The Johannesburg CBD (inner city) has so much to offer, and one of these highly-rated shining stars is Urbanologi, now bringing you sustainable dining. Urbanologi refers to their food as “Urban Garde cuisine”, a term I absolutely adore! Located inside the Mad Giant Brewery, I highly recommend you go for incredible food, and great beers. And now, with Project 150, their new mantra supporting sustainable eco-friendly ingredient sourcing, you have even more reason to support this local urban diamond-in-the-rough.
Where is Urbanologi?
Urbanologi is in the 1 Fox Precinct, which is situated at the very bottom of Fox Street. Number 1, to be exact. It’s a quick and easy drive, especially on quieter weekends, right off the M2. Even at this time (writing in April 2019) when the M2 is closed for maintenance, you can still reach Urbanologi by heading south on the M1, then east on the M2, as it’s the very first offramp, and still accessible during the current M2 shutdown. Navigate a few blocks inward, up and down a few one-ways, and you’re there. If you drive past the Commissioner Street Police Headquarters, chances are you’ve gone too far. It’s also reachable by heading through Fordsburg but that can be quite a melee of traffic at any given time, even on weekends.
If you work in the city, you have absolutely no excuse and can escape your office quite easily for an inner city lunch date. Better yet, schedule your next meeting here. It is probably the last place you might expect to find a sustainable eatery!
What is Project 150?
In their words…
Project 150 is Urbanologi’s new culinary mantra that sees all ingredients, except spices, sourced within 150km of the city restaurant.
“Project 150 reforms how we think about farming and food,” says Urbanologi chef Jack Coetzee, who heads up the initiative. “Is Johannesburg ready for it? I certainly hope so. I know one thing for sure, it is disruptive and certainly in a good way.”
Project 150 was inspired by a desire to lend vigour to the wave of conscious living and sustainable practices around food, and to pursue culinary excellence.
Why Dine at Urbanologi?
Since opening in 2016, they’ve been delighting us with delicious and surprising dishes. It’s always exciting when the menu gets changed up because you know you’re in for something you’re not likely to find elsewhere, and it will be amazing. Just take a look at the most recent meal we had there, which follows the restaurant’s new sustainable eco-friendly Project 150 mantra.
We left it in the Chef’s hands to bring us a selection of plates from the updated menu. I love taking food and beer photos at Urbanologi, because the space itself is just so colourful, fascinating and epic.
We started with Tempura Shimeji Mushrooms and Beetroot Cured Trout Sashimi.
Swiftly following these were the Grilled Asparagus and Beer Battered Fish (Tilapia!).
As if the richness wasn’t already in the stratosphere, we also got to try the Roasted Carrot and, my favourite plate of the afternoon, the incredible Lamb Belly.
The afternoon ended on a sweet note, enjoyed by my fellow diners rather than myself, me being not much of a sweet-tooth, with the Guava Mimosa as well as the Banana Malt Gelato, served with a Mad Giant Porter Brownie. I will definitely return to try the cheese board, though, as it sounds perfect for me.
Of course, this was all superbly paired with Mad Giant beers. My favourite, their Electric Light Weiss, was alternated with the new Garage Pikey Irish Nitro Stout currently available (limited edition). Both are excellent beers, and I would definitely recommend you get there to try some of the Irish Nitro Stout before it’s all gone.
Be sure, it’s sustainable everything! They also aim for zero-waste, even using left-over lemon rinds where they can. Everything from the butter to the dessert is sourced in a way that makes you a sustainable diner, with a small, and eco-friendly, carbon footprint.
I can’t believe this but I have to start with the butter. The butter! The waiter was not allowed to take any butter away from the table. This butter was intensely citrusy & zesty, with an incredibly rich smoky flavour. I adore citrus and lemon flavours so this was one of my absolute highlights – yes, the butter. This might be overly lemony for some, but I recommend you try it. Don’t be afraid.
Of the first two plates, the Tempura Shimeji was the highlight for me. The rich deep-fried crunchy flavour and texture was well complemented by the smoked garlic relish, which brought in some tartness. The intense garlic flavours of this particular plate left me happily gobbling all that remained, enjoying the smokiness, while my fellow diners were swooning over the Trout Sashimi. The Trout Sashimi had a deep red colour from the beetroot, and likely due to being sourced nearby, was beautifully fresh. Texture in the form of fish-skin crackling and celery brought much needed crunch to the dish, creating balance.
As a big fan of asparagus, I enjoyed the Roasted Asparagus dish, delicious with a small dusting of parmesan. I would have enjoyed some lemon zest on that. The deep-fried Tilapia beer-battered fish may not make for sexy foodporn shots, but is certainly flavourful and moreish. I don’t usually bother with accompanying tartare sauces, but will recommend this one for it’s chunky gherkins and sharp flavour.
The third course, and for me the final, was the Roasted Carrot as well as the Lamb Belly. I think the Roasted Carrot plate was entirely put to shame by the Lamb Belly plate. Nothing could compete with that dish! So the Roasted Carrot didn’t get much love and attention, though it was beautifully presented and roasted, and had lovely rich cinnamon notes. The Lamb Belly is a revelation, and I feel like I’ve been robbed for years for not having lamb belly in my life. Deeply, intensely flavoured with harissa paste, pickled red pepper, and served on a small roti, it is by far the winner by miles.
As is my habit, I didn’t have dessert but I do believe the Banana Malt Gelato did the thing for everyone, and left the Guava sorbet dish a little unloved in the corner. Not sure guava was ever going to contend with chocolate brownies and ice cream.
Special shout-out to Nkosi, who did an absolutely brilliant job taking care of us.