From a slick barbershop to quaint cafés and boutique bars, Bloemfontein has a foodie and creative culture just waiting to be explored – all wrapped up in some real Free State hospitality
Expect the unexpected in our hit list of all the best things to eat, shop and do in burgeoning and very hospitable Bloemfontein
1. BELLA CASA TRATTORIA
Each room in the City of Roses’ favourite trattoria offers a different dining experience. Book a table next to the fireplace in winter or bask in the courtyard in summer. Whether it’s Pecan Brittle pizza or Black Beast steak, there’s a recommended wine pairing for each dish. 31 President Steyn Ave, Westdene, 051-448-9573. Bella Casa Trattoria Restaurant
2. BLOEMFONTEIN AUTHENTIC BARBERS
This intimate three-seater barbershop sports replica AJ Rollert chairs on which Bloem’s beaus are groomed. The organic Bad Ass Beard oil made by owner Annorien Geyer is the perfect after-care for her popular DKW (dans, kerk, werk) haircut. Check in on Facebook and receive a free beer while you’re pampered. 32 Louw Wepener St, Dan Pienaar, 074-583-3218. BAB Barbers
3. BOUDOIR BOUTIQUE BAR
Quirky decor – gilded mirrors, floral wallpaper and birdcages – make this cosy bar popular for after-work drinks. Quaff wine slushies or glühwein with light meals such as Parmesan-crumbed pork chops and the legendary jalapeño poppers with nachos and guacamole. Don’t leave without trying the Mexican hot chocolate with tequila. Shop 3C, Bays Village, Bayswater, 051-436-5610. Boudoir Boutique Bar
4. CREATIVE EDGE
Make this contemporary furniture store your go-to for its wide selection of kitchen, dining and café chairs, sourced from abroad or designed in-house. Here, you’ll find everything from branching globe chandeliers and custom-made Belgian linen cushions to decorative ceramics and glassware, shelving, cabinetry and bespoke coffee tables. 1 Torbet St, Noordhoek, 051-011-7091. Creative Edge
5. THE STAFFORDSHIRE
With live music from Wednesday to Saturday, The Staffy, as it is affectionately called, is Bloem’s late-night jol. The modern pub’s garden seating makes for sunny day-time catch-ups, but sit inside around the designer copper-clad bar if you want to make friends with the town’s best barpeople. Look out for the monthly quiz nights and karaoke events. 5 Faan Ferreira Ave, 087-897-0419. The Staffordshire
8. JOHNNY’S FRUIT MARKET
For more than 20 years, this friendly family business has been supplying locals with daily seasonal fruit and veggies. The baby veg selection makes for perfect potjies, and ready-to-cook soup packs simplify shopping. Grab a R100 combo special filled with a choice crop of fresh produce to last all week. 43 2nd Ave, Westdene, 051-430-1541. johnnysfruitmarket.co.za
6. GALLERY ON LEVISEUR
Designed by local architect Sergio Nunes, this gallery’s structure is a major part of its allure. Floor-to-ceiling glass panes allow natural light to illuminate the works, which are often selected by guest curators, with a focus on regional artists, photographers and ceramicists. Take some time for coffee at the adjoining café, 59Plenty. 59 General Dan Pienaar Dr, Westdene, 082-626-7606, 051-444-1683. galleryonleviseur.co.za; cafeplenty.co.za
9. OLIEWENHUIS ART MUSEUM
Once the governor general’s home, this Neo Dutch-style mansion has a notable permanent collection that includes JH Pierneef’s ‘Rustenburg Kloof’, Willem Boshoff’s ‘Blind Alphabet A’ (for the visually impaired), and works by acclaimed Belgium-born Free State artist Frans Claerhout, as well as a delightful sculpture garden. 16 Harry Smith St, Dan Pienaar, 051-011-0525. nasmus.co.za
7. JACK AND JILL FOOD CO.
The place for a wholesome ‘brekfis’. Try their version of the croque-madame – The French Lady – with smoked pork neck instead of ham, or Tres Leches french toast, made with condensed milk, coconut milk and Ideal milk. The focus on fresh produce is obvious even in its gin bar, with a botanical recommended for each drink. Shop UG8, Loch Logan Waterfront, 105 Henry St, 063-675-9502 Jack and Jill Food Co.
10. STELLAR BREWERY
Handcrafted in the city, Mangaung Gold, Noctis Stout, Free State Lager and Bloem Weiss are made by the city’s only certified beer judge, Dr Jasiu Lewtak, whose chemistry PhD gives these beers extra street cred. Look out for the recently launched Free State Lite and African Queen IPA. Better yet, book a tasting session at the brewery. 21 Maasdorp St, Ou Ooseinde, 079-562-7083. stellarbrewery.co.za
11. THE ROYAL FISCHER HOTEL
Situated amid the indigenous vegetation of a wildlife estate, this five-suite, five-star boutique hotel hosts magical sundowners at its boma. Book the Abraham suite, and bask in a bubble bath on the balcony as giraffes and zebras wander by. It’s open to the public for dinner and high tea by appointment. 65 Kameeldoring Draai, Woodland Hills, 051-433-7977.
12. THE ZAR LAB
Lifestyle and concept creator extraordinaire Tony Peng launched The ZAR LAB as an experimental venue for creatives and business minds to come together and exchange ideas. Available for meetings, events and as a co-working space, its contemporary Zen aesthetic and soothing playlist lend themselves to free-flow thinking. Plus, the Wi-Fi’s fast! 30 Louw Wepener St, Dan Pienaar, 072-280-8922. The ZAR LAB
Owner of The Staffordshire, Keegan Hepburn, and Waska, the staffy.
The ZAR LAB’s Tony Peng Jill Nowers of Jack and Jill Food Co.