When the owner of a private aviation business first sat down at a small, non-descript coffee shop in Kyalami, Johannesburg, he certainly never imagined that this would one day become the site of his very own Café Hemingway’s, the inspirational foodie establishment he founded in 2015. But when that little hole-in-the-wall café Jonathan Wolpe had been working from for years was on the verge of closing, he bought it and turned it into the acclaimed artisanal bistro, bar, pâtisserie and private events venue that it is today.
Café Hemingway’s, as the reference to the great American writer Ernest Hemingway suggests, incorporates literary, cultural and historical tributes into its customer experience. The interior, designed by the eatery’s Creative Director Ingrid Irsigler in collaboration with Philippa Rose-Tite from Purple Raindrop, is the first indicator of this tribute, being reminiscent of both prohibition-era New York City and France during the Belle Époque.
“The purchase of the café came shortly after a trip to New York City and a stay at the luxurious, but loft-style Soho House”, explains Irsigler. “The entire period in which Hemingway lived was also an inspiration. [F Scott] Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, the entire ragtag bunch of literary stars and poets… Of course, a lot of the décor was also inspired by the turn-of-the-century Moulin Rouge, and the way of life for aristocratic France and bourgeois creatives at the same time.”
Café Hemingway’s has a series of sections, each catering to different foodie needs. The bistro area and recently opened Bar Hemingway’s Gastro Pub owe their moody yet subtly decadent ambience to bare-brick walls, vintage furniture coloured in dark, earthy tones, sleek wooden flooring and a hand-crafted copper bar.
The French-inspired aesthetic of Café Hemingway’s is beautifully realised in Irsigler’s and Rose-Tite’s design of the luxurious private dining room, known as ’10 Dining Street’, which is intended to recreate Hemingway’s experience of Paris. The room is in keeping with the prohibition-era ambience as well, as it is carefully hidden – in the style of a speak-easy – behind a bookcase.
‘10 Dining Street’ is complete with vintage furniture, an elegant wooden dining table, and classically illustrated hand-painted wallpaper. These features are illuminated by elaborate candelabras, and two light fittings by acclaimed designers. The first is an intricate chandelier by Cape Town-based studio, willowlamp (another willowlamp piece hangs in the bistro), while the second is a standing lamp with a black horse sculpture as its base, from the Dutch studio, MOOOI. Irsigler cites these fittings as her favourite aspects of the overall interior.
At ’10 Dining Street’ guests will taste their way through a sumptuous set of 10 courses, all prepared by Head Chefs Kamahelo Machepha and Sachin Vinod Gosai, whom some might recognise from SABC 3’s Top Chef South Africa. While these two culinary experts work their magic in the kitchens of both the bistro and Hemingway’s Gastro Pub, Petronella Sibanda, the Head of Pastry, accentuates the vibrancy and elegance of the Café Hemingway’s dining experience with her astounding collection of cakes.
In keeping with the establishment’s overall tribute to literature, Sibanda’s cakes are mostly based on fantastical worlds, creatures and characters. These include the three-tiered ‘Alice in Wonderland’ cake, featuring a grinning Disney-style Cheshire Cat; a four-layer ‘Unicorn’ cake, complete with floral embellishments and a gold-painted fondant horn; and cakes that pay homage to Harry Potter’s Hermione Granger, Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz and Satine from Moulin Rouge. There are also cake collections with themes as varied as ‘Marie Antoinette’ (here, you can certainly have your cake and eat it!), ‘Mad Hatter’, ‘Enchanted Forest’ and even, ‘Virginia Woolf’. These cakes are staple features of the elegant High Tea offered at Café Hemingway’s, where guests can lose themselves in a world of fanciful patisserie.
“There’s something for everyone at Café Hemingway’s”, says the owner. “Anyone who has visited us, for a High Tea, dinner or even just a drink at the bar, can see the time, effort and love that has gone into every single aspect of the café, from the décor to the menu.”
Café Hemingway’s is located at the Kyalami Down Shopping Centre in Gauteng and is open from Monday to Sunday. Bookings can be made by calling (011) 466 0195 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.cafehemingways.co.za for more info.
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