Urban Garde Cuisine
Johannesburg, affectionately known as Jozi to many, is a vibrant hub of imaginative expression that has fast become a cultural, creative, and culinary epicentre in South Africa. Over the last few years, the city has undergone several changes as part of a massive regeneration programme, transforming it into a buzzing nucleus with some of the best art galleries, boutique clothing stores, restaurants, cafés, nightclubs, and hotels. Areas that were considered for years to be no-go zones due to crime and urban decay, are now vibrant and alive with newly inspired energy.
The Mad Giant Brewery is located at 1 Fox Precinct in Ferreirasdorp, in the heart of Joburg. Here, chemical engineer, Eben Uys, is using his passion for experimenting with science and flavour to tantalise taste buds and give drinkers and diners a unique experience. Situated inside the brewery is Urbanologi, a restaurant that is giving an avant-garde twist to Asian street food in a fine dining manner, combining umami flavours and craft beer through an experimental and constantly evolving menu.
This unique cuisine, dubbed “urban garde” by Head Chef Jack Coetzee, is a beautiful result of the kitchen team working closely with the brewery team, brainstorming and testing new ideas in search of bold flavours, using fresh ingredients, and experimenting with different processes and techniques. The essence of the delectable food comes from this avant-garde (or urban garde) thought process as well as the overall free-spirited,
adventurous philosophy of the brand which encourages uninhibited creativity to flourish.
Chef Jack grew up on a farm in Zimbabwe where he was surrounded by wildlife and vast, diverse landscapes with an abundance of plants and vegetation. Using his own vegetable and herb garden to source fresh produce for meals, which he would assist his mother in passionately preparing, he soon realised that he had a calling to cook as a career. His culinary journey began at Silwood School of Cookery in Cape Town, where he spent three years honing his skills, all the while mastering the art of Asian cooking by working at various restaurants in the area.
Now at the helm of the Urbanologi ship, Chef Jack is digging deep to bring diners something new and exciting, experimenting not only with food, but beer too. Think beerinfused caramel, syrup, vinegar, Marmite, and so much more.
“I try to draw from the immediate area around me,” Chef Jack says. “We work a lot with the brewery and we share some of their techniques and principles. I like to pick the brains of all the brewers to see how we can collaborate and invent something unique.” Understandably, with the state-of-the-art Mad Giant Brewery in-house, no experience at Urbanologi is truly complete without a beer in hand.
Diners can expect an abundance of Asian flavours throughout the menu, showcasing the use of traditional ingredients like okra, miso paste, and soy sauce. While most of the ingredients are locally sourced, foreign components are always given a fresh South African twist – think traditional steamed mosbolletjies with whipped farm butter and dukkah spice. Tapas-style plates with heirloom baby carrots, teriyaki poached sweet potatoes, and kumquats galore are also present and close to Chef Jack’s heart.
“I believe food allows you the ability to time travel. You can sit and eat something and be transported. I remember eating kumquats as a kid, and for me, those are some of the best memories I have of my childhood,” he recalls. “I try to keep away from anything processed and avoid shortcuts when it comes to making all meals. I’d rather make things from scratch, make it myself and make it different. The flavour that gets lost in mass production is incredible.”
The menu is divided into six sections (raw, fried, kushiyaki, steamed, cured, and frozen), each including a dish that you might consider for starters, mains, desserts, or sides. This way diners can construct their own meals depending on what they enjoy. Each dish has a recommended wine or beer to pair to make the most of the culinary experience.
With so many great local harvest possibilities, Chef Jack loves to take one key ingredient and experiment until he has run out of ideas. His passion behind this is to get South African ingredients recognised, so that we may have a better appreciation for the unique produce we have right here in our home country. Believing that in the near future we will also be seeing lots more vegetables and less red meat, he hopes to create awareness about secondary cuts and sustainable eating. In his opinion, it is the responsibility of the chef to experiment and create conscious eating habits for all.
“I hope to see other chefs making use of more secondary cuts, something we have also included in the menu. These cuts are not as well-known as they should be and I plan to use Urbanologi as a platform to make people aware of them.”
This is stimulating and inspirational food to say the least, and we are excited to see more and more inspiring creations by the masterful teams at both Mad Giant Brewery and Urbanologi. Head on down and have the urban garde experience for yourself – your taste buds will be most grateful.
For more info, visit www.urbanologi.co.za.