By Brent Smith
Do you remember when Bree Street was little more than a way for motorists to get from one side of town to the other, or a place to park? Apart from people returning to their cars after a night out in Long Street, it didn't have much footfall after 17h00, not much vibe, not much anything.
Except it did it had great architecture and magnificent centre islands, and its width meant that the asphalt could accommodate all kinds of commuters and explorers at once. Bree Street was just waiting to be rediscovered.
About five years ago, savvy businesspeople started moving in, notably Heather Moore of Skinny laMinx, who blazed a trail for a new breed of entrepreneurs along Bree's southwestern half. On the other end, 22 Bree Street shot up then Portside (Cape Town's tallest building), then Touchstone House, which literally rose from ashes.
Now Bree is a destination and considered by many, including the Wall Street Journal, to be Cape Town's hippest street. There are restaurants, bars, boutiques and artisanal retailers along its entire 1.5km length, and Bree is on everybody's lips and to-do lists.
Starting near Buitensingel, you'll find restaurants such as Bacon on Bree, Culture Club Cheese, Door 221 and Palma, which have transformed a row of heritage townhouses into a place for people to enjoy. Further up, you have the likes of Birds Ca, Bocca, Caf Frank, Charango, Chef's Warehouse, Clarke's Bar & Dining Room (which hosts one of the CBD's two parklets), Easy Tiger, Hard Pressed Caf, Issi, Jason Bakery, La Parada (in an art deco building that used to be a derelict parking garage), Latitude 33, Orinoco, Sababa, The Odyssey, True Italic and Weinhaus + Biergarten.
In between all the eateries are galleries such as Youngblood (who will host the final Open Streets Bree public planning session on Thursday 14 January), the South African Market, decor stores, fashion boutiques, jewellers and one our favourites, Revolution Cycles. Many of these retailers will be open during Open Streets.
Heritage Square, roughly halfway down Bree and across the road from where you'll find the Open Streets info desk on the day, is home to two inner-city wineries and a boutique hotel. Speaking of which, Tsogo Sun is currently building two mid-tier hotels where Bree meets Strand Street the latest in a long line of investment in the area. Bree truly has become the place to be or, as Conde Nast Traveler called it, Cape Town's most fashionable street.
And, of course, Bree was the first street to get Transport for Cape Town's pioneering green cycle lanes, making it more accessible for those who still do use it as a way of getting from one side of town to the other.
On Sunday 17 January, Open Streets will be taking advantage of everything Bree Street has to offer and adding a whole new dimension. As we go car free, perhaps you'll rediscover it for yourself.
Intrigued? Check out some pics by Andrew Brauteseth to get you in the mood. We look forward to seeing you there!