Classique Braai Lounge owners Langa Sithole and Sandile Dlamini share their vision for an inclusive upmarket dining experience that brings an authentic taste of South Africa to the Upper Highway
Story Hayley Dennyson Pictures Adi Weerheim
Since opening on September 31, 2016, Classique Braai Lounge has welcomed an eclectic mix of diners, answering the need for lip-smacking braai’ed meat and the traditional tastes of home, in the centre of Hillcrest.
Langa and Sandile both live locally and moved here for the area’s great schools, laid-back lifestyle and the proximity to both Durban and Pietermaritzburg. Both family men have successful careers in events and marketing, and have put many hours into promoting their clients’ brands. “Classique is our chance to build something that is ours,” Langa says.
“We had grown tired of the 90km roundtrip to Umlazi, KwaMashu or Maritzburg to get braai’ed meat and knew other people who felt the same,” explains Sandile. “There was a ready market and it isn’t only about black people. South Africans love braai’ed meat, but we don’t necessarily want the hassle of making it. The craving is always there!”
“The Upper Highway is growing rapidly and we want to be part of that growth,” Langa says. “As more people move into the area, they bring their own influences and the restaurant scene will change with them. We felt the time was right for Classique.”
While the term shisa nyama has been used to describe the new venue, the owners are quick to point out that Classique Braai Lounge is a family-friendly restaurant, open from lunch through to 10pm, providing an appealing environment for business and pleasure. Their cocktails have also earned quite a following! Classique is set up to reflect its environment and diners – an upmarket mix of western and African influences. The restaurant is the first of its kind in KwaZulu-Natal and one of just a handful in South Africa.
Working with MasterChef finalist Lungi Nhlanhla, the team put in a lot of time and effort to achieve their signature flavour. “It’s like home-made, but better,” Langa explains. “We want the flavours to appeal to a broad audience, while reminding people of the food their mothers and grandmothers used to make.”
Topselling dishes include braai platters, which come with jeqe, pap and chakalaka, and inyama yenhloko or lip meat. They have discovered a demand for takeaways during the week, when busy mothers don’t have time to prepare traditional meals.
In everything they do, Langa and Sandile are conscious of their responsibility to those growing up in the townships. “We were fortunate to escape,” says Sandile. “Life in the townships can be heart-breaking. With few positive role models available, it can rot your brain, but we all have 24 hours in a day to make a difference. We all have choices.”
The pair are determined to inspire and guide township youth. “We want to encourage a spirit of entrepreneurship, so that young people can create opportunities for themselves and others. They need to know that nothing will fall into their lap, but with hard work and honesty, you can succeed.
“When you are in a corner, you have to be more creative to make it work,” Langa continues. “Reputation is everything, so keep your word, work hard and be honest.”
They use these same principles at the restaurant, where they have a strong team, who share their vision and are committed to making it work. Langa’s wife, Goga (a qualified social worker) manages the restaurant and keeps in touch with the needs of both staff and customers.
“As South Africans, we shouldn’t limit ourselves,” Langa concludes. “We exist in a global space and we should dream as such. We call on the local community to join us, experience what we have to offer and enjoy time together in this space. We have big plans for the brand, but it all starts at home.”
Oxford Village, Old Main Road, Hillcrest