Music and dishes that feed the soul

Kenneth Nzama and Bradley Williams.
Kenneth Nzama and Bradley Williams.

New establishments are always being opened in a vibey place such as Braamfontein. Often the venues have to be something special to draw the eye of those spoilt for choice.

An interesting new venture by DJ Kenzhero, real name Kenneth Nzama, and his business partner Bradley Williams has caught my eye.

Artvist is a year-old venue on Reserve Street sectioned into three parts - there's the restaurant at street level and the art gallery above it, with works from young emerging artists and curators, with the Untitled Basement, where you enter through wrought-iron gates and take a flight of stairs into the muted, cozy confines of the basement where live music is the order of the night.

Sowetan visited the basement venue on Thursday night for the jazz evening, part of its live music offering.

Williams says the aim for the venue was to create an inspirational space, where people can connect across a diverse spectrum whether they be artists, artisans, marketers, fashionistas, political leaders, academics, innovators etc.

"When it comes to culinary offering we aim to provide nourishment and generosity in regional, Pan-African and Mediterranean cuisine, that is ethically sourced and prepared, with environmentally and people conscious food/ingredients."

At their live music venue, they offer dishes like boujee fried chicken wings, free- range chicken wings with chermoula, served with fries at R100 for six and R160 for 12.

Artvist's interior showcases clean lines.
Artvist's interior showcases clean lines.

And mogodu (tripe), black beans, butter beans, chorizo, tomato and jeqe at R110. Though the place's decor is warm and intimate, the service from the staff was lacking. The hostess on the day was abrupt and curt. The service was slow, and I witnessed a patron complaining about not getting her food order on time.

The bar staff were quite flustered as well. There was no change at the bar and the bartender seemed defeated by the speed point. The place filled up really well, though it needs more seats, perhaps bar stools at the counter, because standing for that amount of time can change the mood from happy to annoyed really quickly for someone wearing heels and it makes it awkward to find a place to eat.

"We're obviously not perfect but for people who are first-time restaurant owners, who aren't actually restaurant people we're okay; we have our head above water," Nzama says. "I think some of the feedback is sympathetic because it's the first time we own a kitchen but I think with the team that we put together, we're trying to avoid any disappointments for our customers."

Mogodu (tripe).
Mogodu (tripe).

The price of the ticket is justified when it comes to the talent that is performing, but in terms of the experience it is not. Patrons standing takes away from the performance.

What has worked really well for the venue is their music offering, Nzama says.

On the night, I visited jazz legend Herbie Tsoaeli was performing with Andile Yenana on piano, Ayanda Sikade on drums, Robin Fassie on trumpet and Sydney Mnisi on the saxophone.

Tsoaeli started off his performance with the song Spirits are Calling and all in the venue were treated to a soulful performance that transported the soul. This is a great place to catch live jazz performances and other live music events such as visiting DJs and samba evenings.

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