Chalkboard Café at the BioscopeThere are two reasons why I love going to the Bioscope cinema in Joburg city centre.
One is to see quirky independent films from the comfort of decent seats with lots of leg room.
The other is for the excellent pizzas, which are sturdy creations with a base that’s thick enough to support the generous toppings. That’s important in a pizza, which has to be eaten with the fingers to taste authentic.
Those scrawny-bottomed affairs pumped out by pretty much every pizza chain get awfully messy when the base sags around your fingers.
That doesn’t happen at the Chalkboard Café, attached to the Bioscope cinema. And if you haven’t eaten it all by the time the film starts, you can take it in with you. It’s not unheard of for the cook to carry a pizza into the cinema just as the lights go down and ask “who ordered the Meryl Streep?” That’s an R82 pizza with pear, Gorgonzola and prosciutto.
The thicker base means they’re filling enough to share, and on my most recent visit during the Tri-Continental Film Festival we shared a chicken, pepperdew and avo pizza for R72. Absolutely yummy, with a nice tingle to every mouthful.
The Chalkboard also sells muffins, soups, a small selection of salads, sandwiches and robust cappuccinos. It stocks one of the largest selections of craft beers in the city too, with names like Tiddly Toad Light Lager and Pye-Eyed Possum Pilsner by the litre. If I was a beer drinker I’d have to try the Naked Mexican, but as a wine drinker I stuck to a standard glass of Tall Horse Cabernet Sauvignon.
I was intrigued by the dumpy bottle of wine called Bob’s Your Uncle, produced in South Africa rather than Zimbabwe, but I didn’t want to risk a whole 500ml and doze off in the movie. Which is quite possible, because the 68 seats are all reused car seats collected from chop shops in the neighbourhood. They recline and slide back to give you a comfy ride as the film unfolds.
The Bioscope and Chalkboard have a great vibe thanks to the all-ages, all-colours crowd, live music evenings and fun ideas like Asian movie nights, where the ticket price includes a box of noodles.
The décor, if that’s not too grand a word for it, is mostly black, functional and spartan. There are three large leather-look sofas around a low table in one corner, a trestle table and stools under a mural, and long benches opposite the bar and kitchen area. There are chalkboards on the wall as well, used for brainstorming ideas, artistic expression or badly spelt graffiti.
It’s lovely to sit outside on warmer evenings, on a pavement that’s now buzzing with life as the whole area around the Bioscope is pumping. The 12 Decades Hotel is next door, along with the PopArt tiny theatre, and a bar called Pata Pata that I must explore next time. Which reminds me, try not to need the loo half way through the film, because you have to go outside and use the toilets in the courtyard of the 12 Decades.
The whole area was so busy that finding parking took us 10 minutes with all the side streets and main streets already bumper-to-bumper with cars. We had a mini-panic attack when we left and couldn’t find the car again, but we’d just walked down the wrong side street.
We left as Pata Pata was still throbbing, and drove home debating the merits of the film and agreeing that the pizza was the highlight of the evening.
You can book for movies online and order a pizza at the same time, but there’s really no benefit unless the movie is likely to be a sell-out.
The Bioscope and Chalkboard café:
286 Fox Street, Maboneng Precinct, Johannesburg. Tel: 011 039 7306. www.thebioscope.co.za. (Pic from Chalkboard Cafe)