Nothing tastes quite as good to South Africans as food that has been cooked over the fire. From prime cuts of meat to the humble marshmallow, everything tastes better when enhanced with that unmistakeable smokiness. Just as we at home may braai over the coals or use an electric grill, local restaurants are bringing us flame-grilled food using many different techniques. Here are five spots in SA where you can get your meal with a tasty char.
Classique Braai Lounge (Hillcrest, Durban)
Authentic African cuisine is the focus here, served up in a relaxing and sociable atmosphere. You can choose one of the platters (filled with wors, chops, chicken wings, brisket, short rib, jeqe, pap and chakalaka) or make up your own and have it weighed. Alternatively, go for something adventurous like the inyama yenhloko (lip meat) served with jeqe, dombolo or pap, or go for amanqina (pig trotters. Classique completes the experience with urban jams playing in the background; think Sophiatown with a modern twist.
Homage (Cape City Bowl)
This unique spot pays tribute to heritage, nature and fire. All food is cooked on the custom-made wood-fired grills, which also warm the restaurant. The smoky scent subtly reminds you that your food is coming straight off the lovingly glowing fire in the kitchen, which is visible from the dining area. The menu changes often but can include delicious oxtail with gomae greens and creamy mashed potato. Vegetarians are also well looked after with several small plates, salads and mains like the Fresh from the Earth, which features charred sweet potato, a braaied mielie, smoked aubergine and tahini, gomae greens and a root vegetable slaw topped with toasted seeds. You’re sure to leave stuffed.
Marble (Rosebank, Johannesburg)
If you like your fine dining well done over the fire, this is a must-try spot. Marble does formal and fire together so well you might wonder why it isn’t more common. Food is cooked on the custom-made wood-fired grill. Each dish is a delight, with an ever-present subtle smokiness. Go for a sirloin steak with hasselback potatoes, roasted onions, grilled mushrooms and horseradish cream, or try the giant prawns with lime basmati rice, cucumber kimchi, burnt aubergine and an Asian salad. Vegetarians can opt for a smoked lemon-and-herb risotto served with wood-fired goat’s cheese and grilled heirloom tomato or wood-fired fennel with burrata cheese, garlic- and lemon-flavoured aubergine, and rosemary- and paprika-flavoured pecan nuts.
Mash Braai House (Fourways, Johannesburg)
The first of the two branches in Johannesburg (the other is new, in Oakdene), this classy spot is the place to go for authentic South African food cooked over the fire. Labelling itself as the spot for elegant shisa nyama, Mash Braai House is the place for everything from lamb trotters to mogodu (tripe) and smiley (an entire goat’s head). You can also find different fish dishes on the menu. All meals are served with pap, dumplings or samp as well as chakalaka, spinach and pumpkin. Everything is made on the gas grillers in the braai area of the restaurant.
Mzoli’s (Gugulethu, Cape Town)
Mzoli’s is an institution. Locals and tourists flock here for the vibe and fantastic food. It really is all about the meat at this popular spot so make sure to arrive with drinks, sides, cutlery and lots of serviettes. Then make your way to the meat counter to choose your cuts – varying from wors and chops to steaks and chicken – and watch it travel to be dunked in the famous marinade before heading to the grill. Socialise with those around you to infectious beats before your mound of meat arrives, perfectly cooked and delicious. Don’t go if you have plans for later – this is a place to spend the day, and you won’t be able to drag yourself away.
Tramontina’s Churrasco range is made with high-quality treated steel and Polywood – a shock- and heat-resistant wood that is dishwasher safe. The knives are long-lasting and feature a five-year warranty against manufacturer defects. The Churrasco range also includes grills, tongs, serving dishes and carts to make your braai experience as effortless as possible.