14 November 2013 by Denise Slabbert

The Hazel Food Market

One of Gauteng’s finest food markets is situated in Pretoria and is just the place to fill up on koeksisters, chilli fudge, home-made preserves and other wonderful food.

Cupcake stall at the Hazel Food Market

The Hazel Food Market is situated in Menlo Park in Pretoria East (just more than half-an-hour's drive from Johannesburg) and offers a great Saturday morning outing – you certainly won't go hungry. This fantastic market has stalls serving the finest local produce, which you can eat right there or to take home with you.

The market is the brainchild of Retha van Hoven, who makes the job of running a dynamic food market seem pretty effortless. Van Hoven says she started the market after the birth of her first baby, when she decided she didn't want to go back to corporate life.

Beautiful artisanal breads

'I worked for Peugeot and travelled to France a lot, where every neighbourhood has a little food market. I fell in love with the concept, and everywhere my husband and I travelled, we'd visit food markets. So we had been thinking about starting a food market in Pretoria’s east for a while. 

'He found a piece of land we could rent and I set about hunting stalls and advertising my new venture. We started on 24 January 2009 with 18 stalls on the street, and here we are almost five years later with over 70 stalls and a long, long waiting list.' 

She says that from the beginning, she had a clear vision for the market. 'From the outset I had a very clear vision of what I wanted to achieve: I wanted a food market with a European feel, not a tuisnywerheid (home industry store) – good quality products, a real place where the neighbourhood would meet and buy its food.  

'I believe in being involved, so when I started out I baked chocolate brownies and ran my own stall for the first two years. This gave me a very good feel for how things were going at the market and how hard it is to make money from food – because if you don’t sell out [your goods], you’re losing money. So it’s important to be in touch and understand what's happening. 

We started on 24 January 2009 with 18 stalls on the street, and here we are almost five years later with over 70 stalls and a long, long waiting list.

'Still, today, I'm there almost every Saturday, chatting to my vendors and seeing that everything is running smoothly.'

Van Hoven says that international visitors adore the local feel and flavour of the Hazel Food Market.

'Tourists love visiting the market,' she says. 'We have a huge variety of food from absolutely everywhere. They can sample South Africa food like roosterkoek (bread cooked over coals) or koeksisters (plaited dough in syrup – a traditional sweet South African delicacy), or they can get Dutch croquettes, Korean sushi, Swiss pastries, or Indonesian food. It’s just a wonderful outing.

'You can by a cappuccino or freshly squeezed juice, or something for breakfast or lunch and then sit under the trees and enjoy it. We have about 50 tables with benches scattered under the trees. There's also activities for kids (jungle gym, craft activities and sand art). 

'I spoke to a gentleman who used to work for the Brazilian Embassy here in Pretoria, but he and his family went back to Brazil in December. They came to visit South Africa recently and he said visiting the market is just a "must-do" if one is in Pretoria. We have a huge following of international residents who are regulars at the market, and I think people generally love it because you can interact with producers and sample food before buying.'

Cheesecake worth leaving home for

She says the night markets are another fun drawcard for local and international visitors.

'We started our first night market in 2009 as part of "Three days of Christmas Markets". I wanted to create a bit of a Christmas market like you’d find in Germany or so. And through this I discovered that night markets are really awesome and people love them.

'The whole idea is that you’re basically going out for dinner, but to a market. So everyone can have what they want and drink what they want (you’re not restricted to just one type of food, e.g. Italian, like when you go to a restaurant). People just love the relaxed atmosphere and buying food from various stalls and supporting our local craft brewers, like Drayman’s Brewery and Cockpit Brewhouse – it’s just festive and fun!'

The Hazel Food Market is open from 8am to 2pm every Saturday. There is no entry fee and kids are welcome.

The next night market is on 7 December 2013. For more information, phone +27 (0)83 554 5636, or email info@hazelfoodmarket.co.za.

The night market. All images courtesy of Retha van Hoven, Hazel Food Market

Category: Attractions, Food & Wine

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