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Great greens: restaurants that will restore your faith in salad

Most of us have been on one or other side of the kitchen counter when it comes to feeding kids their vegetables, whether you’re an artistic parent trying to make mini cat shapes out of carrots, or you remember being a kid and refusing your mom’s half-cat half-demon attempt at food art.

But we wonder if a new generation of children is being born to the foodies of today. Can these cool kids pronounce ‘prosciutto’ before they can say ‘mama’, enjoy foie gras and recognise names like Margot Janse and David Higgs before hearing of Spider Man? Do they eat their vegetables in honest, undisguised shapes?

We kind of hope so. Especially if that means that the days of boring iceberg lettuce, carrot sticks and canned tuna in a bottled dressing are numbered. Make way for fresh greens, grains, cheeses, unusual ingredients and dressings at these restaurants that serve scrumptious salads. (And no-one will need to be begged to eat their greens.)

Johannesburg

Coobs
With ingredients plucked fresh from the restaurant’s own farm, the salads are artfully prepared and presented. Drizzled over these organic goodies is their lovely dressing with just-out-of-the-oven roasted garlic.

Gwefey
Taking inspiration from a melange of influences, the salads here are really appealing. A green papaya and seafood plate is a must, as is the edamame salad with well-chosen leaves and a crushed spice, peanut and sesame dressing.

Le Sel @ The Cradle
Now that Coco Reinharz has taken over the kitchen, The Cradle’s food is in the same league as its brilliant location. He loves to Africanise French classics, twisting even a well-known Nicoise into his warmed version.

The Lighthouse
It’s almost a given that restaurants utilising their own picked or foraged ingredients produce the tastiest salads. Here you can either build your desired salad, inspired by some ingredients otherwise hard to source, like fresh sorrel, chia seeds and unpronounceable lettuces, or you can go with their interesting ones featured on the menu.

Love Food
The chef’s knowledge of taste combinations and respect for ingredients shines in salads with radish or pearl barley.

 

Love Food

The Pudding Shop
Chef-patron Zeus Gusson offers sumptuous salads with homemade pestos. The inclusion of tangy citrus ingredients in many of the salads makes them refreshingly appealing.

Qunu
Offering more salads than its fine dining sibling Five Hundred, Qunu’s menu is also masterminded by David Higgs, featuring ingredients picked from his massive rooftop garden. Often using vegetables and additions like his own juniper salt, David elevates the homegrown into haute cuisine.

tashas (Village View, Rosebank, Hyde Park, Melrose Arch, Atholl and Morningside)
There is no faulting the fresh French-style food and décor at tashas. Favourites include the roasted butternut salad on a bed of greens with oven-roasted tomatoes, pine nuts, avo and a choice of feta or goat’s cheese. Also try the golden pear salad with caramelised baby pears, walnuts, baby spinach, avo, bacon, gorgonzola cheese and balsamic toffee dressing. Each branch will have a few of its own specialities.

Pretoria

Creations Cafe
More than a mere café, this place has style and that wow factor. As well as balancing flavours in salads (by combining rocket with apricots, for example), Creations turns blue-cheese dressing idea into brilliant salads.

De Kloof
There’s always something artful and interesting from the chefs. To go with a G&T, they recommend a salad plate of gravadlax, organic yoghurt, fennel mousse and granadilla dressing, with a pull of sourdough and a smidgen of black caviar.

Honey Badger
It’s lovely to have all those freshly and responsibly sourced ingredients, but the approach is delightfully fresh too, professionally cheffy and fun. The salads are inspired by each day but feature interesting reductions. How could you resist a cleverly plated and deconstructed mushroom lasagne salad?

Honey Badger Bistro

Kream
Local ladies who lunch could go for a saffron poached pear, goat’s cheese and walnut salad with vanilla and orange vinaigrette. Stronger appetites might like the biltong salad.

Kream

Salt
At this mix of artisanal bakery and honest charcuterer, the ingredients are of impressive quality. A tasting plate can be made up of whatever you fancy, so ask one of the Salt merchants to make an unusual and special salad for you.

tashas
There is no faulting the fresh French-style food and décor at tashas. Favourites include the roasted butternut salad on a bed of greens with oven-roasted tomatoes, pine nuts, avo and a choice of feta or goat’s cheese. Also try the golden pear salad with caramelised baby pears, walnuts, baby spinach, avo, bacon, gorgonzola cheese and balsamic toffee dressing. Each branch will have a few of its own specialities.

Durban

Earthmother Organic
Here you can order delicious, organic and mostly vegan salads. Options like the Power Mix partners avo, sprouts, carrots, beetroot, tomatoes, spring onion and omega seeds with a balsamic vinaigrette. Alternatively opt for chickpeas marinated with Moroccan spices and mixed with grated carrots, tomatoes, spring onion and tahini dressing. A new Durban North branch has also just opened.

Earthmother Organic

Market
Fresh salads are best enjoyed in the pretty courtyard under leopard trees. The pan-fried calamari version with quinoa, red pesto and macadamia nuts remains iconic or go meat-free with a roasted veg, sundried tomato pesto, rocket and cous cous salad.

La Storia (this restaurant has closed since the story was published)
The tomato salad is legendary. Chef Marco Nico has had it on his menu for over 20 years and it is deceptively simple – the tomatoes are only cut to order and seasoned on order and their juice forms the acid of the dressing of herbs, garlic and extra virgin olive oil. It’s tossed with rocket and toasted bruschetta. Their unconventional Greek salad features baby green beans, feta, cucumber, peppers, lemon roasted olives and a dill aioli.

La Storia

Freedom Café
The restaurant is a relaxed, urban space with a menu that’s as innovative and contemporary as the design. The salad roll sees shaved cucumber filled with greens, onion, carrot, capers, pepper, avo, salmon gravadlax and feta. For more simple flavours, dive into the lentil, feta and fillet salad with roast pumpkin and nuac cham dressing.

Freedom Café

Bellevue Café
Chris Black is not one for convention, offering a take on a Tuscan bread salad with olives, feta, tomatoes, croutons and grilled calamari. Alternatively, opt for the earthy wild rice salad with baby vegetables, feta and a balsamic dressing.

Press Club
Salads are fresh, large and immensely satisfying like the one with crispy bacon caramelised in maple syrup, grilled chicken, pine nuts and avo. The prawn and calamari salad with a shaved parmesan, sundried tomato and fresh coriander is also delicious.

Parc Café
Summery fresh flavours translate into sugarsnap peas, green beans, kalamata olives, radicchio, flaked almonds, goat’s cheese and lemon preserve. Wash it down with a freshly squeezed juice.

tashas
There is no faulting the fresh French-style food and décor at tashas. Favourites include the roasted butternut salad on a bed of greens with oven-roasted tomatoes, pine nuts, avo and a choice of feta or goat’s cheese. Also try the golden pear salad with caramelised baby pears, walnuts, baby spinach, avo, bacon, gorgonzola cheese and balsamic toffee dressing. Each branch will have a few of its own specialities.

Parc Café

Cape Town

Bistro Sixteen82
The chef* sources local, seasonal and ethically farmed ingredients to produce gorgeous bistro-style food like the Thai sprout salad with baby leaves, coriander, mint, peppers, spring onions, chilli, lime and peanuts.

Buitenverwachting
One of the highlights on the menu is Edgar’s Caesar Salad with pan-fried salmon, gem lettuce, poached quail eggs, white anchovies, parmesan and croutons.

Café Mozart
The daily salad buffet served from Monday to Friday from noon until 2pm is especially wonderful. Also try the gorgonzola and butternut salad with greens, pumpkin seeds and pears on the lunch menu.

Café Roux
Noordhoek’s favourite family-friendly café offers healthy but delicious options like the organic quinoa, sprouts, broccoli, feta, avocado and toasted seeds salad with rocket, baby spinach and a mint dressing.

Café Roux

Dear Me
Fresh ingredients that have been grown sustainably make up innovative salads. Vegans and others with dietary restrictions are welcomed.

Hemelhuijs
The beautiful space offers a change of scenery with the seasons as well as a changing menu. You will find fresh and seasonal ingredients like the citrus-ginger salad.

Hemelhuijs

The Kitchen
Lunch is a plate filled with interesting, innovative and unusual salads. Some of these include baby spinach and dukkah-rolled goat’s cheese or the Mexican salsa salad with tortilla strips.

The Kitchen at Weylandts
Lunch dishes are served with delicious salads such as lemony cous cous and coriander salad. The menu changes regularly with fresh and inventive salads on offer.

Manna Epicure
A few noteworthy salads are on offer, including a wonderful Caesar and the endive salad with rooibos-and-honey-poached pear and walnuts in a blue cheese dressing.

My Basaar
The buffet lunch table includes a mixture of fresh, tasty salads that will remind you of home.

My Basaar

Rumbullion at The Roundhouse
A great venue to enjoy a salad in the landscaped gardens with a view of the Atlantic Ocean. The menu includes salads like beetroot with roasted pine nuts and feta or a bacon, avo and gorgonzola option.

Sababa
Their harvest table groans under the weight of salads. Enjoy the pick of the day like the Bella tomato salad with basil, marinated artichokes, olives and spring onion or roasted aubergine wedges with tahini, tomato salsa and pine nuts.

tashas
There is no faulting the fresh French-style food and décor at tashas. Favourites include the roasted butternut salad on a bed of greens with oven-roasted tomatoes, pine nuts, avo and a choice of feta or goat’s cheese. Also try the golden pear salad with caramelised baby pears, walnuts, baby spinach, avo, bacon, gorgonzola cheese and balsamic toffee dressing. Each branch will have a few of its own specialities.

Winelands

Babel
The novelty of the décor adds to the enchantment while the menu represents South African food heritage. These include salads like slow-roasted tomatoes and strawberries, beetroot, radish, red onion with basil, vinaigrette and parmesan shavings.

Babel

Fyndraai Restaurant
Weekend lunches at this beautiful wine estate venue include baked camembert salad or the exotic Fyndraai salad of grilled peppers, katballetjies, wilde olywe, grilled asparagus and green pea cream with an emulsified mustard dressing.

Overgaauw
Menus reflect what’s available from local producers each week, offering a glimpse of the region’s bounty in salads of cauliflower, currants, sunflower sprouts and capers or simple platters of herbs and greens, beans and artichokes.

 

*Brad Ball left Bistro Sixteen82 in 2014.

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