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It's all happening at Heritage Square

by Kim Maxwell 1 Mar 2023
Always Welcome

The Cape Town inner city has a new buzz of creative activity. It’s especially concentrated in a recently revitalised Shortmarket Street extension of the Heritage Square precinct. 

In the last two years, Heritage Square has come into its own as a hub of creative entrepreneurship in town. The latest redevelopment of the Buitengracht Street side of the building (which houses the Cape Heritage Hotel) includes a new Asian fusion eatery, a mind-blowing interior design outlet and a business hub. Step inside.

Always Welcome interior
One of the display rooms at Always Welcome.


It’s the first CBD showcase of locally made furniture and homeware collections, in a new Cape Town partnership between local design collective Always Welcome and inner city developers Habitus. The Always Welcome Heritage House space occupies two floors in a corner that extends the Heritage Square precinct, where Buitengracht crosses Shortmarket streets.

“We are a collective of Southern African designer-manufacturers, and we’re strong on including emerging brands,” says co-founder Garreth van Niekerk. The Always Welcome mix of about 40 southern African furniture, lighting and homeware options is curated for a customer to “feel like they’re stepping into the home of a good friend”. 

Think high-end local design in a one-stop shop. “The idea is for the public to interact with designers’ work that they wouldn’t have seen only in a single design showroom. A mix of many designs in the same space. So if you don’t see yourself in the lime green chair, a wooden chair next to it might be better. Although you may find that in seeing that lime green next to the wooden chair, your style may change to something you would not have considered,” explains Van Niekerk.

A wooden dining table on the first floor, with mismatched chairs from a variety of designers, is a similar example. Manager Camila Gillman says Always Welcome is the only comprehensive Cape Town retail outlet for furnituremakers Dokter and Misses, Houtlander, and others. The store also stocks pieces from designers located elsewhere. On level one, admire cream and charcoal sconce wall lights by Kalki Ceramics in Durban. Or ‘The Pronk’, a bold, wooden bedside table from Deft Studios in Gqeberha.
Homeware accessories include a metallic pink ‘Sarah Silverma’am’ lamp from Joe Paine Studio, quirky Pac-Man lamps from Mash.T Design Studio, and carved aluminium vases and trays from NØDE.

Merchandising/operations director Alan Hayward talks about their point of difference. “The scale of what we’re doing means we're able to present bigger dining tables and couches, for instance, whereas others might only have a lamp or a chair. We try to give a sense of a designer’s entire range, so you understand their brand. So we’ll have a bench, colour samples, and different bases it would be available in.”

Always Welcome Heritage House, 108 Shortmarket St.

Silk Asian Fusion
Silk Asian Fusion has added a sophisticated edge to Heritage Square.


  1. Food fun: “It’s about having fun with good food and cocktails,” says Faisal Khakoo. “We keep it casual; we aren’t trying to be authentic Japanese, Cantonese, Indian or Thai.” Find Asian fusion tapas in this December 2022 partnership between Christophe Durand and Khakoo of Bouchon, a French-Spanish bistro also in Heritage Square. 
  2. Fusion cocktails are big: About 30 % of regulars order cocktails on a busy night. Popular options include Monsoon Fizz, Fire Dragon, Geisha Martini and the Silk Sling.
  3. Finger food for sharing: Poached octopus in flour dumpling batter is cooked into dome-shaped moulds of Japanese Takoyaki. Served with salty-sweet, dark tonkatsu sauce, Kewpie mayo and pickled ginger with daikon. Or Peking duck croquettes combine roasted Peking duck, marinated in hoisin, mirin, ginger, garlic and spring onion, all crisped in panko crumbs. These beer-friendly croquettes arrive with Ponzu sauce. 
  4. Flippin tender: Exec chef Nic Blazic makes a mean fire-grilled sirloin, marinated in olive oil, rosemary and thyme. It’s grilled over a Japanese hibachi and sliced crosswise, for dunking in shitake cream sauce.

Silk Asian Fusion, 108 Shortmarket St.

Always Welcome


When three business acquaintances bumped into each other on deserted, quiet Cape Town CBD streets post-Covid, they were drawn together by a “strong connection” to the CBD. Their eventual business collaboration was about a mission to return the inner city to its thriving, bustling retail, eating and drinking glory. 

Brand consultant Brad Armitage had been involved in Bree and Kloof Street businesses; former Wesgro CEO Tim Harris had connections in driving local investment. And Cape Heritage Hotel director Victoria Engelhorn was also overseeing the Heritage Square retail and food node. They created Habitus, a development company focused on the restoration and curatorship of an inner city heritage property portfolio. The trio wanted to rekindle small and micro-business interest, and to lure back independent brands. 

“You’ve got Table Mountain and the V&A, but empty CBD shops and streets were quite worrying for us. There is a finite amount of space locked between the harbour and the mountain, and that also presented an opportunity. We’ve learnt that when you take a risk and introduce a new experience or service to a person, with a cityscape as a backdrop, you’re trying to change their habits,” explained Armitage. 

Noting how Bree Street had evolved into the city’s culinary restaurant and bar strip, but how it lacked retail options, they realised that independent businesses thrive when surrounded by likeminded brands. The Habitus team saw a gap and – for instance – approached small jewellery manufacturers who had previously moved out, identifying opportunities to attract independent retailers. “It’s nice that a Long Street experience is different from a Bree or Loop street experience,” said Armitage.

Habitus is looking to create a balance of established and new micro-businesses, and eventually to start a local design walking tour of galleries, art and jewellery. “We’re geographically focused on a few city streets now, but that may change,” said Armitage. “We’d hate to see a bulk development coming in, so our vision is to maintain a lot of these magnificent heritage buildings. And although you can have a heritage lens and a social lens, a commercial lens needs to be applied too.” 
“We’re trying to create a sense of place. There are a couple of 1,000 new apartments coming into the city within the next year. Where those people will eat, drink, do their laundry, go to gym or buy their bread and milk, is relevant.”

IMAGES: Always Welcome, CCID