There’s nothing quite like beating the heat of summer with a platter of seafood and a bottle of something ice-cold in a bucket. South Africa’s beautiful coastlines are rich in ocean-bound delights, making it easy for restaurants to show off all the sustainable line fish, salty sardines, plump prawns and succulent crayfish. Here are the best spots for seafood that appear in the 2016 Eat Out 500, the top-rated restaurants that made it into this year’s Eat Out magazine.
La Marina Foods (Modderfontein)
The deli at this seafood haven offers fresh, sustainably sourced fish, cleaned calamari, squid, succulent crayfish and caviar. There are also shelves with endless supply of oils and spices. The kitchen is where guests can dine on top-notch sushi, warm seafood dishes such as prawns, salmon, and sole, and hearty seafood platters.
This neighbourhood favourite offers a simple Portuguese-infused menu. A highlight from the starter selection includes salty sardines, while mains boast plump prawns that are deliciously sweet and cooked to perfection.
Bel Punto (Umdloti)
The Italian-style menu is infused with gorgeous seafood dishes. Start with succulent mussels in a white wine sauce, or a rich and salty crab soup. For mains, dive in to the marinara pasta with plenty of clams, prawns, mussels and calamari. For something a little exciting, tuck into the calamari stuffed with prawns, red pepper and spinach, which is smothered in Napoletana sauce and mozzarella before being baked in the wood-fired oven.
Cargo Hold (uShaka Marine World)
Kick things off with freshly shucked oysters or a smoked salmon tian with crème fraîche, avo, capers and shallots, before moving on to whole salmon trout stuffed with spinach and feta with a lemon beurre blanc. The Mauritian chicken-and-prawn curry is tasty, as is the seared Norwegian salmon with teriyaki sauce and pesto mash.
Café Goa (Queensborough)
This unpretentious restaurant cooks up dishes with no-fuss authentic flavours. Highlights include deep-fried calamari, chicken and prawn combos, and a Portuguese special of calamari with chorizo and olives cooked in a coconut-based sauce. The seafood curries are a must.
Ile Maurice (Umhlanga Rocks)
For a taste of Mauritius, this Umhlanga stalwart is known for lush, aromatic seafood curries and fish dishes. Try grilled kingklip topped with prawns and mushrooms, laced with béchamel sauce, baked and served with a cheese topping; plump king prawns with Creole rice; and authentic daube de poisson (filleted fresh line fish baked in a coconut milk and tomato sauce).
Starters include the usual suspects like rissoles, chicken livers and trinchado, but the real stars are the seafood and grill combos. Try the succulent prawn, calamari and chicken dish for a hearty mix of surf and turf. The line fish with either green banana, mango, coriander, shallots and coconut milk, or the chilli and lime options pack beautiful flavours.
Café Orca Seafood Restaurant (Melkbosstrand)
This welcoming restaurant offers up seafood starters such as the spicy shrimps with Cajun butter and Asian noodles. For mains, there’s the large Melkbos platter, which includes fried prawns, calamari and hake, and the West Coast platter with lighter options and creamy garlic mussels.
Cape Town Fish Market (V&A Waterfront)
This local favourite boasts a large, crowd-pleasing menu with options for all palates. The platter for one is an affordable way to try a bit of everything. Calamari is tender and lightly battered and the hake fillet is perfectly cooked. For sushi lovers, the dedicated chefs prepare the likes of salmon sashimi, cream cheese California rolls, prawn tempura and wasabi parcels.
Catch 22 Beachside Grille & Bar (Table View)
An easy-going spot with glorious sea views. Start with Saldanha Bay mussels with creamy garlic and white wine sauce, or the chilli-crusted calamari with peanut satay. Mains include the Solo Voyage, which consists of prawns, hake, calamari and mussels, all served with rice of chips and a choice of lemon butter, garlic butter, or peri-peri sauce. There is also a selection of large platters that are perfect for sharing.
The Deckhouse Crab Shack and BBQ (Gardens)
The winner of best seafood restaurant in the 2015 Best Everyday Eateries (as voted by our readers) The Deckhouse serves up cuisine inspired by the Gulf Coast. Diners can tuck into buckets of soft-shell crab, shrimp popcorn, or the more pricey crabby pot, in which whole crayfish, snow crab, mussels, prawns and a slightly spicy sausage are steamed up and served in a marinara, hot Thai or garlic-and-herb sauce.
Harbour House (Kalk Bay Harbour)
Seafood is the name of the game at this stylish sea-facing spot. The specials blackboard will tempt you with options of line fish such as tuna niçoise or yellowtail with roasted veggies and rosemary potato bake. The standard menu includes a concise sushi selection as well as oysters, ceviche and mussels. For mains, opt for indulgent grilled prawns and crayfish or try the simple calamari with smoked paprika, capers and lemon zest.
Kalky’s (Kalk Bay)
Highly commended in the 2015 Best Everyday Eateries (voted by you), Kalky’s is a family-friendly must on your False Bay bucket list. Grubby but charming, this ultra-casual spot guarantees seafood fresh from the harbour and great golden chips.
Pesce Azzurro (Woodstock)
The food celebrates the ocean at this charming Woodstock gem, where the dishes are simple but well prepared. Order a starter of mussels in a fragrant broth of white wine, garlic and chilli to start, or the fresh tuna carpaccio with olive oil. For mains, try the generous spaghetti scoglio with calamari, prawns, octopus, mussels and clams or the spinach fettucine with fish ragu.
Willoughby & Co. (V&A Waterfront)
Besides the wide range of sushi – including the famed 4×4 and Rainbow Reloaded rolls – there are other hot and cold Japanese dishes. The soft-shell crab with ponzu dressing is a deliciously light option while the seafood pastas make for substantial meals. The baby sole is delicate and perfectly cooked while the English fish and chips with a side of grilled calamari tubes is a winner.
Gaaitjie Salt Water Restaurant (Paternoster)
Talented young chef Jaco Kruger and his father Theuns offer delicious dishes such as the Saldanha mussels steamed in beer and herbs, and served with fries and aioli; tender salt-and-pepper calamari; and rich crayfish tails. This little cottage on the beach makes for a perfect summer supper with friends or romantic dinner watching the waves.
The Noisy Oyster (Paternoster)
This unassuming destination restaurant in the quaint fishing village of Paternoster is usually packed with regulars. The menu focuses on fresh West Coast seafood with options such as oysters, snoek fishcakes, flash-fried sardines, or pan-fried calamari with paprika. The Malaysian laksa is not to be missed, nor is the oven-baked Cape salmon or whole stumpnose with crushed potatoes.
Oep ve Koep (Paternoster)
Kobus van der Merwe, the 2014 Eat Out Nederberg Rising Star, draws inspiration for his cuisine from his West Coast surroundings. Courses include warm oysters with soutslaai and gooseberries; matured ostrich carpaccio on dried snoek ‘kuite’ (Cape caviar); and a triangle of angelfish with smoked tomatoes and herenbone. For dessert, try the pears poached in fynbos vermouth with pine needle buchu ice cream.
Hook, Line and Sinker (Pringle Bay)
Stefan and Jacqui Kruger have created a place where fresh seafood, local wine and a good atmosphere have fans coming back for more. The day’s fresh ingredients are prepared on an open fire such as wild prawns in Malaysian oil served up with fish of the day and rice or chips.
East Head Café (Knysna)
This family-friendly spot serves up crisp fish and chips with great estuary views. Sea specials may include dishes such as the piquant Cape Malay seafood curry or interesting options like the salad with pickled fish. There is also a selection of easy-drinking wines, cocktails and craft beer for a delightful summer supper.
The Fat Fish (Plettenberg Bay)
A perfect spot for holiday makers with views of the beach, this restaurant serves unpretentious seafood and grills. Tapas fans can enjoy smaller plates of hot or cold dishes such as oysters (wild when possible), or crunchy panko-coated crab. A variety of fish dishes includes hake fried in beer batter or clam-and-mussel linguini, while meat eaters are also taken care of with roast chicken, lamb shank and steaks.
Die Walskipper (Jeffrey’s Bay)
This family-friendly restaurant on the beach offers diners a relaxed summer atmosphere with the sound of the crashing waves nearby. Spoil yourselves with the shellfish platter, which consists of giant oysters, crab claws, scallops, crayfish, abalone, prawns, calamari and mussels. For those looking for something off the land, try the braaivleis platter with pap. The frozen nougat makes for the perfect sweet ending.
This list is comprised of the best seafood restaurants around the country that appear in the 2016 Eat Out 500, the top-rated restaurants that made it into this year’s Eat Out magazine. We certainly haven’t included all the seafood restaurants in SA, just the ones our critics rated the highest. Please tell us about your favourite local in the comments below.