The hot new Nando’s casa at Barlow Park

23 Apr 2024
It's hard to find anyone who doesn't love Nando’s: the chicken is great, their ads are even better, and their investment in local art and design has changed the lives and careers of local creatives.

The brand is also a keen supporter of musical talent, created a state-of-the-art music studio called Flame Studios at Constitution Hill, and is a co-sponsor of the annual Basadi in Music Awards. Add to that, a local story about a chicken shop that became a global empire and yet still retains its deep roots in its original store occupying a corner in Rosettenville since 1987. Not forgetting its Central Kitchen HQ in Lorentzville, supporting community initiatives that include Victoria Yards, and you have something for every taste. 

Step inside any store and take the time to look around. You'll appreciate that this is a brand with a local heart that supports creatives – both up-and-coming and established. It reiterates that Nando’s is not a chicken company; it’s a people company that happens to sell chicken.

The Nando’s art collection comprises 26,000 contemporary art pieces in its stores around the world and there’s no stopping them from adding to this figure. We were reminded of brand’s commitment to showcasing 100% South African design elements when we visited Nando’s in Barlow Retail Park in Sandton recently (April 2024) – the commercial leg of the new Barlow Park Lifestyle Estate.
The Nando's storefront in Barlow Retail Park. Photo: Supplied.

Opened at the beginning of April 2024, this new flagship casa (as the Nando’s stores are called) is one of four service restaurants in Gauteng where you can sit, order, and enjoy your meal (Eastgate, Mall of Africa, and Sandton City complete the list). It’s the 70th store in the Nando’s central region but do not for one second think it’s just another notch in the Nando’s belt, as each restaurant is designed as a completely new space. The Barlow Park Nando's project is headed up by Elizabeth Joubert, founder and director of interior design firm TinLab Design, one of the design companies for Nando’s South Africa, Africa, and Middle East markets. Nando’s Barlow Park is no different; it has been designed to impress.  

In conceptualising her vision for this casa, Joubert wanted a space that combines designer features that work in harmony to create a memorable experience for the diner.  
Some of the art inside Nando's at Barlow Retail Park. Photo: Supplied.

For this particular store, she had a double-volume interior to work with and she’s filled the space with chairs, light fittings, tables, patterns, art, and materials that have all been sourced on home soil. 

Joubert worked with various designer-makers to bring these elements together, including Ananta Design Studio, David Krynauw Design, Kalki Ceramics, Kent & Lane, Naturalis, Neil Grantham Studio, Pedersen + Lennard, and TheUrbanative. All the designs come together to create a beautifully conceptualised space, but it’s the work of two creatives in particular that caught our attention at the official casa opening.

Meshack “Shakes” Tembani

The view of Meshack “Shakes” Tembani's artwork from the left. Photo: Supplied.

The focal point of Nando's Barlow Park is a beautiful “art in motion” exterior wall that grabs your attention before you even set foot inside.

Drawing from the kinetic art medium, the huge exterior artwork has been designed by Meshack “Shakes” Tembani. Thembani is known for using bold, flat, minimalistic graphic edges to create moveable art pieces inspired by everyday experiences that often depict female figures in his community of New Crossroads in Cape Town, where he grew up and still lives and works.
Meshack “Shakes” Tembani's artwork in motion. Photo: Supplied.

Viewed from one side, it’s the portrait of a chic, lipstick-wearing, sunglass-adorned woman in a bright yellow polo neck. Once you start moving to the right, the picture before you changes, overlaying two images in one, before transforming into a new image just as you strike the right angle: a suave gentleman wearing a yellow and green bowler hat and white-collared green shirt.
Tembani's artwork morphs into a different image. Photo: Supplied.

The result is a moveable art piece that uses the viewer to fulfil the artist’s vision; Tembani’s interpretation is the perfect rendering of this kind of art in motion.

Tembani has held solo exhibitions and participated in multiple group exhibitions at home and abroad. His work complements the bold aesthetic Nando’s has become known for, all over the world. 

Thabisa Mjo

In 2015, Thabiso Mjo became the first winner of the Nando’s Hot Young Designer competition, opening her path in the design world. In 2019, she was awarded the South African Designer of the Year Award from 100% Design South Africa, along with Mpho Vackie of TheUrbanative, and her work has been exhibited as far afield as Milan Design Week. Today she’s the owner and founder of Mash.T Design Studio.

Like Tembani, her work is displayed in Nando’s casas around the world and features prominently in this new flagship casa. Joubert has collaborated with Mjo on several Nando’s projects through the years and turned to her to conceptualise unique and striking light features for the restaurant.
Thabisa Mjo's "smiley" lights. Photo: Supplied.

Creating a sort of canopy above the outside seating area, Mjo’s hay pendants woven out of ilala palm conjure the idea of dancing hats in a light breeze. Once inside, it’s her “smiley” lights made of steel in a semi-circle shape with beads cascading from the ceiling that steal the show.

To add to the beauty of these designs, the hay pendants were woven by a community of ladies who received an income-generating opportunity from the commission, reiterating Joubert’s position that Nando’s is a brand that focuses on enriching people’s lives, developing their skills, and empowering them.
Thabisa Mjo's gorgeous outdoor hay pendants. Photo: Supplied.

On your first visit to the new flagship casa, it will give you something to chew on beyond a juicy piece of chicken or a limited-edition Vusa double burger, pita, or wrap. As you watch Mjo’s lights dangling above, look at them as a reminder that you’re supporting a brand committed to changing lives and empowering local art and design. And that, we think, is always worth supporting.


An aerial view of Barlow Park Lifestyle Estate. Photo: Supplied.

Barlow Park Retail Park forms part of the larger Barlow Park Lifestyle Estate. As the former corporate office site of Barloworld, the space has been developed to be a modern, mixed-use precinct that offers affordable accommodation options in a prime location alongside a Curro school and the Barlow Retail Park which opened in February 2024. Nando's at Barlow Park Retail Park is neighboured by an extensive Checkers store, Mr Price, Vida Coffee, Postnet, and other conveniences that make living here attractive.

We got to tour the building with Ithemba Property Company (the same people who brought the Jewel City precinct to life in the City Centre).

Phase one of Barlow Park Lifestyle Estate saw the launch of more than 700 apartments available to rent in January 2024 and the second phase of residential apartments launches in May 2024. By the time this development wraps up its fourth phase, it will have added more than 3,000 apartments to Sandton's residential mix. The entire development has an estimated value of about R3 billion once completed.

The real news is that these start from under R5,000 per month for rental and include studio, one-, and two-bedroom apartments. For a levy of around R300 residents have access to the on-site clubhouse and pool (which is still in the development phase), restaurants, communal braai facilities, a co-working space, coffee shop, gym, sports facilities, and a park that has been earmarked across the street.  

We think it's revolutionary. Located just minutes from Central Sandton, along Katherine Street, with easy access to the highway, security, and uninterrupted power, water supply, and internet, this development gives more people access to living in Sandton and hopefully serves as a bridge for more affordable living in the affluent area. So far, we are told it’s a popular choice for young professionals working in the Sandton surrounds. Watch this space!

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