Hillbrow’s revolving restaurant and disco

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While I wrestle with the next suburb post (Hospital Hill & Hillbrow) and the final part of the church piece, I wanted to share some pages from a Johannesburg tourist guide from April 1973.

Thanks to Doran from Bookdealers in Melville who is always on the lookout for rare and interesting Johannesburg books for my research. I’ve even been upgraded to my own box with my name on it! They’ve got five branches around JHB and a great website. Check it all out HERE.

Heinrich's revolving restuarant

Heinrich’s revolving restaurant

Back in April 1973, one could go to the top of Hillbrow Tower (known then as J. G. Strijdom Tower), have a four-course meal and a film for R5 and then get down to DJ John Roland and the energetic all-girl bar staff at Cloud 9. I never believed it although did hear stories that it was once open to the public and always assumed the revolving restaurant referred to the one in Braamfontein. Here’s the proof along with the 6-digit phone number. I’ll add more detail to the tower in the upcoming Hillbrow post.

Also of interest were various bars at the time including the Piano Bar at the top of the Carlton Centre. Other bars like 747 Cocktail Bar at Crest Hotel in Berea, Hanger 5 at Jan Smuts Airport, Fountain Lounge at Tollman Towers Hotel in Kerk Street and the Copper Lounge at Moulin Rouge Hotel in Claim Street all featured live music and entertainment presumably as a drawcard. These were the days before TV (and disco) and JHB is full of restaurants, theatres and movie houses competing for the crowds.

After work watering holes with entertainment

After work watering holes with entertainment

Hot spots in 1973

Hot spots in 1973

Many restaurants doubled-up as live music venues with full bands for dancing. Dine & Dance was seemingly all the rage. From the list above, Ciro’s Restaurant (which, if I’m not mistaken, has been a venue since the 1950s) became popular nightclub ZIPPS and then Mrs. Henderson’s in the 1980s. The Moulin Rouge had a club called The Parks in the late 80s which may have been the re-vamped Med Bar. Jan Smuts Airport also seemed to pull the crowds. Clearly traffic and parking weren’t an issue.

Popular restaurants in Johannesburg in 1973

Popular restaurants in Johannesburg in 1973

The Three Ships at the Carlton Hotel and Munchener House in Braamfontein are the only two names I remember growing up (I was born one month after this guide was published)

Sunday night dining

Sunday night dining

Lorenco Marques Restaurant advert

Lourenco Marques Restaurant advert

I’m not sure if it was risky opening on Sundays, but it was certainly a big enough of a deal to highlight it. Perhaps it had something to do with strict liquor licensing laws… Bella Napoli Pizzeria in Pretoria Street Hillbrow, Norman’s Grill at Grand Central Hotel in Jeppe, Bengal Tiger at Granada Court in Hillbrow, Bamboo Inn in Bree Street, Lourenco Marques Restaurant in Twist Street and the Red Lantern in Fordsburg were all familiar names growing up. I remember eating out once at Bella Napoli around 1987 or 1988. The popular nightclub was upstairs. The restaurant where we ate, which was downstairs, was eventually converted into a another dancefloor around 1989. In 1992 it became my first DJ residency. I played downstairs for four nights a week for just over 2 years.

Lastly, it appears there was also a restaurant at the top of Brixton Tower. This means that during the 1970s and early 1980s, one could eat on top of the three tallest structures in Johannesburg. Hillbrow tower was closed to public in 1981 and Brixton tower in 1982 due to a combination of security and political reasons.





This entry was published on September 26, 2015 at 11:30 pm. It’s filed under Johannesburg and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

26 thoughts on “Hillbrow’s revolving restaurant and disco

  1. Marcia Rykov on said:

    Once again, thank you so very much for this incredible trip down memory lane! A few of my favorite restaurants were the Bamboo Inn for the best Chinese food, The Lourenco Marques for those delicious prawns and the quaint little Bella Napoli for gnocchi. These were enjoyed in the early 1960’s. The greatest dining experience was at the Cafe Royale but I can’t remember the street….maybe Bree? Many great evenings were enjoyed at Ciros nightclub also in the early 1960’s. Does anyone remember Delmonicos opposite the Empire theatre? So many wonderful restaurants now just memories. Many thanks Marc for all you do!! Always so much fun travelling back in time.

    • Marc Latilla on said:

      Hi Marcia, Cafe Royal was listed at Annan House at 86 Commissioner Street. I’ve also added a picture of an advert for LM Restaurant to the post

    • John Lucas on said:

      I LOVED the Bamboo Inn – Sweet and sour pork / beef. Does anyone recall Smokers’ Corner and the downstairs Italian Buffet restaurant close by? Also Brazillian coffee shop Loveday Street,

  2. Marcia Rykov on said:

    Thanks for all the information!! Great picture of the advert! Looking forward to hearing from you again…..always such a treat!! Hope you can find more pictures of Hillbrow in the 1960’s and also downtown Johannesburg, the way I remember it?!

  3. Good day

    Thanks a million for all this wonderful photos and info about Johannesburg –

    Thanks for your enthusiasm – energy and time for us to read and see the old and experience the memory flash backs – of our youth.

    Giving my age away here??

    But THANKSSSSSSSS for it all

    Alet de Hart
    082 373 3486
    011 475 3936 FAKS 086 553 8145

  4. Thank you for mentioning Bookdealers & putting a link to our website .

  5. Marcia Rykov on said:

    Hi Marc, Hope you are enjoying the holidays! Have not seen any new posts from you?….Perhaps in 2016? Happy Healthy New Year to you and yours!

    • Marc Latilla on said:

      Thanks Marcia. Hope you are too! Hospital Hill will be published before the end of 2015. Hillbrow is straight after that.Just busy finalising some details…

  6. does anybody know what happened to the owner of heinrichs restaurant. he bought a car from a friend of mine’s dad. we are trying to trace the car!
    dirk van zyl

  7. Used to go to Heinrichs every year for birthday meal. Ali Arletowicz on piano – exotic food, and a 2 hour rotation.

  8. Peter Pentz on said:

    Am visiting SA/Cape and Jhb. this Nov. 2016 from the US. The prawns here are shrimp (small) – but the lobster is great ($4.99 Lb). Almost as good as SA ‘kreef’. Where is the BEST place for Prawns Piri Piri in Jhb.?
    Thanks All,
    Piet Pompies.

    • Marc Latilla on said:

      Hi, I saw last week that Jimmy’s Killer Prawns opened a branch in Fordsburg. Just to the left after you pass under the ‘Fietas’ railway bridge going towards Forsdburg.

      • Peter Pentz on said:

        Thanks Marc!.. will have to check it out and find out if Jimmy’s has wyn -Vino Verdho (Gracao?). Been such a long time. Will also visit the Radium in Orange Grove. My Security Detail had better be ‘sharp’ that day.

  9. Peter Pentz on said:

    Thanks again Marc on info’ for Jimmy’s Killer Prawn, this Nov. 2016 visit. Anyone remember “The Phoenix” – German restaurant. Schimtty the waiter, would bring the soup – always with his thumb in it. Bella Napoli in H’brow had the best Lasagne. And there will always be Norman’s Grill – filed for eternity on my palate and memory. Wishing to impress my date with a fancy dish, I ordered the “Prawns Garnale” – sounded French. Upon which
    Norman kindly informed me that garnale was Afrikaans for prawns. Red face!
    Will have to visit Gramadoelas too.

    Upon arrival at O.R. Tambo, and asked by Customs for the purpose of my visit, I will say, “I’m here to eat prawns piri piri, Kabeljou, King Klip, Crayfish, Karoo lamb and drink lots of SA wine”.

    • Marc Latilla on said:

      Hi, the Radium is still going and pretty safe. Bellas is no longer along with Normans Grill and Gramadoelas. For decent seafood I can recommend Bellagios on Oxford Road in Illovo. Jimmy’s in Fordsburg make not sell wine as it’s in a Muslim area (not sure though). Enjoy!

  10. Jim Brown on said:

    Maybe the Maboneng initiative, moving ever east, will eventually include the Grand Station Hotel and Norman’s Grill will have a phoenix moment?

  11. Roy Narunsky on said:

    Marc – do you have any idea of the name of the 2 (i believe) places that were in Hillbrow in the 80’s to play pool/snooker? Thanks and great articles – Roy

    • Marc Latilla on said:

      Hi Roy, the one that instantly comes to mind is the 147 that was under the street on Kotze. The entrance was across the road from Highpoint to the left.

  12. Nick Prinsloo on said:

    The 147 Club as Marc said. The name changed around 1988 when it changed ownership. I don’t remember what it was called before that. I lived at the 147 between 1987 and 1990. Worked there, gambled there, sometimes slept there. The other snooker club was called The Regency. It was close to the Chelsea Hotel. The Summit Club also had snooker tables.

  13. Lynn Bramley on said:

    Thank You So much
    It is so interesting, it’s funny how You forget things.
    It’s so Cool

    • My husband and i used to go to a restaurant/nightclub in Orange Grove in the early 80s that had a live jazz band and dance floor . We cant remember the name of it but it made me tuink of sowmthing tropical loke Copacabana. That wasnt the name, but for some reason that is what comes to mind. Does anyone remember it? It had been going a long time

      • Marc Latilla on said:

        Hi Jane, this may have been the old Grove Hotel on Louis Botha Ave about 200m on the right from the bottom of ‘death’s bend’. It would have been next to Lauriston Court.

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