Enjoying traditional and street food with a twist at The Gourmet Shrine in Maboneng

By Edward Tsumele, CITYLIFE/ARTS Editor

This week I went to a new eatery, sort of, because technically speaking, it is not a new establishment, but is now based in its new home at Moad (The building that used to house Museum of African Design, which sadly has closed its door, prematurely, one could add.

This eatery, going by the unique name of The Gourmet Shrine, which serves what one could call street, food was in fact based opposite its current home, at the Cosmopolitan Building until last year when it moved to another venue in Maboneng, just four streets away.

Having opened at the Cosmopolitan in September 2020, when restrictions around Covid-19 were relaxed by government, allowing businesses such as restaurants to reopen with strict Covid-19 restrictions in place, the timing was probably the riskiest for any business, let alone the one serving food where crowds have to meet in one place in relatively large numbers within a confined space.

But Vusi Gregory Mthubela, a passionate foodie who has paid his dues in the food industry, starting from the time when he was introduced to cooking by his grandmother in Protea, Soweto, from a young age till the time he spent three years studying farming, “in order to know not only how to prepare food produced by others” for hungry mouths, “but also to know how to produce it”  himself, his eatery that he runs together with his partner Tshepiso Mangwegape,  is a place to consider If you want to enjoy soulful  South African traditional food,  fused with a quirky street flavour. It managed to survive the challenges of Covid-19, and is in fact thriving

It is here where you will enjoy ribs, burgers and the popular South African traditional dish Mogodu.

But because Vusi is a passionate food, you are not going to find the usual mogodu, prepared in the usual manner that you maybe used to, such as serving it with pap. Well, he still serves it with pap, but not the pap that you are used to.

“This is spinach pap,” his partner Tshepiso told me as she watched me enjoy the dish. I had just told her that I had almost mistook the ingredient for samp.  It is a soft porridge, a mix of pap and spinach, giving one an elegant taste that is really great. You get the familiar flavor of spinach mixed with that of pap, and it tastes really great and is soft. Given a choice between the traditional pap and the spinach pap, I would go for this one.

It is really an interesting experiment with South African popular ingredients, and no wonder why some drive from far, as far as Pretoria for this dish, which is exclusively served on Monday and has become a popular dish in Maboneng, attracting the suburban crowd hungering for a popular South African traditional dish, prepared innovatively and experimentally, to produce a new food flavour that tastes great and is likely to leave you with a lingering culinary memory and experience right in the city of Johannesburg.

This dish served with care and with a huge twist has become so popular that there is a day that Vusi and his team have put aside for preparing and serving this dish to the hungry customers. It is called Mogodu Monday and it is important to note that booking maybe necessary because of its popularity since it was introduced just about less than two months ago when the eatery moved to its new premises that it shares with the popular hangout called The Vintage Bar. The two establishments are neighbpours, and in fact there is a close collaboration between them, as one can order the flood from The Gourmet Shrine and enjoy it next door at the equally popular The Vintage Bar, owned by law graduate turned entrepreneur Thabo Seleso.

The Vintage Bar known for its arty interior and attracting the arty type and those looking for a rustic and relaxed atmosphere in the city,  opened in May and has since established itself as a popular choice for a discerning crowd.

The collaboration between the two establishments when it comes to Mogodu Monday’ is in fact a mutually beneficial relationship between the two businesses even though they are run independently. You can order food at The Gourmet Shrine and enjoy it at The Vintage Bar as you enjoy its magical atmosphere, including retro furniture and great art viewing contributed by artists from Maboneng, to create a home from home feel in the area.

“For me food is a passion and serving it gives me immense joy. I first loved preparing food when my grandmother in Protea forced us young boys to get involved in what was happening in the kitchen. I loved it so much that after high school in 2011, I spent three years studying farming and later was involved in teaching young people how to live sustainably by farming what they eat, and that meant we taught them how to establish food gardens,” he told CITYLIFE/ARTS in an interview.

In fact from that time till now, Vusi has been involved in establishing several eateries with like-minded people, including the Native Rebels eatery in White City, which still stands till this day.

Tshepiso Mangwegape and Vusi Gregory Mthubela

“In 2019, however I left the other guys and moved to Maboneng and in 2020 we operated at the Cosmopolitan Building. We however left the place and moved to another building in Maboneng, operating from a rooftop as well as having a pop up restaurant at Bertrand as well as at Victoria Yards (also in the neighbourhood), where we ran a restaurant on the last Sunday of the month.”

The Gourmet Shrine also doubles as a catering company  preparing and serving food at events such as weddings, birthday parties and funerals.

“What we can also do is to create a tailor-made menu as per client requirement. Those who are interested in our food offering can book us and we can avail ourselves.” He said.

“You have to agree that this is the best Mogodu dish in South Africa,” said Tshepiso as she observed me sweep clean the plate.

To book you can contact The Gourmet Shrine through facebook: @thegourmetshrine

Instagram@thegourmetshrine or through calling 074 4922248.

The Gourmet Shrine is at No. 25 Albrecht Street, Maboneng.

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