Sunday 22 April 2012

Art, coffee, imagination

Living in Britain I’m always struck by the fact that coffee houses, pubs and casual restaurants are so often part of a chain (meaning they have the same menu, same décor, same … same …), and even if not, how rarely they show any real spark of difference, individuality, creativity or imagination.

Visiting Cape Town inevitably brings the point home for me – as friends tell me the newest places to go for coffee, breakfast, lunch, I wonder how I’ll fit them all in to my time, along with the old favourite places. I grab my camera, my appetite, an old friend to catch up with, and go off to marvel at the innovative spirit and endless capacity for creating beauty and interest in even the most ordinary surroundings that Capetonians are famous for …

In town, Haas Coffee Collective,  specialising in exotic and rare coffees, was one of my new finds this visit ...

You can sit outside on the pavement or in a tiny sunny courtyard at the rear (above), but the real interest is inside, where the decor is a wonderful Africa- meets-Europe eclectic mix ...

The coffee shop is partly situated inside Haas's Design Collective - a quirky, diverse gallery of pictures, paintings, new and found objects and artefacts sourced from local artists ... 

It's hard to leave this place, with piles of interesting books to read over coffee, and art-work to explore ...

Haas Coffee Collective, 67 Rose Street, Bo-Kaap
But leave one must, eventually, and since Haas is in the Bo-Kaap - a historic area on the slopes of Signal Hill above the city centre - you can work off the delish food by taking a walk up and down these steep cobbled streets ...

These brightly painted homes go back to the 17th century when the area was settled by freed slaves, mostly of Malay origin. Despite being gentrified to a large extent recently, it's still the home and cultural heart of Cape muslims.

Table Mountain (top left) and Signal Hill (centre) are the backdrops to the Bo-Kaap
You'll hear the muezzins call to prayer from the mosques in this area, and at midday the noon-day gun - the cannon that fires daily from Signal Hill, since 1806, as a time signal for ships in the harbour. And a little down the road, towards the city centre, are the sounds of drums from live musicians in Long Street and Pan-African culture in the shops and markets around Greenmarket Square ...

This is going to have to be just the first of a few posts on Cape Town eating style. Haas was selected by design magazine Wallpaper last year as one of its top 20 reasons to be in South Africa, and I can think of so many more ...

(And on a different note, since Picnik closed and with it my go-to collage facility, I was thrilled to find a brilliant tutorial from a blogger here on Something Swanky explaining how to make a collage on Picmonkey despite the fact that they don't offer this yet. I've since wasted happy hours of my life playing with pictures, unconstrained by ready-made templates - I highly recommend taking a look if you have a collage addiction).


  1. Well, Starbucks has completely taken over the USA, so I know exactly what you mean. xx's

  2. Enjoyed reading this post. i can't wait to visit South africa!

  3. Btw I'm happy with Picmonkey for the basics.
    I would love to collage someday..
    Very interesting the comparison btwn London and Cape Town.
    But perhaps that's not possible.
    Is it possible to say SA still a new young country open to individual tastes and creative ventures?
    Karen of Ooh La La Confectionary is certainly adventurous with 17 marshmallow flavors.
    Perhaps the multi-global mindset has yet to creep in and take over in Cape Town.
    I can't say I'm happy to see Starbucks everywhere in Paris certainment :(

    1. You're right about the reasons for the differences, Carol, though there's another thing - an appreciation of quality of life in the daily business of living and eating - that seems to be lacking in Britain (perhaps the US too), but that Europeans seem to value more, as do South Africans. Terrible generalizations, I know, but in my experience generally true!
      I'm sorry to have missed Ooh La La while in Cape Town - just too many great places to visit ...

  4. Hi Karen Thanks for your visit! I'm dying to try the coffee shop you mention. I hadn't even heard about it. It often takes a non-Capetonian to show us where the good spots are. Thanks also for the link re the PicMonkey collages. I am really missing Picnik so will definitely give this one a try. I also loved your post on the Grand Cafe and Beach. It really is a magical place. Keep well x Sharon

  5. You make Cape Town sound/look most inviting.
    Maybe one day we will actually get there.
    As regards collages --there is an iPhone app called Frametastic.
    But I think you have to use the iphone as your camera.
    I enjoy it though the quality maybe less good than with a good camera.
    ps Frances told me how much she enjoyed meeting you!
    Buster sends greetings.

    1. thanks for the tip, Elizabeth - I do snap quite often with my iPhone, so will give it a try. I loved meeting Frances too and love how blogging makes these connections possible! Please send hugs & best wishes to Buster too.

  6. Those interiors at Haas were tremendous! What an interesting place, what energy and newness and even some rawness (not the photography type). South Africa was never on my radar until you started blasting in these images!
    The scenery and colors of houses in the Bo Kaap were a little bit reminiscent of Caribbean islands like St. Thomas ---

    1. It's the energy and rawness and idealism that I love most about it, Judith.
      Maybe the history of colonialism and slavery is what Cape Town and St Thomas have in common? I hadn't thought of the comparison before.

  7. In a daydream world I would love to open my own little tea/coffee shop cum gift shop selling only homemade eats and handmade treats - all made by local people (including myself of course!). And then I return to the real world and just treasure the little gems that I happen upon from time to time. Glad you have found some.

  8. Oh! The Cape is on my list of places to see. Your photos bring it alive, wonderfully! Thank you.
    Also for the link to the tip on PicMonkey... I prefer it to Picnik!

  9. PS thanks for Lucky's nose!
    Great dog nose reference for me :)

    1. Lucky is completely thrilled to know that a smart lady in NY/Paris thinks his nose is nice :)


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