/ 8 December 2016

​Park Corner: Rosebank’s new groove

New facade: Rosebank's facelift is nearly completed by the addition of Park Corner and it's restaurants
New facade: Rosebank's facelift is nearly completed by the addition of Park Corner and it's restaurants

Bolton Road Collection
Park Corner, a new development on the corner of Jan Smuts Avenue and Bolton Road in Rosebank, Johannesburg, launched with the opening of what one could call its flagship location, a good-looking restaurant called Bolton Road Collection.

The restaurant (which has an amazing bar on one side) ticks all the boxes of a trendy, moodily lit, world-class eatery and boasts street-facing Parisian-style tables (where you don’t face your dining partner but sit next to them so that you both face the street). Experienced waiters look after your needs, which risk being complicated by the menu of strangely presented plates such as goats cheese mousse or asparagus arancini among regular meals that include burgers and chips or spring rolls.

Like so many new restaurants in Johannesburg, Bolton Road Collection is well decorated, the ambience is perfect whether it’s a Saturday afternoon or a Thursday evening after an opening at one of the neighbouring galleries. But the most important thing about the place, the flavour and concept behind the food, does not always come with an emphatic “yasss’’ for every meal.

There are some perfect basics such as the giant chips, but the flavouring on the mountainous burger doesn’t beat the simple meaty flavouring at burger joint BGR just up the road at Keyes Art Mile.

This is not to say there isn’t a generous, though a little pricey, menu of other organic, gluten-free or vegetarian dishes as well as exotic dishes such as smoked ricotta gnocchi, hay- baked cannon of lamb and messy Eton mess.

Coalition Neapolitan Pizza
For those who don’t know, the difference between normal pizza and Neapolitan pizza is that the latter is made in the same way that Italians of Naples make and enjoy their pizza. The ingredients are a homemade sourdough pizza base formed into an imperfect circle on which a layer of crushed rosa tomatoes (no All Gold in here), custom-made mozzarella cheese and toppings are loosely arranged. These include plenty of hand torn prosciutto, hams, salami, artichokes, capers, mushrooms, rocket, Parmesan and, wait for it …you’ll find no bacon or avocado on top of your pizza or anywhere in this establishment.

The pizzas are delicious, if a little too bready. They come in simple varieties including bianco pizzas with no tomato. The salad options are interesting, including one with bone marrow and focaccia called Not Really.

The waiters clad in black and white are very attentive though nothing is really surprising about this hipster haven of a restaurant in terms of its black, white, cement and wooden interior — except maybe the fact that there’s a secret bar attached to one of its four walls and one soon to open above it.

This artisan liquor store sandwiched between Coalition and a barber-cum-bar called Bar Ber Black Sheep deserves its own stand-alone story because it’s that special. Proof is a week-old concept liquor joint that peddles amazingly packaged hard liquors of all kinds including a medley of South African gins (there are others besides the unforgettable Inverroche) — including New Harbour (Cape Town), Westcliff handcrafted copper distilled gin (Jo’burg) and the fynbos-infused Woodstock gin (Cape Town) — South African whiskies, vodkas, cachacas and absinthes and even Scottish oak-aged beers and whiskies.

There’s a nonalcoholic gin for the sober-minded and specialty five-litre empties that patrons can fill with the store’s variety of craft beer kegs, including flavours from Darling Breweries and &Union.

Proof has tasting sessions, tours and a long table where the aim is to make drinking a cultural activity far from the drinking culture that South Africans have become used to. Expect to pay from R300 upwards for the shop’s offerings, some of which strangely include Ciroc and Cruz Vodka looking gaudy and lit among the oddly shaped hipster bottles.

Bar Ber Black Sheep
At first, second and third glance this barber and bar looks like a Tumblr-style mancave inhabited by bearded white men with sleeve tattoos, plenty of leather-bound chesterfield sofas and loungers, black-and-white chessboard floors and those glossy white tiles that look like they belong in a boutique hotel bathroom but have somehow found their way into public spaces.

I had to ask whether they cut women’s hair there and, more importantly, do they cut black people’s hair? As soon as the owner opened his mouth, a real person emerged from the stylised setting and an easy conversation ensued during which he assured me that they cut women’s and black people’s hair (R300 for a haircut was negotiated down to R120 for my Afro-textured hair). The bar seemed oddly placed at the corner of the barbershop but overall, it’s a good concept judging by the satisfaction on the faces of the patrons that were happily destroying their Monday blues with speciality beers and bourbon cocktails.