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BBefore tackling the question of where to eat in Pretoria/Tshwane, visitors sometimes need a quick primer on South Africa’s complex history (did you know we have 3 capital cities?) to understand its social fault-lines – so here goes:
When the Union of South Africa was created in 1910, a lingering bitterness was felt by many white Afrikaners over Britain’s ruthless internment of Boer women and children in disease-ravaged concentration camps during the South African War (formerly called the Second Anglo-Boer War), which had ended less than a decade earlier.
Partly in an attempt to quieten this opposition to incorporation in a new self-governing dominion of the British Empire, the Union was created with 3 capitals, 2 of them in the conquered Boer republics.
Pretoria in the then-Transvaal province became the executive capital, home to the Union Buildings and the prime minister (nowadays the president), Bloemfontein in Free State became the judicial capital, housing the Supreme Court of Appeal, and Cape Town, the seat of Parliament in Western Cape, became the legislative capital.
This arrangement survived the transition to a republic in 1961 and South Africa’s first fully enfranchised democratic elections in 1994, which saw the installation of Nelson Mandela as our first post-apartheid president. However, changes in local government have made the terminology tricky.
Pretoria, still a distinct city but now in the small province of Gauteng, is governed at local level as part of the Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality, which includes neighbouring towns like Bronkhorstspruit, Rayton, Cullinan and Hammanskraal, and a fair amount of rural land in between – so whether you call the city ‘Pretoria’ or ‘Tshwane’ is largely a matter of political persuasion or geographic pedantry.
Whatever you call it, dining out in Pretoria/Tshwane is a treat, as here eat, drink and be merry is the name of the game. As the seat of the Presidency, it is naturally a city of international diplomats, so the multicultural and fine-dining options are superb – you will be spoilt for choice with sophisticated celebration options.
If it’s Belgian chic you’re after, Chef Daniel Leusch’s La Madeleine, one of the city’s longest-established fine-dining restaurants, is the way to go. These days joined in the kitchen by his daughter Anne, Chef Leusch senior has begun to incorporate youthful elements of molecular gastronomy into his otherwise classic repertoire.
If Italian is your flavour, try the deliciously ebullient Forti’s Grill and Bar at Time Square Casino in Menlyn for marvellous Mediterranean cuisine. From the first bite of antipasto to the last mouthful of zabaglione, you can’t go wrong with owner Chef Fortunato Mazzone; ‘Forti’, famed for Pretoria’s Ristorante Ritrovo, has been treasured by local gourmets for years – and his menus also cater deliciously to vegans and vegetarians.
Congolese culinary cool is on offer at Zemara in Hatfield, where Chef Jackie Picard conjures up delicious palm pulp-infused antelope casseroles, roasted tilapia fish and deep-fried plantains with aplomb.
For a curry treat, head for the Oriental Palace in Arcadia. The bhindi gosht okra curry with aloo naan paratha bread is a one-way trip to paradise (but please note, there is no alcohol allowed at this establishment).
Or if you fancy a bite of relaxed boerekos, the Sunday buffet at Monument Restaurant inside the Voortrekker Monument offers unbeatable flavours and value for money. Each Sunday up to 400 people arrive to dig into the three-course feast, including a full carvery.
That’s just a taste – Tshwane also offers Thai, Portuguese, Chinese, French, Japanese, Indonesian and many other ethnic cuisines (not to mention contemporary fine-dining fusion ‘food as art’ establishments, like Black Bamboo in Ashlea Gardens or Restaurant Mosaic in Elandsfontein) to tantalise your taste-buds. See the Eat Out listings (link below) for more information.
TTravel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
122 Priory Road, Lynnwood Ridge
Tel: +27 (0)12 361 3667
933 Francis Baard Street, Hatfield
Tel: +27 (0)12 342 3080
Forti’s Grill and Bar
Time Square Casino, c/o Aramist and Corobay streets, Menlyn Maine
Tel: +27 (0)12 003 6180
Voortrekker Monument, Eeufees Road, Pretoria
Tel: +27 (0)12 321 6230
The Colosseum Hotel, 410 Schoeman Street, Arcadia
Tel: +27 (0)12 322 2195
207 Tugela Road, Ashlea Gardens
Tel: +27 (0)84 508 9752
The Orient Hotel, Francolin Avenue, Elandsfontein
Tel: +27 (0)12 371 2902
How to get here
Pretoria is between 45 minutes and an hour from Johannesburg on the N1 highway (depending on traffic and whether you start off in the CBD/southern suburbs, or further north in Sandton/Fourways) – the direct route from OR Tambo International Airport on the R21 is a little shorter.
Tours to do
If you’re spending time in the Tshwane area, there are tours that take in historical sites like the Union Buildings, Freedom Park and the Voortrekker Monument, as well as game and nature reserves around the city. You’ll find a varied selection on the TripAdvisor website.
Where to stay
There are excellent city hotels in Pretoria as well as guest houses and B&Bs, some in the quieter rural areas of Tshwane – the Visit Tshwane website lists options to suit most budgets.
Local wines to go with your meal – if you’re a wine-lover, read up on the South African labels that compete favourably with top international wines, particularly the French ones. They’re generally great value compared to any imports on the wine list.