Restaurant Review

It's all about brilliant coffee at Ophelia, Emmarentia's new cafe

This Joburg coffee shop's signature drink, simple menu and stylish interiors will have you coming back for more, writes Sanet Oberholzer

23 May 2019 - 00:00 By Sanet Oberholzer
Gift Maqhawe delivers the perfect blend of coffee, milk and vanilla in the cafe's signature drink, the Ophelia.
Gift Maqhawe delivers the perfect blend of coffee, milk and vanilla in the cafe's signature drink, the Ophelia.
Image: Sanet Oberholzer

When you walk into Ophelia café, time takes on a different pace. Tucked away in Johannesburg's suburb of Emmarentia, it's removed from the hustle and bustle of the city's usually busy streets.

Inside, the white walls and high ceiling offer the perfect backdrop for the wooden mid-century furniture and asymmetrical mirrors. A snow white orchid and green pot plants dotted around the space add a hint of lush greenery.  

After a scuffle to finish off the final detailed touches of this lovely space, Ophelia opened its doors on April 17 — and aren't the locals happy they did! The small, unassuming coffee shop already has over a 1,000 followers on Instagram.

"Are you a photographer?" The question is warm and fuelled by a genuine interest. Owner Christoff Swanepoel greets me as I go about the tantalising task of photographing the space. "We've been so busy and everybody just loves this space, especially photographers."

Ophelia has already hosted a music video shoot and photo shoot during its short existence.

Swanepoel and his wife opened Ophelia with the hope that really good coffee, simple food, a pretty space and an "extremely happy face" behind the counter would be the winning recipe that would entice customers to return again and again.

Gift Maqhawe, the barista and manager when Swanepoel isn't in, rests a small glass cup on my table. The Ophelia, invented by him, is their signature drink and is meant to be consumed as is, without stirring, and by taking big sips. I follow the advice and the warm, strong shot of espresso is suddenly broken with the cold, soft taste of milk. It mellows into a blend of coffee, milk and vanilla — absolutely delicious.

The menu at Ophelia is meant to be simple. "We want the focus to be on our coffee. Everything on our menu is something you enjoy with coffee," says Swanepoel. Their signature blend was created specifically for them by Father Coffee; they'll soon be selling bags of it so you can brew up a cup at home too. 

I enjoy a mini baguette, perfectly toasted for a crunchy exterior, with ham and clouds of melted Emmental cheese.

Who doesn't like a toastie? Especially one that is has this much personality (and flavour).
Who doesn't like a toastie? Especially one that is has this much personality (and flavour).
Image: Sanet Oberholzer

By 1pm, they've sold out of their selection of cakes which are baked by Swanepoel himself. They offer chocolate, vanilla and carrot, but apparently it's the banana bread that people keep coming back for.

Lounge music plays in the background; a patron enters with his dog and sets his laptop on the table to start working. Two youngsters — Swanepoel says they're students who have started frequenting the establishment — settle in the chairs next to me with their own Ophelias.

I order another and finish off my baguette as I suddenly remember: time hasn't really slowed down, it only feels that way. I probably should be on my way, but certainly will be back.

• Visit Ophelia at 2A Fifth Avenue, Emmarentia, Joburg. It's open Monday to Friday from 6am to 4pm, and Saturdays and public holidays from 7am to 4pm. See opheliacafe.com


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