Originally built in the Edwardian era as a hotel, it has some great historic features like ornate pressed ceilings, elegant sash windows and a real working fireplace. It’s hard to believe that before The Mangrove team took over in early 2020 it was a scruffy, nondescript building used for meetings of a local church group.
De Beer Street is in the heart of studenty Braamfontein, and The Mangrove is a restaurant, bar and cafe, but more importantly, a place of community.
Opened in March 2020, this eclectic Braamfontein hangout is named after The Mangrove restaurant, founded in London in 1968 by Trinidadian community activists as a meeting place for musicians and artists inspired by the black consciousness movement (Steve McQueen's short film about The Mangrove on Amazon is well worth a watch). This spirit of activism, and especially the desire to bring together people from the arts and creative communities, is a cornerstone of this friendly spot.
The decor is fresh and the atmosphere youthful, the walls adorned with contemporary artworks. You'll notice custom-made furniture and most prominently a huge mural of two 20th Century icons; singer and songwriter Nina Simone, and the socialist revolutionary and former president of Burkina Faso, Thomas Sankara.
By day it's a great place to sit and catch up on some work or reading at the long counter space with plenty of plug points or grab a spot on one of the armchairs where in winter a toasty fireplace and a flat white coffee will keep things warm and cosy.
The food side of things is led by young entrepreneur and chef Kagiso Sebediela, founder of the Freedoms Kitchin catering company. Kagiso explains that his menu reflects the diversity of the neighbourhood and a variety of tastes.
With a large student population, Braamfontein can often be overly heavy on fast food options, but at The Mangrove there's a focus on wholesome foods, with vegan and vegetarian options. Kagiso explains that while he may favour an eggs benedict for breakfast, his granny would look for a sorghum porridge on the menu. He has evolved his menus with conscious inclusion and consultation with regulars.
For a recent lunch (September 2022), we enjoyed a variety of some of the most popular dishes including a filling fully loaded fries dish crammed with bacon, sweet and spicy jalapeños and a delectably creamy cheese sauce, a lip-smackingly succulent Xai Xai Mozambican style grilled spatchcock chicken served with roast veg and salad, Black Label battered hake and chips and comforting sundried tomato pesto, chilli and garlic pasta, washed down homemade ice tea. The coffee here is also good. Service, however, can be on the slow side – but perhaps that was only on the day we were there. You'll have to tell us.
The regular live concerts are also a treat (check their website for the latest and make sure to book in advance).
Friendly competition takes over on Friday nights with the exciting Games Night event from 18:00-22:00. If the contest gets tense, you can break away on the venue's street terrace where a firewood drum keeps things warm and groovy while you sip on sundowners and watch the rainbow light display flicker on the Nelson Mandela Bridge.
If you are more of a daytime type the Saturday Thrift Markets from 10:00 - 16:00 and Mangrove Sunday Bike Ride are other great social events. Setting out at 09:15 on Sunday morning the bike ride heads out on a route across the City Centre before returning for Sunday brunch served from 11:00. If you don't have your own bike you can also organise to rent one from The Mangrove (call +27 62 237 6550 before Saturday to arrange your ride).