Hillbrow circa 1978 was probably the last time I entered a comic book store. I have vague recollections of poor lighting, rush-matting and the whiff of what one hopes was cat pee. Most of all I remember a pervasive hostility towards anyone who wasn’t obsessing over superheroes. I didn’t go back. Until now.
Whining children and maternal selflessness caused me to cross the threshold of the Comic Book Warehouse in Bedfordview. Times have changed. Geek culture has gone mainstream. And sanitary. I am sure that there are pros and cons to this transition but I was relieved to find a warm, welcoming and well-organised space. The wide selection of vintage and current comics, collectables and pop culture knick-knaks was just what the younger brethren in my life were hoping for. There were life-sized Batman statues and creepy bits and pieces from Game of Thrones murders. A Yoda door mat (“welcome you are”) competed for customer attention with a whole display case of wands from every character in Harry Potter. Best of all there were the sweet staff who knew everything about every character in every comic ever and were prepared to chat endlessly to small boys about the relative merits of The Flash seasons 4 and 5.
Even with all of the above I am still not interested in comic clutter. I was momentarily entertained by the Princess Leia and Captain America outfits for dogs. I briefly tried to follow the plot of a comic entitled The Undefeatable Squirrel Girl but within five minutes I was bored. Which is why I was so excited to discover Kaylee’s restaurant right in the middle of the store.
That’s right. There is a restaurant inside the comic book shop. The menu describes itself as vegan/vegetarian. I promise I am not stalking vegans but those who have read my reviews before may know that I had an unfortunate recent experience with those who eschew animal products (see here). The good news is that Kaylee’s is a great restaurant. Worth visiting even if it wasn’t inside a comic book store.
I treated myself to a deconstructed falafel bowl. I am generally suspicious of anything deconstructed. Almost invariably the result adds up to less than the sum of its parts. As Grace Dent once wrote in The Guardian “the pudding was a deconstructed Black Forest gateau, because, as we all know, all classic desserts benefit from an autopsy.” There are exceptions to every rule and the deconstructed falafel (R82) at Kaylee’s is it. Roasted, chopped chickpeas reveled in the aromatic freshness of coriander and parsley. The fiery sweetness of cumin, ginger, cinnamon and all spice balanced beautifully against the hint of garlic and a pinch of paprika. Cubes of caramelized aubergine added soft contrast to the crunch of cucumber. Superb tahini-laden dressing too.
The comic book boys were tempted out of the main store for light, fluffy, deeply delicious whole wheat pancake stacks (R69). Served with real maple syrup, a bright, light, lovely fruit salad and a very creditable vegan chocolate ice cream.
Thank you to Kaylee’s for relieving the boredom that is a visit to the comic book store and restoring my faith in plant-based restaurants.
Kaylee’s: Inside the Comic Book Warehouse, 147 North Reef Road, Bedfordview, Johannesburg; 011 524 7603
- Dr Anna Trapido was trained as an anthropologist at King’s College Cambridge and a chef at the Prue Leith College of Food and Wine. She has twice won the World Gourmand Cookbook Award. She has made a birthday cake for Will Smith, a Christmas cake for Nelson Mandela and cranberry scones for Michelle Obama. She is in favour of Champagne socialism and once swallowed a digital watch by mistake.