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Eastern Cape roadtrip: The 12 best restaurants from East London to J-Bay

The Eastern Cape is a beautiful part of the country. It’s got the whole package: rugged hills, lush grassland, silver-sand beaches and some real hidden gems in the restaurant department. If you’re lucky enough to live there – or are planning a roadtrip through the Eastern Cape over the holiday season – be sure to pop in at one of these places. From the charming spots in the sleepy towns of Bathurst and Kenton-on-Sea on the sunshine coast, to comfort food in the surfer’s paradise of Jeffreys Bay, and the busier city eateries of Port Elizabeth, these restaurants were rated highly enough to make the grade of the Eat Out 500, the top 500 restaurants in the country, featured in the 2015 Eat Out magazine.

Sanook (East London)

Their thin-based pizzas are well known in town, with favourites like the Loverboy (fig, camembert, rocket and springbok carpaccio) and Prostituto (cream cheese, bacon, spinach and feta). Special mention must go to the burgers with signature deep-fried sweet potato shavings. There’s a neighbourhood feel; Sanook is always buzzing with activity.

Sanook. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Sanook. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Kingston Farm (Bathurst)

The utmost attention is bestowed on every detail of the meal here. The ever-changing set menu could include liquorice-basted duck with coriander and quince compote and venison Wellington with Cumberland sauce. Desserts are special, such as deliciously bitter orange crème caramel or strawberries Escoffier with dark choc crème brûlée. The ambience is charmingly old-world, with beautiful antiques and some quirky touches.

Crema – The House Kitchen (Kenton-on-Sea)

Coffee afficionados flock to this airy and spacious studio with a beautiful view through sliding glass walls. Breakfasts are served with artisanal breads, berries, perfectly poached eggs and delicious local preserves. Occasionally they’ll host a seafood evening: picture beautiful tableware filled with mussels in butter; crushed baby potatoes with garlic and olives; and grilled fillets of fish with bright wedges of lemon.

Bridge Street Brewery (Port Elizabeth)

This masculine space, with rustic furniture and dark wood, raises the bar of pub fare. Chips are golden chunks, the springbok carpaccio and brie pizza are wonderful, and there’s a good selection of tapas. The portions are massive and there’s no skimping on ingredients. The drinks focus is on artisanal beers, stouts, bitters and ciders; some are even used for batters.

Bridge Street Brewery. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Bridge Street Brewery. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Fushin Sushi Bar (Port Elizabeth)

This is the equivalent of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory for lovers of Asian food. Choosing between the tapas, tempura and dim sum is already difficult, then there’s the skewers and 17 kinds of cali rolls to further tempt you. There’s an incredible whiskey menu, with some rare Japanese blends. A few shops away is a funky bar, also part of Fushin.

Fushin Sushi Bar. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Fushin Sushi Bar. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Ginger Restaurant (Port Elizabeth)

This is a luxurious venue for fine dining. The versatile menu boasts some innovative cuisine, such as salt and pepper squid on a Thai salad; harissa fish soup; lemon roasted chicken on black pepper gnocchi; and delicious cinnamon, fennel and ginger ice cream. There are also nods to the 70s hotel restaurant style, with the likes of avo ritz, duck l’orange, chateaubriand and crêpes suzette. The wine list deserves special mention and a sommelier is on hand.

Ginger Restaurant. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Ginger Restaurant. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Mangiamo @ Wickerwoods (Port Elizabeth)

There’s a happy buzz here – and even a fountain in one of the rooms. The menu focuses on organically grown herbs, local olives and olive oil, and stoneground flour for super-thin pizza bases and linguine. The tomato and gorgonzola soup starter boasts deep flavours; pastas arrive in hefty and unfussy portions, just like mama made; and the Caprese salad is a thing of beauty, incorporating mozzarella made in Plett. You can shop for antiques while you’re there.

Mangiamo @ Wickerwoods. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Mangiamo @ Wickerwoods. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Posh, The Eatery (Port Elizabeth)

Breakfast is all about crumpets (they do a crumpet Benedict), but patrons also go gaga for the panko calamari; beef fillet with blue cheese and pecans; and deep-fried pancakes with Lindt ganache filling and rum-orange sauce. The mood is fresh and inviting, with wooden tables and benches under awnings outside.

Posh, The Eatery. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Posh, The Eatery. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Vovo Telo Bakery and Café (Port Elizabeth)

Bread lovers of the land unite here for loaves baked daily, using artisanal techniques, stoneground flour and no preservatives. Go for buttermilk hotcakes, a gourmet boerie, creamy chicken-liver pasta or the lemon and salsa chicken burger – or just take home some brioche. Sip on something from the good selection of wines, really good coffee, hot chocolate or exotic tea blends.

De Viswijf Restaurant (Jeffreys Bay)

This family-friendly spot has been dishing up scrumptious seafood since 1999. The menu has a retro touch, offering dishes like crumbed mushrooms, biltong soup, a rich and comforting mussel pot, and perfectly pan-fried sole. Dessert includes old-school favourites like chocolate mousse, malva pudding and peppermint crisp tart.

Die Walskipper (Jeffreys Bay)

Help yourself to homemade bread, pâté and jams before blowing the budget on a delicious shellfish platter with mussels, abalone, oysters, prawns, langoustines and scallops. Enjoy your moerkoffie with a koeksister, or sip wine from a blikbeker. Rustic wooden furniture, flickering lanterns, the sand beneath your feet and the roar of the ocean meters away make for the best beach ambience ever.

InFood Deli, Bakery & Restaurant (Jeffreys Bay)

Go for the gourmet burger with tzatziki and homemade atchar; honey-cumin roasted sweet potato with chilli con carne; and satisfying Thai green chicken curry with coriander and springy vegetables. Afterwards, tuck into the daily spread of cakes and sweet treats like chocolate brownies and divine custard slices. The litchi, lemon and mint drink is a delicious thirst quencher. Don’t leave without visiting the deli.

If you’re wondering why your favourite corner spot doesn’t appear here, this list was compiled from the Eat Out 500, the top 500 restaurants in the country, as rated by our panel members and featured in the 2015 Eat Out magazine.

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