The scenic drive out of Cape Town, covered with colourful landscapes, was especially inspiring in the late-afternoon sun. Highlighted with a golden glow, the city lights and quaint neighbourhoods glistened – no wonder Cape Town was voted as Favourite Worldwide City 2012 by British newspaper The Telegraph.
Our destination was a famous butchery, turned open-air restaurant, turned bar; but most importantly, rumoured to be the home of some of the best braai or barbecue meat in the area, and not to mention, one of the best local hang-outs.
Mzoli’s is off Klipfontein Road in Guguletu township, on the outskirts of Cape Town, South Africa. For more information click HERE. Best time to go: Sundays, from 11:00-late.
Modest cookie-cutter houses line the streets in perfection and occasional informal settlements filled vacant pieces of land. We pulled up to a street corner, which looked like the countless ones we had passed, and a slight passing whiff of urine reminded us of the reality that surrounds us – we were no longer in the plush areas of Cape Town – we were in a township, or what our guide Irshaad Gaffoor of Escape To The Cape candidly whispered in the car with a cheeky smile, “Welcome to the ghetto.”
Known widely as Mzoli’s Place, or Mzoli’s Meat, or Mzoli’s Butchery, or more endearingly as simply Mzoli’s; the popular local hang-out can be liken to a diamond in the rough. With more than 16,100 fans on Facebook, don’t let Mzoli’s simple décor or rather lack of, fool you. Mzoli’s is an institution in Gugulethu township, which still primarily is a black neighbourhood, 15 kms from Cape Town, South Africa and attracts locals, tourists and even celebrities.
Upon sitting down for the first five minutes, you probably will be asking yourself “What makes this place so special?”
There are the converted garden irrigation tubes that constantly mist from the roof – wood rafters and corrugated iron – keeping guests cool, or perhaps adding some mystical ambiance. Heavy clouds of aromatic smoke from the open flames of the sizzling braai overwhelm and put guests into a culinary trance. A simple combination of metal and plastic garden chairs fills the concrete floor. The music blares from the speakers, making it difficult to carry a conversation. The roof leaks rhythmically on to our laminated table drop, drop…drop. The prominent kick drum on every beat resonates from the deejay spinning Deep House throughout Mzoli’s, into our bodies, and even souls. Who needs to converse when you can simply musically nod your troubles away.
Even in the afternoon, Mzoli’s is pumping with people. With no lights, their silhouettes are only illuminated by the late afternoon sun streaming in diagonally. The crowd gradually grows and their tables and chairs slowly creep on to the road.
A toddler perched up on a plastic lawn chair nods away to the music as if it was a lullaby – clearly, locals start early in this neighbourhood. As did the man behind the decks that afternoon: Dj KG, 18 years-old, a Gugulethu township native who’s been mastering his craft for the last three years. Wearing a black v-neck t-shirt, basketball shorts and a red cap with a question mark, Dj KG effortlessly commanded the afternoon crowd as if he was spinning in the comfort of his home. He may have looked fresh-faced like a novice, but the Deep House that boomed out of Mzoli’s speakers was simply, deadly.
Since opening its doors in 2003, Mzoli’s has become a place where local talent is nurtured by the community, bringing all walks of life under one roof transcending any social distances for one purpose – a love of food and music.
Here, you will not find the rooftop glitzy champagne cocktails, mirrored bars, people waiting to tend to your every need, or even decent washrooms. But, at Mzoli’s, the truth is that beauty lies in simplicity. And, as in many cases in life, sometimes the best things are only found when you travel off the beaten path.