Lowveld fine dining is worth a self-drive food safari, with gourmet gems dotted along the popular R40 tourist route between Mbombela (Nelspruit) and Hazyview. The subtropical largesse of the Lowveld landscape is reflected in the abundance of local, seasonal produce, and the size of the portions served. Despite hearty helpings, compared to other culinary hotspots, Lowveld fine dining prices are modest, and the climate lends itself to outdoor meals.

Did you know?

South Africa is the third largest macadamia nut producer in the world, with plantations from Hazyview to Barberton in Mpumalanga.

Your introduction to Lowveld fine dining starts at Zest restaurant in I’langa Mall, where chef-patron GT Lundie serves classic French dishes with a contemporary twist. Featuring an elegant cigar and cognac lounge, and an award-winning international wine list, book ahead if you want to savour GT’s orange-glazed, de-boned duck served with Armagnac sauce, or his legendary home-made peanut butter ice cream with caramelised bananas.

In White River, Magnolia Restaurant and Café in the Casterbridge Lifestyle Centre is the new contender for the fine dining in the Lowveld crown. Chef Jamie Watt is fanatical about local, seasonal produce, and prepares everything from scratch. Follow cocktails and tapas on the deck at sunset, with chilli soft shell crab tempura, or slow-braised lamb shank wrapped in pork belly. The wine list is predominantly local, and well priced, so there’s no excuse for passing on the rose-scented crème brûlée with candied pistachio nut brittle.

En route to Hazyview, Lowveld gourmet restaurant Oliver’s never disappoints. Chef Oliver Ruf is a saucier of note, and whether you choose the rack of lamb, venison, or the generous seafood platter, you’ll wish it was polite to lick your plate in public. In addition to an excellent wine list, oenophiles will relish the private wine selection.

End your sojourn at Summerfield’s Kitchen at the Summerfield’s River Lodge and Rose Spa. Seasonally inspired chef Charles Meyer, dishes up country comfort food with a fusion twist, and isn’t afraid to go very local with a crocodile and prawn curry, oxtail and samp, or eland fillet with beetroot and a green fig risotto.

If you’re all fine dined out, order Summerfield’s gourmet picnic, and enjoy home-baked bread, local smoked trout, macadamia nut pesto, and fresh fruit in season beside the Sabie River. Now that’s fine Lowveld dining.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Oliver's Restaurant and Lodge
Tel: + 27 (0)13 750 0479
Email: info@olivers.co.za

Zest Restaurant
Tel: + 27 (0)13 742 2217
Email: gt@zestrestaurant.co.za

Magnolia Restaurant and Café
Tel: + 27 (0)13 751 1947
marketing@mag-nolia.co.za

Summerfield's Restaurant
and River Café

Tel: +27 (0)13 737 6500
Email: info@summerfields.co.za

How to get here

From Johannesburg, take the N12 towards Witbank/Middelberg, then join or stay on the N4 and continue through Machadodorp en-route to Mbombela (Nelspruit). Head north on the R40 through White River toward Hazyview. There are scheduled flights from OR Tambo and Lanseria Airports in Johannesburg to Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport close to Mbombela.

Best time to visit

The restaurants are open all year round, but check individual opening and closing times.

Around the area

Kruger National Park, Casterbridge Lifestyle Centre, Emnotweni Casino, Sudwala Caves outside Mbombela (Nelspruit).

Get around

You’ll need a car as the restaurants are located some distance away from one another.

What will it cost

On average a main course costs about R100

Where to stay

Oliver’s Restaurant offers upmarket lodging, and Summerfield’s River Lodge has luxurious tented suites.

Best buys

Fresh and smoked trout, fresh and dried subtropical fruits, macadamia and pecan nuts, orange wine, and liqueur from Rottcher Winery.