Norwood is one of those Johannesburg suburbs that might not have featured much on the continuum between cool and hot, but that’s changing. Whereas in the past people stumbled upon Norwood en route to somewhere else, now they may well make a special effort to visit.
The main thoroughfare is Grant Avenue, from which most activity seems to radiate. It is a typical 1920s or 1930s Johannesburg suburb, which had its affluent heyday and fell into a slow decline over the years as other parts of Johannesburg gained distinction. Today, there’s a mix of South Africans living together, from the community of the founding residents to newer groups from a variety of cultures and geographic locations. In the evenings, people are out on the streets, strolling, shopping, chatting and, of course, dining. Apart from numerous shops and restaurants, there’s also the small but quite happening Ascot Hotel, which has a dining room and offers live jazz some evenings.
It seems the restaurants in Norwood are as diverse as its residents. Hennie Fisher recommends his favourites in the vibrant suburb.
This is a modern restaurant with – very important in winter – a number of fireplaces and a comfortable enclosed pavement area. Try the buffalo mozzarella salad as a starter, or any of their interesting main courses such as deboned chicken (either lemon or peri peri), springbok steak or rump chimichurri. For dessert, tuck into a chocolate brownie served with roasted pineapple with brown sugar and cayenne pepper, or malva pudding with roasted peaches and custard.
Giovanni Pane Vino
This is a small and convivial Italian restaurant appears to have been in the same spot for ages. The antipasti section features a hearty minestrone (like all good Italian restaurants should), pasta e fagioli (beans and pasta soup), and mussels marinara. The Italian Affair pizza is topped with salami, anchovies, olives, artichokes and capers, while the classic veal limone is served with a classically elegant lemon sauce and mashed potato. To top all of this wonderful food, order homemade tiramisu for dessert.
Kung Fu Kitchen
The Kung Fu Kitchen range covers a lovely miso soup; appetisers like prawn spring rolls; rice dishes such as a lovely Thai massaman curry or an angry curry (at your own peril); and fried tofu with black-bean sauce. For those wanting something comforting and delicious, the dumplings can be had either boiled or fried, and there is also a section devoted to sushi.
Next door serves a plethora of pizza options with either a thick, whole-wheat or wheat-free base. Try toppings like rocket, pine nuts and feta; porcini and feta; or the Menash pizza, with extra mozzarella, extra napoletana sauce and fresh basil. Apart from some interesting starters such as fresh green asparagus grilled and marinated with parmesan shavings and balsamic vinegar, they also have a great variety of other items like bagels and wraps, fish, various pasta dishes and much more.
Punjab Chicken Tikka
Tucked away just around the corner off Grant Avenue, this little Indian spot is not to be missed. The menu of flame-grilled items offers seekh kebab or T-bone steak, and every day of the week has some or other special on offer. On Tuesdays, the special might be a sugarbean-and-potato curry, and on Friday’s it’s buttered chicken.
Rainbow Sushi and Chinese Food
The range of dishes here is considerable and include starters, soups, sweet and sour dishes, cashew-nut dishes, chop suey, chow mein, chow faan and udon noodles. For those who wish to try something a little different, the kingklip with ginger and spring onion or duck with mushrooms and bamboo shoots sound delicious. The sushi menu reads almost like a chemistry table, with all the combinations offered as maki, maki double, California rolls, hand rolls or fashion sandwiches.
RTG – Ready To Go Deli and Diner
This Jewish-American-style diner serves a selection of burgers, heroes and dogs, with descriptions such as ‘foot-long’ or ‘junk-yard dog’. They have a whole selection of flame-grilled chicken, steaks, shawarmas and even a Thai beef grapau. Sides include Louisiana hot wings, chicken pops and salted chilli chicken bytes.
This bustling restaurant with upstairs and downstairs areas offers a range of delicious goodies in a pita, from falafel and halloumi to garlic chicken livers. You can also opt for a laffa with chicken, or a schnitzel. The chef’s specialties include shakshuka – tomato-based salsa topped with two eggs and baked in the oven – and they also prepare a range of unusual and delicious burgers.
Senhor Calisto’s Portuguese Restaurant
This Halaal Norwood branch serves a healthy chicken fillet and Greek salad as one of many chicken options, while the traditionalists might enjoy mild and creamy chicken livers (or giblets) with a roll. They also offer a seafood platter, lots of calamari options, a few burgers and pregos, and an entire section devoted to chicken wings in various guises. All meals are served with a choice between standard chips and pap.
On Saturday evenings the neighbourhood throngs here to enjoy a buffet meal for a mere R79.99 per person. The buffet includes ten different starters, main courses (lamb and two chicken dishes), butter-garlic or mint naan from the tandoori, and kheer (rice pudding) with fruit salad and ice cream for dessert. This is decidedly good value for money, but of course the establishment also offers an à la carte menu featuring dishes such as kingklip and prawn jalfrezi and mutton biryani.
Thava Indian Restaurant
Situated slightly out of the fray, this impressive Indian restaurant has a few other branches in the country and attracts a lively mix of locals as its clientele. Thava serves a selection of starter items, including lovely Thava calamari chilli – rings pan fried with green, red and yellow peppers, vinegar and soya sauce – as well as plates of lovely samoosas. Main courses are divided into South Indian specialities, tandoor items, curries (chicken, lamb, seafood and vegetarian), biryanis, flatbreads and accompaniments.
Even though the Vovo Telo is part of a well-established chain, this shop serves some creative and innovative items, and the funky staff are on top of their game. Opt for a Reuben sandwich with pastrami, caramelised onion, gherkins and boerenkaas on rye, or try one of the homemade pies (chicken and mushroom or lamb and mint), their fantastic breads to take home (sourdough, rustic, brioche or coconut loaf), and, of course, delicious cakes and other pastries.