see our Tweets or follow us on Twitter. I also post on Facebook www.faceboook.com/lizatlancaster so if you are a Facebook user, please follow us if you have not already done so. Longer posts are uploaded onto our blog. Should you wish you can subscribe to our blogs and so get notification when there are new posts.

This comes with all the very best wishes for a good 2015 for you all,

 

From us all at Liz at Lancaster

 

 

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Looking for accommodation close to work

One of our staff members at Liz at Lancaster Guesthouse is in desperate need of accommodation closer to work. I decided to try the FaceBook route and ask residents in Craighall Park and the neighbouring suburbs of Parkhurst and Blairgowrie if anybody had a room to let. The Facebook pages for Residents’ Association of Craighall Park and Parkhurst were not too difficult to find, but Blairgowrie proved elusive. Finally, in between phone calls, emails, intercom buzzing and saying goodbye to departing guests, I found Blairgowrie and Rattray memories.  All are closed groups and, after requesting to join, all it seems accept me, as I can now load my request to rent a room. As I continue with my daily admin, my computer starts pinging faster than morse code signals at Bletchley Park. It took me some time to realize this indicated incoming Facebook messages  – such Connection! Basking in optimistic hope and a teeny sense of self-righteous triumph, I came down to earth quite smartly when I started to read the tsunami of responses from the Blairgowrie residents (my dear suburban neighbours):

 ‘Definitely a scam’

‘Seriously dodgy, folks’

‘It’s a trap!’

‘Ask this person to identify herself’

‘Just don’t phone this number it’s an Italian number. I’d put money that it’s a con.’

 Defensive outrage, self-righteous indignation .. I start to type furiously to put these suspicious alarmist petty suburban neighbours in their place.  I look more closely to see what else other ridiculous misguided conclusions have being drawn … then I read:

 ‘Isn’t Parkhurst a prison?

and

The mention of South Africa triggered a memory that there is a Blairgowrie there.

and

‘Just Googled the number and got Liz at Lancaster Guesthouse in Johannesburg.’

 …. Slowly the light begins to dawn.   … I had joined a closed group of Scots all connected to Blairgowrie, a town in Perthshire in the far wee north of that not so united kingdom.

So I responded:

Hello all in a foreign country!! .. dare I say it? .. all in the United Kingdom.  [The Scottish referendum was very new and raw.]  Yes, I thought I was joining a group of  my  neighbouring suburb  in Johannesburg South Africa. Mea Culpa!

 I then go on to identify myself and offer all my ‘credentials’.

Have I absolved myself of skulduggery and treachery?  Stupid .. yes.  Intention to deceive .. no.  I won’t go into the reasons here for looking for accommodation for this person. They are sad and indicative of the tough life that the majority of South Africans still have. And believe me if I had any available spare space I would accommodate her.  

But if any of you come to South Africa please come and stay. I might at least get some mileage out of my faux pas!!  Sorry everybody. But please hold thumbs that we find somewhere for Thandie to stay. By the way check the piece I wrote on Rattray and our suburb http://lizatlancaster.co.za/blog/exhilarating-air-of-peace-and-calmness-accommodation-in-craighall-park . Misguided and bit dumb not to realize the site I was joining! .. But a scam and trap I am not. And sadly I’m not Italian either!  But buonanotte and bye bye all – Please feel free to delete me from this group.

A further internal mud-slinging interchange ensued between those who were still insistent that this was further evidence of a dangerous and subversive swindling sociopath at work, and those who welcomed me to the group, who loved the SA connection, and who took the serious mickey out of all those who failed to see the funny side. More aggrieved huffing and puffing from the Perthshire biddies, and then I lost interest and left the group.

There is an exquisite irony in putting out the word for accommodation close to work  - and targeting a town some 13,800 km away from Liz at Lancaster.

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