Brixton doesn’t have the greatest reputation in Joburg. Once, I’ve been told, it was a multicultural, creative hub, but today it is known for its crime, dilapidated properties and bustling drug trade. It hasn’t exactly been a go-to for Joburgers looking to escape the city’s stark realities.
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But to those who call it their neighbourhood, the area is known for its shady streets, views over the city’s leafy suburbs, quaint heritage houses and a passionate community of residents, which includes some colourful figures from well-known judges to famous actors, who are doing what they can to turn Brixton around.
Situated at its heart is Fulham Heights, the area’s new “lighthouse” development – a governmental term used to describe mixed-use initiatives that can regenerate problematic areas. Drawn into being by award-winning Brixton-based architects Local Studio, the enormous lightweight steel structure is the sort of heroic idea that could be just enough to make Brixton into something resembling what it once was.
Breezeblock is Fulham’s first tenant, a coffee-’n-koek sort of place which, after a few nibbles and slurps, made me feel like I was in the middle of somewhere significantly hipper, like Juta Street, or Berlin.
Embracing all the retro hallmarks of Johannesburg circa the 60s, expect home-made buttermilk bread served on the sort of stoneware ceramics that you would find in the granny-next-door’s house, but served with coffee you could only get from New York City’s finest baristas. The omelettes are delicious, as are the sweets, but the coffee is legitimately the winner.
As anyone who lives in the City of Gold will tell you, there aren’t so many brunch spots in Joburg that you could happily be whiling away time in, but Breezeblock is the sort of place that makes you feel sad each time you leave. It’s the Saturday-morning local that Brixton needed.