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The best restaurants in Johannesburg: where to eat out in 2017

Fast-moving Johannesburg offers one of the most diverse dining scenes in SA. From ground-breaking inner-city revivals and genre-bending gastronomy to family-run favourites and trendy new hotspots, the choice of breakfast, lunch and dinner for Joburg residents and visitors is abundant.

Here is our critics’ pick of Johannesburg’s best restaurants, as rated and reviewed for the 2017 Eat Out magazine, with a section below for some new spots to look out for.

African

Moyo (Melrose Arch)

A carefully thought-out menu here showcases various African cuisines. Try the crocodile-tail pies served with pineapple-and-orange salsa, Somalian butternut rice cakes, and the complex flavours of a tagine of Karoo lamb and chickpea, with tomatoes, peaches, ginger and coriander. End off on a Peppermint Crisp cheesecake.

Roving Bantu Kitchen (Brixton)

This Brixton spot serves up wholesome soul food, with most dishes made from scratch using local ingredients. On a typical night kick off with cheese-and-spinach samoosas, peanut soup, sugar-bean curry with rotis and mango atchar, or African ‘risotto’ made with samp, beans and morogo. Desserts playful with options like caramelised, curry-dusted pineapple pieces on sticks, koeksisters, or super-sweet watermelon platters.

The Roving Bantu Kitchen. Photo supplied.

The Roving Bantu Kitchen. Photo supplied.

The Americas

Baha Taco (Norwood)

From humble beginnings as a food truck, Baha Taco now serves hand-pressed tortillas and free-range meats at this popular venue. Order nachos, quesadillas oozing with salsa and crema, or pulled pork tacos with lashings of smoky chipotle sauce. The signature fish or prawn taco will transport you to sunny Baja California.

A selection of tacos at Baha Taco. Photo supplied.

A selection of tacos at Baha Taco. Photo supplied.

Che Argentine Grill (Maboneng Precinct) – Best Steakhouse – highly commended

Grass-fed meat cuts are cooked over flames for smokiness that pairs well with the house chimichurri. Highlights include empanadas, roasted marrow on garlic bread, ribs, rump tail, and gloriously crispy pork belly. Ask for the hasselback potatoes with wine, butter, sage and bacon as a side and finish with crème caramel with dulce de leche.

El Jalapeño (Linden)

This is the place for authentic Mexican flavours. The familiar poppers, burritos, tacos and quesadillas are available, but for the real experience dig into the arepitas, cloud-like cornmeal balls filled with pulled beef; flautas with chipotle salsa; and empanadas made with cornmeal. End off with decadent churros with dark-chocolate sauce.

Starter-platter-and-Vampiro-cocktail-at-El-Jalapeno

Starter platter and Vampiro cocktail at El Jalapeno. Photo supplied.

Perron (Illovo) Best Mexican Eatery – winner

This vibrant spot serves up fiery Mexican food with fast, friendly service. Be sure to sip on margaritas and order a range of tostadas, quesadillas and empanadas for the table.

The Perron bar. Photo supplied.

The Perron bar. Photo supplied.

Smokin’ Joe’s Rib Shack (Fourways)

You’ll find Southern-style home cooking at this Fourways gem. Enjoy smoked brisket and ribs (beef or pork) with the sides of the day, which may be mac ’n cheese, collard greens, corn bread, dirty fries or black beans. Daily desserts stick to the theme: peach cobbler, sweet-potato pie and Mississippi mud pie.

Smokin Joe's Rib Shack

Ribs at Smokin’ Joes. Photo supplied.

Asian

Chinese Northern Foods Restaurant (Cyrildene)

You can’t go wrong at this Asian eatery. Order the crowd-pleasing Pie Like Hat flatbread and some dishes to share. The sizzling lamb or beef cubes are served in a hot skillet and the braised eggplant is delicious with sticky rice. You might get a slice of melon for dessert (on the house), which is probably all you’ll be able to manage.

The Good Luck Club (Illovo)

This establishment is the perfect example of why you should not judge a book by its cover. Try everything from perfectly prepared spring rolls, delicate dim sum to scrumptious lucky wings. Mains are simply presented but the flavours don’t disappoint. Standouts are salty crispy beef, succulent ginger-plum chicken, and punchy honey-soy chicken.

The Good Luck Club

The Good Luck Club. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Great Eastern Food Bar (Melville) – Best Asian Eatery – winner

You’ll find a delightful mix of the orient and the new world at this Melville spot. Think kimchi, tacos and dumplings that are perfect for sharing. The open-plan kitchen produces dishes like delicate sashimi tacos, rice-paper rolls, steamed buns with pickled shiitake and hoisin sauce, Korean or Bangkok fried chicken, and spicy kimchi noodles with fragrant broth. If you have room, share the crispy scallion pancake to end the meal.

Mussels at The Great Eastern Food Bar

Mussels at The Great Eastern Food Bar. Photo supplied.

Momo Baohaus (Greenside)

Start at the beginning and work your way through all the tapas, buns, bowls and sushi rolls. The champion bao is rightfully called The Chairman, filled with pulled lamb, hoisin, pickled shiitake, spring onion, coriander, sesame, peanuts and cucumber. The spicy salmon ceviche taco is a life-changing choice. For mains, choose your base of jasmine rice, wokked noodles or wokked greens, then opt for steaming, saucy, fiery additions.

One of the bowl options. Photo supplied.

One of the bowl options at Momo Baohaus. Photo supplied.

PRON (Linden)

The People’s Republic Of Noodles is as tongue-in- cheek and fun as the name suggests. Chef Emma Chen serves unpretentious and generous Chinese food from her childhood. Start with the famous Hand-Break Bread before moving on to highlights like the cold summer beef noodles, the vegetarian bowl with chewy seaweed, crunchy, savoury pig-ear salad, and tender chashu pork slices with fried green beans.

Pron pork noodles

Pork noodles from PRON. Image courtesy of the restaurant

Red Chamber (Hyde Park)

This Joburg institution offers authentic and fusion Chinese dishes like five-spice chicken wings, sesame prawn toast and dumplings. Sharing is encouraged, and dishes are placed on the lazy Susan so everyone can grab a bite. Deep-fried green beans with black bean and chilli are simple yet surprisingly delicious. Sizzling kingklip with chilli and garlic and crispy beef are popular too. No meal here is complete without a fortune cookie.

Simply Asia (Bryanston)

This popular takeaway and sit-down spot offers comforting Asian favourites. The gaeng butternut soup can be tuned to your liking – mild, medium or hot. The phad med prik phao, a stir-fry of roasted chilli paste with onions, peppers, cashew nuts and chicken or beef, is just one of the genuine Thai meals served with well-cooked jasmine rice.

So Yum (Hyde Park)

A large Asian menu requires some attentive reading, but the kitchen’s expertise lies in fluffy steamed buns with honey-barbecue fillings of pork, duck or veg. The fiery minced lamb gyoza is a triumph, too. There’s a range of hearty Thai curries, Peking duck and the famous sizzling beef on a hot plate. Complete your meal with a decadent duo of white and dark chocolate mousse balls or deep-fried chocolate dumplings coated in sesame seeds.

The interior at So Yum. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

The interior at So Yum. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Yamato (Illovo)

A wide selection of dishes will keep the less adventurous as well as the Japanese connoisseur content. Every dish is packed with flavour, texture and aesthetic appeal. Try a set menu with a bit of everything with highlights like tempura, edamame, dumplings, crispy pork belly simmered in soya and mirin, and outstanding chashu ramen. The sushi is also exceptional.

Yamato's modern interior. Photo supplied.

Yamato’s modern interior. Photo supplied.

Bistro

A La Bouffe (Linden)

Michelin-starred chef Romuald Denesle creates comforting bistro dishes here. His braised lamb is highly praised, and hake and kingklip feature often, with accompaniments like lemon sauce, asparagus and crushed potato. Look out for specials inspired by the market. Weekday lunches boast salads, meats and lovely cheeses, with roasts on the weekend.

A la Bouffe

Inside at A la Bouffe. Photo courtesy of the restaurant

Bistro Michel (Birman)

Chef patron Michel Morand serves French-inspired cuisine to regulars who adore his classics. Begin with light salads, soups, carpaccios or seasonal sautéed porcini dripping in garlic butter. Mains offer something for everyone, like succulent beef with béarnaise, seared salmon, duck and fresh fish.

Bistro Vine (Parkhurst)

It’s not exclusively French, but starters might include duck-liver pâté and pork belly with apple and pancetta. If they’re on the specials board, go for the salmon-and-sweetcorn fritters. The roasted pork loin chops with apple, mustard, soy sauce and thyme are popular, or order the reliable duck confit. For dessert, regulars love the Amarula brûlée, or try lemongrass panna cotta with candied almonds.

Eatery JHB (Parkmore)

A short, creative menu has highlights like beetroot-and-orange carpaccio with goat’s cheese and pistachios, salt-and-pepper calamari with tartar sauce and fried capers, pork cutlets with pea purée and apple crisps, and tomato-and- butternut risotto with mozzarella. If you don’t choose the vanilla panna cotta with berries and crushed meringue, the chocolate fondant is just the thing.

Les Delicés de France (Roodepoort)

In the middle of Roodepoort suburbia lies this gem. Specials change daily, so hold thumbs for the tastiest duck salad ever. Alternatively, order delicious bisque de langouste and, of course, frogs’ legs in a creamy garlic sauce. Other highlights are cassoulet, confit duck leg and châteaubriand béarnaise. Classic desserts include crème caramel, crème brûlée and seven soufflés.

Sel et Poivre (Morningside)

The French-inspired menu features classics like green salad with honey-whipped goat’s cheese on pissaladière and deboned leg of lamb in mustard sauce, served with butternut gratin and steamed vegetables. You might also go for beef fillet or rump, black-olive-stuffed chicken on grilled zucchini; steak tartar with béarnaise sauce; and beer-battered yellowtail with chips.

Cafés

Arbour Café & Courtyard (Birdhaven)

This enchanting leaf-dappled café and crêperie features gluten-free, buckwheat galettes filled with fresh, free-range fillings like five-spiced duck, smoked streaky bacon, and salmon. Sensational salads and gorgeous rib-eye steaks round out the menu.

Arbour Cafe & Courtyard

Arbour Cafe & Courtyard. Photo supplied.

Café Patisse (Sandton)

All the top Joburg chefs know and recommend this patisserie. Martin Ferreira is superbly qualified, but still young and fun. Highlights are quiches, vol-au-vents, buttery croissants, over 200 éclairs, beautiful frangipani tarts, mini cheesecakes, chocolate ganache tartlets and the famous V8 layered cakes.

red velvet sweet treats prepared and served at Cafe Patisse

Red velvet cakes at Cafe Patisse. Photo supplied.

Cheese Gourmet (Linden)

This café adjoins the most wonderful cheese shop in SA, where advice is a smile away. Feast on fluffy scones and lovely cakes or go for all-day breakfasts like creamy eggs Benedict, a flapjack stack layered with bacon, mushrooms and tomato, and excellent frittatas with cheese. The power chicken salad is a winner, as are platters to share.

Inside at the Cheese Gourmet. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Inside at the Cheese Gourmet. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

CNR Café & Bistro (Craighall Park)

Here you’ll find a wide menu of café dishes with a twist. Specials might include smoked salmon on seed loaf with avo, poached egg, capers, Hollandaise sauce and orange zest. Sandwiches stand out with toppings like grilled halloumi, toasted pumpkin seeds, prosciutto and parmesan shavings.

Craft (Parkhurst)

Fans flock for simple, homely food in generous portions. Highlights are home-made pasta, ostrich bobotie or sticky barbecue spare ribs. The oxtail in a rich tomato sauce and served with mash falls off the bone. If you’re not ordering a gourmet milkshake or a freak waffle then try the moist flourless Belgian chocolate cake with a berry compote and soft cream or vanilla ice cream.

The cookies and cream waffle at Craft. Photo supplied.

The cookies and cream waffle at Craft. Photo supplied.

Dolci (Craighall Park)

Freshly made, delicious and authentic Italian food and pastries are on offer at Dolci. Favourites include spicy Eggs in Hell, frittatas, gourmet sandwiches and traditional pasta dishes. Don’t leave without trying the pastries, like the zabaglione with Marsala custard, fresh berries and biscuits.

Ferguson’s 5th Floor (Illovo)

Breakfasts here comprise of all the traditional fare such as eggs dishes, croissants, Elvis-Style French Toast and avo on toast. A daily harvest table offers a variety of satisfying meals for lunch, and the à la carte menu covers the usual range of open sandwiches, pasta, salads and a beef fillet.

The rooftop area is a real oasis in the city. Photo supplied.

Ferguson’s rooftop area. Photo supplied.

Glenda’s (Hyde Park)

Brunch on smashed avocado toast garnished with chilli flakes and lemon or your choice of eggs. If you’re in a group, the rotisserie chicken served with stuffing, roast potatoes, gravy and salad is a good idea.

The Garden Room at Glenda's. Photo supplied.

The Garden Room at Glenda’s. Photo supplied.

The Hill Café (Braamfontein)

Breakfasts are yummy with appealing twists like scrambled eggs with avo, smoked salmon, sweet piquant peppers and cream cheese on a sweet-potato rosti. The burger with bacon, emmenthaler and smoky barbecue sauce is popular, as is the BLT with chilli-garlic oil, cheddar and avocado.

Outside at The Hill Cafe. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Outside at The Hill Cafe. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Junipa’s (Bryanston)

Do not go anywhere else for eggs Benedict. Here it’s served with home-made English muffins and perfectly balanced Hollandaise. The signature crème brûlée French toast is also a must if you’re feeling like a treat. There’s a carb-conscious section on the menu, too.

Junipa's

Breakfast at Junipa’s. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Life Grand Café (Waterfall City)

You won’t struggle to find something from the plethora of options. The generous portion of fillet spaghetti tossed in balsamic and pesto is satisfying, but for lighter appetites, choose from the 25 tapas and sharing options. Death by chocolate and home-made Belgian waffles with ice cream are enticing desserts.

The interior of LIFE Grand Cafe in Waterfall Corner. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

The interior of LIFE Grand Cafe in Waterfall Corner. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Love Food – Kitchen, Deli, Café (Braamfontein)

The ethos here seems to be the simpler, the better. A sizable harvest table is a centrepiece, decked out with an abundance of salads, proteins and starches. There’s also a selection of sandwiches and the special of the day. End with lemon tart, brownies or home-made choc-chip cookies.

Moemas (Parktown Quarter)

Breakfasts are wonderfully elaborate, with every variation of omelettes and Benedict you could imagine, as well as sweet and savoury crumpets, tarts, muffins and some of the best croissants in the city.

Moemas-pastry

A pastry at Moemas. Photo supplied.

Pablo Eggs-Go-Bar (Melville)

The menu here is playful but gets serious when it comes to quality. It’s all about free-range eggs, from snappy all-day breakfasts to lazy brunches. Try the Yemen flatbread, which is made in-house, topped with hummus, tomato-and-cucumber salad, and sliced boiled eggs. Alternatively, treat yourself to triple-cooked truffle-parmesan fries.

Piera Italian Gourmet Deli (Melville)

Piera Dembech makes food with the best ingredients (and love). French croissants, cheeses and fine salami and coppa make up breakfasts, along with Italian coffee and cakes. Arrive early for lunch ordered off the blackboard, which could be cantuci with gorgonzola and cherry tomatoes, quiches, pizzas and real-deal lasagne. End off with pistachio ice cream.

Post, Breakfast, Lunch (Braamfontein)

They take their space and food seriously. Breakfast covers everything from the decadent and delightful to the basic and healthy. Special mentions go to feather-light flapjacks with yoghurt, fruit and honey; the Bifteki breakfast consisting of a free-range burger patty, scrambled eggs, relish and rocket; and pork belly with mustard and cranberry-onion jam on soft French bread.

Salvationcafé (Milpark)

This is the perfect breakfast or lunch spot. Try staples like poached eggs Benedict or be different and opt for the savoury French toast stack with halloumi, cherry tomatoes and pesto. The café runs a buffet style menu too.

Pancakes-at-salvationcafe

Pancakes at salvationcafe. Photo supplied.

tashas le parc (Hyde Park Corner)

The ideal place for a sumptuous brunch of classics like croque monsieur or luxurious Millionaire’s Eggs, topped with salmon roe, truffle oil and parmesan shavings. Well-made sandwiches, salads, pasta and burgers are on offer too.

tashas (Sandton)

This brand is synonymous with consistent, high-quality food. Order from the usual tashas menu or try the selection from the Flamingo Lounge. Salmon pâté, honeybush-poached pears and biltong salad, and sliced Picanha steak are highlights.

Pastrami on rye at tashas. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Pastrami on rye at tashas. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Trio (Greenside)

TV chef Amori Burger creates treats like flapjacks with apple, tahini, honey and thyme. There are also fabulous poached eggs, burgers with bacon, avo and onion rings, and famous flatbreads piled with goat’s cheese, pickles and the best beetroot hummus.

Beetroot hummus flatbread with goat’s cheese at Trio. Photo by Lisa Skinner.

Beetroot hummus flatbread with goat’s cheese at Trio. Photo by Lisa Skinner.

Vovo Telo (Parkhurst)

Tuck into great breads and simple, unpretentious food. Go for the corn hot cakes with poached eggs, crispy coppa and roasted tomatoes. Dinner is just as enjoyable: try the deconstructed Caprese salad with pesto-roasted halloumi, and the lamb braised in a rich tomato sauce and served on home-made pasta.

The Whippet (Linden)

The Whippet leads by example with a locally sourced offering. They excel at breakfasts like oats cooked in coconut milk and swirled with cinnamon and berry compote, and lunches of burgers, salads, bowls and melts. Don’t miss the chicken-and-chorizo tagine or the fondue burger, which is really a crumbed chicken breast with a three-cheese sauce, pickles and fries.

The Whippet

The Whippet’s interior. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Wolves Café (Illovo)

This is the perfect place for corporate foot traffic, students and general catch-ups. There’s a great breakfast and light lunch offering, including favourites like shakshuka, grilled cheese with tomato soup, and fried chicken waffles. Coffee here is excellent.

Fine dining

Athol Place (Sandton)

This oasis boasts manicured gardens, exquisite décor and art, and incredible food. Next-level hot breakfasts include truffle-infused scrambled eggs with salmon on rye, and a French toast stack. The bistro lunch menu has burgers, line fish, tagliatelle and sandwiches. Dinner is the main event: the seasonal set menu begins with an amuse-bouche in the garden, then sensations like miso broth with seared salmon, five-spice pork belly, and seabass with coconut, lemongrass and lime. End on a magnificent triple-chocolate mousse.

AtholPlace Restaurant

A dish at AtholPlace Restaurant. Image courtesy of the restaurant

Clico Restaurant (Rosebank)

Clean flavours and exquisite plating with organic, seasonal ingredients. Breakfasts include exciting flavours like dukkha-spiced oats. Lunches are light and casual, and dinner is where chef Peter van Schaik really flaunts his culinary prowess in works of art like root vegetable gnocchi with a delicate truffle custard, sea bass and celeriac-and-lemongrass purée, and slow-braised lamb shoulder with parmesan shortbread and con t tomato. The piña colada dessert is dazzling.

Clico's pina colada meringue. Photo by Kate Liquorish.

Clico’s pina colada meringue. Photo by Kate Liquorish.

Gentlemen’s Arthouse (Newtown)

The menu at this extravagant restaurant changes seasonally. Look forward to olives, truffled popcorn and poppadoms; an amuse- bouche of tuna ceviche, salmon tartare and cured beef cones; and lamb turned into a lollipop with greens, gravy and duck-fat fries. A burlesque dancer accompanies your dessert.

Gentleman's Arthouse's savoury cones. Photo supplied.

Gentleman’s Arthouse’s savoury cones. Photo supplied.

DW Eleven-13 (Dunkeld West)

Marthinus Ferreira’s degustation menu is a sumptuous culinary journey that begins with exquisite breads and butters and an enchanting amuse-bouche. Standouts include polenta with cauliflower espuma, sultanas, pine nuts, kale and brown butter and confit duck cannelloni with a langoustine, tarragon velouté, onion crumb and pickled shimeji. Chef’s famous ice creams – honey and thyme with poppy-seed sponge or white chocolate and lemon curd – are sensational.

A dessert at DW Eleven-13. Photo supplied.

A dessert at DW Eleven-13. Photo supplied.

Level Four (Rosebank)

The menu is short, with creations by different chefs. Try the light and creamy butternut soup starter with tahini cracker, feta and hummus gnocchi; sea bass with coconut and cauliflower; or the beef fillet with smoked brisket, monkeygland sauce, pickled and fried alliums and turnips. Inspired desserts could include a rich 70%-cocoa chocolate lava cake or lemon brûlée with Inverroche gin and tonic sorbet.

Luke Dale-Roberts at the Saxon (Sandhurst)

Chef Candice Philip utilises exceptionally high-quality produce (as well as herbs, fruits and veg grown on site) in order to recreate Luke Dale-Roberts’s imaginative and detailed dishes. Highlights might include a sea-bass ceviche with charred broccoli, hazelnut salsa and miso aioli; famed pork belly with blue cheese and compressed apples; and springbok loin with black-garlic salsa.

The view from Luke Dale-Roberts at The Saxon. Photo supplied.

The view from Luke Dale-Roberts at The Saxon. Photo supplied.

Marble (Rosebank)

At the heart of David Higgs’s new restaurant is a magnificent, custom-made grill, which lends smoke to every dish. You’ll find paprika, harissa and chipotle throughout, as well as smoked eggs, ash butter and burnt orange. For mains, choose between highlights such as the côte de bœuf feast, fried fish and shellfish for two, and pork neck with grilled pineapple. For something playful and light, end on ice-cream sandwiches.

Tables at the windows offer a bird's eye view of Rosebank. Photo supplied.

Tables at Marble’s windows offer a bird’s eye view of Rosebank. Photo supplied.

View Restaurant at Four Seasons (Westcliff)

The main attraction here is a five-course tasting menu by chef Dirk Gieselmann. The seasonal menu could include scallops with Jerusalem artichokes, kalamansi butter, king oyster mushrooms, crispy sage and biltong; superlative herb-crusted Karoo lamb with cannellini-bean mousseline; and dark-chocolate fondant with vanilla-poached pineapple, passion-fruit meringue and piña colada sorbet.

The bar inside at The View Restaurant

The bar at View. Photo supplied.

Indian

Al-Makka Restaurant (Fordsburg)

With so many dishes on offer, you’ll need to take a few minutes to make your choice. Shwarmas, burgers and noodles all appear, but the restaurant is best known for authentic cuisine prepared with spices from Pakistan. If you’re a group of vegetarians, try the special for four, which includes paneer masala, palak paneer, vegeterian biryani, chapati rotis, poppadoms, tandoori rotis, rice and a two-litre coke.

Dosa Hut (Fordsburg)

The chicken tikka starter is succulent with bright spicy sauce, and the fish curry (with the chef’s secret gravy) is a fiery concoction with a kick. Dosa Hut also offers a selection of chicken, lamb and vegetarian mains, with a selection of sides, as well as a few biryanis.

A dosa at Dosa Hut. Photo supplied.

A dosa at Dosa Hut. Photo supplied.

The Raj Indian Restaurant (Bryanston)

This is traditional North Indian cuisine at its finest. The lamb seekh kebab is a great starter, as are the samoosas served with delicious dipping sauce. There’s quite a wide range of seafood, chicken, lamb and vegetarian dishes, but the fragrant lamb biryani comes most highly recommended.

A spicy pasta dish at The Raj. Photo supplied.

A spicy pasta dish at The Raj. Photo supplied.

Royal Punjab (Blackheath)

For a wide range of starters, the mixed tandoori platter for two offers spicy, bite-size portions of chicken tikka, chicken risme kebab marinated in a secret sauce, lamb shish kebab, vegetarian samoosas, chilli bites, and deep-fried prawns in a mystery orange batter. The saucy, tender lamb bhuna gosht is full of comforting flavours, as is the prawn masala. Mop up with fresh naan bread. Vegetarian options are varied too.

Butter chicken from Royal Punjab

A curry at Royal Punjab. Photo supplied.

Spiceburg (Greenside)

The menu offers wide range of North and South Indian dishes with choices ranging from tandoori starters to mains of lamb, chicken and vegetables. Start with poppadoms with dips of bright green chilli or tangerine and lemon. The fish Malabar, a fish curry with a rich, aromatic gravy infused with sweet anise and nigella, mustard, cumin and fenugreek seeds, is a winner.

Italian

Amarcord Italian Food (Blairgowrie)

Northern Italian cuisine is known for its cured meats, excellent cheeses, balsamic vinegar and stuffed pasta, all of which you can find here. Crowds flock for the zucchini fritti, melanzane, ravioli with burnt sage butter and parmesan, veal escalopes with porcini sauce, and beef fillet with a balsamic reduction. If you have room for dessert, go for the dolce della nonna or the home-made gelato.

Café del Sol Botanico (Bryanston) – Best Italian Eatery – winner

Expect beautiful food with top ingredients like black truffles, smoked salmon, duck, and dolcelatte gorgonzola. Classic Mediterranean flavours appear in many seafood dishes – the stuffed calamari is raved about – and the chicken livers and penne with spicy beef fillet come highly recommended. There’s also pizza, gnocchi, risotto and meat dishes.

Cafe Del Sol Botanico. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Cafe Del Sol Botanico. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Café del Sol TRE (Parkhurst)

Choose from classics like carpaccio, gnocchi, risotto and pasta with some surprising variations. The oxtail risotto with bright confetti of root vegetable shavings is perfection, as is the silky pappardelle with whisky, mushrooms and cream.

The 1920s-inspired mirrors are a focal point. Photo supplied.

The 1920s-inspired mirrors are a focal point. Photo supplied.

Café del Sol Classico (Randburg) – Best Italian Eatery – highly commended

This family-run restaurant is a real hidden gem. The fresh, wholesome menu can be slightly daunting with all its appealing options. Chef favourites include tomato soup topped with gorgonzola and chives, battered prawns with lemony avocado, porcini chicken, the gorgonzola fillet in a balsamic-and-port reduction, stuffed calamari, and the salmone vodka gnocchi.

Cafe del Sol's butternut gnocchi. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Cafe del Sol’s butternut gnocchi. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Col’Cacchio Pizzeria (Hyde Park)

While Col’Cacchio does serve other appealing Italian mains, its pizzas are the main event. Enjoy options with salad-filled centres for the health-conscious, as well as gluten-free bases. Vegetarians and meat lovers alike will find something to love. If you’re undecided, the half-half option is your best bet, with seven variations.

ColCacchio summer menu

Pizzas from Col’Cacchio’s summer menu. Photo supplied.

Cornuti Stella e Luna (Parkhurst)

Start off with the cicchetti to share, squid heads with aioli or crumbed artichokes. Pasta and pizza are specialities, but there are interesting dishes like fillet medallions and agnello skewers. Desserts are classic – try the affogatto, tiramisu, panna cotta or sticky amaretti pudding.

Da Graziella Restaurant and Pizzeria (Edenvale)

Old-fashioned, authentic, heartfelt Italian food is on offer here. Start with veg antipasti, fresh oysters, or the selection of Italian cold meats like Parma ham, salami and mortadella. For mains, the oven-baked seafood linguine comes highly recommended. There’s also a huge selection of meaty fare including veal, poultry, lamb and even tripe.

Franco’s Pizzeria (Parkview)

Since 1987 Franco Forleo and his family have been drawing in the crowds with their famous salad dressing, great service and friendly atmosphere. Fantastic thin-crust, wood-fired pizzas with traditional toppings are a drawcard, but their pastas are equally enticing.

A pizza at Franco’s Pizzeria and Trattoria. Photo supplied.

A pizza at Franco’s Pizzeria and Trattoria. Photo supplied.

Gemelli Ristorante (Bryanston)

This beautiful Italian restaurant is the brainchild of Allesandro Khojane, who grew up in Rome, Italy. The seasonal menu is honest and simple, with traditional Italian ingredients prepared in a modern way. Highlights include the honeymoon risotto, topped with prawn tails, garlic, tomato and parsley cream, or any pasta dish. The impressive dessert menu has favourites like lemon tart with lemon sorbet and tiramisu trifle.

Gemelli penne Allessandro. Photo by Rupesh Kassen.

Gemelli’s penne Allessandro. Photo by Rupesh Kassen.

La Cucina di Ciro (Parktown North)

This Jozi icon has stood the test of time. Starter options include lime-and-mint chickpea fritters topped with spicy eggplant, garlicky snails with roasted fennel, and calamari and prawns in a light batter. For mains, diners can look forward to a well-executed T-bone steak Fiorentina chargrilled in the Josper with black pepper and garlic, or the legendary home-made fettuccine with seafood.

La Luna of Melville (Melville)

Two chefs create Italian-inspired dishes here, but neither is from Italy. Pastas are always an event, and the specials board is tempting, but try the fan favourites like salmon fillet with capers, olives, snap peas and sauce vierge, any prawn dish, and the delicious casoncelli filled with oxtail, bacon, sage and butter.

A dish at La Luna in Melville. Photo supplied.

A dish at La Luna in Melville. Photo supplied.

Mastrantonio (Illovo)

It’s a joy to dine at such an easy-going establishment where the food is so comforting. Highlights are tender panzerotti stuffed with roasted butternut; hand-rolled gnocchi and Napoletano sauce; crispy squid heads; and porcini sautéed in butter and herbs. For meat lovers, the crumbed veal chops and Florentine steak are mouth-watering. End on the tiramisu or custard-filled profiteroles topped with chocolate sauce.

Moda’ Ristorante (Craighall Park)

The key here is honest Italian fare that’s excellent for a midweek dinner or romantic evening out. The generous antipasti is a perfect way to start, or share the fior di latte mozzarella with tomatoes, olives and basil, or deep-fried calamari and baby marrows. Crispy-based pizzas are prepared in a wood-fired oven and topped with traditional combinations. Finish off with classic tiramisu or dark-chocolate mousse with crunchy amoretti.

Nonna Mia’s Kitchen (Norwood)

Their claim to fame is irresistible pomodoro sauce, which you’ll want to mop up with the nearest carbs you can find. To start, try the melanzane alla parmigiana or granchio (crab) in pomodoro, with extra garlic and chilli. Pastas are seriously saucy and full of flavour. They make a mean cheesy beef lasagne, tasty veg lasagne and spaghetti ai frutti di mare with mussels, calamari, crab and prawns.

The food counter at Nonna Mia's. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

The food counter at Nonna Mia’s. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Remo’s Libertà (Sandton City)

Delicious home-style food is served at this Sandton spot. For starters, try the peri-peri chicken livers or the calamari piccolo with lemon-butter sauce and zucchini fries. The pizzas are made with stone-ground flour, fresh tomato sauce and an array of quality toppings. For dessert, try the croissant bread-and-butter pudding with crème anglaise.

Remo’s Maximilliano (Sunninghill)

This deli and bakery keeps fans happy from morning until night. Fiery chicken livers will warm you up, and vegetarians will enjoy crumbed halloumi with dips. For a more traditional approach, start with antipasti and then decide between pizza or pasta. Portions are big enough to share, so leave room for the pastries.

A meaty pasta dish at Remo's Maximilliano. Photo supplied.

A meaty pasta dish at Remo’s Maximilliano. Photo supplied.

Rosto (Linden)

This outlet is known for wood-fired and roasted Italian street food with interesting twists. If you don’t order a whole, half or quarter free-range chicken, try the lasagne, which is a beautiful balance of ragù, béchamel, mozzarella and Parmigiano Reggiano. Skip the tiramisu in favour of the panna cotta or semifreddo al torrone.

Tortellino D’oro (Oaklands)

For over 20 years, Tortellini D’oro has served exquisite pastas and Bolognese fare from family recipes. After excellent antipasti and starter specials, move on to highlights like butternut, ricotta and almond ravioli in sage butter, luscious lasagne, or veal Marsala. Home-made sorbet, gelato and patisserie make for heavenly desserts.

Mediterranean

Bellagio (Illovo)

A daily specials board here allows you to try regular dishes as well as seasonal delicacies. The grilled calamari with avo salsa and oysters are flavoursome and fresh. Other musts are Thai-style kingklip and sublime seared salmon. Look out for the chocolate soufflé and crème brûlée.

Bellagio

Seafood pasta at Bellagio. Photo supplied.

Mythos (Fourways)

Pita and dips (spicy feta, hummus and olive tapenade) set the tone for a Greek-style evening out. The range of tasty meat dishes may leave you undecided, but the paithakia (grilled lamb chops seasoned with lemon and oregano) is a winner. For dessert, try the home-made yoghurt served with honey and nuts.

Piatto (Dainfern)

For those who like a little heat, the signature jalapeño poppers will not disappoint at this easy-going spot. The linguine al pomodorini – pasta with prawns, cherry tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, chilli and parmesan shavings – has just the right amount of warmth and sweetness. There’s a wide range of desserts, with the Oreo pudding winning first prize.

Middle Eastern

47 on Grant (Norwood)

Sip complimentary Turkish tea while the waiter talks you through the menu. Order the cağ kebab (cooked in a clay pot over the coals) if it’s on special, and tuck into sides like hummus, tzatziki, tahini, baba ghanoush, ezme salad, tabbouleh, watermelon-and-feta salad, mango salsa and flatbreads in a feast fit for an emperor. Desserts include rice pudding and freshly baked mini cakes.

Teta Mari (Illovo)

This gem has something for everyone. The shakshuka is the best in town, the deconstructed schwarma is perfect for lunch, and look out for the lamb shish kebab with hummus, tahini, chilli, pickles and fresh, hot pita bread.

The shakshuka at 47 on Grant. Photo supplied.

The shakshuka at 47 on Grant. Photo supplied.

Turkish Kebab House & Butchery (Mayfair)

Try the platter of delicately spiced and grilled meat, with rice, chips, salad, cacık (minty yoghurt) and rotis. The kofte are really tasty, as are the beef shwarmas and cubes of spicy lamb, chicken breast or sirloin served on a skewer.

Modern/Tapas

Coobs (Parkhurst)

Home-grown vegetables and free-range pork, chicken, ducks and eggs come from the family farm, so the seasonal menu at Coobs changes often. Notable dishes are pork belly with Asian veg; crispy calamari, kimchi and miso broth; roasted-cauliflower-and-blue-cheese lasagne; Korean-style chicken; and a lamb burger with halloumi. Save space for the millionaire’s shortbread with smoked caramel ice cream.

Slow-braised Suffolk lamb shoulder with truffle arancini at Coobs. Photo supplied.

Slow-braised Suffolk lamb shoulder with truffle arancini at Coobs. Photo supplied.

The Countess (Melville)

Smoky barbecue flavours are coupled with modern techniques at this hip eatery. Outrageously delicious dishes include truffled mac ’n cheese, beer-and-cheese brûlée, and eight-hour brisket on a baguette with dipping gravy. End on the pot de crème with maple syrup and black lava salt.

The-Countess

The Countess in Melville. Photo supplied.

The Cosmopolitan Bar (Maboneng)

Chef Dario de Angeli offers seasonal dishes with a fun twist. This could include smoked salmon on fresh green shoots with potato air and asparagus mousse; bonemarrow and toast with sweet cauliflower; and the vegetarian Curry Textures, featuring green curry, dumpling and dhal. Of five desserts it’s hard not to choose the one simply called Chocolate.

EB Social Kitchen & Bar (Hyde Park)

The menu by Michelin-starred chef Russell Armstrong is designed for sharing. Try the spiced ratatouille, arancini and smoked-salmon mousse with lemon to start before moving onto slow-braised duck leg with grilled radicchio and fondant potatoes.

The steak fillet with roast potatoes at EB Social Kitchen & Bar. Photo supplied.

The steak fillet with roast potatoes at EB Social Kitchen & Bar. Photo supplied.

Escondido Tapas and Wine (Illovo)

Escondido is known for its superb ambience, great wines and excellent tapas. The eclectic menu changes weekly and is a blend of global flavours. Recommendations include eisbein spring rolls with home-made chilli jam, crispy calamari strips with pepper salsa, and sautéed bok choy with garlic and nuts. For dessert, the lemon-and-ricotta doughnuts are just the ticket.

The Foundry (Parktown North)

The Foundry produces exciting gastronomical experiences. Three standout options are roasted bonemarrow, the albondingas (little pork-and-veal meatballs swimming in red-pepper-and-chilli sauce), and chorizo bravas. Go straight for the pork belly with cider-bacon jam, chilli bok choy and potato galette; a sourdough pizza; sweet-potato gnocchi; Moroccan lamb, ostrich fillet or springbok shank.

The Grazing Room (Dunkeld West)

This is a treat for the taste buds, where you should order one of everything. Highlights include arancini with olive mayo; pork-and-chorizo cassoulet with smoked cannellini beans; ragu of prawns, chilli, garlic and tomato; lamb boerewors with chakalaka; and oxtail Yorkshire pudding with horseradish cream. Save room for the tonka-bean crème brûlée.

The ragu of prawns at The Grazing Room. Photo supplied.

The ragu of prawns at The Grazing Room. Photo supplied.

The Green Peppercorn Bistro (Morningside)

Prepare for an African experience with an Asian flair. Choose between casual daytime meals and more elegant dishes like chilli-dusted squid with perfumed cardamon mayo, ostrich carpaccio maki, pulled pork, paella, mushroom fillet with chorizo arancini, and rich lamb panzerotti with creamy rosemary sauce.

The Green Peppercorn. Photo supplied.

The Green Peppercorn. Photo supplied.

The Griffin (Illovo)

A seasonal and well-thought-out menu showcases modern pub food with tons of flavour. Start with duck spring rolls with plum sauce or a salad of spicy chicken, green papaya and coconut. Sublime mains come in large portions and include a slow-roasted pork belly with potato bake. For the sociable, there’s a selection of sharing boards and meze.

The Leopard (Melville)

Chef Andrea Burgener cooks up dishes using sustainable, grass-fed and free-range ingredients, as well as items made by people in the local community. Start with artichokes with herbs, pecorino and breadcrumbs; pork rillettes with flatbread and pickles; or one of the two beef tartares. Then have sea bass with wine, cream and chilli or the smoky pata plate. To end, return to your childhood with milky tea and a Zoo biscuit.

Licorish Bistro (Wedgewood)

Breakfasts may surprise you with South African ingredients popping up in dishes like phuthu cakes and a snoek-and-cumin frittata. Have a highly recommended bobotie spring roll and then perfectly seared tuna served with zesty salsa for mains. Desserts don’t disappoint, with options like milk tart brûlée with caramelised cinnamon sugar.

Lucky Bean (Melville)

Lucky Bean offers alternative takes on comfort foods. The short, seasonal menu might lean to local dishes like snoek-en-patat fishcakes with moskonfyt, and port-based oxtail soup with African dombolo. There are appealing vegetarian and vegan options, too. The home-made basil ice cream with mango purée is an unforgettable dessert.

The Portuguese steak at Lucky Bean. Photo supplied.

The Portuguese steak at Lucky Bean. Photo supplied.

The National Eatery and Speakeasy (Parktown North)

James Diack first introduced us to his farm-to-table approach at Coobs and here, together with sous chef Sachin Gosai, he continues with a smokier menu. Must-tries are lamb empanadas with coriander aioli and mint pesto, and chicken gumbo with dirty rice and charred corn. The winner, however, is the confit acorn-fed pork belly with udon, kale, kimchi, sprouts and a crackling crumble.

POP Champagne (Greenside)

A raw bar and snacks are on offer to pair with the many champagnes and MCCs, and on the flip side are mains, desserts and wines. Try the oysters with wasabi, ginger and rice-vinegar aioli before moving onto mains like tender Lomo al Trapo (traditional Colombian salt-crusted tenderloin). Comforting desserts of Oreo cheesecake, sticky banoffee pie, or champagne-jellied fruit terrine are on offer.

Pop Champagne

Oysters and bubbly at POP. Photo supplied.

Urbanologi (Ferreirasdorp)

Chef Angelo Scirocco (the winner of the Eat Out Nederburg Rising Star award) serves inventive urban-garde cuisine, inspired by the beers brewed on site. Pork belly is salt cured, cooked sous-vide and battered with black pepper before being fried and served with butternut purée, tamarind dressing and fresh cucumber. The marinated Korean-style rump is fired on the grill, sprayed with lime and served with soba noodles, lemon-wasabi mayo and seaweed dust. To end, a beautiful dessert combines tart blackberries with earthy beetroot, plums, basil and liquorice powder.

Urbanologi's smoked pork with pak choi. Photo supplied.

Urbanologi’s smoked pork with pak choi. Photo supplied.

Warm & Glad (Craighall Park)

Look forward to Asian-inspired street food and health-conscious, nutritionally rich foods. Breakfast might be congee (rice porridge with nuoc cham) or chia seed pudding with Valrhona 70% cocoa powder, coconut milk and fresh berries. For lunch they have the usual café fare such as burgers, open sandwiches and salads, but they’re becoming known for hot ramen noodle broth, served with an egg on top.

Ramen-at-Warm-&-Glad

The ramen at Warm & Glad. Photo supplied.

Portuguese

1920 Portuguese Restaurant (Randburg)

In the corner of a very unassuming shopping centre in Ferndale lies one of Joburg’s most loved Portuguese restaurants, serving traditional, hearty Madeiran cuisine. Standouts include sardines in tangy vinaigrette; flaming chorizo; trinchado with saucy garlic, wine and chilli; oven-braised lamb in a tomato-and-onion gravy with sweet potatoes; and beef tripe with curried beans. End on fresh pasteis de nata.

A Churrasquiera (Brackenhurst)

Hearty traditional food in generous servings is the name of the game here. Start with milho frito (deep-fried cornbread, perfect for sauce slurp-ups) and then opt for the authentic tripe. The less adventurous would do well with trusty chicken, seafood, or combos. To end, choose from the tempting dessert-trolley selection of mini treats and tarts.

Restaurante Parreirinha (La Rochelle)

Known for some of the best prawns in Joburg, Parreirinha dishes up succulent seafood and Portuguese dishes in a hearty family-orientated experience. First up, Mama’s famous prawn cakes or chicken livers served with home-made peri-peri sauce. The stars of the show, however, are the prawns with chips and a selection of sauces.

Selva Portuguese Kitchen (Craighall Park)

Selva offers a traditional, yet modernised Portuguese eating experience. Lunch includes options like excellent salt-cod croquettes, grilled sardines and peri-peri prawns. For the main event you might like to try classic peri-peri chicken, dry-aged sirloin with a port reduction and fried egg, or chargrilled baby octopus with punched potatoes. Heavenly pasteis de nata are a great ending.

Sardines-and-salad-at-Selva

Grilled sardines and salad at Selva. Photo by Rupesh Kassen.

Steakhouses and meaty fare

The Butcher Shop & Grill (Sandton)

This iconic grill house has been serving great steaks in Joburg since 1994. They are famous for the on-site butchery and an extensive menu that features seafood dishes, steaks, lamb cuts, venison, top-quality marbled beef and salads. Try the fall-off-the-bone oxtail stew in a small cast-iron potjie or the venison pie if you’re into game.

Fireside Bistro (Norwood)

The location on one of Norwood’s busiest streets lends a bustling air to this grillhouse. Noteworthy starters include snails drowning in creamy garlic sauce, or light beef bresaola with rocket and parmesan. For mains, stick with the tried-and-trusted meat classics: T-bone, rump, fillet or sirloin in a lemon, peri peri or chimichurri sauce, served with roasted potatoes and veg.

Fireside Bistro's grilled prawns. Photo supplied.

Fireside Bistro’s grilled prawns. Photo supplied.

Flames Restaurant (Westcliff)

Upon arrival, your car is chauffeured away and you are transported up to the restaurant to take in the incredible view. Try the springbok carpaccio with truffle oil, artichokes and roasted walnuts, the winning Korean pork belly, and Karoo lamb chops.

The Grillhouse (Rosebank)

After home-made bread and melting butter, snack on springbok carpaccio, prawns, the biltong basket or lemon-butter calamari. Then choose from the steaks, sold by weight. The New York sirloin is cooked to perfection and served with a side of lightly crisp onion rings, seasonal vegetables and a creamy mushroom sauce. Be sure to go hungry as the portions are hefty.

The Grillhouse (Sandton)

This institution is known for superb steaks, ribs and a vast selection of wines. Start with the outstanding boerewors with onion-and-tomato salad before looking to the cuts of aged beef – fillet, New York sirloin, T-bone or rib-eye – paired with expertly made sauces or sides like pap and chakalaka. Finish with a homely favourite like ice cream and chocolate brownies, crème brûlée or a cheese platter to share.

The Local Grill (Parktown North)

This popular eatery focuses on a great range of meat, from tender beef cheeks, carpaccio and bonemarrow to a variety of steaks. Start your meal with prawn or bobotie spring rolls, smoked salmon on corn blinis or the herb-brushed calamari. The star of the mains is the Greenfields free-range beef. The aged sirloin on the bone, seasoned with the house spice rub, has a pronounced charred note and a rich aroma of properly aged beef. Round it off with a great milk tart.

A steak from The Local Grill. Photo supplied.

A steak from The Local Grill. Photo supplied.

The Meat Company (Melrose Arch)

The Meat Co. is well known for its well-matured steaks and grills. Must-try entrees include five-spice calamari, Mozambican-style pan-fried chicken livers and a bowl of biltong. The meat is wet-aged and full of flavour, with cuts grilled to perfection and served plain, basted or with an in-house rub. If the prime rib is available, order it. It’s sublime.

The interior at The Meat Co. Photo supplied.

The interior at The Meat Co. Photo supplied.

The Potato Shed (Newtown Junction)

Everything at The Potato Shed comes in huge portions and sharing is recommended. Start with crispy potato skins and beef scratchings with lime, coriander and saffron mayo, and move on to the pulled pork belly that’s been braised for eight hours in Chinese five-spice, ginger, orange, marmalade, mustard and soy sauce. If you have space, the blow-torched meringue with chocolate ice cream and confit oranges sounds tempting, as do the dumplings with honey or chocolate sauce.

The Smokehouse and Grill (Braamfontein)

The steak grub here is uncomplicated and unapologetically good. Starters on the compact menu range from spicy chicken wings and salads to mac ’n cheese, while old favourites on the mains section include fillet and beef and pork ribs. The aged fillet, basted in a signature Smokehouse sauce, is succulent and full of flavour, and comes served with a generous number of golden-brown chips.

Turn ‘n Tender (Parktown North)

The menu at this meaty haven is dotted with fish, chicken and salad, but they pale in comparison to the superb selection of meat. For mains, you’ll find every cut on the boards brought out for your viewing pleasure. The point rump melts in your mouth, the T-bone packs a flavour punch, and the ribs (pork or beef) are the perfect combination of sticky and sweet.

Wombles Steakhouse Restaurant (Bryanston)

The new luxurious location of this steak favourite showcases superb quality beef and venison. Star dishes include starters like duck-liver pâté, oysters and escargot and steak mains served with roasted baby onions, peas and pumpkin mash. There are classic desserts, but it’s the rosewater ice cream with Turkish delight, nougat, chocolate and raspberry sauce that hits the spot.

New restaurants

These restaurants opened after the publication of the 2017 edition of Eat Out magazine, but has been rated highly enough by our panel of critics to make it into the list.

Bolton Road Collection (Rosebank)

This restaurant’s menu has an interesting selection of dishes encouraging sharing. As a starter, the slow roast beef short rib comes highly recommended as does the main of sea bass. There are great desserts to choose from with freshly baked tantalizing cakes on display. Don’t leave without trying the tonka bean panna cotta.

The seabass at Bolton Road Collection. Photo supplied.

The seabass at Bolton Road Collection. Photo supplied.

Cube (Maboneng)

Dario de Angeli and Darren O’Donovan have opened a new version of the Cube Tasting Room at in urban-cool Maboneng. Expect food with a serious new energy. The progressive dinner builds in expectation and flavour. Highlights include pao de queijo (tapioca-flour cheese bread), smoky-tasting sirloin carpaccio, elements of a Durban chicken curry, and Mexican-inspired beef. To end, try the fig, brie and  butterscotch dessert with praline, strands of pastry and spun sugar.

A modern dish at Cube Tasting Kitchen. Photo by Quintin Mills Photography.

A modern dish at Cube Tasting Kitchen. Photo by Quintin Mills Photography.

This list of great restaurants in Joburg is by no means exhaustive (we know there are loads more gems), but it contains all the eateries that were rated highly enough to make it into the Eat Out 500, a power list of the country’s best restaurants reviewed for the 2017 edition of Eat Out magazine. Additions to the ‘new’ section at the bottom are based on ratings by critics during the year. 

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