Newtown holds a distinct place in the South African arts and culture scene. There is history and prestige, in both activism and the arts, that references the place.
Today, many of the streets in the precinct are named after South African greats! Miriam Makeba, the saxaphonist Ntemi Piliso, Henry Nxumalo, Gwigwi Mrwebi, Margaret Mcingana and many more have streets bearing their names in this part of the city.
Though many have alluded to Newtown’s “regeneration” failing or getting off to false starts in our two-decade democracy, the precinct is mostly thriving. There are restaurants, art galleries, Museum Africa, Sci-Bono, music venues, the Market Theatre – now named after award-winning actor John Kani – and a nightlife truly belonging to the area. And right at the heart of today’s Newtown sits Niki’s Oasis – a jazz venue and restaurant.
Founded in 1995, Niki’s Oasis is the brainchild of Nikiwe Rwaxa, a self-professed supporter of young South African musicians and visual artists. The restaurant is such an important fixture on the Gauteng jazz scene that it has often been host to several Joy of Jazz events, Gauteng’s week-long, multi-venue signature jazz event. As the area appeals to weekenders and money spenders, as most of the city has, Niki’s stands strong.
Entering the venue, guests are greeted by an often-dimly lit performance area and bar. The stage is adorned with a full set instruments and on the walls hang photographs of legendary African musicians and art by young artists.
The atmosphere at Niki’s Oasis is intimate and warm and the booths are comfortable and when the sun is high up, the terrace has plenty of sitting room for customers who so wish to sit outside and enjoy the Johannesburg open air.
The menu boasts a variety of delicious meals that taste like home. Famous among regulars is Niki’s special recipe of potjie, a hearty combination of meats and vegetables. Also on the menu is creamy and flavourful mgqusho (samp and beans), which pairs well with the potjie. There’s hearty mutton, which is lovingly prepared. Their tender and succulent tripe adds the tasty flavour of the homely touch the restaurant aims to give customers. All dishes are served with either rice, pap, mngqusho or dumplings.
Also available: For those not looking for a home-style meal, the menu has burger and salad options.
Best kept secret: ask for the shatini/salsa if you crave a little spice. The concoction is a safe start for beginners but also satisfying for those who enjoy walking on the hot side of culinary life.
The restaurant is open from 12h00, making it a perfect choice for both lunch and dinner. During these hours, while there are no music performances blues and jazz music can be heard playing in the background.
138 Bree Street Newtown