Self-catering options at Liz at Lancaster Guesthouse

Tired of eating out every night when traveling? Want to come ‘home’, kick off your shoes and relax outside?  You can do all when staying at Liz at Lancaster.  Access to fully equipped kitchenettes in each unit allows you to enjoy meals ‘at home’ in the peace and privacy of their own space. What a boon at the end of a frenetic day.

Excellent pre-prepared meals, salads, cold meats, cheeses, fruit and veg at Woollies. Hyde Park has a large food section

Excellent pre-prepared meals, salads, cold meats, cheeses, fruit and veg at Woollies. Hyde Park has a large food section

With a Spar at the end of  the block, a Pick n Pay 5 blocks away (Lancaster Centre) and three Woolworths within 2 kms,  (Hyde Park, Parktown North and Valley Shopping Centre), there are plenty of stores to buy groceries.  Of course Woollies has everything from frozen meals for heating up in a microwave back ‘home’ at Liz at Lancaster, to a wide selection of prepared salads, exotic snacks like smoked trout, snoek pate, hummus and dips, wraps and cooked vege dishes … nothing you could want for.

And even better there are several places close by where guests can get excellent pre-cooked meals.  One of my favourites is the Pick n Pay in the Lancaster Centre where they have a daily choice of hot dishes at incredibly reasonable prices.   The best is a chicken stew with creamy mashed potato and a choice of veges – all for about R35.  The dishes are basic but wholesome, tasty and so reasonable. You can’t make it at home for that cost.


Seriously delicious food and great variety. Pay by weight.

Seriously delicious food and great variety. Pay by weight.

At the Dunkeld  Shopping Centre, Fournos have a fabulous deli; a great salad bar, with lots of delish things like caprese salad, lentil and chickpea salads, stuffed peppers; and a stunning array of hot prepared dishes. It’s perfect for vegetarians as there’s a wide choice of really tasty and substantial vege dishes – stuffed sweet potato; brinjal stacks with tomato, cheese and basil; peppers filled with spicy beans and corn; tomatoes with a creamy mushroom filling; mixed grilled veges – different options daily. There’s also always a choice of chicken, beef and lamb dishes as well as fish and pasta.  They also fill panini with all sorts of delectables. Mouthwatering …but be prepared, it comes at a price.

Next door to Fournos is Dunkeld Fisheries, where a sushi chef makes to order while you wait.  Although the selection of fish is usually limited to salmon, tuna and prawn, the sushi, maki, fashion sandwiches and handrolls are delicious and reasonable.  While you are at the fishmonger you can buy something that will keep in the fridge back at the guesthouse– smoked trout, pickled fish, taramousalata – or go retro and revisit the 70s –  buy some prawn mayonnaise to have with a delicious creamy avocado.

At the Market Place in Craighall Park you can get excellent home-cooked frozen meals – pastas, curries, stews and great soups.  Vegetarians are catered for – the vegetarian bobotie is delicious as is the mushroom nut roast.  The quiches are scrumptious and the homemade ice-cream is to die for.

Moema’s in Parktown North is great for salads – not cheap but oh so different and good. Unusual combinations of roasted pumpkin and feta, glazed beetroot,  pan-grilled tomatoes and herbs. Sophisticated fare and a real treat.

Wide choice of salads, cooked veges, main courses, salads, cheeses at Thrupps

Wide choice of salads, cooked veges, main courses, salads, cheeses at Thrupps

A little further afield in Illovo, the well-known upmarket grocer Thrupps has a wonderful selection of salads, cheeses, cold meats as well as precooked hot dishes. And of course there are loads of mouth-watering specialist items to tempt you.

And the Pick n Pay on Nicol Highway rivals Thrupps for scale, choice, presentation and temptation.  Everything you could want and more. And there’s also a great eatery  ‘Thyme on Nicol’ with a Sushi bar and an excellent light meal menu. It is always buzzing.

So stock up on a selection of meals and snacks, buy a bottle of wine and come ‘home’ to relax in the peace and privacy of your patio back at ‘Liz at Lancaster’.


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Spin into Orbit with Science, Cocktails and Jazz

Orbit OrbitThis city of Jozi never ceases to amaze me that for all its grittiness (or maybe it’s precisely because of this edginess), it is so compulsively creative and trend-setting.  On the last Tuesday of every month the Orbit in Braamfontein holds an evening, called Science and Cocktails, where science meets art.  There’s a particular interest currently among many artists and curators to examine the interface between these two apparently divergent ways of making meaning in the world.  Think Karel Nel’s involvement in the Cosmos project, mapping clusters of galaxies in a 2 degree square area of the sky; Gerard Marx’s interest in roots and maps of the stars;  Cyril Coetzee’s 2014 exhibition Exact Imagination: 300 Years of Botanically Inspired Art in South Africa at the Standard Bank Gallery; and Joni Brenner’s  extraordinary Life of Bone exhibition at the Origins Centre in 2011; to name but a few.

And here at the Orbit jazz venue in the heart of Braamfontein, we have an initiative which brings academic scientific research to the public in an accessible way and in a social and inclusive context.  So ordinary people like me, who feel intimidated by current developments in scientific research, can listen to luminaries in their field talk about their latest research while relaxing in an informal and convivial environment  .. all the while being entertained by some of the country’s top musicians and sipping a penicillin cocktail or some such!

Aids vaccine in the offing?

Aids vaccine in the offing?

I mean how much more intimidating can it get with concepts like spacetime, string theory and quantum fields which were covered in last month’s talk by Robert de Mello Koch, professor in theoretical physics at Wits. And I can’t believe I also missed the August talk on finding a vaccine for AIDS by Lynn Morris, head of HIV virology at the Centre for HIV & STIs at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases. Her talk was followed by musical magic from great musos like bassist Peter Sklair; guitarist Louis Mhlanga; and pianist Paul Hamner. What an evening!

Dung beetlesI’m devastated that I will be away for the next talk on 22nd September. Dung beetles have fascinated me since I first learnt that when rolling those huge balls of poop backwards, they know where they’re going by reading the sun’s position or that of the Milky Way.  And how long did it take before humans could do that? Working out direction through the sun’s position I mean … not rolling huge balls of poop backwards!  And through all this gedunte, the females of some species cling with their hind legs to this ever-growing Sisyphian challenge while giving birth .. well… laying eggs …  into ever-increasing layers of excrement. But I digress – how did I get here?  Marcus Byrne (professor at the School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences at Wits) will talk about exactly this on the 4th Tuesday in September, amongst other amazing things, such as  how dung beetles hold their breath for up to 30 minutes – I’m finished! And maybe the dung beetle is too.


Image Courtesy:

I have the October event (Tuesday 27th) written in permanent ink in my diary (if I had a stone tablet it would be carved). Entitled ‘Route to roots: understanding human origins’ – another dilettantish interest of mine – Himla Soodyall talks about our genetic ancestry; how modern humans came to occupy all parts of the globe; and whether humans exchanged  genes with Neanderthals.  Himla Soodyall is director of the Human Genomic Diversity and Disease Research Unit at the University of the Witwatersrand. (I love how nobody is called by his/her title of Dr or Professor).

And the final one in the 2015 series is a talk entitled ‘Let there be light’ by Andrew Forbes on Tuesday November 24th. Andrew’s research interests include laser beams and resonators, digital holography, orbital angular momentum and quantum optics – now there’s a real conversation stopper!

Art & CocktailsScience and Cocktails
started in Copenhagen in 2010 as an initiative involving, amongst others, the Physics Department of Copenhagen’s University. The Jozi chapter, (and Joburg is the only other place where it takes place outside Denmark),  was set up by Kevin Goldstein, associate professor in physics at Wits University and Pretoria University associate professor Konstantinos Zoubos.  Goldstein says that they wanted to make people aware of some of the great science being done in South Africa.  ‘It should be part of the cultural landscape, like art, literature, poetry, music or TV … We want to create a forum for South Africa’s leading scientists to communicate their results directly to the public’ .  And it’s not only a creative and  exciting way of doing so,  but amazingly on top of all this,  there’s only a R20 entrance fee charged. This is thanks to sponsorship from the  Science & Cocktails Foundation (Denmark) and SA National Institute for Theoretical Physics.

So much of Joburg drives me mad: like healthy people who park in disabled parking; taxis which use oncoming lanes as a matter of course; and the lack of suburban pavements forcing runners, the elderly, child minders, and ME to walk in the road – and that’s only 3 things that make me grind my teeth.  But despite all that, I  do also so love Jozi and all it has to offer.

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The ABC of Craighall Park


26 reasons to love the area …. 

A great sense of neighbourhood with a Residents’ Association which is held up as a leading example of community social activism.

Fournos at Dunkeld West Shopping Centre

Fournos at Dunkeld West Shopping Centre

B is for Fournos which means Bakery in Greek – one of the best in Jozi.   Its Greek fare vies with the French style breads and pastries at the Patisserie in neighbouring Blairgowrie. The latter’s baguettes and chocolate brownies win hands down.  Fournos has great bistro style food and an excellent precooked meal by weight section. The Patisserie makes to die for breakfasts. There is also a very good Butchery at the Valley shopping centre where you can get scrumptious skewered marinated chicken thighs. And if you’re a carnivore – delish biltong too.


Colourful Splendour  is a wonderful nursery down by the Spruit – seedlings, perennials, indigenous plants galore.  It’s difficult to practice restraint when shopping there.

Self-seeding cosmos at Delta in autumn. It was introduced via contaminated horsefeed imported from Argentina during the SA War in the early  20th C

Self-seeding cosmos at Delta in autumn. Cosmos was introduced via contaminated horsefeed imported from Argentina during the SA War at the turn of the 20th Century

Delta Park  is a fabulous stretch of open parkland along the Braamfontein Spruit  with dams and great birdlife. It’s a favourite for cyclists, joggers, walkers and their dogs but just make sure you go when it is busy –  mornings and evenings and over weekends.  There have been incidents when it is very empty.

Exclusive books is one of SA’s independent bookstores with a branch at neighbouring Hyde Park Shopping Centre.  Take some time out to browse the shelves and you can even take a few books and skim through them while you enjoy a coffee at the in-house Seattle Coffee shop.

F is for Flowers at Dunkeld West Fruiterers  – hearsay is that their turnover from flowers is more than their turnover from fruit and veg.  They make up beautiful bunches of your choice. No matter what flowers I choose,  I always have flower-envy when I’m there. Other people’s bunches always look way better than mine!

Gym – There’s a recently renovated Planet Fitness Gym at the end of Lancaster Ave with a pool, Pilates studio, a choice of gym classes and good circuit equipment. I can’t say I know it intimately!

Hackle Brooke Conference Centre - well run and great venue

Hackle Brooke Conference Centre – well run and great venue

Hodges is a great family eatery in the Colony Centre.  Friendly,  good food and excellent Sunday lunches.  Warm and cosy inside in winter and lovely outdoor space in summer.   H is also for Hackle Brooke Conference Centre on the Cnr of Conrad and Jan Smuts – 5 minutes from Liz at Lancaster. It’s very well run with excellent facilities.

Internet connection – the new basic essential. The suburb has rolled out one of the first Fibre To The Home [FTTH]  infrastructres  in Joburg.  With fibre optic cables of up to 100meg speeds, it is state of the art technology in South Africa.

Jewelry store at the Dunkeld West Shopping Centre – another family run business with great personal service. They stock Farah: a wonderful brand range of stylish, hard-wearing and incredibly inexpensive watches.

Kid-friendly venues. There are 2 in Craighall Park – Delta Park has an amazing kids playground near the Environmental Centre (entrance off  Craighall Road Victory Park). And at Delta Café  (off Marlborough Drive), littlies can picnic on the grass, clamber up the ladders and slide, get goodie packets to keep them busy, all while adults enjoy a chilled meal at tables  in the dappled shade.

Location! Location! Location!   Almost equidistant from the business and leisure hubs of Sandton and Jozi Central, and 3km from Rosebank, Craighall Park is one of the most centrally positioned suburbs within the inner zone of Joburg.

Market Place makes delicious precooked frozen meals – lasagnes, curries, quiches as well as fabulous home industry cakes and biscuits. Their lemon meringue ice-cream is worth every spoon of calorie intake.

Craft On 4th Ave Photo Courtesy TimesLive

Craft On 4th Ave
Photo Courtesy TimesLive

N is for the Neighbouring suburb of Parkhurst which has loads of pavement cafes, coffee spots and eateries along 4th Ave. It’s a great place to browse the wide variety of little antique outlets, gift stores and small specialty shops.

O is for the outdoors – every Saturday morning there is a Park Run at Delta Park. You can be one of those who runs the 5km, or you can amble along with or without dogs and children in strollers. Either way it’s a great start to the week-end.

Pizzerias – Casalotti’s  makes the best thin based pizza (takeaways) and Toni’s Pizzeria cnr Lancaster and Clarence has a great outside deck area where you can relax with a glass of wine and enjoy delicious pizzas and salads.

Q is for the Quirky hipster haven of Warm and Glad, the place where office-less millennials get their work done.  It has a small but interesting menu.

Cnr Cafe 3 blocks from Liz at Lancaster

Cnr Cafe 3 blocks from Liz at Lancaster

And there are Restaurants galore in Craighall Park – from the award-winning restaurant DW 11-13, to the trendy neighbourhood bistro, the Cnr. Café, pastas at Pronto, the tranquil setting of Burnsides and the cheap and cheerful Chinese as well as the Italian Modo Mia at Shepherd’s Bush on Jan Smuts Ave. And of course not forgetting that H is for Hodges.

S is for sushi.  Want a quick and healthy lunch ‘on the hoof’ ?  Stop by the Fisherman’s Deli at the Dunkeld  Shopping Centre and pick up some sushi and sashimi made while you wait. And you can also choose some fresh fish of the day for supper.

Toast is a chic upmarket beauty salon where you can get great pedicures, manicures and facials.  And if you haven’t  spent enough on your pampering, there are shoes, handbags, jewelry and lots of accessories and trinkets to tempt you.

Ultra chic Hyde Park is across Jan Smuts from Craighall Park – expensive boutiques , lots of ladies who lunch, a wide choice of eateries and a Metro cinema complex.

Video Spot at the Colony Centre has an amazing selection of movies on DVD and probably the best selection of series (BBC, foreign language as well as standard American fare).

Want a fun vibey Watering hole – try Giles on Grafton Ave where there’s a great pub space which spills out onto an outdoor deck area – a favourite for sports lovers to watch their teams and packed for TGIF drinks.

X  Marks the spot of Liz at Lancaster Guesthouse, one of several guesthouses in Craighall Park.

Worshippers sing and dance around a central leader/preacher while somebody drums

Worshippers who wear white, blue or green,  chant, and clap while dancing to drum beats around the central leader/preacher.

Y is for a big Yes for living in Craighall Park.

Z  is for the Zionist independent church gatherings where members meet in their small groups to worship on Sunday afternoons down in Delta Park. Their singing, dancing and drumming can be heard in the distance at Liz at Lancaster.

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