Today’s business owners are faced with irresistible, opposing trials and unfamiliar waters as they continue to steer the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many – such as restaurateur Larry Hodes – are already taking “no regret” actions to arise from the pandemic even stronger. These leaders are confronting the crisis with the reinvention spirit.
For our next segment of Best of Joburg restaurants guide, we made way to Birdhaven – adjacent to the suburb of Melrose for a conversation with Hodes and review what he has on the offer. In his quest to navigate the financial and operational challenges of the pandemic while addressing the needs of his staff, suppliers and customers, Hodes turned his popular Voodoo Lily restaurant into a grocery store – Gourmet Grocer – and opened up the new market for his producers.
“It was May, and Mother’s Day was around the corner. My wife Annie and I decided to invite small local producers to sell their stock from our premises. We put out a request for interest on WhatsApp and Facebook, and the response was remarkable – many were suppliers to restaurants and markets who were battling loss of sales, and they leapt at the chance to be able to produce and sell again. Within 24 hours we had a grocer.”
The Gourmet Grocer has fast become a hub in Birdhaven’s village-feel community, and is steadily adjusting its range of products and suppliers according to growing demand. Hodes has created what he describes as “a place of theatre” in the store, while the Voodoo Lily restaurant continues as before at outside tables.
The Voodoo Lily restaurant
Voodoo Lily offers a “European” sidewalk, with a warm, inviting and relaxed atmosphere to share great food with friends and family. While enjoying the beautiful Spring weather outside, we had mouth-watering gourmet burger – 200g pure beef patty, bacon, sweet onion relish, emmenthal cheese and guacamole; as well as grilled hake that comes with Israeli salad, grilled vegetables, and homemade tartar sauce.
The restaurant offers a variety of healthy starts, toasts, benedits, salads, burgers, tacos, sides, Turkish flat breads, mains, desserts, and more.
Coffefe Coffee Roastery
The next aromatic treat is the brand new Coffefe Coffee Roastery, a collaboration between Hodes and coffee aficionado and supplier, Marco da Silva, which offers a range of “unpretentious and unapologetic” options in sustainably and ethically sourced coffee products, and has on hand, a roaster and barista who ensure a delicious and down-to-earth coffee experience served with more than a hint of humour. Da Silva also took us through different stages on how they make their coffee – from ground nuts to a delicious product.
The Dark Kitchen
Also launched by Hodes in March was The Dark Kitchen – the first in Johannesburg. The dark kitchen concept, also known as ghost or cloud kitchens, are delivery-only restaurants that provide at-home diners with restaurant-quality food prepared in an industrial kitchen.
Hodes believes that “in times of crisis, the worst thing you can do is nothing. Even if you’re not sure what success you will have, it’s worth going for it – with a positive mindset – no matter how tough it is to keep going. Things will get better. We were not sure about joining the retailing sector, but we have done it and we’re overwhelmed at the success of it.”
Address: St Andrew St & Wrenrose Ave, Birdhaven, Johannesburg, 2196.