With the year coming to an end, your wallet may be feeling a little thinner and those lavish date nights are turning into unromantic evenings of dry crackers and Netflix. We’ve got good news: South Africa is packed with trendy eateries, cosy cafés and buzzing Italian gems that are perfect for a date night on a budget. In anticipation of payday, we’ve compiled a list of spots to try with a budget of R300 or less.
Bolton Road Collection (Rosebank)
If you choose carefully, your date can be perfectly affordable – even at one of the trendiest hot spots in Joburg. Opt for three small plates to share, such as honey-smoked duck breast (R75) with burned watermelon and sweet-and-sour sauce; goats çheese mousse (R55) on rye soil with carrot jelly and pickled carrots; and slow-roasted short rib (R70) served with a pickled egg-yolk dressing and radish-and-watercress emulsion. Add two good glasses of wine and it’s a really delectable and impressive meal.
The Federal (Melville)
You can’t score more cred for a date than going out for hotdogs, especially when they’re leaps and bounds better than anything that has gone before. These are super special. The place buzzes with energy and laughter, looks cool, and serves milkshakes with your hotdogs – no arguing. Try boozy offerings like salted caramel with Bourbon or spiced banana and Bacardi. The hotdogs (all R85) are Instagram-worthy, right down to the last crumb of brioche roll, onion rings and chips. Choose from the Dog of the Day with everything smoky flavoured or the one with kimchi and wasabi mayo.
The Good Luck Club (Illovo)
There are loads of appealing mains, here; all of them, including the curries, are under R100. The ginger-plum chicken (R94) is always a winner, with plum sauce, spices, vegetables and egg noodles. The spiced coconut prawn (R98) dish comes with cauliflower, broccoli, a spicy-sweet coconut sauce and rice. It’s casual but always full and vibey. There’s also something extra fun about eating with chopsticks from interesting bowls.
Everyone can enjoy this version of sushi. It’s a lot cheesier and crispier. Hashi is a bright spot that looks a little classier than the usual. Share something like the Hashi Deluxe 25-piece platter for R245, leaving enough dosh for two beers or two glasses of good wine. It has enough variety to please, including prawn, salmon, everyone’s favourite Crunch rolls, plus the Special Alaska Rolls and Special Dragon, a VIP version of crunchy prawn and avo tempura. If you prefer individual dishes, the Crunch (R58) is delicious; or try the amazing Sushi Pizza for R66 or a plate of little sui mai pork or fish dumplings for R40.
The Living Room (Maboneng)
On Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, this is the ooh-ah place, the surprise garden in the Joburg sky, the place to see the sunset together. The cocktails are fabulous – try the Aloe, Aloe and the Basil Baby. You might want two each and something to snack on, like sticky buffalo wings (R50 a bowl) or the famous homemade hummus and pita (R36).
It’s beautifully wild and Mexican bright here, but with the music and laughter come seriously good food and great drinks. The Chilli Bowl (R99) comes with beef, beans, onions, rice, sour cream, cheese, lime and coriander and the Holy Mole (R115) is chicken in a pumpkin-seed mole with spicy Mexican potatoes, roasted tomatoes and a cream sauce. A Naked Mexican Beer or a glass of well-selected shiraz or Bordeaux blend should wash it all down.
Amori Burger is famous for her hospitality, vibrancy – and her flatbreads with layers of deliciousness. The best bet is slow-cooked lamb curry with cumin flatbread, peanut chutney, smoky beetroot and tomato salsa (for R115). A ‘salad’ of slow-cooked pork belly comes on a generous landscape of toasty cashews, roasted sweet potato, chermoula, herbs and interesting leaves (R75). A Skollie apple cider for R40 works well with the pork, and a glass of Warwick Cabernet Sauvignon slips down well with the curry.
Is it possible one of Joburg’s best eateries with one of SA’s best young chefs can provide a date meal for so little money? That’s one of the ideas of Urbanologi – to show that the best food can be affordable. Urbanologi is full of high-tech stuff and amazing décor touches, so there’ll be nothing boring about your evening. It’s a given you’re having the Mad Giant beers that go so well with the cuisine: a magic range of four for all palates. For meat eaters, under the Cured section, try the cured and smoked pork rack (R80), with a rooibos-ginger glaze, quince purée and glistening baby bok choy. Under the Kushiyaki section is a delicious Doenjang glazed and charred beef cheek dish (R90) with truffled cauliflower purée and shaoxing-braised onions. Vegetarians will also find delights like tempura shimeji mushrooms and tamarind dish (R65). If there are a few rands to spare, the very best potato chips in Joburg are right here, served with seaweed mayo (R35). Save the best crayfish dish you’ll ever eat for next time, with a very slightly expanded budget.
Brasserie de Paris (Waterkloof Ridge)
A number of tucked-away balconies and hidden alcoves here are just perfect for date night. The budget will be tight, but a good plan is to go vegetarian for the evening and feast on something like the ratatouille (R140), with smoked aubergines, onion tart tatin, courgettes, tomato purée, red-pepper foam and polenta crisps. There will be just enough left for two glasses of Monis Medium Cream sherry served in a big glass on ice at R18 each.
Blue Crane (New Muckleneuk)
If you want to transport your date to the far-away bushveld, consider the Blue Crane, which is centrally located but gives the sense of being far from the hustle and bustle of the city. Ask for one of the smaller tables right at the water’s edge or in the bird alcoves. They also have a lovely boma where there’s a smouldering bushveld fire crackling away. Love birds can try a chicken musakhan wrap (R90), a Lebanese-style chicken dish with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, yoghurt and pine kernels, and pair it with Darling Cellars chenin blanc at R25 per glass, or R87 for a bottle. Alternatively, opt for a home-made beef burger (R90), which comprises 200g beef patty, roasted cocktail tomatoes, Emmenthaler cheese, caramelised onion, aioli, rocket and avocado, served with chips or salad, and enjoy it with Drayman’s Indian Pale Ale on tap (R35 for 500ml). There’s also grilled Patagonian calamari with chorizo, red peppers, sun-dried tomato pesto and marinated olives, served with chips or rice (R110), which could pair beautifully with Middelvlei Unwooded Chardonnay (R40). A great idea for a couple is to share a cheese or meze platter for R140, which consists of a variety of local and imported cheeses, green figs, verjuice-stewed prunes, nuts and bread with a glass of Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel MCC at R68 per glass.
Capital Craft (Centurion)
Although this might not be the first place coming to mind for a quiet, romantic evening out, the Centurion restaurant offers a few more nooks and crannies to hide from the beer-house noise. The Big Mamma Burger (R80) is a Panko-crumbed chicken breast stuffed with baby spinach, feta, roasted macadamia nuts and black pepper, finished off with a creamy sauce of Danish feta and basil. Or try the Original Cobb (R69), Capital Craft’s take on the classic Cobb salad, with hard-boiled egg, gorgonzola, bacon, chicken and greens. With these prices there’s the possibility of a shared dessert, such as the freshly baked classic waffle served with seasonal fruit, vanilla ice cream and honey (R49). Capital Craft is, of course, known for craft beer, so sip on a 500ml Friar’s Habit California Common Steam Beer (R34) or 340ml Drayman’s Berghof (R21).
De Kloof (Waterkloof)
De Kloof recently extended its lovely outdoor stoep for more romantic sunset watching. This special, independently run restaurant will pull out all the stops to make any couple’s evening super romantic. (It has just won the bisto category for Gauteng at the Eat Out Mercedes-Benz Best Everyday Eateries, too.) The Vege-zagna consists of a combination of roast aubergine pâté with baby marrow, red and green pepper, mange tout, spinach lasagne, smoked tomato ketchup, soy-marinated tempura tofu, shimeji mushrooms, parmesan crisp and tofu purée (R119), which could be enjoyed with a glass of De Kloof Sauvignon Blanc (R30) or Darling Slow Beer draught (R30).
Kream sets out to prove that you can have a relatively luxurious date night without breaking the bank. Opt for the Cajun pan-fried hake fillet served with skinny fries, rocket-and-parmesan salad, caramelised onions, slow-roasted tomatoes, balsamic reduction and a Cajun vanilla-lemon butter sauce, all for R99. Throw a glass of Neethlingshof Sauvignon Blanc (R42), Graham Beck The Game Reserve Chenin Blanc (R45) or Badenhorst Family Wines Secateurs Chenin Blanc (R40).
Priva (Waterkloof Heights)
If you don’t find a spot on the veranda with its romantic view, move inside for date night and listen to some live jazz. Ever-gregarious owner Forti Mazzone has devised a date-night special running on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings from now until the end of 2016. Couples should book and mention that they heard about the special offer through Eat Out. Get any two main courses for a combined value of R300 and qualify for two glasses of complimentary wine. Try the beef fillet with shiitake and broccoli; duck breast with tonka-bean risotto and pickled beetroot; pork belly with pumpkin tart and crackling; or stuffed calamari with olives and smoked paprika.
What could be more romantic than a small corner filled with candles and lanterns overlooking a large public courtyard punctuated by sculptures and gurgling fountains? The tashas store in Menlyn Maine has adopted a Middle Eastern theme, so indulge in a number of small plates like spinach, feta and dill hummus with za’atar flatbread (R32); fried halloumi (R48); fillet steak tartar with bulgar wheat and aioli (R58); tabbouleh salad (R36); and whole-roasted cauliflower with almonds, capers and burnt butter (R48). Two glasses of Darling Cellars Bush Vine Sauvignon Blanc or Leeuwenkuil Shiraz (both R40 per glass) should ensure that you have a lovely meal.
Head to this buzzing new seafood spot for a casual date night in the Village. Enjoy a tasty – and hearty – portion of fish and chips for R75, a prawn-and-calamari combo with chips for R120, and two glasses of Boschendal Blanc de Noir for R45 each.
Four15 (Durban North)
For a flavourful night out, this fun Mexican spot ticks all the boxes. Grab one of the cosy wooden booths near the bar and chow down on some pretty tasty plates. On a R300 budget, you can enjoy a carnitas burrito with shredded pork, Mexican rice, black beans and cheese (R78) and a Baja shrimp fajita with Cajun-lime shrimp, avo, tomato and cheese (R92). Wash it down with a one-litre jug of white or red wine sangria for R119.
The Glenwood Bakery (Glenwood)
Head to this buzzing neighbourhood gem on a Monday or Tuesday night for a charming pizza evening on the sidewalk. The bakery cooks up some of the best pizzas in town – and at a steal. Get yourself a margherita (R60), a Provençal pizza with melted onions, anchovies and parmesan (R70), and two portions of housemade ice cream (R35 each). This leaves with R100 to buy yourselves a nice bottle of vino to take along and enjoy.
The Glenwood Restaurant (Glenwood)
The elegant food at Glenwood Restaurant is priced almost too reasonably for the excellent quality you get. Kick off with a veggie antipasti platter for two at R80 before tucking into the mains. The house-made pastas change regularly, but options like pappardelle with red wine-braised chicken (R70) and ricotta-and-spinach ravioli with sage butter (R75) will keep you under budget. Take your own bottle of wine and pay R20 corkage.
Greedy Buddha (Umhlanga)
At this popular Asian tapas spot you can get a tasty bang for your buck on date night. Tuck into a portion of classic noodles at R59 per bowl with options like ramen, pad Thai, Singapore-curried noodles and Malaysian egg noodles. Alternatively, order a chicken with red Thai curry sauce and rice (R89) and five-spice duck with mushroom-and-oyster sauce (R109). This will leave you with enough for two of their classic cocktails (R49 each). Try the Tom Yam Siam with vodka, Malibu, lemongrass and litchi or the Honey B-Nice with whiskey, honey, lemon and ginger.
Get your fix of homely Italian food at this neighbourhood favourite. Order a classic margherita pizza (R65), penne amatriciana with crispy bacon (R75) and a bottle of Boschendal Sommelier Selection chenin blanc (R155) and still stay on budget. Alternatively, enjoy a light meal of an antipasto platter for two with cured meats, cheeses, zucchini fries, marinated brinjal and focaccia for R150, and two Nutella fondants with salted caramel centres at R60 a portion.
The Shed (Salt Rock)
This lazy spot is ideal for a summer evening date night. Dine alfresco and enjoy some live music while eating fresh and delicious food. Order the famed pulled-pork burger with Texan barbecue sauce and gorgonzola slaw for R89, and a wood-fired pizza topped with butternut, red onion, feta and rosemary for R90. Pair this all with a refreshing bottle of Pierre Jourdan Tranquille for R110 or two cucumber-and-apple gin-and-tonics for R38 each.
Republik (Durban North)
A burger night at this popular spot is a great idea for wallet-friendly date night. Order two Republik burgers with a 180g free-to-roam grass-fed beef patty on a Republik roll topped with stout-soaked jalapeños, candied bacon and chimichurri mayo with a side of shoestring fries (R100 each). Wash this down with a 250ml glass of Miss Molly in My Bed red for R50 and a 500ml East Coast Brewing Co. American Pale Ale for R50. This will leave with you some extra moolah for two gourmet milkshakes like the Peppermint Crisp flavour (R40) or brownie option (R35).
The Cousins (City Bowl)
This hidden gem offers a cosy Italian experience in the centre of town. Order two portions of their homemade ravioli filled with ricotta and spinach, and have enough budget for an easy-drinking bottle of house white or red at R80 – or bring your own and pay a corkage fee of R50 a bottle.
The Eatery Wood Fired Grill (Claremont)
Visit this Southern Suburbs grill and enjoy a meaty affair for a reasonable price. The burger offering here includes the Nkandla burger with feta, avo and cranberry sauce for R95 and the classic wood-fired burger, which comes with your choice of beef, ostrich, chicken or veggie patty with a special basting for R69. Finish off the feast with two delicious gourmet shakes like the Triple Chocolate Dream for R36 or the Harlem Shake with creamy peanut butter and vanilla ice cream for R35.
El Burro (Green Point)
You can still visit your favourite Mexican donkey when the date night budget is tight. Instead of your usual lamb tacos or carne asada, opt for the veggie spiced cauliflower tacos at R90 a portion or the hearty chicken quesadilla for R85. To drink, order yourselves two glasses of the house margarita or go for the reasonable house wines from Darling Cellars at R90 a bottle.
Going to this steakhouse favourite doesn’t have to mean breaking the bank. Simply opt for one of the lighter meals such as the Hussar burger for R79, or the steak roll for R89. This will then leave you enough for a bottle of Nederburg Baronne (R145) to pair with your meaty fare.
HQ (City Bowl)
On Tuesdays, this popular steak spot offers a killer date night special. R250 will get you two crisp starter salads, two steaks, two sides of skinny fries and two glasses of Wolftrap red to wash it all down.
Jake’s on Summerly (Kenilworth)
Enjoy Moroccan chilli flatbreads with three cheeses (R96) or blue cheese and butternut (R98), and two glasses of Cape Point Splattered Toad Sauvignon Blanc for R20 each, or tuck into two chicken schnitzels with fresh tomato and feta for R188 and order a bottle of Anura Pinot Gris to share for R110.
La Boheme (Sea Point)
This cosy neighbourhood wine bar is a perfect date night spot. Enjoy two starters and two mains for a total of R300 or order just mains for R102.50 each and add a jug of sangria into the mix for R90. The menu changes regularly, but look forward to mains like slow-braised pork belly with crushed potatoes and charred broccoli, roasted chicken and corn pie with hand-cut chips, or confit-rabbit gnocchi with edamame beans and roasted cherry tomatoes.
Mano’s (Green Point)
A favourite with the local Green Point crowd, Mano’s is an ideal spot for an affordable midweek date night. Tuck into the chicken-liver pasta for R90 and a portion of the famed creamy chicken limone for R110. Enjoy this with a bottle of house white for R96 or two carafes of Mulderbosch Steen Op Hout for R50 each.
Three Wise Monkeys (Sea Point)
This newbie to the Sea Point block offers delicious ramen in a trendy setting. The chicken ramen costs R95 and comes with silky noodles, pickled mushrooms, miso corn and a marinated egg. Share this and order the chef’s plate of sushi (R95) or a poke bowl (R115). It’s BYO, meaning you’ll save on the drinks front.
The Village Idiot (City Bowl)
On Tuesdays, this extremely popular drinks spot offers couples and mates-and-dates specials. Order a large chopped chicken salad to share with a bottle of house white wine for R120, two pulled-pork burgers with a jug of standard premium lager for R130, or a deluxe braai board, which includes boerewors, chicken wings, riblets, butternut confit, charred baby marrow, cheesy butternut balls, coleslaw and chips and a bottle of red house wine for R240.
Fred & Max Eatery (Somerset West)
This spot is a great place for a relaxing meal for two. Enjoy a light meal such as the platter for two (R125) with meatballs, chicken strips, mozzarella balls, chilli poppers, spring rolls and sauces with a bottle of Diemersdal unwooded chardonnay (R155). For a heartier dinner, enjoy the slow-roasted pork shoulder taco (R85) and lamb-and-tzatziki burger (R88) with two CBC Amber Weiss beers.
This sushi and tapas spot is a great place for sharing. Kick off with a large crab-and-avo salad with Japanese mayo (R70) before moving onto a 14-piece mixed salmon-and-tuna sushi platter (R140). Quench your thirst with two 60ml plum sakes (R45 each) or two Stellies Born Free pale ales (R36 each).
Hussar Grill (Paarl, Somerset West and Stellenbosch)
Going to this steakhouse favourite doesn’t have to mean breaking the bank. Simply opt for one of the lighter meals such as the Hussar burger for R79, or the steak roll for R89. This will leave you enough for a bottle of Nederburg Baronne (R145) to pair with your meaty fare.
La Grapperia (Paarl)
Head to this Spice Route restaurant for an early evening date and enjoy a range of eats that won’t hurt the wallet. Tuck into one of the hearty platters such as the Black Forest platter (R120) with German cold meats, gherkins, onions, mustard and bread. Or enjoy a reasonably-priced flammkuchen like the traditional option with cream cheese, onion rings, bacon and garlic for R55. The pizzas are also budget-friendly with the simpler options like the chicken-and-Peppadew option for R79 or one with salami for R70. Sip on a one-litre keg of Fairview wine for R74 or opt for a fancier bottle such as the Fairview brut at only R160.
Have we missed your favourite date night cheapie? Share your secrets in the comments section below.
Please note that while we take care to ensure the accuracy of this information, some items may change without our knowledge.