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Dining out | Historic restaurants | African restaurants | Vegetarian restaurants | Steakhouses

Arts on Main on the east side of the CBD

Dining jumps from fine to quirky in the inner city, home to the legendary Gramadoelas, where everyone who is anyone has eaten.

THE CBD has been littered with fast-food takeaways since the big chains set up shop for a captive audience. For some time, office workers and residents have had a narrow choice: should it be KFC for lunch, or Nando's, Steers or King Pie?

On fine days you can lunch in a grassy courtyard at The Canteen
On fine days you can lunch in a grassy courtyard at The Canteen
But gentrification is afoot. It has taken hold at the west end of the CBD and is just beginning in the east. For those who know where to look, there are places in the inner city where one can eat well.

On the far east side is Arts on Main. Once a collection of warehouses, Arts on Main now houses painters' studios, art galleries, venues for conferences, an arts bookshop and other related businesses - including an excellent restaurant called The Canteen.

On fine days, one can lunch in a grassy courtyard under young olive and lemon trees; there is also plenty of room inside in premises decorated with prints from Bailey's African History Archives, another Arts on Main tenant.

Prices are low. The most expensive breakfast, with egg, lamb sausage, bacon, mushrooms, tomato and toast runs to R30, and a luncheon dish of smoked springbok carpaccio with capers and parma ham is R45. There are open sandwiches, salads, main courses like a roast beef dunk - and possibly the best sticky ginger toffee pudding one can find anywhere.

In the middle of the CBD is a gourmet Chinese takeaway, run by prominent restaurateur Jaco Welgemoed, who previously developed such fine dining establishments as Orient in Melrose Arch and Cite in Dunkeld. Lucky Moo, on Gandhi Square, offers superb Chinese food at fast-food prices. Its version of spring roll, for example, is light, crisp pastry wrapped around a slightly curried filling, and Lucky Moo's mushroom chicken has a touch of cinnamon. Big sellers are Mongolian beef and kung pao prawns, beef and chicken.

Welgemoed says he's fallen in love with the CBD. "Town is just exploding," he says. "The energy is here." Customers phone, email or fax their orders, or stroll over, pull up an orange seat and have a meal in the shop. Welgemoed is planning to franchise it; meanwhile, for the first time in two decades, he can go home when the sun goes down.


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