An unlikely byway in Yeoville’s neighbouring suburb, Bellevue East, is a new go-to homestyle eatery. Perfectly set in a crumbling corner of a sinking suburb, Lokshini Kitchen Braai Shack is a home away from home where one can sample food from the townships.
“The concept and culture are all about bringing people together through nostalgia and the celebration of open flame cooking,” explains Victor Ngwenya, who started the eatery with his wife, Thandi. “Our concept is steeped in the tradition of the casual dining eateries in townships. It offers an excellent fusion of local foods using the finest of ingredients sourced locally.”
Yeoville has long been known as South Africa’s pre-eminent bohemian enclave. Once a microcosm of Johannesburg itself, the area is still a tapestry woven of many nations, traditions, pasts and languages.
But today, Yeovillites fear for the future of their suburb which has deteriorated over the years due to overcrowding, negligence and crime. Here is a place that in many ways aims to bring hope to the greater Yeoville area and Johannesburg inner city in general. One of Lokshini Kitchen’s main goals is to change mindsets about what the inner city has to offer. “There’s more to Yeoville than crime and poverty. Where others see ashes, we see the fertile ground,” says Thandi Ngwenya.
Lokshini Kitchen has attracted a mix of locals as well as the daring hip crowd. It is a melting pot where different cultures come together in a most colourful and vibrant atmosphere. A platform for expression aimed at the next generation of Joburgers.
Lokshini Kitchen’s signature is its enthralling modern-shack setting and friendly customer service. From the outside, the eatery looks like another rundown Yeoville building, but once you step inside, you cannot help but be impressed with the fun and quaint décor reminiscent of the old Yeoville eclectic style.
The mealtime rituals to which customers are treated when they step through the doors, are a celebration of ubuntu and the African custom of communal eating.’ As soon as patrons are seated, they’re offered a glass of complimentary gemere (homemade ginger beer) or a cup of amahewu, a fermented drink made from maize meal porridge.
This is a nod to how guests were welcomed in many African homes in the past. In terms of food, Lokshini’s palates are diverse, labour intensive and wide-ranging.
The eatery offers braai (flame grilled meat), traditional staple food such as mogodu (tripe), hardbody chicken (organic farm chicken), chomolia (African kale), umngqusho (mealie samp), dombolo (steamed bread), chakalaka (spicy vegetable relish) and good old beef stew.
The signature dish is the skop (sheep’s head) or smiley as it is popularly known in the townships. “It’s a labour of love,” says Victor Ngwenya.
The skop is first slow-cooked and then finished off on the grill for a smoky flavour. Most of the dishes require a slow cooking process and great skill as they are made on the open fire. The restaurant has a special weekend menu where they serve up specialities such as oxtail, goat stew and the classic seven colours feast on Sundays: a crowd favourite.
Lokshini Kitchen presently has a seating capacity of 36, with extra seating on the shack-style deck, offering an ambience of seclusion and air-conditioned comfort. On a sunny day, you can sit on the street terrace, where you can enjoy people-watching and an ice-cold ginger beer.
The restaurant plans to be a socially aware neighbour. It is already contributing to local upliftment programmes and has music events in the pipeline to help promote local musicians.
While Yeoville is a far cry from its glory days, Victor and Thandi Ngwenya are clinging to the hope though, that their new eatery will bring back some of that old Yeoville allure and be a restaurant in which everyone feels comfortable to sit back and share a meal.
When to go: The eatery is open seven days a week from 10 am to 8 pm. They also deliver to surrounding areas.
Who to take: The city can be daunting if you’re not used to it, so grab a group of friends for some awesome culinary memories.
Good to know: The restaurant doesn’t sell any liquor.
Budget: R40 – R80 should buy you a good meal.
Address: 33 Raymond Street, Corner Dunbar Street, Bellevue East.