Friday, 24 May 2013

24.05.2013 In Linden

Due to various set-backs in our flat-hunting mission, we have been forced to rent a temporary place for another 2 weeks before we can finally move into our proper home. The upside to this has been the chance to explore a new 'hood, which we wouldn't otherwise have spent much time in - Linden.

It may be a bit out of the way, but Linden is a special little place. It's got that friendly small town feel to it, with a healthy smattering of local shops and cafes, just one supermarket and not a mall in sight. There's a real sense of community here which many areas of modern Johannesburg seem to lack.

Here are some of my favourite places in Linden:

Corner 7th Street and 4th Avenue, Linden
An Argentinian bakery specialising in croissants. You can get a really good fresh breakfast roll (or croissant) with eggs, mushrooms and more here, plus a juice and a coffee for about 50Rand - excellent value. The music is good old-fashioned 1960s folk from Bob, Janis and the gang, staff are absolutely lovely, there's free wifi and not a whiff of pretension. I'd breakfast here everyday if I didn't think such behaviour was absurdly extravagant.

I haven't eaten many croissants in Africa,  but these are definitely very good
Corner 7th Street and 4th Avenue, Linden
This is Linden's trendy cafe and it's always packed at lunchtimes. They have all kinds of smart, well-appointed design details like light bulbs in jam jars and Phillipe Starck inspired tea pots. The Whippet has an impressive selection of exotic tea blends from across the continent and great coffee too. The wifi is not wholly efficient (just 25mb at a time), but the food is gorgeous, they open late on Fridays for after work drinks and they are very dedicated to the local community - as they say themselves it's all about 'South Africans rediscovering their neighborhoods and their own history'.

The Whippet in Linden
Yugo Store
56 4th Avenue, Linden
Yugo store is an historic relic that looks like it just fell out of 1980s Bradford, although apparently according to some web reports Yugo dates back as far as 1946. Impressive. It says it's a supermarket, but actually it's more a warren of all kinds of random odds and ends, some of which have real obvious use, such as the African brand pots and pans, and others which have evidently been here for the past three decades waiting patiently for someone to come in and say 'yes, that's it! The pineapple shaped ashtray I was looking for!' It's like Poundsaver only most things cost around three pounds and some of the stuff is really old.

In fact I might go so far as to say that Yugo Store needs a blog post all of its own - it is just such a unique place in this land of countless anonymous shopping malls. It's an absolute Aladdin's cave of random stuff; bucket and spade, bicycle wheel, photo frames, nails, strange local soap brands, toy soldiers, loose cigarettes (sold individually - many people queuing up for these), sweets (so many sweets), seeds, towels, coca-cola. You can buy it all in this one shop.

There's an old fella (Mr Yugo I presume) who mans the till all hours, greets everyone by their first name and knows where literally every item in his store is. I've come here on numerous occasions in the last week looking for tin openers, irons, saucepans etc and he always reels off the exact directions 'left side of the store, 3rd shelf, bottom' in a heartbeat. He seems to know everyone and always has time to chat. He is the reason that local stores are so important in the 21st Century - they keep communities together and remind us to be friendly to each other. Love Yugo Stores.

The Cheese Shop and Cheese Cafe
71 7th Street, corner 3rd Avenue, Linden
I love cheese. Me and my husband even had a cake made entirely of cheese at our wedding, because that was my cheese dream. For me cheese is basically an improvement to pretty much any meal. At the Cheese Shop you can not only buy fancy small-farm South African cheeses such as extra strong Karoo cheddar, you can also have a cheese meal in the cheese restaurant next door – class.

Rembrandt Slaghuis
57 4th Avenue, Linden
Slaghuis means slaughterhouse in Afrikaans (one of many amusing Afrikaans words) and Rembrandt is the real deal. This meat is really outstanding stuff, some of it is so succulent and fresh you could eat it cooked up just with salt and pepper. Damn, it just has so much flavour, it's pure meat feast luxury. Mr Rembrandt likes to give me a gentle ribbing over my terrible Afrikaans, which I actually find quite charming and not annoying as I have been wont to feel in other places. In fact he's actually trying to help me learn. Sweet.

Rembrandt Slaghuis
Oh and on Saturday mornings they set up a braai outside the shop – nyom!

Linden Cycle
63 3rd Avenue
At some point I think I am going to quit walking everywhere and splash out on a bike. When I do, I am definitely getting it from here. They have decent looking second-hand bikes from as little as 500Rand (about 35quid).

Need a Swiss or Bavarian hairstylist? Call this guy.

The Blue Room
57 3rd Avenue, Linden
This is a cute little store specialising in 1950s era furniture and other sweet design pieces. They have a set of sparkly early 1960s kitchen chairs in there which I am in love with, but alas I think sensibility will win out. They also sell Lenin bust candles (randomly) and have a good value clothes store next door.

34 5th Street, corner of 4th Avenue, Linden
Unfortunately there are not many bars in Linden. In fact I could rephrase that and say there are next to no bars in Linden. Thank heavens the football season's over.

Linden's one contribution to nightlife is the inviting, vaguely bohemian and gay friendly Amuse Cafe. They have live music from local bands Thursday through Saturday (acoustic night on Thursdays) and the friendly owner Dirk is so laidback he doesn't mind punters just hanging out drinking after-hours and getting on stage to mime the West End Girls video while listening to the full whack of Pet Shop Boys Greatest Hits, as we did last weekend. Thoroughly enjoyable.

Local folk singer Lucy Kruger

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