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5 great bars with worthy food in Johannesburg

As much as we all love a special drink (whether boozy or not), it’s the edibles that can really put the polish on an evening out. We count down five great bars in Jozi that serve memorable eats, from exciting tapas to dripping burgers.

EB Social Kitchen & Bar (Hyde Park)

This bar linked to Exclusive Books at Hyde Park Corner is known for its set of literary cocktails and astonishing décor and views. To enjoy with a drink called Breakfast at Tiffany’s (a fusion of vodka and espresso), chef Russel Armstrong recommends charred sourdough with fabulous brandade (salt cod) butter. The complex and masterful Count of Monte Cristo with its smoky gin, maple, spicy caramel edge and deep herbiness requires something subtle like fresh Namibian oysters topped with prawn, lemon, coriander and chilli, or maybe even the simple mountain olives with smoked garlic. But the bar dish that people love most is balls of fried halloumi in kataifi, served with lemon mayo – have fun seeing which drink goes best with that! In addition to the cocktails, there’s every choice of liquor, spirit or wine, exquisitely presented; four more delectable bar snacks; and seven bigger entrée plates. EB patrons love the smoked salmon on potato blini, folded with a chive-and-citrus crème fraîche, and the shaved duck with salt-and-pepper squid, jewels of ruby grapefruit, and a lime-and-coconut sauce.

EB Social Kitchen & Bar_Boschendal Style Award finalist

EB Social Kitchen & Bar. Photo by Libby Edwards.

MESH Bar (Keyes Art Mile, Rosebank)

New chef Thapelo Letsogo is building up the tapas menu on the bar side of the business. Formerly of African Pride, he likes his food fairly simple in concept but rich in overlapping tastes – and all created from scratch, of course. The menu of 10 items will change seasonally, but might include beautifully plated mini sliders of pulled pork and bacon with avo, brie and jalapeño; sticky, sweet chilli buffalo wings with blue-cheese cream; or golden sourdough cheese sandwiches with a fresh cherry-tomato salsa. The fare pairs perfectly with the picturesque art-inspired cocktails and stunning décor pieces.

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Nine Barrels (Maboneng)

This bar in the AGOG Gallery building (with a tiger on its side) has one of the biggest selections of wines by the glass in the country. People come here to discover what’s happening on the wine scene in SA and to sample the rare bottles and bubblies, but Nine Barrels also boasts wickedly desirable tapas plates. Think beef tataki and quail eggs with rooibos balsamic and home-made melba toast; crumbed bitterballen; flatbreads with goat’s cheese or Parma ham and unusual accompaniments; and boards of charcuterie and terrine, Middle Eastern meze or cheese. Mains are special, too; you can settle down at a table to enjoy scallop croquettes or Argentinean prawns in broth with spiky vegetables and crème fraîche for dipping.

Radium Beer Hall (Orange Grove)

Radium is all about comforting pub grub – Portuguese, of course – in the oldest working bar and grill in Joburg. The live jazz, memento-covered walls and the centuries-old, history-scarred bar make for a very satisfying vibe, especially when the food is as good as ever. After all these years, you know you’ll get prawns in beer (better than you remembered) and that two-texture peri-peri chicken. Top of the list of starters are caldo verde, chicken giblets, garlicky potato focaccia, and creamy mussels, and Thursday is prawn night, whatever happens. Groups often share pizzas named after famous local jazz musos while enjoying their drinks.

The Jazzed Up Radium Beerhall

The Jazzed Up Radium Beerhall. Photo supplied.

Republic of 94 (Braamfontein)

This very big and busy beer hall has a rich culinary history, formerly housing names like Linger Longer and Leipoldt’s. The rebranded spot is brought to you by the same people responsible for 86 Public and The Immigrant; they know Braamfontein crowds and have decided that this is a bar for the older crowds. There’s no shortage of rollicking music, and the bar itself is purportedly the longest in town, running 20 beautifully polished metres. On top of it you can tuck into juicy full-size gourmet burgers, like the dripping beef burger with bacon and avo, or the crumbed chicken option with peri-peri mayo, as well as pregos, ribs and salads.

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