Ever spoilt for choice, South Africa commands recognition as a top culinary destination with a food and drinks scene that is undeniably one of the country’s greatest draw cards. Exploring the cities tastes, we find a melting pot of culture and flavours, a place where strong international influence is matched by delicate Cape Malay and Indian infusions, traditional African fair holds court and beautiful fresh produce is selectively sourced from surrounding farmlands. Add to that the rise of artisan producers who carefully craft their passion into the finest charcuterie, handmade chocolates and freshly baked bread, as well as the philosophy of most chefs to have a real relationship with their suppliers, and you will understand that food is an art we should all be appreciating.
The Cape Town restaurant scene is ever evolving with hot new chefs and favourite spots coming to the fore. Whether it’s casual tapas or internationally recognised fine dining, hip coffee shops, a traditional steakhouse or coastal restaurants that specialise in sustainable seafood, there is an abundance of choice.
Ever spoilt for choice, South Africa commands recognition as a top culinary destination with a food and drinks scene that is undeniably one of the country’s greatest draw cards.
Hemelhuijs, City Bowl
Chef and patron Jacques Erasmus’ of Hemelhuijs invites you into his ever-changing interior space with its imaginative displays of fresh flowers and collectables. The restaurant is a small oasis in the heart of Cape Town and brings an ideal escapism from the hustle and bustle as you sit and watch the city go by while indulging in jewel coloured juices or one of their custom blended coffees. Breakfasts here delight, try the scrambled farm eggs, ‘mosbolletjie’ toast and smoked trout. All is served up on their beautiful crockery.
La Colombe, Constantia Nek
Widely acclaimed as one of the best restaurants in the country, the legendary La Colombe is a unique dining experience not to be missed and has a reservation book that holds the names of lucky locals and tourists alike. The sensational taste experience is heightened by the sophisticated interior dining rooms and tranquil beauty of the surrounding Silvermist Wine Estate. Dining here is a special experience, and you’ll want to allow plenty of time. Off the menu - try the Lamb loin, tongue, sweetbreads, asparagus, pea, kohlrabi, and for the vegetarians the sweet potato, smoked garlic and Jerusalem artichoke.
Aubergine, one of Cape Town’s culinary highlights, is rather tucked away and too often overlooked unless pointed out by a local. Found in the Gardens area, they bring you superior, contemporary cuisine from the à la carte menu which bursts with flavours, aromas and textures. During the summer months, al fresco lunches are enjoyed on the lush terrace and dinners under the stars. In winter a fireplace ensures a cosy atmosphere. A strong emphasis is placed on food and wine pairing, and the chefs and sommeliers team up to create inspired combinations. Chef-patron Harald Bresselschmidt offers a caviar menu, and seasonal dishes like standout cured springbok with dark chocolate, quince and mushrooms.
Hot in climate, character and local curry, Durban lays itself bare with a relaxed and uncomplicated confidence. Delicious curries and fine seafood are putting this east coast city and its surrounding areas of the north coast on the culinary map, as are the burst of new openings and the rapid growth of the restaurant scene. Durban is popular all-year-round with new bars, fine restaurants and casual café-style fare part of the drawcard.
Freedom Café, Greyville
Casual being key, starting a day at Freedom Café is bound to set the scene. Originally cooked up as a small, relaxed restaurant adjoining The Concierge Boutique Hotel, over the years it has become the heart and soul of the hotel. A union of stylish, offbeat interiors and a love of everything fresh and green, the recent revamp and updated menu has transformed this space into an oasis with the best brunch in town. Try the chakalaka on your eggs, or opt for steel-cut oats and fresh robot juices. I know it’s brunch, but if you can, the koeksister ice cream is a must.
031 Bar and Restaurant, Morningside
The little known Durban craft scene is headed up by the impressive Distillery 031 in a repurposed building in Morningside, which now serves as home to a collective of creatives, boutique stores and coffee shops. While the alchemists are at play, enjoy a tasting of the 031 gins, vodka, rum and absinthe. For lunch give their sweet-and-sour pickled onion bhaji, zucchini fritti and truffled biltong mac ‘n chini balls a try. The Who’s Your Daddy deep fried truffled mac and brie cheese and Prohibition Waffle with tender chicken, are popular choices too.
The Ocean Terrace at The Oyster Box, Umhlanga Rocks
Get there early enough to watch the light soften over the Indian Ocean, drink in hand, the iconic red and white Umhlanga lighthouse as a backdrop. The Oyster Box Hotel must be one of the most glorious hotels in KwaZulu-Natal and their balance of opulent luxury, polished service and relaxed ambience, a magical combination. Bringing a diverse offering of dining options, I suggest a meal in the Ocean Terrace, home to the most impressive curry buffet where two tandoori ovens produce fresh naan and roti daily. Go hungry, as one serving simply won’t be enough.
Fast-paced Johannesburg offers one of the most varied dining scenes in South Africa, from groundbreaking inner-city revivals and Chef’s challenging the gastronomy world to family run favourites and trendy new hotspots, the choice for hungry Joburg residents and visitors, is plentiful.
The Whippet, Linden
Visiting The Whippet will always feel a little like visiting with friends. Inspired by the notion that each neighbourhood has a unique story, their mission is to gather people together over good coffee, fine food, art, design and architecture. Leading by example with locally sourced offerings, they excel at breakfasts with oats cooked in coconut milk and swirled with cinnamon and berry compote - a go to for their vegan patrons. The coffee is sublime, and the varied, fresh smoothies will have you leaving with a bounce of goodness in your step. But’s it’s the home-baked bread that will make you return for more.
The Countess, Melville
A new foodie destination set in the thriving hub of Melville, The Countess is known for serving up innovative cuisine and has a comprehensive menu that is known to combine unusual ingredients, creating notable twists. Describing their style as diner and smokehouse food with a twist, the steampunk-inspired restaurant is styled to match a restored warehouse, where moody-blue drapes fall in direct contrast with glistening copper pipes. Their much-loved smoker makes beautiful ribs, wings, brisket and more, and for those wishing to share a dish, the Charcuterie and Fromage Plank is bound to please.
Luke Dale-Roberts at the Saxon, Sandhurst
In true Joburg style, go big or go home. The Saxon, one of the city’s top hotel’s just got the edge with the addition of Luke Dale Roberts X the Saxon. Here Chef Candice Philip employs exceptionally high-quality produce as well as herbs, fruits and vegetables grown in the hotel’s garden, to recreate the country’s top Chef Luke Dale-Roberts’ imaginative and detailed dishes. Highlights include a sea bass ceviche with charred broccoli, hazelnut salsa and miso aioli; famed pork belly with blue cheese and compressed apples; and springbok loin with black garlic salsa. Whatever you select, the flavours will be alluring.