With music by Cyndi Lauper, several Tonys and a Laurence Olivier Award
The Big Box Board Games Café in Cape Town
Flex your mental muscles with exciting social games and nibble on light eats at the same time at this one-of-a-kind venue
“The way you play a board game reveals a lot about your character,” says Eric Breteau. He’s the co-owner of the exciting new city centre-based café and board games spot called The Big Box. Now, at first I thought the statement was a bit reaching, but it took me a moment of looking back to a few intense Monopoly sessions I’ve had with friends (and questioning their character after they build houses on a property they swore they wouldn’t touch) to realise that this is actually not far from the truth. So call me excited to know that there is now a place dedicated to these games that can shatter or solidify relationships.
While the Mother City incarnation of The Big Box may be perched on 21 St Johns Street, its origins can be traced to the Atlantic Coast of France as it’s actually the sister company of La Grosse Boite, a board games café in the historical town of La Rochelle. The Cape Town version of the company’s story began in 2009 when Eric and his wife, Emilie, made the decision to move to this lustrous city, and who, along with their intense passion for gaming, began to run ‘games nights’ in different venues around town. Soon enough, the husband-and-wife team decided to take the big and bold step to open their very own space, and voila, The Big Box swung open its doors in June 2015.
The hotspot boasts over 150 options in its collection (including card, wooden, strategy, solo, quick and family collections), which is a real treat considering South Africa’s gaming culture is still on the rise. It turns out that while I thought a casual stroll down the toy/game aisle offered me an endless choice of board games, Mzansi still has a long way to go. The unique café- the owners claim it is the first of its kind in Cape Town- sure is doing something about that, though, as it works closely with Giga Mic, one of France’s largest gaming corporations to bring folk an exclusive (they are the only Giga Mic distributors in the country) and seemingly endless choice of every game you can think of and all gamers need to do to enjoy all on offer is to walk in, sit down on one of the wooden tables, and soak it all in.
“There are so many things you can do with games. It’s like a door to a new world,” exclaims Eric, as he casually explains the rules of how a card game called ‘Dixit’ works (it was named Board Game of the Year in 2010 by the German Spiel des Jahres Association). And the moment patrons walk into this world, they will find appealing games placed on each of the café’s tables, ready to receive anyone that’s willing to give them a go. Eric goes onto explain the endless benefits of playing board games (we’re talking cognitive and recreational stimuli functions, relationship bonding and everything in between), and even mentions how they can be used as enjoyable educational tools in South African schools (he and his wife are vigorously involved in social development). While I’m still figuring the game in front of me out, Eric offers me a cup of coffee, which I gladly accept.
It comes as no surprise then that the owners’ French heritage is being put to good use in the culinary department of the café. Visitors can choose from light eats like croissants (with a Nutella filling, of course), quiches, soups, toasted sandwiches; snacks like chocolate and energy bars; and cold drinks and coffee.
I could go on to mention just how board games have the power to act as a social lubricant or are a great way to get to know colleagues (team building, anyone?), or how Eric’s face brightened up when he mentioned all of these things to me, but I’d rather not ruin it for you, and let you experience it all yourself to really see just how unique The Big Box is, and who knows, I may just bump into you there and we can chat over a game or two.
Tip: The Big Box hosts a 'Trivia Night' every Monday evening where guests are able to answer exciting questions as well as indulge in hearty treats like nutella pancakes - making it a great option for a friendly group activity or date idea! Entry costs R30 p/p and the fun begins at 7pm! For more information, check out the café’s Facebook page, or call +27 (0) 71 314 9134.
The Bill: Playing a game at The Big Box is free. Patrons are however, able to purchase games, which range between R99 and R1000. The hot beverages range between R15 and R22, croissants from R15 to R18, lunch items ring in between R10 and R30, and cold beverages are priced between R12 and R25.
Opening Hours: Monday – Friday: 8am – 5pm; Saturday: 10am – 5pm
21 St Johns Street | Gardens | City Centre | Cape Town | +27 (0) 71 314 9134
by Dudu Luthuli
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