Unless you’re visiting Pretoria with a specific purpose, you probably have very little need or desire to visit the capital city. It doesn’t have very good PR, but if you’re tired of what Johannesburg has to offer — or just need to get out of the city for a day or two — Pretoria has some great leisure options that make the 40-minute commute on the N1 worth it. Here are four of my favorites.
Hazel Food Market
Everyone in South Africa loves markets — especially in the summertime. Pretoria is home to one of my favourites, Hazel Food Market, which takes place every Saturday from 8am-2pm at Greenlyn Village Centre. They also have a special night market on the first Saturday of each month from 5pm-10pm. It is definitely the biggest market I’ve ever been to, and it’s completely outdoors. There are mainly food vendors, but you’ll also come across some quaint home décor stands.
The market is focused on quality and novelty — nothing is run-of-the-mill. I tried food at quite a few of the stands and was really impressed. I particularly love the vegetarian quesadillas from Amigos — the salsa, sour cream and guacamole combination was fantastic. The gourmet boerie stand offers something a bit more filling, and includes old-fashioned sweet mustard, caramelized onions, chunky tomato relish and fresh chilli to add to your roll. Prices are reasonable — most meals sell for around R50. For dessert, it’s hard to decide between the authentic pasties de natas at the Portuguese stand, or cupcakes from Minkie’s Cupcake Emporium, so you may want to try both — they don’t disappoint. The Portuguese milk tarts have a flaky, crispy crust with a silky smooth centre, while the cupcakes are incredible and taste as good as they look.
Not unlike other markets in SA, the market gets packed — bordering on uncomfortably busy. There is a huge seating section in the centre, but you still may be unable to find a free spot. I’ve seen quite a few people bring their own table decorations, while others even have board games with them. It’s clear that the market is a day-long hangout for the entire family, including pets.
64 13th street, Pretoria
Irene Country Lodge
For a taste of the country in the middle of the city, a Sunday spent at Irene Country Lodge is a good idea. The lodge is situated on a huge property which comprises a lake surrounded by beautifully manicured gardens. Order a picnic basket in advance, and sit on the grass and watch the ducks. Spending the night here is a real treat — rooms are spacious, with patios that overlook the lush, green meadow. The lodge’s spa, Camdeboo (named after the white stinkwood trees that grow in the area), is fantastic. Guests can use all the spa facilities when booking a treatment, which include a Jacuzzi, steam room, pool with relaxation area and sensation showers.
Nellmapius Drive, Irene, Tel: 012-667-6464
Irene Dairy Farm
About 1km up the road from the lodge you’ll find Irene Dairy Farm, a working farm with a herd of 120 cows. Irene Dairy Farm is family owned, and has been since 1895, when it was founded. Visitors can explore the farm at their leisure. My first stop is always the Farm Stall, where I pick up a milk tart for R30. I’m a huge fan of the dessert and Irene’s version is my favourite. From there, you can take a walk through the farm and watch the cows being milked, or have a look at the other animals like ponies and goats — especially fun for kids. The Barn restaurant has a nice setting, but below-average food. Quite honestly, the smell of the farm bothers me while eating, so I prefer just walking around and having a meal elsewhere in the area.
Nellmapius Drive, Irene, Tel: 012-667-2326
Pretoria has lots of cool cafes and bars, but doesn’t have too much to offer when it comes to fine dining. Kream, in Brooklyn, is an exception. It’s one of the larger restaurants I’ve eaten at, with double-volume ceilings and two private dining rooms. Carefully curated artwork and sculptures add to the mood, which is upmarket but trendy at the same time.
If you’re a carb lover, I’m happy to report that Kream’s warm, crusty bread rolls served with olive tapenade, sundried tomato paste and soft balls of salted butter, completely hit the spot.
It’s rare for that starters are better than mains at a restaurant, but in Kream’s case, this is the case. The tiger prawns wrapped in phyllo pastry with avo and haloumi are great — the prawns are meaty, and delicious once dipped into the sweet soy sauce. Sorbet is served after starters, which is a bit unusual for this type of restaurant, but a nice touch.
The mains aren’t bad by any means, but they aren’t on the same level as the starters. I’ve tried both the Cape Malay chicken and prawn curry and the lamb chops, both of which are a bit on the bland side, but not totally lacking in flavour.
For dessert, try the walnut bread and butter pudding served with peanut butter ice cream — a winner. Also notable are the sweet triple brownies: the are a mix of Ferrero Rocher, rocky road and white chocolate (which are a tad hard, but still very good).
570 Fehrson Street, Brooklyn, Tel: 012-346-4642