These 23 restaurants featured in our first magazine 20 years ago – and they’re still excellent today

Get ready to feel old. Ok, ok, maybe that’s just us. The excitement of having our 20th edition of the Eat Out magazine on shelves had us digging out our very first issue. Perusing it was certainly full of nostalgia. There’s the bright oh-so-90s cover happily announcing ‘Over 600 restaurants countrywide’, there are candid pictures of members of the team popping bubbly and smoking cigars, and the Pretoria section spans but six pages. (If you have this issue somewhere, we promise it’s worth digging it out.)

So much has changed since then. That includes the format of the magazine, the way we review and even the restaurant industry itself. (Spur’s T-bone steak was R35.50 back in 1998 – those were the days, hey?)

Some restaurants are like the fine wines they serve – they only get better with age. These 24 restaurants have changed but remained excellent, featuring in our very first issue as well as our 20th. Intrigued to know what we thought of them back in 1999 compared to how we reviewed them last year? Read on for a sneak peek into our 20-year evolution. (Then get your hands on the 20th edition of Eat Out for the full reviews.)

1. Al Firenze (La Lucia, Durban)

The seafood platter at Al Firenze. Photo supplied.

1999: “The pizzas are arguably the best you’ll taste in or out of Italy, and the grilled seafood is good and reasonably priced. Daily specials like roast rabbit add interest.”

2017: “Tempting starters include luscious roasted brinjal, plump mussels and juicy octopus. Veg options are sprinkled among the extensive list of pasta dishes and creative thin-based pizzas, while meat eaters will be happy with the tender fillet or rump, each with generous Italian trimmings. The dessert standout is the sublimely light tiramisu.”

Fun fact: In 1999, the cost for corkage was just R6!

2. The Blue Crane (New Muckleneuk, Pretoria)

The Blue Crane burger. Photo supplied.

1999: This one was touted as being worth the visit, with its “exceptional siting at the edge of a trim park offering breakfasts, teas and fare with an SA slant.”

2017: This year we got more into the details: “The breakfast selection features full English-style options and a ‘healthy’ breakfast of muesli, yoghurt, fruit and a small smoothie. Proper Sunday lunch buffet aside, the offering on the a la carte menu is the same for lunch and dinner. To start, try the bobotie spring rolls or springbok carpaccio.” And what of that spectacular location? “Its setting alongside the Austin Roberts Bird Sanctuary with views of a lake is most impressive.”

3. Bread & Wine (Franschhoek, Western Cape)

The courtyard at Bread & Wine. Photo supplied.

The courtyard at Bread & Wine. Photo supplied.

1999: Another spot noted as worth a visit, Bread & Wine offered “light and tasty lunches at a vineyard venue.”

2017: “Bread & Wine is headed by charcuterie master Neil Jewell. Try the charcuterie platter of Spanish salami, hazelnut salami, country ham, cured sausages, pork rillettes and flatbread, or curried sweet potato soup with crispy calamari, vegetables and waterblommetjies.”

4. Buitenverwachting (Constantia, Cape Town)

1999: “International formality with local nods and Italian and oriental interludes on a menu brief enough to inspire confidence, yet sufficiently comprehensive to appeal to seafood and meat lovers alike.”

2017: “This landmark restaurant rests on the reputation of Edgar Osojnik, the Austrian chef at the helm. Menus change frequently to showcase seasonal produce and South African meats, venison and fish. Springbok in port wine sauce and entrecôte in café de Paris butter are signatures. This is sophisticated fine dining in a heritage Cape Dutch homestead.”

Fun fact: In 1999 it made the Editor’s Top 10! Lannice wrote that it was “perfect for the culinary cognoscenti who are turned on by hushed restaurants and haute cuisine.”

5. Bukhara (Cape Town City Bowl)

1999: “A sophisticated north Indian eating hall with green marble floors and dark wooden furniture. There’s a show kitchen for chef-watching – such fun when they fling the bread dough about with gay abandon. It’s packed with thronging, high-profile locals and imports from near and far.”

2017: “The cuisine is tagged as north Indian, with many of the flavours tailored to please the South African palate. The tandoor oven makes all the difference to many of the dishes, like the tandoor dum aloo – potatoes stufffed with paneer and nuts. The room, with its intricate and beautifully carved screens, immediately transports you to an exotic locale.”

6. The Butcher Shop & Grill (Sandton, Johannesburg)

1999: “Sheath knives glide through prime corn-fed and free-range beef – bleu, of course! Also expect steak tartare, lamb chops, pork and ostrich medallions and token fish. There’s a perfect Caesar salad a la Morton’s of Chicago, plus burgers, wurst and deli sandwiches.”

2017: “This is the home of all things meat, with an on-site butchery to boot. Aged steak is served with traditional sides like baked potato and morogo. Go easy on the starters to leave room; although this is hard when faced with grilled sardine and sticky pork riblets. Also choose between rump, sirloin, fillet, rib-eye, Argentinian rib-eye, prime rib, T-bone, Kobe beef and much more, prepared the way you like it.”

Fun fact: In 1999 they had a selection of 100 imported beers.

7. Caraffa Ristorante (Alphen Park, Pretoria)

The pavlova at Caraffa. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

1999: “Expect pizzas, pastas, veal dishes, fish and steaks with various sauces. The melanzane parmigiana is very good; so are home-made pastas. For dessert, have the creamy, boozy freshly whipped zabaglione or Italian ice-cream confections.”

2017: “The comprehensive menu kicks off with a list of foccacia, insalata and minestra. Among fine examples of antipasti, the melanzane ala parmigiana is a treat. A must in the pizza and pasta section: lasagna al forno, perfectly cooked. Conclude with an elegant lemon sorbet.”

8. Clementine’s Restaurant & Bar (Clarens, Gauteng)

1999: “This is a gourmet’s international listing on a small, sophisticated carte. There’s an interesting fusion of exotic ideas, like Thai with more mainstream flavours.”

2017: “Looking for a blast from the past? Choose the snails starter, served in a garlic-and-parsley butter sauce to which you can add parmesan or blue cheese. Stick with the retro mood and choose mains such as fall-of-the-bone oxtail stew, crispy pork belly and duck confit. The sauce also deserves a mention. The lemon meringue ice-cream cake, crème brûlée and the chocolate-orange terrine are excellent sweet endings.“

9. Col’Cacchio (Foreshore, Cape Town)

A pepperoni pizza from Col’Cacchio. Photo supplied.

1999: This restaurant also earned the ‘Worth a visit’ moniker, described as a “pizzeria meets designer Italian.” Back in 1998, their Forresta pizza (with salami, mushrooms, feta, garlic and green pepper) cost just R37.

2017: Col’Cacchio turns 25 this year, and this, the very first branch, is still going strong – and the Forresta pizza is still on their menu, now for R130. “The new menu is loaded with tempting options. Start with a generous antipasti platter, then look to the deservedly famous pizzas, whether you like a traditional topping of fresh basil and fior di latte or unorthodox jerk chicken with corn, caramelised onions and mint. If you have room for dessert, try Italian kisses, profiteroles or tiramisu.”

10. Feast Bistro at de Oude Kraal (outside Bloemfontein, Free State)

1999: “Five-course set dinners change frequently. The mammoth Sunday buffet offers five meats, eight vegetables, seven salads and seven desserts. Alfresco feasting is in the lapa, where the variety of fare is overwhelming.”

2017: “This is a hidden gem in the Free State. Considering the fact that it’s housed at De Oude Kraal, a sixth generation Merino sheep farm, most of the dishes on Feast’s menu feature lamb. Make sure you go hungry, because you simply have to finish every last bite of the slow-braised lamb neck served with samp, dessert-like sweet potatoes and better-than-your-ouma’s creamed spinach. Rest awhile before you choose from the large dessert menu. The baked cheesecake and the brownies are both truly decadent.”

11. Dullstroom Inn (Dullstroom, Mpumalanga)

1999: “Go here for the best of British home-cooked delights. Nigel and Sue Briggs’ charming British pub-style inn offers draughts at the long bar, fires to banish winter’s chill, gleaming copper and brass, and oak tables crammed with hungry fishermen.”

2017: “Visitors would do well to sample local trout pâté with home-made bread, or hot smoke trout fillets. The English fish and chips is superb, but there’s also oxtail, smoked gammon, steak-and-kidney pie, burgers, and blueberry, pecan-nut pie and sticky toffee pudding for dessert.”

12. Franco’s Pizzeria and Trattoria (Parkview, Johannesburg)

1999: “Hordes of regulars will never allow Franco Forleo to change his cosy, colourful, candle-lit corner. They have a friendly buzz with a warm welcome for entire families. They serve good, wholesome Italian cooking from the glowing wood oven and a fathomless pasta pot.”

2017: “This is an institution for home-style Italian cuisine. The wood-fired pizzas come with a great selection of toppings, from the alla Siciliana with salty anchovies, olives and capers, to the salsiccia with sausage, spinach and chilli. If pasta is what you’re after, the spinach-and-ricotta panzerotti is a winner, as are the classic puttanesca and carbonara. Finish with a fabulous tiramisu or semifreddo with Bar-One sauce.”

13. Hartford House (Mooi River, KwaZulu-Natal)

Beer ice cream from Hartford House. Photo supplied.

1999: “This former farmhouse turned luxury inn is well worth a detour. At night the dining room – with its polished wood, fresh flowers and soft candlelight – is magical. Light lunches can be enjoyed on the deep, shady veranda. Fare verges on the simple, and puds are a forte.”

2017: “Each dish tells a story, with local producers as stars of the show. Chef Constantijn Hahndiek’s dishes are breathtaking in their elegant simplicity and presentation. Look out for tender and rosy Wayfarer trout with Jerusalem artichoke crisps; aged Midlands sirloin with earthy amadumbe and field mushroom soil; a gin-and-tonic amouse bouche; and oven-roasted duck. Every detail in the décor is sumptuous: upholstered chairs, artworks, rich draped fabrics, chandeliers and graceful furniture.”

14. Haute Cabriere (Franschhoek, Western Cape)

Small plates at Haute Cabrière. Photo supplied.

1999: “This rose-covered bunker is set in the mountainside above a working wine cellar. The menu is a gourmet mix-and-match quest, centred around wines from the estate and ingredients from the Franschhoek valley. Wine suggestions come to match each dish, by the glass or bottle.”

2017: “Chefs Nic van Wyk and Westley Muller have worked closely with cellarmaster Takuan Von Arnim to create new dishes to complement the estate wines. Start with braised octopus pasta with smoky paprika and chorizo. For mains, go for melt-in-the-mouth short rib, duck pie with cherry jus, or steamed kingklip with coconut cream and turmeric. Finish with a rhubarb-and-guava crumble.”

Fun fact: Haute Cabriere was also among Lannice’s top ten picks in 1999. “This is a class act in a rose-covered bunker set into the mountainside, with views into Clos Cabrière’s maturation cellar,” she describes. “Matthew Gordon’s gourmet menus are a gastronomic adventure, with everything in half portions for the table to mix and match, centering around appropriate wines from the home estate.”

15. La Colombe (Constantia, Cape Town)

One of the stunning La Petite Colombe dishes. Photo supplied.

1999: “Perfectly Provençal (with Cape flavours), inspired by owner-chef Franck Dangeroux’s homeland. The day’s delights – chalked on blackboards, of course – shift with market dictates and creation’s whim.”

2017: Now in a new location, and with a new chef, this restaurant is a perennial feature of the Top 10 list. “Chef Scot Kirton and his team are pulling out all the stops to wow diners with theatrical touches, but flavour remains top of the list of priorities. From picking a sphere of apple on arrival to a message that says ‘Food is our theatre. We hope you enjoy the show’, revealed beneath morsels of king crab and dollops of yuzu gel, the drama unfolds. The springbok dish is a triumph: rich flavours of miso and chestnut blend with the sweetness of orange and the most succulent morsels of springbok.”

16. Maria’s Greek Restaurant (Gardens, Cape Town)

1999: This one also got a spot in our large Cape Town ‘Worth a visit’ section.

2017: Today, it may have different owners, but remains a real local gem. “Maria’s serves hearty, flavour-packed Greek food and the meze is the real highlight. Calamari in tomato sauce bursts with flavour while the mucver (courgette and feta balls) are a crowd-pleaser. For mains, lamb with artichokes is a stand-out. End with kataifi: strands of phyllo in lemon syrup with custard.”

17. Illovo Mastrantonio (Bryanston, Johannesburg)

Sagne a pezze ragu at Mastrantonio. Photo by Christoph Hoffman.

1999: “This daily list is hewn from fresh produce and ingredients sold at the deli counters under the brand named after gourmet grandpa, Maestro Antonio (hence the name). The menu includes pastries, Neapolitan breakfasts, insalata rustica, linguine alla forestiera and many more.”

2017: “The Italian cold meats make for a great starter, served with olives and mozzarella. Mains are the usual suspects like linguini pescatore, or spaghetti Alfredo, Bolognese and more. Do try the panzerotti filled with artichoke and ricotta in a creamy butter-sage sauce. Desserts are pretty standard: crème brûlée, panna cotta and tiramisu.”

18. Oriental Palace (Pretoria Central)

1999: “An upmarket, elegant and exotic setting with panoramic views of the Durban bay and harbour both night and day. There are mostly dishes from North India, subtly spiced and focusing a lot on the tandoor oven.”

2017: The lamb karahi gosht is still on their menu, but it doesn’t cost R80 any more. “No-fuss food of impressive quality at affordable prices. All the bases are covered, from tandoori to curries, including fine vegetarian offerings. Delicious butter chicken with a garlic-and-sesame naan must be the perfect meal. Pop in on Fridays until 4pm to take advantage of specials such as lamb akni or chicken biryani.”

19. Trattoria La Terrazza (Southbroom, KwaZulu-Natal)

1999: “This is a laidback trattoria with a beach feel, on the edge of a peaceful lagoon with an outside terrace making the most of the idyllic surrounds. Find items on the menu like tuna carpaccio; black mushrooms with polenta topped with goat’s milk cheese and pine nuts; spaghetti with Thai-flavoured prawns; and butternut tortelli with sage butter.”

2017: “A treasure worthy of the trek. Delectable starters include calamari with harissa mayo; grilled brinjal with feta and mint; and smoked springbok carpaccio. Mains transcend the everyday with any type of pasta, to salmon, pork loin and beef fillet. End with almond pavlova or liquorice ice cream with a Sambucca shot.”

20. Walkersons Hotel (near Dullstroom, Mpumalanga)

Inside Walkerson’s comfortable, farm-style interior. Photo supplied.

1999: “Chef Brett Norval prepares haute five-course dinners and light lunches of fish, soup, salads, sandwiches, omelettes and quiches.”

2017: “Since this area can be chilly even in summer, there is always a warming soup on offer, such as spinach-and-potato with gorgonzola crumble. Mains might include roasted duck or kingklip with couscous and parsley butter, or perfectly grilled beef fillet with creamy mushroom fricassee. End on Amarula-and-chocolate cheesecake or a cheese board.”

21. Die Walskipper (Jeffreys Bay, Eastern Cape)

Walskipper Restaurant, Captured by Rieg & AD - RRAD Photography.

Die Walskipper at night. Photograph by Rieg & AD Photography

1999: “The relaxed atmosphere and seafood is what most visitors come for, but the South African section ranges from quail to pap and wors. Home-baked breads with patés and jam and the salad served before the order arrives, is a meal in itself. Get superior calamari from neighbouring Port St Francis.”

2017: “Fresh and abundant seafood commands centre stage. The decadent platter, loaded with everything, upstages many other options, but you could also keep it simple with calamari or delicious grilled fish. The lamb shank, oxtail and even a crocodile sosatie fill the gap for carnivores. Monumental loaves of freshly baked bread beckon. As for dessert, how could you refuse a Peppermint Crisp tart or koeksisters?”

22. Willoughby & Co. (V&A Waterfront, Cape Town)

1999: “The menu is chalked on boards, highlighting just-caught, just-cooked seafood served in pans, and a few non-fishy items. They also have a sushi bar.”

2017: “The legendary sushi has a fanbase of its own. For something warmer, try the tom yum soup or Boston clam chowder, or the simply scrumptious calamari. The tuna kebabs come hot off the coals – tender and tasty. ”

23. 96 Winery Road (Stellenbosch)

The legendary duck and cherry pie from 96 Winery Road. Photo supplied.

1999: “Fresh farm fare is organically grown, with changes to the menu dictated by seasonal produce. There’s a mix of local, Provençal and Eastern influences. Set-price Vignerons lunches (Monday to Saturday) are excellent value, offering appetising choices and including a glass of wine. In winter a large cast-iron potjie of guinea fowl or veal and waterblommetjies simmers over the flames.”

2017: This restaurant is still serving the classic Hollandse pepper fillet steak – although it doesn’t cost R75 any more! “This perennially popular country bistro has become known for its duck-and-cherry pie and crème brûlée. Other reasons to visit: quality cuts of meat and a very good beef tartare that can be ordered as a main course with chips. The bobotie spring rolls served with a sweet chilli sauce are right on the money, and the steamed mussels, drenched in a creamy curry sauce, are very fragrant and satisfying.”

Eat Out magazine is available from all major retailers for R55. Digital copies are available through MySubs, Zinio and Magzter.

Editor’s note: This article was amended to remove a restaurant that was included in error. (23 February 2018) 

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