The City of Gold is home to over four million people. With that many heads to keep entertained, mouths to keep fed and eyes to keep happy, there’s got to be plenty of hidden gems that you’ll never read about in guidebooks but which the locals just keep on returning to. Where are they? What are they? How can you find them?
Sorry Joburgers, but these five hidden gems are too good to keep to yourselves, so you’re going to have to start sharing!
Nirox Sculpture Gardens
Set in the cradle of humankind is the Nirox Foundation Sculpture Park. It’s an incredible, expansive area within a private nature reserve which houses artists from across the world on a residency programme. The only requirement is that they leave a piece of their work for the sculpture park when they have completed their residency. The result of this is a gorgeous collection of sculptures of varying size and style, all dotted amongst the fifteen hectares of trees, manicured gardens, lakes, birds and winding pathways of the sculpture garden. There are open days which are a lovely way to spend a Saturday or Sunday afternoon lazing around with the family, and there’s also regular music concerts. Nita’s Kitchen serves a variety of light meals and meze along with wine and beer. If it sounds idyllic, that’s because it is.
This hidden gem of a sushi and Japanese restaurant is ready to exceed everyone’s expectations. It’s an unassuming, quiet little place which will completely blow you away. The Japanese owner is insistent on only serving authentic Japanese cuisine and will happily come and chat to you about the menu and advise you on choices. The sushi chef previously headed up the team at the famous Willoughby’s in Cape Town so, to put it mildly, he knows sushi like the back of his hand. It’s some of the best in Joburg if not in the country, so go there as hungry as you can bear. Your tastebuds will never be the same!
The Herb Farm
Set in the country suburb of Kyalami is The Herb Garden, an oasis of calm and quiet only minutes from Sandton. There’s rolling gardens of lavender, basil, and other sweet-scented herbs, a shaded and raised wooden deck from which to indulge in light lunches, coffee, smoothies, and homemade ice teas. There’s also a dedicated area for families with kids, which has brightly coloured wendy houses along rows of herbs for the little ones to play in, as well as a jungle gym for the kids and a café for the parents. Expect to find loads of things infused with the gardens’ very own herbs; think lavender scones, bacon and rosemary quiche, basil and peach ice teas, herbed chicken mayo sandwiches and freshly tossed salads. They’re also pet friendly so you can bring your furry companion along for brunch.
Downtown Johannesburg is home to this soulful jazz bar. It was established only in 2017 but has the atmosphere of yesteryear in every nook and cranny. It’s elegant and refined, and the live jazz music is filtered through to your ears via one of the best sound systems that the country has to offer. Initially home to the Pot Luck Club pop up restaurant by Luke Dale Roberts, young chef Vusi Ndlovu has been making waves both locally and internationally after taking over. It’s hidden in the basement of the iconic Hallmark House, and the 20’s speakeasy-style wooden bar and polished floors stand in contrast to the cosmopolitan touches of sleek glass and metal.
Zwipi Underground Bar
A hidden gem literally in the sense that it’s hidden from view, Zwipi Underground Bar lies in an old bank vault under the city of Joburg. It’s in the trendy Fox Street at Gandhi Square and is an incredible place to host a special party or dinner, or for a memorable date night with that special someone. It’s set in an old Edwardian building and fits right in with the contemporary vibe of the surrounding inner city precinct. The first phase of an ambitious project to turn Somerset House into a one stop shop venue for bars, restaurants and events, Zwipi has now been joined by Scatterlings Restaurant and will soon share the old bank space with a hotel and a banqueting hall.