Emoyeni Estate, situated in Parktown, Johannesburg, is a dream. Just entering this magnificent Edwardian heritage building feels elegant and grand, and as you walk up the stairs you can feel the gracious and timeless luxury of yesteryear.
Emoyeni means ‘Place in the Air’ in Nguni. It is built on one of the highest ridges in Parktown and the view is quite extraordinary, overlooking a wild and natural forest of trees and Johannesburg’s northern suburbs. I was pretty sure I could see Rosebank Lodge and Avondhu Guesthouse from up the top.
Emoyeni Estate was initially built in 1905 for Henry Hull, a government minister, to host lavish parties. Today it is a private conference and catering venue, working with corporate companies, government institutions, hotels, guesthouses and private individuals.
Emoyeni Estate recently hosted a Johannesburg Guesthouse meeting, which is how I was lucky enough to spend time with chef, Rocco Verster.
Rocco came down the grand staircase to meet me, in his white chef’s uniform.
’Oh,’ I said. ‘You smell of ginger and lemongrass.’
He replied, telling me I had an excellent nose. He’d been using these ingredients to make biscuits. Rocco is a chef of the times and nothing goes to waste in his kitchen. He creates the cookies by using the ‘leftovers’ from other dessert mixtures – lime pie, panna cotta or cheese cake – adds a bit of cocoa powder, and then the other secret ingredients.
I had one cookie, fresh out the oven. Oh my goodness.
I had another.
Emoyeni hosts day conferences, for small groups of five or large groups of one hundred and ten. They offer the whole package which means:-
* A personal welcome.
* Welcome drinks – orange juice, tea or coffee.
* Welcome snacks.
* Conference facilities with all equipment.
* Paper pens, peppermints, water, overheard projectors.
* Mid-morning tea with snacks.
* Afternoon tea with snacks.
* A personal farewell.
A huge part of Emoyeni is the food. It is unbelievably delicious. Rocco trained in Cape Town under Billy Gallagher who was for many years the president of the World Chefs Association. It was Bill who pretty much put South African chefs on the map. We have some excellent chefs in our country and Rocco works closely with the South African Chefs Association, doing some incredible work.
Rocco, Emoyeni and SACA are bringing cooking to the disadvantaged. Rocco has worked on several programs with homeless kids, getting them off the streets and into the kitchen. ‘It gives them a strong sense of self,’ he says. ‘Their self-esteem is boosted and they leave here with excellent kitchen skills.’
Rocco’s dream is to one day own a farm and run a small hotel school where they can grow their own vegetables and are totally self-sufficient and sustainable. He would love his school to be a place for kids and teens who have little in life, where he can work with them, teach and equip them with skills that will carry them through life.
I somehow feel Rocco will do this. I have not yet met a kinder man, a more wonderful chef and somebody who has a holistic view to his cooking. Emoyeni are blessed to have him.
I discovered that Emoyeni do a Sunday brunch, open to the public. The brunch starts at 10 am, goes on until 4 pm and is currently R 320 per person. It includes a full breakfast, live jazz and champagne. Apart from sushi and oysters, there is Asian duck, pork belly and a new ‘African corner’ with samp and tomato onion gravy. And of course a full breakfast too. It sounds divine.
Several of our Johannesburg Guesthouses use Emoyeni Estate for their conference guests. Melrose Place Guest House, Hands on Retreat, Premiere Classe Suites and Little Forest Guesthouse all have their own conference venues, but work with Emoyeni for the overflow, or if they have larger groups.
It is the most beautiful venue. Have a look at their website. And have a look at ours too. It’s newly upgraded and filled with lots of lovely ideas re accommodation, conferencing, what to do in Johannesburg, where to go and where to eat.