/ 25 March 2024

Artivist: Brunch is music to the palate

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Eat your heart out: The Artivist Brunch Club is set to become a monthly event. Photo: Lefa Ditshego/Artivist 2024

The Artivist in Braamfontein is associated with cool music shows, especially its downstairs venue, the Untitled Basement. On this Sunday morning, I’m heading there for its new do — the Artivist Brunch Club. 

I am not too familiar with Joburg’s inner-city. Even with the GPS, I find myself getting lost. I have to check my surroundings without looking like I am checking my surroundings.

I parallel park, poorly, get out of the car, and walk towards the WWF building. I know Artivist is somewhere nearby. I do the one thing parents warn us against — talking to strangers. 

“I just came from church — surely God is with me?” I think to myself. 

“Hi, do you know where Artivist is?” I ask the two young men who are standing at the WWF building. They give me directions and I rush off. One, I need to get away from them and two, I cannot be late for the brunch. 

Reserve Street is lined with beautiful trees, it’s a little alley that does not look like it is part of the “monster” that is the Johannesburg city centre.

The friendly hostess at the door gives me a glass of champagne — exactly what I need after a long church service and the anxiety of almost getting lost. 

Co-owner Bradley Williams welcomes me and makes sure I am well taken care of.

Renowned chef Katlego Mlambo is behind this second outing by the Artivist. The Brunch Club debuted in December and Williams says the next one is on 7 April. After that, it will be a monthly get-together.

Time to get lost in the modern menu as the bubbly is beginning to do its work.

Mlambo is doing it in “waves”. First up are snacks that include oysters, roasted pineapple, chilli fish tacos and pickled ginger.

Next, eggs Florentine — with the obligatory miso to tell you this is trendy. The third wave will be KFC, needless to say not from the fast food outlet around the corner, but Korean fried chicken, plus appropriate condiments and sides. 

Wave four will be beef rib, with smoked almonds, shallots and chipotle sauce. The final wave will be something sweet: figs, goat’s milk cheese and pecans. 

There’s mention of bourbon too — so, hold on, this Braam party is going to get jolly.

There are some familiar faces also anticipating the brunch — hip, bohemian and welcoming arty folks. 

At exactly 1 o’clock I am on my third delicious course and Promises by Brit-soul singer Cleo Sol wafts through the speakers — patrons are singing along, looking knowingly at each other from their tables. Joburg’s hippest are having so much fun.

“It has always been about establishing a space for a community that myself and my business partner DJ Kenzhero had formed over the years of our DJ careers and it was a community of artists, of the eclectic Joburg and a diverse Joburg,” Williams tells me. 

“We established this in 2018 — it is a space where anyone from Joburg or the continent can find a community.”  

Although they do work with other artists, mainly musicians and DJs, this collaboration with Mlambo is the ultimate for him. 

“In the context of the Artivist, chef Mlambo is our headline artist, and we are just his runners and crew, and the menu is his tracklist,” Williams says. “And when the audience engages in the meal, it has got to be music to their palate.”

After greeting everyone at every table I finally get a chance to chat to the energetic Mlambo. 

“The fact that people came out to support this collaboration makes me over the moon. It’s very overwhelming and humbling,” he says.  

For someone who has cooked for Barack Obama, Cyril Ramaphosa, Beyoncé and Oprah Winfrey, “overwhelming” was not what I was expecting to hear. 

What do you cook for a billionaire who has had everything? 

“Cooking for an average Joe is a bit different,” he says. 

Mlambo, who is one of the main judges on Masterchef South Africa, is working on a cookbook. 

“I just want to change the world one plate at a time,” he says.