- Food Lover's Market just opened its first Eatery store in Johannesburg, in the heart of Sandton, following success in Cape Town.
- The choice of food it offers is downright silly – and that's before you get to desert.
- This is not the kind of restaurant you want to sit down at, but it should be deeply worrying fast-food restaurants that trade on speed rather than quality.
The Food Lover's Market just launched its first Eatery store in Johannesburg, expanding its current Cape Town footprint of three stores.
Between them the four outlets are already serving some 20,000 people per day, Food Lover's tell us – and the way Sandton office workers swarmed through it, that number seems plausible.
We visited this new jewel in the company's crown, in the horrible The Marc shopping centre built on what was once the Village Walk, in the heart of the finance district.
We found a downright outrageous array of food choices and, yet, dizzyingly fast service, timing one particularly decisive worker at 90 seconds from setting foot in the store to leaving it again with a bulging takeaway container.
The Eatery houses a bunch of discrete specialist departments, including the Fresh Society juice bar, with a smoothie menu that runs over five boards.
The main attraction, though, is the buffet-style self-service food trays – where everything goes for R125 per kilogram. At our visit that included three types of curry...
... a selection of meats and two different types of scrambled egg...
... and 23 different salad items, some of them pretty complicated.
And that is not counting the separate trays of broccoli and tomato and roast butternut and herb croutons with which to construct your own salad.
The selection of food did paralyse some first-time visitors to the store, who found it hard to choose between the sweet and sour chicken, the beef curry, and the chicken stirfry – before spotting another island featuring the pork bangers and savoury mince.
If self-help is no help, there is a huge food island in the middle of the store, which offers a mixture of to-go and build-your-own foods.
You can build a bespoke sandwich for just under R50, starting with one of five different types of mayo, or just go with one of the 25 ready-made variants.
There are 11 types of pizza ready to pop into the oven, for between R20 and R25 per slice...
... and a selection of fancy stuff more expensive than the R125 per kilogram open buffet.
Lesser-travelled reaches of the island include a sushi counter where platters start at R30, and a build-your-own poke bowl section (R70 each).
And beyond Sandwich Etc island lies a "grill shack" for R35 burgers or R27 flame-grilled quarter chickens, and a neighbouring section for fish, shawarma and burritos.
For some reason, there are also 20 different types of bread available from a bakery alcove....
... and a comparatively sparse selection of R18 pies.
The theme of absurd choice continues with the wall of self-help sweets and nuts, though it is not quite as big as it looks. Thanks to a couple of duplications there are actually only 109 different variations of snacks available.
The wall features caramel-coated peanuts, wasabi-coated peanuts, giant peanuts with raisins, roasted redskin peanuts, salted roasted redskin peanuts, peri-peri peanuts, and of course plain peanuts.
It is the desert and pastry section, though, that takes the prize as the most over-the-top part of the store. We counted 51 different pastries and cakes...
... not counting the cookies...
... or the baklava, kataifi, and cinnamon sticks...
... or the prepackaged muffins...
... or the fresh muffins...
... or the wall of doughnuts, with their own glazing station.
There is also banana bread.
There is one major problem, if you are looking for a sit-down meal: the awful shopping centre the Eatery is in.
The Eatery has food-court style seating outside – in a miserable, ugly, echoing space just made worse by a desultory attempt at greening one edge of it.
Stranded between the entrance and exit of the shop, with its heavy foot traffic, the seating area offers only one advantaged: an unrivalled place from which to appreciate the horrific choices in everything from colour scheme to materials that went into The Marc.
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