Halfway between Joburg’s city centre and Sandton is Rosebank, metaphorically as well as physically. Where Joburg is edgy, gritty and cosmopolitan, and Sandton is sophisticated, fast and easy, Rosebank’s identity is welcoming, grounded, trendy and creative.
The Mall of Rosebank is at the heart of the pedestrian-friendly shopping district and has a selection of shops and service providers that come together to convey authenticity and a relaxed atmosphere. Joburgers tend to take this fine public space for granted because it’s so much a part of their world, but visitors are blown away by Rosebank’s unaffected style. Stuttafords and United Colors of Benetton are two great offerings that underpin the retail trade at the Mall of Rosebank.
Ster-Kinekor’s Cinema Nouveau, which specialises in independent and foreign films, is housed downstairs. Half-price movie nights for Ster-Kinekor Movie Club members are on Tuesdays and always good to diarise, although it’s best to buy your tickets beforehand. You can do this online or over the phone.
The Rooftop Market at the mall on Sundays brings people out in droves to shop for foodie delicacies, hand-crafted and locally made textiles, and all manner of goodies from used books and antique jewellery to funky T-shirts and hand-printed children’s clothes.
The Rosebank mall’s east entrance opens onto a group of vibrant outdoor cafés and restaurants. The newspaper seller with his pile of change on the ground has been there for years – waiting to fill those leisure moments that call for a cup of coffee and the day’s headlines.
There’s gelato and gossip, stilettos and schwarmas, brands and basics – anything goes in Rosebank. The African Market next door exudes Afro-chic energy and talent; it’s a one-stop shop for overseas gift shopping. Nino’s is a perennial hangout where a certain set meets to chat about interesting acquaintances and overseas trips. If one could be a fly on the wall anywhere in Joburg, Nino’s is a good choice. On sunny afternoons, mime artists and other street performers amuse patrons.
Keep walking past a couple of shoe shops (deep breath) and the popular Ocean Basket fish restaurant towards the escalator upstairs and the vibe starts to change. Enter … The Zone, a shopping centre that caters to trendy, brand-conscious tweens, teens and the young at heart. Primi Piatti has pride of place at The Zone with balcony views and its trademark industrial feel. Primi serves good Italian food by waiters who wear bright orange overalls and broad smiles.
In addition to shops selling the A to Z of top brands from all over the world, Young Designers Emporium (YDE) provides a platform for local designers to showcase their creations. It’s a great feeling to be able to buy items no one else is likely to have – and at the same time support South Africa’s budding design talent. The Space, another store at The Zone, is more eclectic, with pretty decor, linen and items to surprise, scattered among the gorgeous dresses. It sources merchandise locally and the buyers like to shake up the mix.
The Zone has just invested R820-million to expand its retail space in line with development opportunities created by the Gautrain’s Rosebank Station, which will be opening in the second half of 2011. The new shops are all high-end, five-star glamour and introduce more international brands to South Africa. The development is designed to link up with a new Holiday Inn being built and promises fabulous new hunting grounds for Rosebank shoppers.
North of The Mall of Rosebank, The Firs is an established shopping centre, which the monied set has long patronised. The selection of boutiques is stocked with hand-picked designer wear and the sales consultants know many of their clients by name. Like the rest of Rosebank, The Firs is welcoming; browsing is comfortable and staff is friendly and knowledgeable.
The Grillhouse at The Firs is one of Joburg’s finest steakhouses and includes Katzy’s next door. It is a jazz club-cum-lounge that features live music and one of the best whisky collections in the country. The adjacent Hyatt Regency Johannesburg hotel has a leafy courtyard with a pool and flaming torches for romantic evenings out. A remarkable selection of top South African wines served by the glass accompanies the complimentary olives and nuts.
The Firs piazza is a newly renovated square with some excellent restaurants and a great buzz. And tucked quietly on the south side of The Mall of Rosebank, The Grace is a sophisticated boutique hotel, which offers the highest standards and a bit of privacy.
There’s something about Joburg’s diversity which all comes together in Rosebank. It’s an authentic African extravaganza.