If you are looking for a lifestyle antidote to the hipster districts of Maboneng and Braamfontein you’ll find it on Derrick Avenue in Cyrildene, Joburg’s new Chinatown. An impressive archway marks the start of Chinatown on Friedland Avenue and a change in tone from the surrounding suburb’s 1950s genteel architecture.
The language, building facades and the people are unmistakably Asian, as are the arrangement of storefronts that include supermarkets, restaurants, tea shops, fish stalls, vegetable market stalls, massage parlours, an acupuncturist, hair salons and a karaoke club. The street also has an authentic grittiness, which only seems to add to its charm. There is an enormous choice of places to eat tasty and well-priced Asian food - anything from Szechuan cuisine to Thai, Taiwanese, Korean and Shanghai delicacies. For the adventurous eater there is probably a lot of fun to be had in deciphering Chinese menus that carry no English translation.
These are some of the best of the many venues on Derrick Avenue:
Simplicity Coffee & Tea
A tiny teashop owned by Betty Wu and built into the foyer of an apartment block, Hillview Heights, this is the perfect place to stop for a refreshing Chinese pearl milk tea. Try the pearl green tea with milk. 11 Derrick Ave (cnr Marcia St)
A no-fuss, no frills Taiwanese restaurant the dishes here are full of flavour and great value. Bring a crowd and spin that lazy Susan full of plates so you get a chance to taste the curried prawns, cashew nut chicken and peppered beef and lots more besides. 18 Derrick Ave, tel. +27 11 622 0480
Chinese Northern Foods Restaurant
The word “authentic” keeps coming up when quizzing experts on Chinese food. Dumplings, hot pots, heaps of garlic and exotically described dishes like “little sheep with oil” are all on the menu here. The fans say don’t go for the décor, this is a place to focus on your food. This is also a sister restaurant to Chinese Northern Foods in Rivonia. 20 Derrick Ave, tel. +27 72 030 9414
Bangkok Thai Spa
This Thai Spa offers a range of Thai traditional and Western-style massages to suit any tastes, at cut-rate prices. Weekdays specials are a one-hour massage for R199. The rooms are spotless and brightly outfitted in Thai fabrics and you will be greeted cheerily from the front verandah by a profusion of silk orchids that give the adjoining Thai restaurant its name. Cnr Derrick Ave and Hettie St, tel. +27 78 783 7191
Hao Jue International Club
Situated a block or two in from the Friedland Street archway is a non-descript rounded office block housing the Hao Jue International Club. No markings on the building’s exterior give away the fact that a few floors up inside is a karaoke club renting out party rooms for the night, complete with plush couches, big screens, powerful sound systems and fantastically translated English pop songs set to videos of Korean lovers strolling hand in hand across odd Swedish-looking landscapes. Perfect for a private party.