South Africa is, undoubtedly, home to some of the best restaurants and chefs in the world, and it comes as no surprise that multiple prestigious awards and recognition deservedly come our way. I’ve compiled a list of ten fantastic restaurants in SA and creative eateries that are managed by excellent teams and world-class chefs, to bring customers a dining experience that’s hard to match…
The Test Kitchen (Cape Town)
The Test Kitchen, one of the best restaurants in Cape Town, is no stranger to winning numerous local and international awards and accolades, including winner of the 2015 Eat Out Mercedes-Benz Restaurant Awards. What sets The Test Kitchen apart is not only its contemporary setting, but the innovative cooking approach of chef and owner Luke Dale-Roberts. Widely celebrated as one of the best in the business, Dale-Roberts has vast experience in the art of cookery, gained from years of travelling the world, and finding culinary inspiration in countries like Switzerland, Malaysia, South Korea and England.
As executive chef, Dale-Roberts also led La Colombe to be awarded the Acqua Panna Best Restaurant in Africa and Middle East in 2010 before venturing onto owning his own restaurant. At The Test Kitchen you can expect super creative dishes made from unique ingredients, and bursting with layers and layers of flavour.
A french chic, contemporary cafe with that old-worldly charm, Afro-Boer is a must if you are in Pretoria. The restaurant serves beautifully presented gourmet dishes, buttery baked goods, cakes and sweet treats. An absolute favourite of mine when I get to visit, is definitely their French Toast of ‘fried egg and cream soaked plaasbrood slices sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, served on a “nastergal” jam syrup topped with crispy bacon‘…
What I love most about Afro-Boer is its setting and that it’s one of the few child friendly restaurants in Pretoria. Surrounded by lovely, plush gardens, you can enjoy a leisurely summer lunch on the patio while the kids play in a safe environment. It’s also perfect for a ladies tea party, and you can only expect super friendly and efficient service from the staff and Manager at Afro-Boer.
Are you looking for restaurants in Johannesburg, but a ‘vibey’, old-school, yet modern joint with dishes made from only the choicest ingredients? Then Craft on 4th Avenue in Parkhurst is your place. Craft is the brainchild of Chris Mandos and Jo Pinheiro, their vision being to create an environment where everyone can come together, put away their phones, and enjoy each other’s company, whilst being surrounded by authentic and attractive interior.
At Craft you’ll be transported into another era, but still be very aware that you are in a contemporary setting. Think deep-buttoned leather couches, retro tiles, natural woods, antique mirrors and an element of steam-punk. This restaurant will comfort both your senses and appetite… A must? Their over-the-top, gourmet milkshakes, also known as “Craft Freak Shakes”…
Four 15 (Durban)
If you love Mexican, and you’re in the Durban area, well then head on out to Four 15 for an unforgettable social experience and feast for your senses and stomach. Four 15 is an authentic South African Burrito Bar serving only fresh and tasty original Mexican food with loads of texture and flavour. Order the ‘monster burrito’, finish it in 10 minutes or less and you win the #BeatTheBurrito challenge.
This restaurant embraces the colourful Mexican culture of arts, music, dance and the concept of community and “La Famiglia” where “everyone is welcome”. So if you’re looking for a good time and an opportunity to put on your Salsa shoes, then get to Four 15… But, before you go, be sure to learn the lingo, Amigos!
Chefs Warehouse and Canteen (Cape Town)
Relocating his business to popular Bree Street has seen Irish-born chef Liam Tomlin making a big change in the way in which Chefs Warehouse operates. The culinary school has been placed on the back-burner to make way for the new canteen serving lunch and dinner daily, including lunch up until 14h30 pm on Saturdays. Guests are in for a culinary treat, with each day’s menu differing from the next.
Their Tapas for two, which consist of a selection of delicious small savoury dishes to share, are very popular, and in-house deli options include a range of gourmet chutneys, cheese and olives. Try the elder flower panna cotta with blackberry jelly for dessert.
Professional chefs and amateur cooks will be glad to know that Chefs Warehouse is still very much your go-to supplier of appliances, utensils, cookbooks and exciting new in-house products. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, they will even go as far as sourcing it for you. This eatery is definitely one of the top restaurants in Cape Town and worth a visit next time you’re in the area.
The Tasting Room (Franschhoek)
The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Français is no stranger to World’s Best Restaurant lists, including the San Pellegrino’s World’s Best Restaurant Award in 2013 and 2014, and a fine dining experience you will not easily forget. Award-winning chef, Margot Janse finds her inspiration in her South African roots and surroundings to serve an eight-course meal that will take guests on a captivating taste adventure. The menu changes regularly to evoke expectation and surprise with guests, and is comprised of real South African food made from locally sourced ingredients and unique flavours.
But don’t think you’re just going to walk in, have your dinner, and walk out within an hour. No, please allow 3 and a half hours to get through the exquisite menu that will be served to you by a very competent and friendly staff. Winner of the 2015 Service Excellence Awards, the Tasting Room is an experience to be savoured. Be sure to book well in advance.
Mosaic at the Orient (Pretoria)
Mosaic at the Orient Boutique Hotel is where you’ll find Chef Chantel Dartnall, voted SA’s Chef of the Year, living out her passion for the culinary arts. Dartnall, who has been trained under the watchful eyes of world famous chefs at Michelin three-star restaurants, makes it her daily mission to ensure that diners’ senses are taken on a ‘sensual’ experience through a combination of flavour, texture and elegance.
Not only will you be treated to a feast at Mosaic, but complement your meal with some of the most noteworthy and rarest local and international wines from one of the most acclaimed wine cellars in South Africa. With its unique ‘Belle Epoque’ decor and service excellence, Mosaic provides an intimate ambiance and unforgettable experience.
Old Town Italy (Durban)
Imagine living in a small Italian village where you get your fresh produce daily at your local grocer, butcher and baker, who know what you want before you even ask, and call you by your first name. Well, this is the legacy and values that Old Town strives to uphold. Old Town transports you back to a time when life’s pace was much slower, the people were friendlier, and everything seemed simpler and of better quality.
This authentic Italian market is a place where you come and enjoy a meal made from the freshest local ingredients, and produce of the highest quality, including vegetables, fruit, wine and beer, cheese, meats, coffee and more. Old Town’s retail shelves are also packed with exclusively considered products, everything from bottled jam to crystal tumblers, available for purchase.
La Colombe (Cape Town)
One of the most prestigious restaurants in SA, La Colombe has been scooping up prestigious awards and accolades for years now, but its the team behind this restaurant that drives this success train. Executive Chef Scot Kirtin was named S.Pellegrino Chef of the Year at the 2015 Eat Out Mercedes-Benz Restaurant Awards and was personally mentored by former La Colombe executive chef, Luke Dale-Roberts, now owner of award-winning The Test Kitchen.
Kirton’s approach to cooking is extraordinary and authentic. It’s ‘personality’ on a plate. He and his team look for inspiration everywhere to come up with dishes that will entice diners. Finding inspiration from in-season ingredients and local flavours, travelling, tasting international cuisine and everyday things like new crockery, is what enables the La Colombe team to create a culinary experience that draws customers time and time again and win the awards.
The Gorge (Port Shepstone)
Winner of the 2014 World Luxury Hotel Award for Best Lodge, the Gorge Private Game Lodge & Spa is not only the perfect spot for a luxurious weekend getaway, but also where you can experience fine dining and African cuisine at its absolute best. Accomplished chef, Christopher Whitham and his team provide a culinary experience of uncompromised quality to guests of the lodge.
Menus are set daily and have a distinct country flavour, but also compete with current, global culinary trends. It’s made from the freshest, local ingredients and flavours. Take in the spectacular views of the Oribi Gorge whilst being served a mouthwatering breakfast, lunch, or multi-coursed dinner.
So if you’re searching the net for good “restaurants near me”, this is your go-to list. Have you recently been to one of these, or are there restaurants in SA that you can recommend that you feel should definitely be on this list? Tell us about it in the comments section below, and keep your eye on the Junk Mail Blog for more great food and dining suggestions.