Johannesburg’s restaurant scene is exploding with flavors and variety. One of world’s largest cities, its many districts and suburbs offer something for everyone. Chefs, both local and international, vie to produce the most unusual flavor combinations or the heartiest comfort food. We’ve picked our top ten restaurants to help you get a flavor of this unique South African city.
While Johannesburg may not be the first place you think you’d find great sushi, the city is as hooked on the raw fish delicacies as the rest of the world. Yamato’s calm, white interior and tasteful decor offer a sophisticated dining experience while it’s beautifully presented and authentic bento boxes, sushi and sashimi are unrivaled in the capital. The tuna platter and tempura are highly recommended. Come for dinner or grab one of their lunch specials en route to the nearby Museum of Military History or the Johannesburg Zoo.
Founder Natasha Sideris is a monolith on the South African cafe scene, with ten boutique venues in the country. Yet the extension of her brand hasn’t diluted her culinary brilliance or exquisitely tasteful interior decor. Our pick is the Rosebank branch with its display of books dangling from the ceiling, open front and long tables. It’s perfect for a lazy lunch or brunch. On the menu are classics with some extra pizzazz, like the mascarpone french toast or the Arabian quesadilla stuffed with steak, houmous, tomato and chili.
Bistro, Restaurant, Contemporary, South African, Dessert, $$$
This eatery in bustling Parkhurst celebrates natural, local produce in a relaxed bistro setting. Three quarters of the food served at Coobs comes from the restaurant’s organic farm in Magaliesberg, and 100% of it is home-cooked, free range and organic. As a result, simple classics like home-baked bread, salads, fish and steaks stand out here. Chef James Diack cooks different specials every day depending on what’s in season on the farm, which was also his childhood home. Don’t miss his desserts, the churros and tarts are particularly delicious.
Cube Tasting Kitchen offers a completely unique dining experience. 30 diners at a time are served a ten-course tasting menu over at least three hours. It goes without saying that booking is essential. In contrast to their finely wrought cooking, the drinks policy here is laid back so you can bring along a bottle of your choice to match the menu. Menus change from month to month and can combine elements as disparate as gazpacho, nutella on toast, a selection of beetroot, and nachos. Each course is cooked by one of the kitchen’s talented chefs, and the menu is planned to highlight each chef’s talent. The kitchen is situated in Johannesburg’s North Parktown suburb, and the friendly, residential streets match the kitchen’s intimate atmosphere.
This is Johannesburg fine dining at its best. Situated in the luxury Saxon hotel, Five Hundred prides itself on its combination of ‘experiential dining’ engaging all five senses and fresh ingredients from its onsite vegetable garden. The art on the walls matches the palette of the food, and local and international wines are scrupulously chosen to complement the menu. Look out onto the Johannesburg skyline as you sample the four or six-course menu. A recent menu included impala, parsnip fudge or wasabi mousse: you’re guaranteed to find something you’ve never tried before.
Salvationcafe is a local hotspot for lunch, brunch, and coffee; a place to see and be seen. Situated in the trendy 44 Stanley market area, the cafe serves self-avowedly ‘non-snob food’. Owner and founder Claudia Giannoccaro spent years as a cook on luxury yachts around the world, and international flavors combine to produce the Cafe’s unique menu and ever-changing specials board. Sit on the terrace for a view of the surrounding Sunnyside area, filled with 1930s shops and boutiques. Opt for one of the cafe’s unusual offerings for the full Salvationcafe experience: halloumi french toast or a breakfast burrito.
Wombles is an unmissable spot for traveling meat-lovers. The Zimbabwean owners import high-quality Zimbabwean beef and serve it in huge portions, garnished with fresh pansies and vegetables. The restaurant’s hunting-lodge feel is the perfect setting for a long dinner, and the attentive staff make it an ever-pleasant visit. Diners have the choice between 11 cuts of meat, which are then grilled to perfection by Wombles’ accomplished chefs to make what are, by most accounts, South Africa’s best steaks.
Everything about Possum’s is fresh: from the food and fresh plants on the tables to its deli. Possum’s is a combination of greengrocer’s and restaurant, where you can eat your food or take it home. The bistro boasts a Mediterranean menu and eclectic, knick-knack filled interior. On offer are deli sandwiches unusual salads, and perfectly cooked meats, the hazelnut and pork salad and braised rabbit are essential to try. The restaurant also has its own art space, where it hosts a constantly changing collection of contemporary artists, while jazz events are held regularly.
Bistro, Restaurant, Contemporary, African, Asian, Fusion, South African, $$$
This stylish fusion bistro offers South African food with a modern twist. It has occupied the top floor of the Nicholway shopping center in the affluent Sandton neighborhood since 2012, and has brought in Johannesburg’s trendiest diners ever since. The menu offers South African classics like bredies (a South African stew) and boboties (a meat and egg stew) alongside steaks, salmon and salads. For the indecisive, chef Jacques Fourie has put together a range of tasting platters, so you won’t be left awe-struck by the bistro’s endlessly tempting array of dishes.
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Cafe del Sol is an award winner and it’s easy to see why. The kitchen whips up fresh pasta, gnocchi and pesto every day for its bustling lunchtime service and its romantic, candlelit dinners. The menu is not called a menu, but rather a ‘journey’ through authentic Italian cooking. Passion for real dining and real Italian food shines through every aspect.