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Blending city life, food through 'Migrant Cuisines Tasting' makes Joburg Places a winner

22 August 2019 - 07:18 By Cebelihle Bhengu
The vault inside Somerset House, originally built for the United Building Society (later Absa Bank), has been transformed into Zwipi Underground Bar.
The vault inside Somerset House, originally built for the United Building Society (later Absa Bank), has been transformed into Zwipi Underground Bar.
Image: Facebook/JoburgPlaces

Bulelwa Princess Mbonambi is the woman behind the delicious meals served at Thunder Walker, where eateries Zwipi Underground Bar and Scatterlings, by Joburg Places, are housed.

Joburg Places, the initiative at the forefront of returning Jozi to its former glory, hosts walking tours in the city and dinners inside its 115-year-old underground bank vault. 

During these tours, storyteller Charlie Moyo enlightens visitors on the city's rich history, including its rebuilding more than six times in 120 years.

From the discovery of gold in Johannesburg to the city being built to be the “New York” of Africa around the 1930s, and the role played by migrants in shaping its rich history and cuisine, all are too visible to try to erase.

During “Migrant Cuisines Tasting”, guests who attend the storytelling tour get to enjoy a six-course meal, each course representing the six times Johannesburg was rebuilt. 

Mbonambi told TimesLIVE that in the case of the Zwipi Underground dinner restaurant, she had to come up with a menu that spoke to the place and how migrants wove into the city's history. 

“We have created over 20 menus for Zwipi Underground and all of them work. It's never easy, as they have to be meals which tell the story of the place. The six-course menus are created around the six phases of Johannesburg.”

Mbonambi said it was important for her to transport her guests to different eras through her meals. 

“I want you to enjoy the nostalgia and history of the place while eating various flavours, and I'm also telling you about the history of migrants in Johannesburg.”

Mbonambi also creates menus and prepares meals for Scatterlings, a breakfast and dinner restaurant whose name was inspired by the late Johnny Clegg's song, Scatterlings of Africa.

“Everyone in this city comes from somewhere. We're all scatterlings.”

Here, you travel the African continent with each meal Mbonambi serves.

The best thing about food, she said, is that it reminds us of how universal we are. Food has no labels or borders. 

“We like labels. She's white, I'm black. Food, however, knows no borders. Tomatoes grow everywhere. South African food can't be boxed. It comes from Pakistan, India, Eastern Cape etc.”


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