Lots to love at Love Food Café

All set: Love Food owner Jamie Lorge gets ready for burger Friday with healthy and delicious meals that couldn’t be further from what you’d get at a fast-food joint. 
(Madelene Cronjé)

All set: Love Food owner Jamie Lorge gets ready for burger Friday with healthy and delicious meals that couldn’t be further from what you’d get at a fast-food joint. (Madelene Cronjé)

Jamie Lorge is gardening on the pavement outside her Love Food café in Braam­fontein. She has lavender and nasturtiums growing around the trunk of a tree, and a dozen pots.

“This is the downside to having a place next to a salon,” she says, pulling out a clump of nylon entangled in the plants.

It’s a tiny place, with half a dozen tables, some of which are on the pavement. Inside, there are stacks of records and a shelf of old books, and even a little bunting.

They serve breakfast and lunch mainly to the thousands of inner city office workers who are looking for quick and healthy meals.

Even if you’re not eating, the ­coffee is something to behold, a ­single-origin varietal called Cameroon Kouoptamo.

Friday is burger day, and by mid-morning they’re already bringing out bowls of lettuce, sliced red onion, pickles and a bowl of baked potato wedges for the early lunch trade.

The burgers (R50) are assembled on a big table in front of the diners, which means the server can shout out and ask what sauce you’d like. The burgers are kept warm on plates on top of those hot serving trays that were so popular during the 1970s.

They are made with lean mince, coriander, parsley, mustard seeds, breadcrumbs, egg and cumin, and they look like nothing you’d find in McDonald’s or Wimpy. They are tall, bursting out of the bun, with lots of sauce dripping out of it, and came with wedges and cheese.

I tried the vegetable burger, with lentils, chickpeas, grated beetroot, carrot and baby marrow, spiced with cumin, coriander, wholegrain mustard and bound with egg and flour. It was a little gluey, but quite comforting in that vegetarian sort of way.

It’s a minute’s walk from Wits and cash-strapped students often try their luck and engage in the time-honoured custom of ordering one burger and four sets of cutlery.

There is also a three (R34) or four (R44) salad lunch, which put equivalent dishes at more expensive restaurants — certainly to the north of Johannesburg — to shame.

On the day I visited, there was a juicy beetroot and butternut salad with a balsamic and sun-dried tomato sauce as well as a broccoli, pea and red lettuce salad. I had a large slice of the mac and cheese, which was exactly what it was supposed to be — plenty of cheese, not too dry, and quite tasty. This is heated up in a ­microwave.

They also do salmon fishcakes (R14 for two) bound with potato, with red onion, dill and spring onion.

The server is very friendly, asking one customer: “Haven’t you been here before? I recognise the tattoo.”

Love Food, 4 Ameshoff Street, Braamfontein. 083 602 6511

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