Rumour has it that in the old days the lunch options in Techno Park were rather limited. Hard-working employees would emerge from their cubicles at one o' clock to munch on greasy toasted sandwiches before returning to their desks for the afternoon slog. The coffee was instant and served in polystyrene cups. Life, as they say, was rather bleak.
That may be a slight exaggeration – and besides, who doesn't like a toasted sandwich? But it is fair to say that the culinary options have expanded in recent years to match the vibrant, sociable culture that is fast emerging in Techno Park.
In Smulpaap during lunch hour, for example, you will find people happily chatting over a delicious, healthy meal – the dishes on offer in their self-serve buffet reflects Smulpaap's philosophy of honest, natural food – or sitting down to an informal business meeting over a freshly brewed cup of coffee.
On the topic of coffee, Techno Parkers may be surprised to learn that they have one of South Africa’s top micro coffee roasteries in their midst. Legado Coffee Bar in Quantum Street – an offshoot of Legado Coffee Roasters on the nearby Rosenview Farm – goes to painstaking lengths to ensure that each cup of fair trade coffee reflects their passion for the prized bean. Vincent, the barista on duty when I visit, suggests that their clientele are those with distinguished taste: “Old people love their coffee, chief,” he laughs.
Next door, at Follow the White Rabbit, the proprietor André tells me that in the three years or so that they have been open for business they have watched the park slowly filling up with people. Their client base, which used to be made up mostly of young men, has become much more diverse. While I’m chatting to him, a regular walks in and, under the gaze of the chic white rabbit logo on the wall, orders his usual: a salad. My Techno Park informant tells me they are renowned for their fries. I am already looking forward to my next visit...
First, however, I make my way to an old Techno Park favourite, Megabite. Ursula, who has been running shop there for the past five years, says that one of the things she loves about the area is the fact that her clients are always friendly. “In coffee shops people always seem to be complaining about something,” she says, “but here, everyone is cheerful.” A few students from nearby academic institutions (Elizabeth Galloway and the Stellenbosch Academy are right around the corner) stroll in to buy some snacks. Ursula is right: they are laughing as they chat among themselves.
Another popular spot in Techno Park is Lilly's, adjacent to Stellenbosch Academy. I amble towards the order counter among glass-topped tables and white-backed chairs. A mellow ambience presides over the clientele, tapping away at their laptops or sipping cappuccinos on the veranda (the coffee at Lilly's itself is enough reason to go there: they are supplied by Truth, one of top roasteries in the country). Rushka, taking orders behind the counter, says that the chicken and bacon wrap is a particular favourite on their menu. When I ask why, she says she can't tell me: it's a secret. "It's because it's made with love," quips Nicolette, the manager, from the side. She adds that their menu is continually evolving and changing: soon they plan to add a smoothie option. Every day of the week they offer a special menu option, except for Fridays.
There are other cafés and restaurants in the Park, but my well-satisfied stomach announces that I will have to come back another day to experience them. In the meantime, it is clear that things have moved on from the bad old days of greasy sandwiches. Techno Park is serving the needs of its vibrant business community and world-class technology innovators with a truly delectable array of menu options – and some excellent coffee to boot!