Chef James Diack was 28 years old when he first combined his passion for provenance with armfuls of freshly-grown ingredients from his family's farm in Magaliesburg, Brightside, and set about to change the landscape of Joburg dining. “It’s been an incredible seven years, and I have learnt many lessons,” explains Chef James Diack. “But I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m so grateful to every customer who has visited Coobs over the last seven years and I’m excited to celebrate this milestone with our 2019 summer menu.

Not only has Coobs won numerous awards over the years, but it’s also pushed the boundaries of provenance-inspired eating beyond simple bean sprouts and home-grown herbs – both for the 130-strong team that works for him, and for the customers who get to indulge in Brightside Farm’s latest crop. His passion for provenance has established him as a thought leader in the South Africa dining scene and has put his Wild Boar Ragu and Pork Belly firmly on the foodie map.

Coobs Summer 2019/20 Menu

His latest menu, for summer 2019/20, is a collection of the freshest ingredients the farm has to offer, plated as refined dishes and proffered alongside some of South Africa’s best boutique wines. Dishes are tasty, fresh, simple and show off the quality of the ingredients.

Some of Coobs’ best-selling dishes from the last seven years include Beef Carpaccio, Caprese Salad, Duck Liver Parfait, Acorn-fed Pork and Lamb Bangers, Tarragon-roasted Baby Chicken and Coobs’ Carbonara Pasta with crispy wild boar bacon. For dessert, experience the farm's memory lane with Malva Pudding or Spiced Poached Pears with nut brittle and honeycomb ice-cream (pictured below).

Coobs

Growth Of The Group

Over the course of seven years, the success of Coobs has led to increased production from the farm, and demand from customers for more. Coobs is now the flagship restaurant in The Brightside Group alongside James’ three other restaurants, Douglas + Hale (2018: Parktown North), Il Contadino (2017: Parktown North) and La Stalla (2018: Melville).

There will only ever be one Coobs,” explains James, “but, while each of my other restaurants is slightly different, they are individually driven by a young chef and front of house manager that I have trained to deliver simple, beautiful, flavourful food with gracious hospitality in stunning environments.

Coobs

Awards

Coobs has won the hearts of thousands… from Trip Advisor Awards to Eat Out Everyday Eateries, Best of Joburg and the coveted Jenny Handley Gourmet Guide Award – One Plate received in 2019. In 2018, James' work for sustainable farming, eating and education was recognised by SASSI when he was awarded a 2018 Trailblazer Chef Award.

Coobs

Successes

For James, and the Diack family, the biggest success has come in the form of being able to grow what the farm produces and to grow their impact on the community around them.

We’ve grown from 13 staff to over 130 – never mind the families that our staffs’ income supports, and communities we ultimately invest into. This is the true essence of sustainability that sits as the cornerstone of my business – a sustainable business that can hopefully outlast the recession, and at the same time, provide 95% of our own ingredients.

Coobs is located in the leafy suburb of Parkhurst, Johannesburg. To experience the latest menu, featuring some of the top dishes from the last seven years, make a booking on +2711 447 0710 or email [email protected].

According to global restaurant consultants, Aaron Allen & Associates, the South African restaurant industry stood strong at 85 000+ eateries. Only 9 000 of these were stand alone restaurants and the rest were kiosks and street vendors. It is evident that eating out, whether it be sit-down or takeaway, is interwoven into our culture. Above and beyond sustenance, this industry alone creates millions of jobs and serves as an entertainment option for thousands of diners.

But, as South Africa steers further into economic downturn, the pressure that consumers feel, means that entertainment budgets are often cut. The ripple effect of this means that restaurants close, jobs are lost and more pressure is placed on the fiscal system. There has to be a way to save these jobs – and James Diack believes that sustainable practices are the key.

James studied at the Institute of Culinary Arts (ICA) in Stellenbosch. Prior to opening Coobs in 2012, he worked for some of South Africa’s most respected chefs, including Bruce Robertson at The Showroom and celebrated pastry chef, Nicolas van der Walt. He was also Richard Carstens’ pastry chef at Manolo before becoming his sous chef.

In 2012, James contributed his first restaurant to South Africa’s reported 85 000. Fast-track seven years and James has expanded to four eateries in Johannesburg. They've grown from 13 staff, to over 130. It is the true essence of sustainability that sits as the cornerstone of his business – a sustainable model that can hopefully outlast the recession, and at the same time, provide 95% of their own ingredients through James' family farm, Brightside in Magaliesburg.

What James and his team has seen over the last 12-18 months, is not only a decline in customer spend, but also a change in how customers are eating. Smaller plates, single courses and a glass of wine instead of a bottle are all ways that consumers are justifying the spend on non-essential items to themselves. As such, the Brightside Group had to adapt – not only have they changed their menus to suit the changing consumer eating habits; but behind the scenes they're working even harder to streamline their already-low cost base even further.

We picked James' brain on how restaurants can put sustainability front of house to alleviate pressure during hard times.

Choose your supplier wisely

"In comparison to many other restaurants, we’re in a privileged position – we are our own supplier. We’re not beholden to supplier costs and price increases. One of the ways we’ve been able to keep delivering value to our customers through the economic downturn, has been by making sure our supply and costs are kept as low as possible. Some costs are out of our control – diesel fuel, Eskom tariff hikes, maize prices, water and rates have all gone up. We source 95% of our ingredients from the farm, and what we can’t farm ourselves, we source from suppliers who share our passion for provenance. Sometimes, we even barter with produce and save on Rands spent."

Reducing production costs

"On the farm, we plan our usage of tractors to minimize diesel use, and strategise our deliveries from farm to restaurants to be streamlined and efficient. We’re also fortunate to be able to use our own farm-made compost and manure, rather than using much frowned-upon inorganic fertilizer which has soared in cost. We’ve also made sure that all our staff on the farm completely understand what we are trying to achieve, and they conduct their daily jobs as least wastefully as possible. This goes for everyone from the tractor driver, the vegetable garden labourer and the ladies making cheese and preserves to the staff looking after the animals."

Recycling of waste

"Another aspect of our production, which has always been part of our daily lives, is recycling our waste. The fact that we have livestock on the farm means nothing from the gardens goes to waste."

Harvesting of ingredients

"We’ve always worked with the philosophy that we cook what we have and not what we want. Now more than ever – summer season tomatoes were turned into sauce and frozen to avoid us buying in, the last of the basil was transformed into basil butter and pesto to ensure the herb gets through winter. Beautiful stone fruit which normally form the centerpiece of our desserts during the warmer months now find themselves as jams, pickles and preserves – all in jars and ready to go."

Menu adjustments

"Not only have we (for the first time) introduced a pasta and wine special across all four of our restaurants, but Coobs also has a provenance menu. Although the prices might be reduced, the food is as generous and tasty. And, because we’ve managed to keep costs down behind the scenes, we can keep delivering this value to customers. We’ve also introduced a selection of small plates which means our customers can now share more than one dish – they still get to taste more than one dish, without ordering a three-course meal."

Coravin wine by the glass

"Consumers want to drink great wine by the glass, but these days a bottle is too expensive. Enter the Coravin wine preservation system. We use this for some of our more expensive wines – it pours wine without removing the cork from the bottle, thus preserving it. It enables people, who can’t necessarily buy a bottle, to enjoy a glass. We can now open a bottle of expensive wine and keep it for up to three months – reducing our wastage costs significantly."

The bottom line is, we’re all under pressure. However, this too shall pass. The key, for most South African restaurants right now, will be to make it to the other side. From cutting costs in the supply chain, to changing how how dishes are served, this has become a survival strategy. We ALL want to make it to the end of the downturn, with as many jobs intact as we can. And I believe this is how we can all do it.

 

Coobs

The refined dining bistro lives up to its name with a variety of beautifully-plated dishes which provide warm comfort, with a lighter feel. Expect Jerusalem artichoke soups, a Caesar salad with a warm poached egg and crispy wild boar bacon, roasted quail and braised pork belly with leeks and sultanas. Finish your meal with white chocolate mousse tart served with pistachio crust and berries or spiced poached pear served with a nut brittle and a honeycomb ice cream.

Details: https://www.facebook.com/CoobsParkhurst/

Credit: the Joburg Foodie

Il Contadino

The neighbourhood eatery has elevated French and Italian country-style dishes. Look out for the last of the season’s zucchini blossoms which are stuffed with ricotta and then deep-fried, roast duck with Jerusalem artichoke puree and a range of warm deserts.

Details: https://www.facebook.com/IlContadinojhb/

Credit: the Joburg Foodie

Douglas + Hale

Whether you choose a nibble, small plate or something all for yourself, the menu provides an incredible assortment of comforting foods to accompany a cocktail or one of the 66 boutique local and international wines sold by the glass. Autumn options include smoked pork cracking, pork and leek pot stickers, roasted beetroot salad or confit duck leg with cranberry jus.

Details: https://www.facebook.com/douglasandhale/

Credit: the Joburg Foodie

La Stalla

Hearty stews and home-cooked meals are a hit with the local Melville crowd. The menu is simple and satisfying – sweet corn fritters with chorizo, spicy chicken livers, oven-roasted chicken with salad and a peperoni pizza with leeks. Desserts include homemade gelato and a lemon tart.

Details: https://www.facebook.com/lastallajhb/

moyo

Tradition forms the corner stone upon which moyo has built its house. And with tradition comes repetition. Last year it was creamy red pepper soup, hearty stews and hot desserts. This year our favourite African-inspired dishes include dukkah lamb chop thins on a bed of sweetcorn puree and sheba, served with grilled mealies and pap. Patrons can also expect a seafood samp potjie, and West African chicken schnitzel or a beautiful helping of traditional beef dombolo (dumplings) stewed with carrots, mushroom and onions. For pud? Dig into the Moyo Mess – a brown sugar caramel pavlova topped with spicy muscadel poached pears, whipped cream and gooseberries or red velvet cheesecake served with a berry compote.

Details: http://www.moyo.co.za/

Winter Menus 2018

By Shawn Greyling

A distant but familiar taste is left in your mouth as you step into Douglas + Hale for the first time. Built in the wake of The National in Parktown North, James Diack's latest offering under his acclaimed Brightside Farm umbrella has become a popular post-work and weekend hangout among the Joburg wining and dining class. This in itself serves as an impressive feat seeing as the eatery has been open barely a month, at the time of writing.

The name pays homage to chef James Diack’s grandfathers – Douglas Diack and Mathew Hale, and the second names of James and his brother Nick.

The Vibe At Douglas + Hale

Laid back, relaxed and fabulous to say the least. With seating on the veranda, indoor tables and big red booths with beautiful high backrests perfect to melt into after a glass or three of good red wine. Patrons can expect candlelit dinners that boast intimacy without trying too hard. That is in itself the reason why James Diack's restaurants do so well. The clientele is made up of the Parkhurst diners, wine lovers and local businessmen and women.

Douglas + Hale

The Food At Douglas + Hale

For the food, James is keeping it simple and he’s retaining some of The National’s favourite dishes. “It’s a small, simple menu that'll keep you interested through the evening,” he explains. The relaxed atmosphere is set to become a location-must for after-work cocktails, pre-dinner drinks or a night cap before you head home (in an Uber – no drunk driving allowed).

Douglas + Hale

The Wine At Douglas + Hale

Douglas + Hale serves an incredible range of fine wines by the bottle and by the glass all in Riedel glassware. There’s also some absurdly good cocktails made by the in-house mixologist.

Douglas + Hale

Brightside Farm

Brightside Farm in the Magaliesburg is the Diack’s family farm and where James grew up. His mother, Janet, is passionate about farming and supplying the restaurants – what they can’t grow themselves, they source from suppliers who share their passion for provenance. The gardens are as beautiful as they are functional. Flowers abound, and they are all edible. Apart from the large main gardens, there are smaller gardens, situated to provide the right conditions for some of the speciality plants. All the gardens feature benches, stone paths, ponds or sculptures with rambling plants like peas, beans and tomatoes climbing up woven willow structures. The farm supplies James’ four restaurants with almost 95% of their ingredients – pork, chicken, herbs, vegetables, fruit – and even some of the cheese. The farm also supplies Diack’s now legendary acorn-fed wild boar, lamb, duck and the occasional pigeon or guinea fowl.

Details: Corner 7th & 4th Avenues, Parktown North | 010 900 3894  | [email protected]

Hours: Mon-Sat 11:00 till late (kitchen closes at 22:00)

A distant but familiar taste is left in your mouth as you step into Douglas + Hale for the first time. Built in the wake of The National in Parktown North, James Diack's latest offering under his acclaimed Brightside Farm umbrella has become a popular post-work and weekend hangout among the Joburg wining and dining class. This in itself serves as an impressive feat seeing as the eatery has been open barely a month, at the time of writing.

The name pays homage to chef James Diack’s grandfathers – Douglas Diack and Mathew Hale, and the second names of James and his brother Nick.

The Vibe At Douglas + Hale

Laid back, relaxed and fabulous to say the least. With seating on the veranda, indoor tables and big red booths with beautiful high backrests perfect to melt into after a glass or three of good red wine. Patrons can expect candlelit dinners that boast intimacy without trying too hard. That is in itself the reason why James Diack's restaurants do so well. The clientele is made up of the Parkhurst diners, wine lovers and local businessmen and women.

Douglas + Hale

The Food At Douglas + Hale

For the food, James is keeping it simple and he’s retaining some of The National’s favourite dishes. “It’s a small, simple menu that'll keep you interested through the evening,” he explains. The relaxed atmosphere is set to become a location-must for after-work cocktails, pre-dinner drinks or a night cap before you head home (in an Uber – no drunk driving allowed).

Douglas + Hale

The Wine At Douglas + Hale

Douglas + Hale serves an incredible range of fine wines by the bottle and by the glass all in Riedel glassware. There’s also some absurdly good cocktails made by the in-house mixologist.

Douglas + Hale

Brightside Farm

Brightside Farm in the Magaliesburg is the Diack’s family farm and where James grew up. His mother, Janet, is passionate about farming and supplying the restaurants – what they can’t grow themselves, they source from suppliers who share their passion for provenance. The gardens are as beautiful as they are functional. Flowers abound, and they are all edible. Apart from the large main gardens, there are smaller gardens, situated to provide the right conditions for some of the speciality plants. All the gardens feature benches, stone paths, ponds or sculptures with rambling plants like peas, beans and tomatoes climbing up woven willow structures. The farm supplies James’ four restaurants with almost 95% of their ingredients – pork, chicken, herbs, vegetables, fruit – and even some of the cheese. The farm also supplies Diack’s now legendary acorn-fed wild boar, lamb, duck and the occasional pigeon or guinea fowl.

Details: Corner 7th & 4th Avenues, Parktown North | 010 900 3894  | [email protected]

Hours: Mon-Sat 11:00 till late (kitchen closes at 22:00)

Love Me So

Bringing a pinch of flair, loads of flavour and a helping of heat to Love Me So's winter menu, crispy pork pancakes, jaga bata (butter potato salad) and miso eggplant have been added to the mix by chef Alex. And that's just to start. Patrons can also choose from a curated ramen menu, as opposed to building their own noodle bowl. Speaking of slurping... some signature soups, such as a chicken wanton and vegan miso noodle, will be available until winter puts its stuffy head to bed in September.

Details: https://www.facebook.com/lovemesojozi/

Carnivore (Misty Hills)

Joburg's favourite carnivorous hangout, the Carnivore at Misty Hills in Muldersdrift, serves top-notch soup of the day in little potjie pots accompanied by in-house baked honey bread. If that doesn't get your mouth watering, there's also chicken livers, venison sausages or samoosas to get you warmed up for the main course: all-you-can-eat zebra, alligator, pork, chicken, beef, lamb... Hey, it's called the Carnivore for a reason. Patrons can also expect fireplaces, song and dance and excellent service.

Details: http://carnivore.co.za/

Perron (Melville)

With churros being served at every second restaurant in the north these days, it's clear that Mexican food is the new Italian, and no one seems to do it quite like Perron in Melville. Why that specific branch? It's got a cool-kid vibe about it without having a bunch of hipsters lurking in the corner, and the food is always great. Jump right in with some Holy Moly Chicken – grilled chicken supreme with a red achiote mole, served with Mexican potatoes, roasted tomato salsa and créma. Or there's the burnt corn croquetas with smokey honey and chipotle salsa. While you're at it, you might as well indulge in a White Chocolate Fool with white chocolate, raspberry and passion fruit double-cream yoghurt (fool being a folded fruit dessert).

Details: http://perron.co.za/

Clico Boutique Hotel

Chef Marnus’ top winter picks off his menu include the Salmon Gravalax, which includes a beautiful array of winter vegetables as a light, fresh way to start the meal, followed by an order of braised lamb shoulder that is marinated for three days then slow-roasted and served with a beetroot jus. Other entries include butternut gnocchi served with roasted mushroom, spinach, and parmesan. Give it a try and let us know what you think of this adorable establishment.

Details: http://clico.co.za/

Moyo

Tradition forms the corner stone upon which Moyo has built its house. And with tradition comes repetition. Last year it was creamy red pepper soup, hearty stews and hot desserts. This year our favourite African-inspired dishes include dukkah lamb chop thins on a bed of sweetcorn puree and sheba, served with grilled mealies and pap. Patrons can also expect a seafood samp potjie, and West African chicken schnitzel. For pud? Dig into the Moyo Mess – a brown sugar caramel pavlova topped with spicy muscadel poached pears, whipped cream, and gooseberries, or red velvet cheesecake served with a berry compote. A 2-course meal will set you back R189, and a 3-Course R229, which is inclusive of a R5 donation to StreetSmart - an NGO that takes care of street kids.

Details: http://www.moyo.co.za/

Winter Menus 2018

The National

According to Wayne Dietrich, Head Chef of The National eatery and speakeasy in Parktown North, smoky undertones and light, zesty dishes are the flavours for winter 2018. Some of the standout seasonal ingredients featured on his winter menu are beetroot and pumpkin, both of which are featured across a variety of dishes. Must-try delicacies on the menu are the steam buns – a starter served with crispy, sriracha fried chicken; the duck curry – a main of confit with pulled duck legs cooked in a homemade Thai red curry paste; and the Mississippi Mud Pie dessert, which boasts chocolate upon chocolate, but is still light enough to polish off.

Details: https://www.facebook.com/TheNationalJHB/

By Shawn Greyling

Under the masterful eye of Michel Roux, a young Daniel Galmiche honed his culinary skills. That was during the 70s when Michelin stars were first awarded to restaurants in the UK. Roux's London based eatery was one of the first to receive this accolade - two stars to be exact. Indirectly that was a premonition to Daniel Galmiche's career. Fast forward to 2018 and Chef Galmiche has been holding his own Michelin stars for nearly three decades - four to be exact. Why is this important? Daniel Galmiche is opening a restaurant in Johannesburg - The Gold Room.

gold room

The Gold Room is set to be a fusion restaurant located in the QSL private member’s club in Milpark. The QSL members club is described as a tailored home, an exquisitely intimate and textured space for those who are moving the world forward. While the club itself is for members only (with membership fees starting at R10 000 and spiking up  to R500 000 per person), the new fine-dining restaurant will be open to the public... thankfully.

Though the menu is still being built, we can expect food fares professionally plated and made with fresh, local ingredients. Our prediction would be that fish will play a poignant role in both entrés and mains as Daniel Galmiche is the ambassador for the Norwegian Sea Food Council (and Galmiche enjoys playing around with line fish fillets, as seen in his London based restaurant, 190 Queen's Gate). Daniel Galmiche will also have to take into consideration that South Africans are big on red meat. According to our friends over at Eat Out, they recon the decorated French chef will put oxtail on the menu - a guess we are wholeheartedly amplifying (seeing as Marble has made red meat and open flame cooking popular in fine dining).

https://www.instagram.com/p/BfqrmQVHMK_/?hl=it&taken-by=galmiche.daniel

While Chef Daniel Galmiche was in Johannesburg to promote the Gold Room, he spent some time with our favourite restaurateur, James Diack (of Coobs, The National, El Contadino, and la Stalla fame). Chef Galmiche visited Diack's family farm, Brightside in Magaliesberg where Daniel overloaded his Instagram account with interesting images of local produce.

The Gold Room is set to open up shop in September 2018. Until then, we can only sit back, pop a bottle of Chablis and play the guessing game until Daniel Galmiche's manager gets back to us with more details. Take your time, Lime Light - we've got enough white wine to last us a while.

By Shawn Greyling

Last year, Chef James Diack took members of the media on a tour around his family farm, Brightside and gave them some insight into his plans for 2018: “Since we opened in Melville in September 2016, we’ve noticed a change in what people are eating and what they’re spending. And, in today’s fast-moving restaurant industry, we have to adapt,” explains James. “We’ve also seen how successful the food and environment at Il Contadino in Parktown North has been, and so we’re going to make La Stalla a mini version of that.”

The industrial-chic pizzeria will be open Wednesday through Sunday from 07h00 until 10h00 and will serve three meals a day. For lovers of The Federal’s brunch – don’t despair – a range of farm-fresh breakfasts will be available for R75 each. For lunch and dinner, La Stalla guests can choose from a selection of well-priced small plates, as well as a number of wood-fired dishes and pizza options, roasted chicken and fresh salads. Dessert will be delicious Italian gelato, served in either cones or bowls.
La Stalla

Two of the farm-fresh dishes that will be available from La Stalla are bruschetta with a variety of toppings, and arancini stuffed and dusted with wild-boar bacon (which we managed to sink our teeth into at La Stalla's launch). James will be working in partnership with Il Contadino’s Head Chef, Rausharn Griffin to operate and manage the establishment. Rausharn has worked alongside James since 2014, first at Coobs and later heading up the team at Il Contadino.

Along with having a pizza oven installed into the space, James is also updating the façade and some of the décor – the trademark reclaimed wood-paneled wall and copper-piping will remain.

For drinks, expect OC Brewery craft beer, a wine list featuring some quirky and affordable boutique wines, and some interesting cocktails. Spending time with James Diack, you soon realise that he is passionate about wine (just have a look at our interview with James). “This will be my simplest restaurant to date, and I can’t wait to share the experience with Rausharn, and with Melville,” James concludes. With his almost 100% sustainability record, James remains the pioneer of provenance in South Africa and a serious purveyor of farm-to-table deliciousness.

Our first impression of the restaurant is nothing short of two thumbs up - it is James Diack after all. Patrons can expect a similar vibe to Diack's El Contadino in Parktown North mixed with his signature farm-style flare.

Details: [email protected] | 0109004876 | https://www.facebook.com/lastallajhb/

By Shawn Greyling

Over the past four years, Parkhurst has gone through a massive revamp with many cool new places that have popped up. Here's what's new to the hood. 

parkhurst

Parkhurst was developed as a suburb in 1904, but it wasn't until 1938 that a couple of shops sprung up. In the 70s Parkhurst got its first antique store and others followed suit until it was dubbed "antique alley". But it was only in the mid-90s that this lovely little suburb saw its first coffee shop. This opened the floodgates for restaurants, cafes and delis to take over the area.

Shops

From the hair salon, Hair Traffic, to our favourite bookstore, Ricks Books, Parkhurst has something for everyone. There is also an array of small boutique clothing stores for ladies, and fashion houses such as Paul Smith and Desray can be found here.

Eat

Head to Parkhurst hungry and you'll leave stuffed with the best food on the planet. On 4th Avenue you will find restaurants such as Craft (known for their stellar milkshakes), Bottega Cafe (pretty chilled place serving Italian food), and Coobs (owned by one of our favourite bistro chefs, James Diack). Also be sure to check out the pizzas at Jolly Roger - half price Wednesdays and Sundays are the best, even though it gets super packed.

Art And Antiques 

Whether you are looking for that perfect painting to hang above your Bauhaus-inspired couch or wanting to add to your ceramic collection, Parkhurst has all of the above and more. There is a wide range of art galleries and dealers, such as the Cow Artworks and the Art Room, so you will most certainly find the quirk that tickles your fancy hidden somewhere along 4th Avenue.

By Shawn Greyling

Have you been to Parkhurst lately? Let us know if we've left out any of the latest additions to this ever-evolving neighbourhood. Make a journo's day and share this article on social media. 

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