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Coffee Culture …Chop Chop opens their new Angwa Street branch

Following on from the amazing success of their Fife Avenue branch Chop Chop has just opened a fresh and quite innovative branch along Angwa Street in the heart of the City. It’s situated within the new Manhattan Interiors outlet which used to be the old Radio Ltd. Building. (See page 16) What makes the new venue so different? Well, it’s actually made up of several distinct although integrated sections. One section opens directly into Manhattan Interiors through huge folding glass doors and is almost an extension of the showroom.

Another section has comfortable café style seating for diners enjoying meals from the grill and pizzeria. There’s also bar counter seating that opens directly onto the street for people watching. There’s the takeaway counter for quick meals or coffee on the go. And then there’s the most exciting part – counters and seating on the pavement in European bistro style. For many years pavement cafes have been popular in Europe, North and South America, and many other parts of the world. Sadly Harare has just about completely missed on this particular delight.

Harare’s wonderful climate means that the weather’s ideal for outdoor eating almost the whole year round but few establishments take advantage of this, especially in the City Centre. It’s probably partly because in the past Council by-laws, left over from pre[1]Independence days, have been quite strict. It’s probably also because the inner city has become a bit run down and neglected in recent years as Council struggles with inadequate funding for services and the invasion of street vendors. It’s also just something we’re not really used to.

Outdoor cafes are great for watching the world go by, enjoying the weather, a quick business meeting with colleagues or a cup of coffee with friends. The pavement on Angwa Street is wide enough to accommodate tables and stools and still comfortably leave room for pedestrians. Although there are robust metal stools it would be just as comfortable to stand at the table for a coffee or a quick snack. The outside tables also have integrated flower boxes filled with hardy low maintenance plants that help to screen patrons from passing cars, as well as making the City that little bit more attractive. Of course there are security guards outside but surprisingly the vendors and ‘streetkids’ have moved away. Maybe there’s a lesson there for the Council? text by Michael Nott comes to the City… photography by Michele Fortmann …Chop Chop opens their new Angwa Street branch.

The street front face of Chop Chop is concealed by industrial roller doors when it’s closed up. With the roller doors open a short flight of steps leads from the street up to the counter where customers can place their orders – so it’s open to the street but slightly separate. Customers can choose from a selection of pastries or more substantial meals from the Brazilian style grill or the pizza oven. Once you’ve placed your order you can sit at the counter on funky yellow metal stools while you’re waiting for a takeaway. Or, if you have more time to linger and don’t want to sit or stand outside, you can sit at the counter overlooking the street. Big glass windows fold back completely so it’s open to the pavement.

On the few days per year when the weather’s not so good the windows can be closed but you’ll still get the view. The section below the counter is closed off with expanded steel mesh and glass to function both as a security measure and a modestly panel. Or if you prefer there are a couple of high bar tables with stools further away from the window. If you want to linger a bit longer there’s the option of banquette seating under a supercool mural of Bob Marley, created by local artist Chengetai. (The fabric used for the banquette upholstery here and in the coffee shop is a special high traffic fabric imported from France.) Kirsten Marx, from KRM Space Design, created the first.

The ceilings have been removed and replaced with a grid work of pine bulkheads that partially conceal the lighting and air[1]conditioning ducts. Marx has made extensive use of her favourite materials like local Cypress timber, granite and painted steel. She’s used different floor tiles to subtly demarcate the function of different areas, and exposed brick work to warm and soften the hard industrial look. It’s functional, fun and funky. Completely separate from the more ‘rough and ready’ street scene Marx has created an elegant coffee shop that opens directly into Manhattan Interiors. It’s much softer and more refined, though still identifiable as the Chop Chop style.

It could be described as a halfway stop that blends the street savvy industrial side with the sophisticated in-house coffee shop look. The coffee shop still has the same network of pine bulkheads below the exposed concrete ceiling but Marx has chosen globular glass lampshades for the ceiling lights and rather delicate shades for the lights over the counter, rather than the exposed wire shades on the street side. She has also included two simple, elegant wall sconces either side of a large round mirror. The floor is made of wood look ceramic tiles laid in a more traditional herringbone pattern.

Overall the colours are more muted and soft. The walls are pale grey tile below a slim dado rail and then above the rail the walls are treated in a custom printed wallpaper designed by Marx to look like softly textured, smooth, raw cement. For seating Marx has selected the iconic ‘beetle chair’ with emerald green, polypropylene seats and backs and bronze metallic legs. (The ‘beetle’ chair was designed by GamFratesi, a combination of the names of Danish architect Stine Gam and Italian architect Enrico Fratesi.) The chairs have a mid-century clean look.

There’s also the trademark banquette seating underneath the round mirror, this time upholstered in a soft teal blue. Marx has selected circular café tables with pale wood tops. The serving counter has a Cypress top and metallic detailing with a simple brass band and a brass foot rail. The overall effect is a pared back Art Deco look. With Marx’s attention to detail even the restrooms have a Deco feel with black and white metro tiles, a small chandelier and Deco-style mirrors. Chop Chop outlet (Structure and Design issue 4). She has maintained a similar industrial look but here it’s a little more polished.

One wall of the coffee shop is made up of mirrored panels in black aluminium frames while another wall folds back completely to open into the showroom. The folding glass doors can be closed up in the evenings when the coffee shop is still open but the showroom is closed. So next time you’re in town treat yourself to a coffee or a meal and enjoy the unique street café vibe.


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