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SSouth Africa’s streets, shores and vineyards are lined with so many incredible restaurants, it’s a hard task narrowing them down into a short bucket list. If you can’t visit them all, this guide is the next best thing, guiding you to the ones not to be missed.
9th Avenue Bistro (Morningside, Durban)
A stalwart of the Durban restaurant scene, this bistro is run by a passionate husband-and-wife team, Graham and Gina Neilson. Seasonal and local ingredients are used to create sensational food. The tasting menu is always a winner; the prawn risotto deservedly inspires fandom.
Coobs (Parkhurst, Johannesburg)
Ethical eating is what chef James Diack is famous for at his beautiful urban bistro. Most of the produce - including the pork - comes from his family farm, so you know that what you’re getting is fresh and wholesome. Highlights on the changing, seasonal menu could include slow-braised pork shoulder or pork confit served with showstopping sides like truffled potato bake. Homemade pastas with innovative sauces also please the discerning crowds.
DW-Eleven 13 (Dunkeld, Johannesburg)
You might know chef Marthinus Ferreira’s face from his stint on TV as an ultimate braaimaster, but his domain here is beautiful and accessible fine dining in the form of seasonal tasting plates. If you’re a wine fanatic, the sommelier will look after you with choices from far and wide, but the non-alcoholic pairing option is a generous touch for those who don’t dabble.
GGemelli (Bryanston, Johannesburg)
One of the most popular neighbourhood gems of Joburg. Trendy venue, consistently superb food and bustling vibe: Gemelli has it all in spades. Inspired by Italian cuisine, the menu makes use of the best ingredients to please patrons with an array of delicious dishes like the house calamari, sharing plates, risottos, pastas and mains like tender pork belly.
The Test Kitchen (Woodstock, Cape Town)
Number one for the sixth consecutive year, this innovative hot-house is serving food that’s better than ever before. While dining at the country’s best restaurant might sound intimidating, it feels like the easiest thing in the world, and the location in gritty Woodstock helps to tone down the formality. From the warm welcome into the “dark” room through to the finale in the “light” room, the team, led by chefs Luke Dale-Roberts and Ryan Cole, will take you on a culinary journey around the world and right back down to earth in South Africa.
Restaurant Mosaic, The Orient (Elandsfontein, Pretoria)
Creative storytelling meets perfect technique at Chantel Dartnall’s enchanting restaurant at this destination hotel in Gauteng. In a special treat for the senses, her exquisite plating of seasonal South African ingredients showcases a deep love of nature and all its bounty. Award-winning sommelier Moses Magwaza is also one to watch.
RRepublik (Durban North)
Being named best burger eatery is not an accolade to be taken lightly, and Republik really delivers. Local, ethically sourced, 100% grass-fed meat forms the base of the burger heaven here. If you don’t go for the succulent beef patties, there are lamb, ostrich, chicken and veg options too, not to mention crazy condiments like bacon jam and chilli chocolate.
Marble (Rosebank, Johannesburg)
Visit Johannesburg and there’s one deck you have to check out. Chef David Higgs creates a journey themed around the grill with its wood-fired heat and smoky sear. Complex flavours range from Thai to Argentinian to South Asian to Japanese – all balanced by local touches. It’s a lavish spot that attracts the city’s hottest people. Don’t miss the hit list of wines and the fully-stocked bar of spirits.
Greenhouse, The Cellars-Hohenort (Constantia, Cape Town)
Chefs Peter Tempelhoff and Ashley Moss create art on the plate in this luxurious hotel setting. A great spot for visitors to South Africa, this luxurious space looks to the oceans, farms and orchards of our county for inspiration. Sometimes theatrical, sometimes deconstructed, always delicious, the dishes surprise and impress. Look forward to the likes of ostrich egg with Karoo truffles and celeriac.
La Colombe (Constantia, Cape Town)
A real fan favourite, this celebrated spot looking down onto the Constantia winelands has enjoyed global recognition for many years - and deservedly so. The comfortable and elegant space delivers touches of theatre in the multi-sensory journey by executive chef James Gaag and chef patron Scot Kirton. While the dishes might appear in nests or puffs of smoke, their delicious flavours and textures remain the real highlight.
AAbout the author
As the deputy editor of Eat Out Magazine, Linda Scarborough spends most of her waking hours talking about, writing about and eating the country’s best cuisine. She lists cheese among her best friends, and passionately loves everything from bags of NikNaks to delicate flavours at fine dining restaurants.