If power goes off, Liz at Lancaster Guesthouse has light!

Solar Lantern by Consol Glass. Photo: Liz at Lancaster Guesthouse

Solar Lantern by Consol Glass. Photo: Liz at Lancaster Guesthouse

Whether its load shedding, power failure or un-notified “scheduled” maintenance, unexpected ‘lights out’ can happen on occasions.  This gives us an added challenge here at Liz at Lancaster Guesthouse with some foreign guests not always able to follow written directions in English and others just annoyed by the lack of power. However we smooth the path with simple signs and battery backup for WiFi (today’s essential)!

Then along came an item that not only provided magical light but also an intriguing conversation point that delighted our guests. We have even sold some directly to a guest or two. This was the Consol Preserve Bottle Solar Lamp. It brought a solution and conversation point of SA ingenuity and just plain admiration for a simple every day item being put to such a useful end in a very attractive way. It really hits the “green” button (in more ways than one) with our guests.

We needed more of them and some required replacing as they had run their life time course. On unpacking them back at the guesthouse, everyone – to a bottle – did not work. They went on for 30 seconds then off, then flashed once or twice then permanently off. Pity … loaded them all up ready to return them under warranty.  However as one always does on these occasions – we decided to read the instructions!

Neat solar lighting at Liz at Lancaster Guesthouse

Neat solar lighting at Liz at Lancaster Guesthouse

The Consol Solar Lamp has some neat new features.   In the event of sudden darkness it  lights up automatically and stays on for a bit so you can find it in the dark.   If you need it to shine for longer periods (can go up to 12 hours on a single charge) you simply flip the switch over manually. Very neat!  This can be a way to provide light to a dark path or corner which gets some sun to charge the lamp during the day.  And guess what ? In the unlikely event of it being a cloudy day, there is even a USB charging feature. These are all clear indicators of major product development – well done Consol Glass!

We also discovered the quick little flashes, that appear after it has turned itself off, tell you how much charge there is in the battery:

  • 5 flashes battery is full
  • 4 flashes battery is three quarters full
  • 3 flashes battery is half full
  • 2 flashes battery is quarter full
  • 1 flash battery is almost empty

And the instructions were not even difficult to follow and the lamps are all actually working perfectly!

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The REEA community initiative is so worth supporting and there’s lots for kids to do

Recently a family with 2 energetic young boys stayed at Liz at Lancaster. As they did not have a car, they wanted to be able to do things nearby where their 2 little ones could let off some steam. One of their favourite places was the

Colourful Splendour, REEA and Delta Cafe

Colourful Splendour, REEA and Delta Cafe

REEA/Colourful Splendour Nursery/Delta Café ‘complex’ – 5 blocks away  from Liz at Lancaster – down the hill …..  but not forgetting that a return journey entails an uphill trek!  I have written about the little haven which is Delta Café in several posts http://www.lizatlancaster.co.za/blog/escape-to-the-country-only-5-blocks-from-liz-at-lancaster  With its shaded deck, grassy area, small playground for kids, water bowls for dogs, and bike racks for riders, it’s a firm weekend breakfast favourite with cyclists & dog walkers, fun for family lunches on high days and holidays, and a peaceful mid-week afternoon escape for Mums/Grandmas (like me!) and Grandpas with toddlers. Delta Café is open every day except Mondays.

Although Liz at Lancaster buys annuals and seedlings in bulk, there are always reasons to nip down to Colourful Splendour for fillers.  Any visit is a disaster for the credit card balance – bookshops and garden shops are my Achilles heel. But it’s so convenient too and the staff and management are really helpful.

At the southern end of the property behind the nursery is the REEA Foundation originally known as the Rand Epileptic  Employment Association.  Started in 1935 by doctors at the Lady Dudley Nursing Home in Hillbrow, it provides 24 hour care for people affected with epilepsy and mild neurological disorders. Over 40 people are housed in  a home-style hostel at nearby York Ave.   The Foundation runs various innovative initiatives which provide sustainable funding solutions.  One of these is the vegetable garden which not only provides vegetables to the hostel kitchen in York Ave and sells to the public on Wednesday mornings (along with fresh eggs and lavender bunches), but also supplies the kitchen of famous chef David Higgs, previously of the Saxon and now of the Marble Restaurant in Lower Rosebank.  I was wandering through the garden a few days ago and there was a man in chef’s outfit examining the rows of crops.  Trying not to be too invasive, I asked if he used these veges for his kitchen. It turned out that he was Werner, David Higgs’ Head Chef and he was having a squizz at what was available prior to the media opening of the Marble Restaurant a few days later to be followed by the soft opening with family and friends. (I tried to hint that I could be Werner’s NBF but it didn’t work.) Apparently Werner, David and Danielle (who oversees the running of  the REEA vegetable garden) as well as

Scarecrows galore

Scarecrows galore

Vege garden - all it needs is Peter, Mr McGregor and his hoe and sieve

Vege garden – all it needs is a naughty Peter Rabbit & Mr McGregor with his hoe and sieve

various chefs around the country, exchange information and trade secrets and even swap and share rare and special vege seeds. So it’s a very impressive initiative.   I love this vege garden. It evokes all those Anglophile childhood stories I inhaled as a small girl. There are scarecrows, and shade nets, and sheds, and pots and watering cans. The only anachronistic items are the suspended CDs glistening and reflecting as they sway in the wind. I wonder if they work better that scarecrows? Apart from these 21st century mobiles, I expect Mr McGregor to appear any minute chasing a scuttling scurrying Peter Rabbit with his rake. Childhood memories are deeply etched. At the end of the vege garden is the chicken coop with a very big, very beautiful and very self-important rooster who struts and crows and generally lords it over his harem of clucking hens. My grandsons are riveted by both him and his hens.

SignpostSeveral other initiatives include  a second hand bookshop; a charity shop –

Rambling Rose The Charity Shop

Rambling Rose The Charity Shop

Rambling Rose; a pet food delivery service; a furniture repair and a car wash service, the latter two run by York Ave residents, Paul and Cedric respectively.   There is also a venue hire option in the garden area of Rambling Rose – a secluded peaceful spot with tables, chairs and access to a kitchen.

 

 

Courtyard and garden venue for hire with access to kitchen

Courtyard and garden venue for hire with access to kitchen

Rustic feature on the wall

Rustic feature on the wall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And at the south end of the vegetable gardens are the stables.   The Egoli Ranger Base is a community-based 2016 July Horse in water croppedEquestrian Centre.  The Rangers work with several community and local government  structures such as City Parks, JMPD, Joburg Water, Rand Water, HIV/Aids NGOs, schools and local Residents’ Associations.  When they started several years ago, they had only 2 horses. Today the Ranger Base owns 20 horses and ponies, most of whom are rescue animals.  They conduct daily patrols along the Braamfontein Spruit monitoring ecological, social, and security conditions. Their equestrian activities include instructions, outrides, pony parties, and riding for children and adults with physical challenges. When my grandchildren and I were exploring the stables one day (such fun), I asked my 3 year old if he didn’t want to ride a horse.  Although I meant ‘pony ride on a leading rein’, I thought to use the word ‘pony’ was too way too pedantic for a 3 year old. He adopted  a somewhat accusing, even self-righteous expression (as though I really was an irresponsible grandparent) as he reprimanded me quite firmly as if I should be more fully aware of this state of affairs : ‘But Nana I am too little to ride a horse’. Methinks that like his uncle, he is a little wary of these amazing 4 legged animals.

When we walk along the Braamfontein spruit we see the horses out in the paddocks and sometimes grazing on the bank of the spruit.  I am constantly reminded of why I love this suburb.

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Fabulous food at The Leopard in Melville

Artichokes with breadcrumbs, basil and parmesan

Artichokes with breadcrumbs, basil and parmesan

I’ve been wanting to have a meal at the Leopard for several years. I never managed to get there while it was in Parkhurst (despite being just down the road) but went several weeks ago to its current location in Melville.   Many years back Andrea Burgener was a Fine Arts student at Wits when I taught History of Art there,  so I know her creative leanings and talents well.   On leaving Wits she wanted a break from living in her head to doing something just as creative but that brought more instant gratification (I can so relate to that.)  As she said:  ‘make a dish, serve it, it gets eaten and move onto the next creation’.  So all her inspiration, innovation, energy and individuality was channeled into becoming one of Joburg’s best chefs and restauranteurs – all the while being a mother of 3 after marrying Nick Gordon ( a fellow Fine Arts student.)

Hoisin duck strips with slivered raw veg, ginger syrup and short grain rice

Hoisin duck strips with slivered raw veg, ginger syrup and short grain rice

Andrea started cooking  occasionally at Bob’s Bar in Troyeville in the mid 1990s while still a student. Close by was the well-known Kitchenboy restaurant run by the larger-than- life Braam Kruger (who when spit-roasting a lamb decided to replace the traditional embedded garlic cloves with liquorice allsorts!) You can see why Braam and Andrea got on – and so she started cooking with him. Andrea opened Superbonbon in Richmond (near Auckland Park)  in 1999 and has criss-crossed  Joburg with various memorable restaurants from Richmond  to Deluxe in Parktown North to a re-envisioned Deluxe at 44 Stanley, to Parkhurst (The Leopard) and back to Melville.

When asked by Layla Leiman in 2013 (10and5.com) what she wanted to do when she was growing up Andrea answered:  ‘First a chef, then changed to a painter, then a brain surgeon, then back to painter, and then, here we are. All three require a steady hand, and two require good knife skills, so I guess there are some links.’  Andrea is funny, clever, quirky and quick! All attributes reflected in her cooking style.

The bill served in an old-fashioned biscuit tin with jelly tots and a homemade nut brittle

The bill served in an old-fashioned biscuit tin with jelly tots and a homemade nut brittle

Superbonbon was great fun with its off-the-wall trashy-style where the food was served in one of those  compartmentalized airline food trays. ‘Chicken or beef?’ took on a whole new meaning. And on order were items such as coco pops and liquorice all-sorts. The madness was memorable. While there are still quirky elements at the Leopard, with Zoo biscuits and tea as a dessert offering, and the bill delivered in a fabulous old-fashioned tin decorated with a leopard image and presented with jelly tots, in the main the zaniness has been toned down without compromising the quality, individuality and integrity of Andrea’s cooking style.

Menu

Stuffed quail with rice, nuts, lemon and all sorts of delectable goodies

Stuffed quail with rice, nuts, lemon and all sorts of delectable goodies plus a lightly chilied Mozambiquan sauce

We both had items on the specials list so of course I cannot remember the full list of ingredients. Our starters were delicious fish cakes in a subtle sauce and fresh artichokes with a basil and breadcrumb topping. For mains I had the stuffed quail (with the most scrummy nut, lemon and garlic rice stuffing) and the surprising but oh-so-successful pairing of a subtly spiced chili Mozambiquan sauce, while my partner had a dish of Hoisin duck strips with raw veg and chili ginger syrup. Delicious all round. Andrea’s menu is unusual and different with fabulous subtle flavours and unexpected taste combinations. Her food is satisfying, generous, easy on the palate, not precious and delightfully individual.

 

Lampedus Pie by Andrea Burgener

Lampedus Pie by Andrea Burgener

Andrea and Nick took the name the Leopard for their restaurant from Giuseppe Lampedusa’s novel Il Gattopardo, (The Leopard). So of course when Andrea wrote her first cookbook in 2013 she included the recipe for the chicken and macaroni pie or timbale, which Lampedusa describes in his book.

And Andrea is generous – a wonderful quality. She is no egotistical prima-donna. Another of my favourite eateries is The Patisserie de Paris in Mackay Ave Blairgowrie – they produce the most sublimely sinful brownies. Proudly displayed behind the till at the Patisserie is a newspaper article by Andrea in which she says how she always thought her brownies were the best until she tasted those from The Patisserie De Paris.  It is this kind of generosity which is reflected in the Leopard – in its menu, its ambience and the whole dining experience.

I recommended the Leopard to guests staying at Liz at Lancaster http://www.lizatlancaster.co.za and they raved about it.   You can find the Leopard is at 63A, 4th Avenue (corner 5th Avenue), Melville 011 482 9356

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