Working up the ranks in any given profession is hard work and takes tremendous dedication and being loyal to your ideas and concepts, which usually formulates your dreams shows a high level of commitment.
Mzwandile Thabethe must then be the perfect example of hard work and determination translating to success. Having started Sophiatown Lounge bar in the cultural precinct of Newtown with his brother almost a decade ago, Thabethe continues to negotiate his way to this complex and yet so difficult industry.
After tag teaming with family selling fruits and veggies, traveling from Pimville, Zone 2 to Diepsloot in Soweto while growing up to finding his way to London at the age of 22, he has literally had to find work as anything that he could do from working at McDonalds to being a genitor. Thabethe has single handedly managed to come up with the 3rd installment of the trendy Sophiatown franchise, this time in the corporate and young expanse of Midrand, centering Johannesburg CBD and the border of Pretoria.
In the beginning of my young career writing food and restaurant reviews was living the high life. I was the envy of all my friends as I have dined at many fine establishments over the last few years and have had much fun sharing my opinions with readers. But as time goes by sharing my words has become more difficult because the more the restaurant tries to be different, the more they stay the same.
But every now and then a restaurant stands up to be counted and delivers something beyond my expectation. Sophiatown lounge bar gave me an experience second to none and delivered both great food and a five star atmosphere.
Sophiatown lounge bar is situated in the bustling region of Midrand, a few meters from the Boulders shopping center, fittingly next to the Mecure hotel and 15km from the OR Tambo airport at a Complex called The Link.
The first thing you notice as you enter the restaurant most strikingly it’s how its full of heritage and Ubuntu (humanity), how chic the designs are, the pictures on the walls give you a bold statement, they tell you that you have arrived in Sophiatown.
You are escorted to your table where your well trained waiter, in my case Clarion Kamwendo, seats you. You are brought your drinks menu that has a selection of cocktails that tickle every taste bud. I was explained to that cocktails are on special from 3pm-7pm every day except Fridays. You buy one you get one free.
Once you have ordered your drink which in my situation was a Strawberry Mule, consisting of strawberry liquor shaken cold with vodka, fresh lime splashed with bitters and topped with ginger beer. I was left with a difficult choice of what meal to pick from the lavish menu. There is a variety of foods in the menu, whether you prefer meat dishes like game or if you are a vegetarian. There is something for everyone at Sophiatown lounge bar.
In typical fashion, I leave the decision to my waiter and host in the hope they will bring me something that epitomizes the menu and the chef ’s ideals.
To start with, I was served with Flambéed snails with garlic butter, coriander and old brown sherry, served with bread. Seconded by Diyababa (it’s hot) chicken livers prepared in their home made Sophiatown source.
The peppery livers did little to mask the taste of their sweetness, but when combined with the chili source and the crisp bread it created a flavor explosion in my mouth. Chili has a reputation for destroying flavors, but the subtlety in which it formed part of this starter only helped in creating its uniqueness.
For my main course, I was served with a slowly roasted lamb shank topped with Napo wine accompanied by veggies and samp. The lamb fell off the bone without effort; it was tender and moist, carrying the unique flavor of lamb through all its accompaniments to deliver a well-balanced and complete meal. The sweet mash potato was done to perfection, creamy and soft. The samp was outstanding; I would never compare my mother’s cooking but found myself thinking it. For dessert there are offers of ice cream with syrup, chocolate mousse, cake of the day and malva pudding.
You could come to Sophiatown lounge bar every day for a week and never do the same thing twice. Its divided into distinct sections-foe eating, drinking, dancing, playing games, a cigar lounge-whatever your night or day time preferences are.
I had just finished with my food when I asked my waiter if he was keen on a game of chess. Since it had not been a busy Sunday, he obliged and by the end of the game, a jazz band was coming in to serenade the patrons with some live jazz that went on until late amidst a bottle of fine wine I was devouring.
Joburg spoils you for choice with high-end dining choices. Sophiatown bar lounge delivers this with both formal and less formal options; it’s accessible, off street parking. Even if you don’t have time for a meal, stopping in for a cocktail before your next meeting is worth it.
I have been waiting a while to be inspired to do my job. My friends hound me to trade jobs with them so they can eat great meals, drive nice cars and travel to interesting places. I have often taken them along with me and even contemplated giving them my job at times too. But after eating at Sophiatown bar lounge, I’m inspired by the hard work of Thabethe and those behind the scenes at a place like this.
I must urge those of you who are in search for perfection, inspiration and amazing nights or days to visit this gem in the heart of Midrand.