Top 3% ! Thank you team Liz at Lancaster!

We have just received the following in an email from

Liz at Lancaster Guesthouse has just been awarded the HotelsCombined Recognition of Excellence for 2016!

This award is in recognition for consistently achieving the highest standards of Customer Satisfaction worldwide. We know this because the team here at HotelsCombined undertook the largest analysis of customer opinions online across millions of points of data. We now have a complete and comprehensive understanding of over one million hotels worldwide, taking our team of data experts months to finalize.

From left to right: Thandie, Rose, Tagala, Liz, Alick and Catherine

From left to right: Thandie, Rose, Tagala, Liz, Alick and Catherine

Specifically to date, we found and processed 256 opinions that your guests have posted on a variety of different websites, forums and social media, resulting in an incredible score of 9.85 out of a possible 10.

You are now representing the top 3% of accommodation worldwide for Customer Satisfaction.

It is a huge honour to have received this award. However, while we would not go as far as Mark Twain who said ‘ There’s lies, damned lies and statistics’,  we are a little cautious of the claim of being in the top 3% worldwide!  But we accept the positive feedback and recognition gratefully, and commit to continuing to provide excellent service going forward.

Thanks to team Liz at Lancaster: Tagala Mlalazi (aka Mr T), Catherine Mahlangu, Thandie Makamo, Rose Mpofu and Alick Ncube.  Without all of you (and Liz!) this would not have been possible. And of course to the most important people of all – our guests.  A huge thank you to all of you for your ongoing loyalty and support.

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Exciting developments in Jozi Inner City: No One Eloff St

Last week’s Pick of the Week was  the  week-end Pop-Up market at Joziburg Lane.  Heeding my own

Joziburg Lane food market from mezzanine level

Looking down on the Joziburg Lane food market from the mezzanine level

suggestion, on Saturday I met up with a friend who’s always up for a bit of exploring and off we went to No One Eloff (cnr Wemmer Jubilee). Gerald Garner of Joburg Places fame, and the initial developer of The Sheds at 1 Fox St, has rented a large ground floor space at No One Eloff Street.  Recently painted in an unmissable eye-catching yellow and blue, No One Eloff Street is a large building which used to be a massive parking garage. Bought by the property developers Molten Black early last year, , it is in the process of being turned into a major residential and retail hub. While the residential part of the project is close to completion (more of that below), the food market is still very much in its early undeveloped phase and is only due to open properly in August. However we got a feel for what Joziburg Lane will offer as it becomes a more permanent fixture. The formula is much the same as The Sheds at 1 Fox:  various shops and stalls, different food and drink options, live music and with a fabulous north-facing mezzanine deck where you can check out the market space below as well as look over a different view of Jozi’s  urbanscape. Joziburg Lane gets its name from the alleyway adjacent to the main building which culminates in the foodhall/market/events space seen in the photo above.  To show you how fast things happen in Joburg, check the photos on 2 Summers’ blog post written on 8 April 2016 where the ground floor space of Joziburg Lane is an empty shell!

1 Eloff st

Temporary sculpture exhibition in one of the central courtyards. The courtyard is surrounded by 2 floors of apartments.

After chilling on the sun-soaked deck over a beer shandy and a samoosa, we went in search of the sculpture exhibition advertised as being in one of the courtyards of the building. Off we set not quite sure of where we were going but following the typed signs saying ‘Sculpture exhibition This Way -> Opens at 2 pm’.  Up stairs, through heavy metal swing doors, across parking garage ramps, over a fair bit of building rubble, into smart face-brick corridors lined with freshly painted and brightly-coloured and numbered doors, we eventually emerged into a spacious inner courtyard where the sculptures were on display. (I loved Guy du Toit’s humorous hat on a plastic chair – all cast in bronze).  Wanting to find out more about the living spaces facing onto the courtyard, we tried to access them from an inside corridor.  We met a young man emerging from one of the apartments who very graciously showed us inside his living space – a downstairs area with kitchen, bathroom, tiny living area, with 2 open mezzanine loft sleeping areas built in the double volume space.  We later tagged onto a group being shown around by Geoff Jardine of Molten Black and saw another as yet unoccupied apartment.

1 Eloff St apartment

Looking down on the kitchen area and bathroom across to the 2nd mezzanine sleeping section. A small living area below faces the kitchen

Work started last April to convert the empty inner shell of this huge parking garage into 320 loft style apartments, offices, artists’ studios and retails spaces.  The flats (with a starting rental of R3500 a month) are arranged in circular formations with windows either facing out to the street or onto large internal courtyards. Each circle of apartments is colour coded : green, yellow, red, purple or blue. All materials – windows, beams, balustrades, trunking and metal fittings, doors, doors numbers, etc.  were custom-made in Molten Black’s own workshop and work started in April 2015 and has continued every day 7 days a week since. Currently about two thirds of the apartments are occupied with around 40 tenants a month signing up and moving in.   There are one and  two ‘bed-roomed apartments’ with a couple of slightly larger units.

1 Eloff St

First tenants moved in a month ago and with 40 sign-ups a month there is always somebody moving in

Of course there will be long term issues around safety and security, building maintenance and overcrowding but if the residents are committed and involved and set up a residents’ committee, there are huge opportunities for a vibrant community with safe housing close to work, transport, shopping and leisure hubs. (The Faraday taxi rank is across the road on the south side.)

View across Jozi from 1 Eloff St

View north across Jozi from One Eloff St

There are so many markets and food halls in various regenerated urban industrial spaces in inner city Jozi: Neighbourgoods in Braamfontein on Saturdays, Market on Main in Maboneng on Sundays, The Sheds @ 1Fox, that there is perhaps the danger of an over-supply. But with the residential component of 1 Eloff, the proximity to Faraday taxi rank and the increasing number of residential developments in the inner city, there is also an ever increasing demand for convenient shopping and leisure hubs. So maybe wait a couple to months to allow for an increase in food stalls and product choice, and then take a trip to Jozburg Lane for a chilled weekend meal and to get a sense of 1 Eloff and see yet another example of creative vision and entrepreneurship which is providing much needed centrally- located residential accommodation and bringing Jozi inner city back to life.

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Posted in Art and Exhibitions, History and heritage, Liz at Lancaster News and Views, Pick of the week, Shopping | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What do these countries have in common with South Africa?

What do these countries have in common with South Africa?   Australia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Botswana, Canada, Fiji, India, Ireland, Malaysia, Mauritius, Namibia, New Zealand, Oman, Pakistan,  Singapore, Swaziland,  UAE, United Kingdom, Zambia, Zimbabwe  …..        ……… they all have a Nandos presence.

Nandos Pktn North 2Recently I had a sudden urge for a side dish of Nando’s spinach (well – it’s a lot healthier than wanting their chips!). While waiting for my dose of peri-peri  iron roughage –  despite that description  it is quite delicious – I took in the décor of the restaurant area. Again I was struck by Nando’s fun quirky style and it got me thinking about their success story and their brilliant branding.   Nando’s is yet another SA export which has made it big world-wide with, according to Wikipedia, 1000 outlets in 30 countries.  According to Nando’s website, Melbourne is the city with the most Nando’s restaurants in the world.   So Nando’s is a seriously winning formula where South African entrepreneurship  meets consistently good quality food, art,  zappy style, and quirky irreverent humour.


Peri periLike Sol Kerzner and Sun City but with a lot more humour and tongue-in-cheekiness, Nando’s  have a founding myth based on early explorers  to South Africa (in this case the Portuguese).  Their website claims:   ‘The story of Nando’s starts hundreds of years ago with the first Portuguese explorers who set sail for the East in search of the legendary spice route.  Lured by the promises of our beautiful continent, they came ashore and there, under our famous sun, they discovered the African Bird’s Eye Chilli or as we know it (and love it), PERi-PERi. Unique in its properties, they used it to create a one-of-a-kind sauce that ignited the fires of passion inside them.  A few centuries later, in 1987, it was the same PERi-PERi sauce that inspired Fernando Duarte to invite his buddy Robbie Brozin to a small Portuguese eatery in Rosettenville, South Africa, to try some PERi-PERi marinated chicken.’  Peri Peri or piri piri – the Swahili word for pepper pepper – is a member of the Capsicum family and while it has grown wild in many parts of Africa it is now cultivated commercially in Zambia, Uganda, Malawi, and Zimbabwe. It found its way to India via Goa and the Portuguese.

Round discs of seeds form a wall panel

Round discs of seeds form a wall panel

While good consistent food with a winning preparation recipe is their trademark – ‘Nando’s food is love at first bite’ – the décor style of the restaurants has reinforced the brand as hot, unconventional, fun and pushing the boundaries.  You’ll find chandeliers made from recycled bottles, wall features of round seed mats, pillars clad in recycled strips of multi-coloured wood and of course the restaurants are decorated with individual art and hand-crafted items.  Nandos Pktn North
Rather grandiosely and not quite so tongue in cheek they claim that the 3000 pieces of South African art in Nando’s UK restaurants is about 2,500 more than Tate Britain’s total display! And that they the largest buyer of South African contemporary art in the world.  This support of local art is a great project as it gives emerging artists a leg-up and both undiscovered and established artists and craftspeople a place to display their work.

Water station at public space in head office

Water station at public space in head office

Late last year I went to the fabulous art sale at Nando’s head office (also filled with funky décor details).  150 artists were asked to create an unsigned work on a page of Lauren Beukes’ Broken Monsters and the funds from each work sold, went towards buying illustrated books for children in need.

And perhaps most iconic of all, Nando’s has become synonymous with contentious, funny, up-to-the-minute advertising. Their campaigns have always taken a ‘no-holds-barred’ approach, poking fun at contentious subjects: remember the famous ‘tailgunner’ ad and the guide dog, so overcome by the mouthwatering smell of Nando’s chicken, that he led his charge straight into a street pole?  Of course the risqué subject of sex has been a standard favourite with the likes of ‘hot cocks’ and ‘chicks’ juices’.  Always quick to respond to current events they have produced ads within 24 hours of events happening.  On the death of North Korea’s Kim Jong II in 2011 – ‘Dear Korea it wasn’t us’ and after proposed plans for the purchase of a R4 billion presidential jet ‘JZ , We’ve got wings you don’t have to explain’.  Political figures and institutions have provided great material. In February of this year, after JZ proposed to #PayBackTheMoney they came up with ‘Quarter, half or full, Mr  President?   The 2014 ‘Fire it up’ ad is bitingly satirical of government blue light brigades:  In response to Eskom’s dreaded load-shedding  was ‘Eish Kom Nou’ with the ‘small’ print at the bottom saying ‘When the lights go out you can still enjoy a meal in.’  And opponents in the 2010 Soccer World Cup were an obvious target .  ‘Free coke for the South Americans’ and ‘To the Mexicans – Free lunch if you lose’

But perhaps one of the most controversial, memorable and funny ads was the one for the new 6-pack meal–vdxh4 Gaddafi and Mugabe have a water pistol fight in a garden to the jaunty lyrics and tune of ‘Those were the days my friend’ .  Then the Zimbabwean dictator pairs up with Saddam Hussein and both stripped to their underwear they make angel wings in the sand.  A giggling Mugabe pushes PW Botha (hat and all) on a swing and is then shown with Idi Amin on the back of a tank as they re-enact Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio’s  famous pose in the Titanic.  The ad ends with a solitary Mugabe,  and a pay-off line referring to the famous ‘Dinner for One’ British comedy clip saying that ‘at this time of the year, no one should ever eat alone – so get Nando’s six-pack meal’.  How anarchically Monty Pythonesque could you get?   Although most people found this ad extremely funny it also attracted huge criticism on the basis that it was polarizing and divisive.  Nando’s staff received threats so Nando’s  pulled the ad from being aired on television.

Nandos ProdiversityBut Nando’s have never steered clear of controversy and have often tackled serious issues with deep biting satire.  Their ad dealing with xenophobia was banned by television stations. So Nando’s ran a print ad in the Sunday Times showing the storyboard of the banned TV ad with the small print at the bottom of the ad reading:  SABC, DTSV, M-Net, have banned this ad. They’ve made a decision for you.   That’s why we are giving you the option of seeing it   Unlike our broadcasters we’re giving you the right to choose.

Nandos UKIn Sawyer’s 2010 Observer article (16 May) ‘How Nando’s conquered Britain’, she writes:  ‘The brand is now inextricably linked with a certain type of youthful, racially mixed, urban British pop star and, so, with modern, inner-city, multicultural Britain.’

At Liz at Lancaster we have had guests returning from the States, and the one of the first things they say is ‘We’ve got to get our fix of Nando’s’ .  A truly amazing success for 2 local boys who liked good peri peri chicken.

Nando’s Parktown North 011 442 6168 is a couple of kms from Liz at Lancaster so it’s an ideal bring-home meal for those guests who don’t feel like preparing anything ‘at home’. 


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Posted in Food & Wine, South Africa, Stories and encounters | Tagged , , , , | 1 Response