Escape To The Secret Garden

Finding a restaurant that comfortably caters to meat eaters, vegetarians and vegans alike is rare. What's even more unlikely is to find a restaurant of this nature situated in the heart of the East Rand. We recently discovered a gem of this sort at Uncle Tim's Centre in Benoni.

The Secret Garden offers a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. The perfect alternative to an overbooked inner city restaurant, The Secret Garden provides serene dining under the shade of lush trees. We recommend sitting outdoors in warmer months. Greeted by the restaurant's resident cat, their garden seating is spacious and inviting. However, the interior has just as much character, with vintage wooden dining tables and quirky chandeliers. Either way, you are sure to receive good service from their friendly staff.

The Secret Garden

Inspired Dining

Arno Steenkamp, the owner and chef of the restaurant is vegan himself, so there is utmost care taken to prepare all dishes. His food ethos preaches that ingredients are not limited to food items, but include joy, kindness and inspiration. Taking his time to prepare healthy, thoughtful meals, Arno delivers his passion on a plate. The restaurant offers a set menu, as well as weekly specials. Often experiments in flavour and cuisine, these specials give diners a unique look into Chef Arno's diverse skill set in the kitchen. Think vegan Butternut Soup, Spiral Veggie Tart, Mushroom Wellington and Blueberry Mousse, yum!

Meat munchers, you have not been excluded from the Secret Garden's culinary excellence. Their set menu features a number of meat options, including a full English breakfast, a German pork feast, gourmet burgers and smoked trout fishcakes. Those of you who eat dairy may also enjoy a Secret Garden signature milkshake (or two!) Slurp down a traditional vanilla, strawberry or lime shake while waiting for your meal. Alternatively, give their peanut butter or Oreo milkshake a try. Smooth and sweet, this is the perfect way to enjoy your time at this unlikely foodie hotspot.

Have It Your Way

Many of the dishes on the Secret Garden's menu are available in vegetarian and vegan options. For instance, you can order vegan filled pancakes with creamy spinach and avocado, or the meat version, which comes with savoury mince and a beer and mustard cheese sauce. 

When we visited, we ordered the Ploughman's Platter - two generous wedges of cheddar cheese, served with pickles, grapes, pretzels, dipping chutney, tomatoes and homebaked beer bread. You can keep it meat-free, or add a serving of Hickory Ham or sliced biltong. We opted for the ham, which paired wonderfully with the strong cheese and sweet grapes. However, the star of this plate was the bread. With subtle under notes of beer, this dense loaf was so good that we ordered a second to finish off the scraps of the plate. The Secret Garden will definitely be hearing from us again in the near future!

The Secret Garden

Allowing friends and family to gather at a place where almost anything is possible when it comes to food, The Secret Garden is paving the way for inclusive dining in the East Rand. The drive to this quaint restaurant is well worth it, so make the trip as soon as you can.

For More Information

Follow The Secret Garden on Facebook for more information.

Details: 40 High Road, Benoni, Gauteng | 083 299 2160 | [email protected]

Hunting For Trinkets And Collectables In Joburg

Barter Buys

Barter Buys is a wonderland of unique antique collectables and vintage furniture. Located along Queen Street in Kensington, this paradise should be your first stop on the road to finding the most rare trinket items. From teaspoons to music boxes and everything in between, Barter Buys has it all. Make sure to give yourself ample time to explore this antique store, which spans across an entire two storey home.

Details: 167 Queen St, South Kensington, Johannesburg | 011 615 6920 | [email protected]

Ye Olde Collector

Another Queen Street must-visit is Ye Old Collector. With an extensive collection of porcelain treasures, this is the place to shop for all things old and interesting. Just be careful not to knock anything over in this crowded store of glassware, plates and fine china sets. Ye Olde Collector also stocks vintage furniture, pocket watches and old clocks with so much character you will find it difficult to leave without one.

Details: 156 Queen Street, Kensington, Johannesburg | 011 616 3578 | [email protected]


Uncle Tim's Centre

Take a trip out to the East to visit Uncle Tim's Centre in Benoni. This Victorian-style retail centre is a treasure trove of second-hand books, military memorabilia, antiques and unique gifts. Give yourself ample time to wander around here, discovering all of its one-of-a-kind trinkets. After all that shopping, pop into the Secret Garden restaurant for a delicious milkshake and yummy eats. The centre also hosts regular collectors fairs and craft markets, so keep an eye on their Facebook page for updates.

Details: 40 High Road, Brentwood Park, Benoni, Gauteng | 010 590 8003 | [email protected]

The Warehouse Antiques and Collectables

The next stop on your journey to find priceless collector's items should be The Warehouse Antiques and Collectables in Edenvale. With a huge selection of antique furniture, silverware, ornaments and paintings, this is the ideal place to scout out some worthwhile buys. The Warehouse Antiques and Collectables is also a great store to find vintage upcycle pieces for your home, so visit them as soon as you can.

Details: 147, 7th Avenue, Edenvale, Gauteng | 082 416 3709 | [email protected]

Alshebrugar Collectables

If there is one suburb in Johannesburg known for its variety and quality of antiques and collectables, it's Orange Grove. Just on the border of this suburb is Alshebrugar Collectables - a dedicated vintage barware store. From retro Coca-Cola signage to quirky bar stools and everything in between, Alshebrugar Collectables offers you a trip straight back into the mid-20th century.

Details: 27 Alexandria Street, Sandringham, Johannesburg | 084 843 9417 | [email protected]


Finding out-of-print or collector's editions of your favourite books can be an unrewarding task. Especially if you plan to pursue it without the guidance of Bookdealers, who have been in the business of second-hand, collectable and new books for over 30 years! You can search for books on their online store, or visit them in-store for expert assistance. If they do not have your desired book in stock, they will help you hunt it down. They even have a few inscribed titles by famous authors, so be sure to check out one of their branches located around Johannesburg.

Details: 011 440 7936 | [email protected]


Serial Thrillers

Finally, we have Serial Thrillers. A store brimming with must-have collector's pieces, situated within the heart of the rose gardens at the Johannesburg Botanical Gardens in Emmarentia. If you are looking for first edition comic books, this is the place for you. They stock the likes of Asterix and Obelix, The Adventures of Tintin and Betty and Veronica, as well as classic children's books and adult fiction alike. You can also find vinyl records, figurines and art work here, often available at discount prices.

Details: Olifants Rd, Johannesburg Botanical Gardens, Emmarentia, Johannesburg | 061 448 2933

Do you know of any other top trinket and collectables stores in Johannesburg? Let us know about them! 

Hidden Gems Of Benoni

Cafe Bellini

As an introduction to the hidden gems of Benoni, head out to Cafe Bellini. This quaint restaurant serves up delicious, hearty breakfasts, generous lunches and some of the best cake and pastries in the suburb. Think caramel fudge popcorn cake, baked cheesecake with blueberry couli and mini baklava rolls. Cafe Bellini is available for small private functions, including afternoon teas and birthday parties. With their beautiful rose garden outside and wrap around Victorian-style porch, this is Benoni at its very best. The restaurant also offers a walk-through gift section with unique, up-market decor accessories and jewellery, so stop by as soon as you can.

Details: 204 Elston Avenue, Western Extension, Benoni, Gauteng | 063 967 9653 or 082 708 0555 | [email protected]

The Victorian Secret 

For the finest French macarons in Benoni, visit The Victorian Secret. This side street patisserie is housed within a renovated Victorian home, giving it ample charm and character. We recommend taking a seat outdoors underneath their expansive, shady trees. The furniture is quintessentially Victorian too, with bright white lacy accents all around. TVS has set high tea and breakfast menus, featuring their most delightful cakes, pastries and savoury nibbles. However, you are welcome to pop by unannounced for a spot of tea, a lovely brunch or a variety of sweet treats.

Details: 140 Woburn St (Cnr Russel St), Western Ext, Benoni, Gauteng | 011 420 1912 | [email protected].

hidden gems of benoni

The Secret Garden

Benoni sure does have a lot of secrets up its sleeve. For a vegetarian and vegan-friendly dining experience, visit The Secret Garden at Uncle Tim's Centre. Almost every menu item here has a suitable vegetarian or vegan alternative. So, while your meat loving friends tuck into a traditional English breakfast, you can enjoy a potato cake with tofu scramble, set on a bed of spinach, with sauteed tomato, mushrooms, spicy beans and a Fry's vegan sausage! Set in a lovely garden complete with water fountain and an abundance of plant life. The Secret Garden grow their own veggies too, so you can dine assured that the spinach on your plate has been plucked directly from the garden beds next to you.

Details: 40 High Road, Benoni, Gauteng | 083 299 2160 | [email protected]

Uncle Tim's Centre

If you love all things Victorian, then Benoni is the place for you to eat, shop and admire. Uncle Tim's Centre is a Victorian treasure chest of antiques housed in a collection of historical buildings in Benoni. Take a peek into Uncle Tim's Cabin, a five-roomed antiques and collectibles store. The old farmhouse plays host to 20 other shops, each selling something unique. From patchwork and embroidery to second hand books and vinyl, bespoke jewellery and an on-site art gallery, Uncle Tim's is a retail wonderland. The pinnacle of hidden gems in Benoni, Uncle Tim's regularly hosts markets and fairs, so keep an eye on their Facebook page for upcoming events.

Details: 40 High Road, Benoni, Gauteng | 010-590-8003 | [email protected]

Shed & Silo 

Everyone needs a break from the drudge of city life. Take a journey out into the tranquil avenues of Benoni to visit Shed & Silo, a country-style cafe famous for its Eggs Benedict and Chocolate Mousse Cake. There is a large patio area which overlooks lush farmland and the restaurant's vegetable gardens. It's the perfect spot to enjoy your morning cuppa. However, the interior decor of the restaurant is delightfully pretty as well, with glass cabinets, wood accents and hanging flower baskets. Retreat inside on a chilly day to enjoy a warming drink and some of the best gourmet cake Benoni has to offer.

Details: 77 Thomas Road, Norton Home Estates, Benoni, Gauteng | 063 294 6157 | [email protected]

Little Belgium

What's more satisfying than a crunchy, sweet waffle? A savoury one perhaps? Little Belgium is one of the newest additions to the hidden gems of Benoni list. Located at Flamingo's Nest Hotel, this is a family-friendly waffle house with a difference. Their take on the classic waffle is inspired, serving Thai Vegetable Curry, Butter Chicken and Beef Tagliatta Waffles! If you are a stickler for tradition, their menu also features all the good old classics. Kids can have a blast playing on the jungle gyms overlooking the lagoon outside, while you tuck into a thick, creamy milkshake. There is also a dedicated kiddies menu, so all can enjoy a tasty meal.

Details: Flamingo’s Nest Boutique Hotel, Corner Dove & Boundary Road, Rynfield, Benoni AH | 082 886 3996 | [email protected]

Korsman Bird Sanctuary 

The Korsman Bird Sanctuary is located within the boomed residential Westdene suburb of Benoni. However, it is open to visitors, offering the best urban bird watching experience in the East Rand. There are a number of watch points to sit and admire the natural beauty around you, as well as 2.5km walking and cycling trails. There is also ample space on the perimeter of the sanctuary to enjoy a family picnic on the grass. Dogs are welcome too, so long as they are leashed and well behaved. It is free to view the park from the outside, so come out for a bit of fresh air in the heart of hidden Benoni.

Details: The Dr, Westdene, Benoni, Gauteng | 011 421 7418 / 082 690 2832 | [email protected] 

Benoni Monkey and Bird Park 

If you want to get up and close with some wildlife, then bring the family to the Benoni Monkey and Bird Park. Home to an array of exotic species of monkey, bird and rabbit, this sanctuary is ideal for a day out with the kids. There is an adjoining tea garden and play centre, so you can relax while the kiddies muck about. Children are welcome to interact with the animals, so long as they are considerate and gentle. This is a great kids party venue too, with catering options available from the restaurant.

Details: 244 Swallow Road, Rynfield AH, Benoni, Gauteng | 082 787 3932 | [email protected]

hidden gems of benoni

Sibikwa Arts Centre 

The Sibikwa Arts Centre is one of Benoni's truest hidden gems. Working in community theatre for over 30 years, this arts centre plays a vital role in children's education and vocational training. The centre also happens to host some of the coolest jazz concerts, heritage festivals and theatre showcases in Benoni. Come and jive along to the sweet sounds of music here, or get involved in the community work. Kids can join the Saturday Arts Academy to hone their dance, singing and acting skills. Helping the youth become the very best versions of themselves through the practice of discipline and art, the Sibikwa Arts Centre is a must-visit gem.

Details: 13 Corner Bolton & Liverpool Road, Benoni, Gauteng | 011 422 4359 | [email protected]

Pug Rescue SA

Finally, we have the most adorable and worthwhile hidden gem to visit in Benoni. Pug Rescue SA calls this suburb their home, offering animal rescue services and special fund-raising events for abandoned and injured pugs and cross breeds. Come and spend some time with these sweet rescues, who will gladly thank you with a snort, lick and wag of the tail. You never know, you may just find a new addition to your family here.

Pug Rescue is hosting their final 'Spoil a Pug' event this December. Join them for a much-needed spoil session where you can walk a pug or give them a friendly belly rub at a doggie 'pool party'. All you need to bring along with you is a donation of R20 per person, or a can of Husky with gravy for these lovable rescues. The event takes place on Sunday, 01 December 2019 at 08:00 and 10:00.

Details: 80/1 Nielsen Road Benoni North Argicultural Holdings, Benoni, Gauteng | 082 508 0384 | [email protected]

Do you know of any other hidden gems in Benoni? Let us know about them!