Refined art deco and buzzing with a lively ‘up-and-coming’ crowd, Tashas at the Flamingo Room, Nelson Mandela Square, is a tour de force in fine Johannesburg dining, elegant service, and some of the classiest washrooms I’ve ever experienced.
With a standard, extensive menu, and an inspirations menu, the Flamingo Room spoils for choice.
I chose the pork fillet with apple & pistachio pesto, crispy bacon, sage, and brandy sauce with a side of broccoli salad. Mum went for the succulent and tangy lemon chicken. Ian the ostrich fillet – medium heat – with biltong masala and butternut purée accompanied by a glass of decanted decadent merlot.
The dining experience was superb, the service friendly, formal, gracious. The setting was surprising: at the mouth of the sprawling Sandton mall, opposite a favourite store: Forever 21.
I mentioned the washrooms: not only do they feature Africaology Spa products – an exclusive range of South African-made products that use only natural, local ingredients – but also have spoken word audio in the stalls and 20s lounge music by the basins. A place to hang out.
Our visit was crowned (for me) with a flick through the coffee table copy of Kehinde Wiley’s A New Republic which was sitting on a table next to where we’d earlier taken coffee, seeing then only the copies of Forbes, Home & Garden, and Men’s Health.
According to its site, A New Republic “raises questions about race, gender, and the politics of representation by portraying contemporary African American men and women using the conventions of traditional European portraiture”.
“Wiley’s signature portraits of everyday men and women riff on specific paintings by Old Masters, replacing the European aristocrats depicted in those paintings with contemporary black subjects, drawing attention to the absence of African Americans from historical and cultural narratives.”
While a modern development, Tashas at the Flamingo Room is decked out in the style of the 1920s. Set in the heart of the frontier town of Johannesburg, the restaurant sits on a site which was – not long ago – a place of segregation and apartheid.
Visiting on Monday 20th February, 2017, the restaurant is one of the first true melting pots our visitors’ eyes have witnessed, having seen only predominantly black, white, or asian locations – areas, café, restaurant during our previous day’s meanderings.
The setting is pleasing: amongst this decor that harkens to a bygone era, asian people sit with black, coloured people mingle with white. For a moment it jars: up until only twenty three years ago none of this integration was possible.
A tile of images from Kehinde Wiley’s A New Republic