Unearthing a cool new haunt or a cosy cafe in your neighbourhood is like finding gold. While the main roads and malls are always abuzz with hotspots, the real treasures are quietly concealed in suburban nooks and side streets with some of the best grub around. Just in case your restaurant bucket list wasn’t long enough, here are some new hidden gems to discover – or revisit – around your city.
Craft Coffee (Newtown)
Some tourists, who come for the gallery of graffiti by famous artists from all over SA and the world, know this “fantastic coffee place under the highway bridge in Newtown” better than the locals do. The original idea was to sell great roasted coffee in sacks only, but tastings for clients convinced them otherwise. Lovejoy Chirambasuka is the expert and will advise you on what coffee to have and what method he will use to create that cup just for you. Even a mere cappuccino is the one by which you’ll compare all others in future. There are pastries, too.
Curry and All (Morningside)
Behind the Shell garage in Rivonia Road is a place that surges with life at lunchtimes, especially on Fridays. You’ll get no-frills, brusque service, but the Indian-style curries are tasty and homely. This is where to attack the really delicious bunny chow, brimming with mutton, chicken or vegetable. (You can also have them with rotis or rice.) The mutton is hot and the chicken is mild; they are all messy and fabulous. There are a few plastic tables inside and out.
Dae Jang Kum (Rivonia)
Dae Jang Kum is hidden in a little centre across from Rivonia Boulevard. Inside it’s surprisingly spread out, with private dining rooms. Galbi is available here, as is bibimbap, but the Korean diners will tell you that it’s famous for superb kimchi. They’ll be eating kimchi jeongol, a pork and kimchi stew, or the elegant stir-fried spicy tofu with kimchi and pork, called sofokimchi jea juk bokkum. There are beef and seafood dishes galore, and the stone rice is really delicious. Service is friendly but has its own pace. There’s no dessert menu though, so don’t ask.
Juice Den (Fordsburg)
On Fordsburg’s undercover square leading off Commercial Road is a little shop with depictions of ingredients and juices on the wall. Inside are a few plastic chairs for waiting and, beside the counter, an agricultural pressing machine that is fed fresh sugarcane. Your drink from that juice is mixed with ice and whatever else you choose from the market. It’s delicious with fresh lime and ice, avo, or the more usual guava, orange, granadilla, carrot, apple, melon and banana. You’ll inevitably try at least two.
Sally Williams (Sandton)
Tucked alongside the huge Forever 21 store is the first of 50 soon-to-be-launched Sally Williams shops selling a vast array of luxurious ice creams and the famous nougats. There are enough choices to keep you coming back every day for a new scoop, perched on a bar stool in this lovely little space. The ice creams come in the flavours of nougat; Turkish delight; honey, cranberry and almond; and lush coffee and chocolate. Coffees are also on the cards.
Treviso (New Doornfontein/Maboneng Ext/ Ellis Park/Troyeville)
Nobody can even say exactly in which part of Joburg to find Treviso. It’s in an area of development and flux. It’s a funny place, on the 4th floor of Morkel House, and you can spot it a block away by the Italian flag draped over the balcony. Look forward to freshly baked sourdough and fresh penne ready to hold rich sauces mostly inspired by Treviso, Italy, the family home of owner Sergio Caon. The baking starts at dawn and at 7am the doors open for breakfasts and anytime meals, like excellent pizza, until late afternoon. The tramezzini are fresh and served lightly toasted. The Italian coffee is superb, too. Sit out on the balcony for a most interesting urban view of Johannesburg.
The Victorian Secret Bakery (Benoni)
The home of fabulous things like macaroons, meringues with jammy, fruity and nutty fillings, and unusual pastries is no secret to those in Benoni. The little bakery and confectionary is set to the left of the Victorian Secret restaurant, but worth visiting in its own right. Behind the counter are the busy ovens, bread doughs and pastries being created. People travel all the way here just for the high tea.
World of Samoosas (Oriental Plaza)
These samoosas are a secret of many Joburg restaurant owners who buy them ready to fry and serve to their customers. They are just the best – not only the delicate pastry, but the delicious fillings, too. Nothing beats a saucerful of coconut samoosas served with a squeeze of lemon, but there are twelve fillings in all, including cheese and corn, and prawn. You can find World of Samoosas on the upper balcony of the plaza.
Arrive at the weekly farmers’ market at the Pioneer Museum in Silverton on a Saturday morning between 5am and 10am to find Christa Mouton and her selection of citrus, roses, figs and pomegranates; seasonal jams; and exquisite lamb, which she sells in cuts such as loin chops, shoulder, leg, sausage and mince. Lamb can also be ordered at R88/kg, sliced and packed, from 082 653 8217. (Find more information about the farm Skaapkraal on Facebook.)
If you’re a bread freak, the best selection of German rolls and rye can be found at the Brotstübe bakery and coffee shop. Everything is freshly baked on the premises; breads include a few Italian kinds like the popular ciabatta, but all are wholesome and of top quality. You can also linger over a bowl of soup with one of the tantalising breads.
Dinner Sorted at Carlton Café Delicious (Menlo Park)
Most people will be familiar with Carlton Café Delicious, but more recently chef-patron Rachel Botes has upped the foodie stakes with her Dinner Sorted offering. Special takeaway meals are ordered on a Thursday for collection late afternoon on Friday, from a menu that includes meat and vegetarian options. The simplicity of the menu keeps the cost down, but with the expected Carlton quality and ingenuity. Guests can also kick-start the weekend with Happy Hour on Fridays from 3pm to 7pm, which offers an imaginative tapas-style menu, cocktails, and wine by the glass or the bottle.
Jasmine Palace (Constantia Park)
This is the place for helpings of deep-fried milk, feather-light steamed buns with pork belly, and prawn dumpling soup. It’s always good to chat to the owners because, in spite of an extensive menu, there’s an even larger number of authentic Chinese dishes emerging from the kitchen.
Menlo Park Gardens (Menlo Park)
Pop into Menlo Park Market Gardens for the best pasteis de nata on Fridays and Saturdays. They are freshly baked at an authentic source elsewhere in Johannesburg. Try them once and you’ll be back for more. You can also pre-order.
When in Laudium, try some of Shayona’s extraordinary samoosas. If you select one only, go for the Punjabi samoosa, a potato-and-cashew-nut mix that’s worth every bite. They also do vegetarian and vegan readymade meals here.
This Kerala-driven Indian restaurant is tops for Kerala porotta (R7 each), which are beautifully and freshly made and good enough to constitute a meal. The layered flatbread may remind you of a lacy doily – almost too pretty to eat. It is one of the best examples of the deliciousness of Indian breads.
Antique Café at Churchill House (Windermere)
This quaint spot might look like just a vintage clothing shop from the street, but inside the house is a homely café that serves seasonal small plates, bakes and lunchtime favourites. Peruse the wares before settling down for a lunch of sweetcorn fritters with smoked salmon and avo, or an open sandwich with brie and onion marmalade. Don’t leave without tucking into a baby beesting with cream or the luscious baked cheesecake.
The Bunny Bar (Morningside)
This unassuming bunny-chow bar is ideal for a midweek supper. The small shop caters for meat eaters and vegetarians alike with a choice of paneer bunnies and butter chicken roti rolls. Alternatively, go for one of the specials of the day like crab curry, dhal ghosh or biryani.
Ciao Bella Café (Durban Point)
This quaint sidewalk deli and bistro is housed in a charismatic old building on famed Point Road. The eatery offers simple café-style Italian fare with options of soups, antipasti platters, paninis, pastas and crispy pizzas. The fior di latte pizza is a popular choice, with a rich tomato sauce, bubbling, oven-baked fior di latte mozzarella, and fresh basil leaves.
The Chairman (Durban Central)
Situated in the historic point of Durban, this sophisticated bar offers a finely selected list of wines to pair with the elegant yet accessible gourmet grub. The beautiful bar plays host to locals looking for a vibey night out. On the food front, expect killer pizzas and delicious tapas-style bar snacks.
Dee’s Café (Durban North)
Located at Spades Design Centre in Durban North is this hidden gem that’s perfect for a peaceful garden lunch. The toasted sandwiches and flat breads are favourites for regulars. All mayos, pestos and relishes are home-made, and are available to buy. For those with a sweet tooth, there’s a selection of home-baked cakes and muffins.
Delish Sisters (Salt Rock)
This sister-run spot is ideal for a luscious breakfast or wholesome lunch. Grab some delicious options off the harvest table, or order off the menu with options of shakshuka, perfect poached eggs, and zucchini fritters. They also concoct some delicious gin cocktails using local craft gins.
Falafel Fundi (Morningside)
This is the place for some of the city’s best falafels. Get yours made to order in a roti, a baguette or platter. You can also buy tubs of homemade hummus and babaganoush. It’s the perfect spot for a midweek lunch or a speedy takeaway for dinner.
Fortune Coffee (Morningside)
This coffeeshop is nestled inside the beautiful Con Amore decor shop, offering excellent coffee, power smoothies, breakfasts, and Mediterranean-inspired lunches of salads, wraps and pita breads. Vegan Fridays impress with delicious dishes like red-bean noodle salad with sesame green beans and crushed peanuts.
The Glenwood Bakery (Glenwood)
While all locals know about this breakfast and bread spot, it’s the pizza evenings that make this a hidden gem. On Monday and Tuesday evenings, head to this spot from 5pm and tuck into incredible homemade pizzas on the sidewalk with your choice of tipple (bring your own).
The Glenwood Restaurant (Glenwood)
While the popularity of this neighbourhood haunt is growing fast, its humble location in an old house makes it a real treasure. Go here for luxurious pastas in a relaxing yet refined setting. Chef Adam Robinson’s talent with dough will have you heading back weekly for a pasta fix.
Il Postino Pizzeria (Dargle)
This Dargle restaurant is a cosy pizza pitstop for those meandering in the Midlands. Book a table before your next trip inland and hunker down for some of the best pizza in KZN. Enjoy tasty options like the Midlands Medley, topped with mozzarella, caramelised onion, camembert cheese and basil pesto, and the Alla Sud Africana, with boerewors, biltong, onion and cherry tomatoes.
Lucky Shaker (Umhlanga)
This Umhlanga cocktail bar is completely stylish and serves fresh and innovative food to pair with the fun, seasonal drinks. Head here for some tacos or a carefully crafted cocktail with a tropical spin.
Noble Coffee (Clairwood)
This hole-in-the-wall coffee shop is one of the hippest hidden gems to hit the city. Caffeine lovers can find everything here, from a ristretto to V60 pour overs. Light snacks by Renegade Kitchen are also on offer, as well as freshly baked pastries. Keep your eyes on the Facebook page for music nights and other events.
Many Durbanites may drive past this spot daily without knowing that it’s a great place for an easy Italian meal or a good takeaway pizza. Pop in for a quiet meal with the family on the sidewalk and enjoy familiar favourites like Vienna schnitzel with chips, creamy spinach-and-feta lasagne, and fillet marsala with chips and veg.
The Place (Umhlali)
This well-kept secret on the North Coast offers lazy Friday lunches under the trees, pop-up events, open days and weddings for small groups.
The Prep Room (Glenwood)
The small, playful menu at this prep-school eatery caters for health nuts and pleasure seekers. Parents or Glenwood locals can enjoy dishes like garlicky mushrooms on rye, and avo with buttered bacon for the banters. For more indulgence, there’s a deconstructed sandwich with zesty guacamole, mature cheese and an egg baked into Glenwood ciabatta. The take-home dinner offering is clever, too: Grab a rotisserie chicken or family-size lasagne for a quick fix. Look out for the pizza and burger evenings during the week.
The Taphouse (La Lucia)
Serving a wide range of craft beer on tap and other drinks, and offering a small menu of tasty food options and weekly specials, the Taphouse is a cosy little pub located in La Lucia’s Davallen Road. Head over for a few sneaky drinks after work, grab a table for the next rugby game, or book for one of the hearty Sunday roast lunches.
Tree Natural Café (Umhlanga)
This calm café and yoga studio is dedicated to serving wholesome grub for healthy foodies. Head here for a post-yoga lunch and enjoy options like the zucchini wrap with feta, sunflower seeds and a lemon-thyme dressing, or the salad bowl of cauli-rice, cabbage, hemp seeds, sprouts, mint and a lemony dressing. Wash it down with a cold pressed juice of grapefruit and pine or a soy-milk coffee.
Bombay Chilli (Plumstead)
Make your way down this little one-way side street in the suburbs and you will be rewarded with fragrant, complex curries and buttery Indian breads at this small restaurant and takeaway. The palak paneer and aloo gobi are a hit with vegetarians and meat eaters alike, and all curries come with rice, which is a generous touch.
Bouchon Bistro (City Bowl)
Located in the small road of Hout Street is this city winery complete with a cosy cellar-style eatery. Bouchon’s delicious tapas dishes are the perfect end to a wine tasting in adjoining Dorrance Winery. Sip on a glass of vino as Spanish music fills the air and nibble on plates of honey-grilled artichokes with feta and sundried-tomato pesto, vol au vents stuffed with curried pulled duck and basil, and potato gnocchi with wild mushrooms and pecorino.
Broadway Bakery (Maitland)
Head to this Portuguese deli and bakery for some authentic pasteis de nata, good coffee and all-day breakfast specials. The deli also offers free WiFi to patrons, for those looking to get a little work done while they wait for their traditional peri-peri chicken or prego roll.
Chai Yo (Mowbray)
The eatery has the feel of a relaxed indoor Thai street café. Highlights are tom-kha gai coconut soup, crispy sweetcorn cakes, curries, and a sublime prawn-and-calamari salad. End off with the deep-fried bananas for something comforting.
The Cousins Trattoria (City Bowl)
This casual trattoria on a back street lights up this part of the inner city. The welcoming Italian atmosphere and team of cousins will treat you to some perfectly made pasta dishes with flair. For something truly special, try the signature pasta dish that’s tossed and scraped in a scooped-out wheel of parmesan cheese before serving, or go for their porchetta special, if it’s available. The puffed and fried pizza bread bites are delicious for snacking on while you peruse the menu.
Flatteur Café (Sea Point)
You might pass this quaint coffee shop without noticing it, but the corner location offers a charming rest place for a coffee, all-day breakfasts or midday snacks. They’re licenced, so you can enjoy an afternoon drink after a promenade walk.
Fuego (Sea Point)
Regent Road’s restaurants are causing quite the buzz, and this little Latin find is no exception. Enjoy fresh and zesty ceviche, bite-sized tacos with punches of flavour, and delicious, golden churros. The restaurant still doesn’t have a liquor licence, so opt for a fresh juice, or grab your favourite bottle of wine from a bottle store in the area to enjoy there.
Galbi Restaurant (City Bowl)
This is a proper Korean barbecue experience on Long Street. Each table has a small grill where you can cook your meats, tofu and cabbage. Look out for some interesting soju cocktails and craft beers to wash it all down.
The Gardener’s Cottage (Newlands)
Situated in a tranquil cottage at the Montebello Design Centre, this café under the camphors keeps suburbanites happy with light teatime treats, Origin coffee, and sublime breakfasts. The eggs here are a must: poached, scrambled or fried to perfection.
Goloso (Sea Point)
This Sea Point venue turns out delicious homemade pasta and thin, crispy pizzas. The lasagne is the stuff of legend; also try the gnocchi with Bolognese sauce. Comforting in the best way.
He Sheng (Sea Point)
If you’re on the hunt for some good Chinese food, this Atlantic Seaboard eatery is the place. The vast menu features seafood, pork, beef and chicken dishes. There are also soups and dim sum options for lighter meals. Favourites include pork-and-prawn dumplings, spring-onion pancakes, beef rolls and sweet-and-sour pork.
Hidden Leaf (Woodstock)
This urban eatery is tucked away in the heart of Woodstock and offers locals a menu of fresh, seasonal dishes. Look forward to options like simple, homemade chicken pie with veggies, bone marrow on toast, vegan burgers, rainbow toasted cheese, and fresh mussels.
Hokey Poke (City Bowl)
While the Mother City’s stand-alone poké eatery has created quite a stir, it’s the hidden location that makes this spot a true find. On the quiet end of Church Street this small space serves up fresh, zingy bowls of the on-trend food. Try the No. 5 bowl with fresh salmon, beets and ponzu dressing.
Izakaya Matsuri (Green Point)
Somewhat hidden down the pedestrian alley alongside The Rockwell is some of the best sushi in Cape Town. Go for the five-dish starter platter with shiitake tempura, chicken and pork skewers, or crispy calamari. Adventurous dessert options include the ice cream flavoured with green tea, wasabi and black sesame. Red paper lanterns, shoji screens and woodblock prints warm up the space.
Korean Soju (Sea Point)
This brightly lit restaurant on Sea Point’s Main Road is home to some wonderful Korean food. As you’re seated, you’ll be greeted with an array of tiny bowls with little tasters: sticky soy beans and kimchi in varying degrees of heat. Opt for a piping hot bowl of bibimbap and try some of the delicious galbi, cooked at the table.
La Frasca (Oranjezicht)
Authentic wood-fired pizzas with thin bases and handmade pasta will vie for your affections at this cosy spot. The narrow dining room with twinkling fairy lights offers an intimate atmosphere for a delightful Italian feast. Finish off the evening with a limoncello. It’s open for Sunday lunches now too.
The Larder (Claremont)
The Larder is a small neighbourhood hidden gem off Cavendish Square with a sunny terrace. It offers good coffee and homely food such as breakfast frittatas, mushrooms on toast, cinnamon buns and seasonal lunch offerings. It’s open for some evenings, too; keep an eye on social media for news on the quirky supper clubs.
Lusitania Fisheries (City Bowl)
It’s a bit worn around the edges, but the queues snaking out the door of Lusitania at lunchtime hint at how beloved this chippie is. Order fresh battered hake, snoek or calamari and slap tjips, and allow the bevy of guys behind the counter to anoint your crammed container with lashings of vinegar and salt, before wrapping it up for you to take away. Tartare sauce and lemon slices can be bought separately.
Situated in a tranquil courtyard in the middle of Gardens, this Greek eatery is a local’s favourite. The meze platters and slow-roasted lamb in a creamy ouzo sauce are outstanding. Order your choice of wine, sip out of tumblers and get transported to Greece.
Whitewashed walls, cheerful staff and authentic and delicious Greek food await you at this no-frills neighbourhood restaurant. Don’t miss the outstanding arni sto fourno, which is lamb neck baked for hours in lemon and herbs until so tender it comes away from the bone with the back of a spoon, or share some meze between friends for a social evening. On warmer days, book your spot on the veranda for gorgeous mountain views.
Osteria Tarantino (De Waterkant)
This little Italian eatery is situated on a quiet cobbled street of De Waterkant. Enjoy a taste of true Italy with well-made pastas and creamy gnocchi, as well as rich and comforting desserts.
Side Wing (Ottery)
This secret chicken-wing spot, set up in a home in Ottery, has popped up on our radar recently. To get your fingers on these tasty morsels, keep your eyes on the Facebook and Instagram feeds for the next serving on Fridays and Saturdays. Expect bites like Jamaican jerk hot wings, southern fried chicken burgers, and sweet, barbecue-dunked wings. Side Wing only accepts cash and you’ll have to DM them to pre-order.
Bread & Butter (Paarl)
For freshly baked treats, food on the go and great gift shopping, this Paarl location is your one stop shop. Pop in for a coffee and enjoy bakes like chocolate Oreo cheesecake, fresh croissants, colourful cupcakes, and chocolate fudge cake topped off with caramel popcorn. There are also plenty healthy eats with some banting-friendly options on offer.
The Deck at Hidden Valley (Stellenbosch)
Bertus Basson’s newest venture comes in the form of this easy-going dam-side eatery. Order your meal of the day at the hatch and grab a spot on the sunny deck for some great weekend feasting. There are only two dishes on the menu, but the ever-changing offering might feature meaty Wagyu beef burgers with crunchy chips, or battered hake with all the trimmings. Pro tip: Make this your pit stop between wine tastings.
Fetta di Cielo (Somerset West)
This is a top-notch spot in Somerset West, where wood-fired pizzas are the speciality. The menu offers a few classics like margherita and regina, as well as more exciting options with Italian sausage and bacon, or anchovies, olives and sundried tomatoes. There do free deliveries in the area from Monday to Thursday.
Hidden in the calm between two Stellies streets is this courtyard Japanese eatery. Apart from varied sushi that includes new-style sashimi, tataki, hand rolls, reloaded rolls, nigiri and roses, there are platters to delight those with bigger appetites, as well as the popular tempura, done with tiger prawns, line fish, shiitake mushrooms, vegetables and calamari.
This beautifully decorated little eatery has become a home away from home for locals. It’s known for delicious baked treats (cruffin, anyone?) and fresh, seasonal breakfasts. The shakshuka is a must. Nestled in a quaint street of Stellies, it’s a good spot for a quiet coffee while you catch up on mails.
Spek & Bone (Stellenbosch)
Completely hidden behind Oom Samie se Winkel is this tapas-and-wine bar by Bertus Basson. Past highlights have included herbed potato churros, slow-cooked lamb ribs with shiso leaves, and the spectacular Peppermint Crisp King Cone dessert.
Village Foods (Hermanus)
This family-run spot is a hit for curry fans visiting or living in the Hermanus area. The unassuming spot offers freshly prepared Halaal meals from fish and chips to delicious homemade samoosas, chilli bites and traditional curries. There is also an array of spices and curry mixes to take home.
Have we missed your favourite neighbourhood gem? Let us know in the comments below.