Johannesburg’s music scene is bursting with life and we tracked down restaurants that offer both a tasty menu and some of the best musical talent in town. With themes of silky jazz to Great Gatsby glamour, here are five great live music venues in Johannesburg.
The grooves: Wine and dine in 1920s glamour at the upmarket Chicago’s Piano Bar and live music venue. Décor is inspired by the 1920s prohibition era and patrons are known to don gangster duds and flapper dresses to get into the spirit. Chicago’s hosts free live-music evenings from Tuesday to Sunday, kicking off each night with a different theme. On Tuesday you can enjoy the sweet sounds of saxophone and guitar; Wednesday is a jam with radio classics; Thursday features band Helen & Bones; Friday, aka ‘jukebox night’, is ushered in by a four-piece band performing 70s, 80s and 90s hits; Saturday goes full swing with a Great Gatsby-themed evening; and on Sunday you can enjoy golden oldies. There is no cover charge and the performance times are as follows: Tuesday to Thursday from 7pm; Friday and Saturday from 8pm; and Sunday from 3pm. The restaurant itself features a piano bar, indoor and alfresco dining areas, and the upstairs Al Capone’s cigar and sports bar. This bar is for over 21s only.
The grub: Enjoy a great wine list and classic cocktails along with a large selection of seafood and grills, including ‘the flapper’ 200g calamari steak served with vegetables, chips and a lemon butter sauce (R89); ‘sonny’s steak’ 300g flame-grilled rump, topped with four queen prawns prepared in a cream sauce and served with chips (R135); and ‘the mob’ pork ribs, basted in secret sauce and served with chips (R120 for 400g; R175 for 800g). There is also a range of platters and decadent desserts on offer.
The grooves: This historic bar – one of the oldest in Johannesburg – is known for its hearty pub grub, merry crowds and fantastic live entertainment. Grab a seat in front of the small stage and enjoy performances by live bands from 8.30pm on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights. Wednesday is blues night, Friday gets jazzy and Saturday is dedicated to up-and-coming South African bands the likes of Black Cat Bones. There’s a cover charge on Saturday nights, so be sure to enquire beforehand.
The grub: Tuck into seafood and grills with authentic Portuguese and Mozambican flavours. All fish is prepared on a cast-iron griddle, available with lemon butter, garlic butter and peri-peri sauce, and served with rice, chips or potatoes. Try the butterfish (R125) and 1kg calamari rings (R230) or go for something meatier with Portuguese sirloin (R115) or traditional steak trinchado (R120). There’s also a range of starters, salads, chicken, platters and desserts on offer.
The grooves: This popular cigar lounge, dining room and entertainment venue offers live jazz music from Tuesdays to Saturdays. The stage has showcased some of South Africa’s finest established and fresh musicians, and this month you can expect acts like Tokyo Groove, Supafly, Candy Jam and Gavin Morein Trio. The live acts start at the following times (subject to change): Tuesday and Wednesday from 8.30pm; Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 9pm. Cover charges apply from Thursday to Saturday and typically cost between R100 and R150 per person.
The grub: Katzy’s shares a menu with The Grillhouse and you can enjoy a wide selection of starters, platters, seafood and meaty grills. Enjoy appetisers like steamed West Coast mussels with a creamy white wine and garlic sauce (R69.95); a Mediterranean platter with hummus, tahini, falafel, pita, olives, feta and salads (R105.95); or go big with pepper-crusted ostrich medallions (R151.95). A stellar wine, cocktail and cigar list is on offer as well as 100 different whiskeys, fine cognacs and bourbons.
The grooves: This trendy music venue and bistro features a live jazz act every evening from 8.30pm. You can expect a host of talented local musicians like Steve Dyer, Tu Nokwe, Ayanda Sikade Jam Session, Bheki Khoza, Abigail Kubeka, Cameron Ward and more. The entrance fee varies on different nights, so be sure to enquire before arriving.
The grub: Whether you fancy a bigger meal, or prefer ordering a selection of snacks, the bistro and bar menu has something for everybody. The selection of smaller plates includes dishes like rum-and-lime glazed prawns with melon and avocado salad (R75) and stir-fried calamari with ginger and noodles (R55), while mains feature highlights like linguini tossed with prawns, chorizo, chilli and sundried tomato salsa (R110), and a signature Orbit burger with caramelised onions, rocket, cocktail tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and a serving of chips or salad (R95). They offer a good selection of wines and spirits as well as beers and cognacs.
The grooves: Sunday is live-music day at one of Joburg’s hottest cocktail lounges. Every Sunday from 2pm to 6pm, The Motherland – a popular local indie folk band – take to the stage to perform a couple of sets for eager fans. The venue will occasionally host other South African bands, too. Entrance is always free.
The grub: Live music isn’t the only attraction: the extensive menu has a distinctly southern American influence, focusing a lot on smoky flavours and slow-cooked meat, and the menu features an array of snacks, small tapas plates, salads, burgers and grills, and special sharing boards. Try the prawn lollipops tapas with ginger firecracker dip (R65); the pan-seared tuna with cous cous, capers, sun-blushed tomatoes, grapefruit garnish and a tomato feta sauce (R110); or their signature slow-smoked pork belly ribs basted in barbecue glaze and served with slaw and fries (R180). The cocktail menu is a treat with seven different types of gin and tonic, jam jars, a variety of mojitos, and over ten classic cocktails, while those looking for a different tipple can enjoy craft beer on tap, craft ciders and a great wine list. Bar snacks are also on offer.