The best bistros in South Africa

Bistro chefs are the ones we wish lived in our home-kitchens. They have the gift to work with fresh, seasonal produce – more often than not in a fairly small kitchen and with very limited staff – to produce crowd-pleasing master-pieces in a matter of minutes. From fragrant risottos to melt-in-the-mouth fillets, from crisp Caesar salads to sumptuous pots of seafood, these are dishes that taste like home, but is clearly not home-made.

But that’s part of the magic of bistros – the homely atmosphere, the congenial hosts, the endless amounts of wine and the spectacular food. A home from home.

We all have our favourite meals at our favourite spots, but most bistros change their menus according to what is fresh and available every day – and then proclaim it on their blackboards. If you haven’t yet found your favourite, or are looking around for a new local, here’s our list of the best bistros around the country to help you along – and what will possibly be found on their menus.


Try: the salmon burger, served on a whole-wheat bun with avo, cucumber ribbons, rocket and lemon and dill mayonnaise.
Price: R98.

Corner Café and Bistro
Try: the beef fillet with melanzani, burnt butter sage cream sauce, watercress and tomato salsa and herb salted chips.
Price: R112.

Eatery JHB
Try: the Thai coconut and tamarind chicken flatbread with yoghurt and coriander.
Price: R60.

Gray Restaurant
The menu is in the process of changing, but look forward to less of the fine dining structure that is currently offered.

The Leopard
Try: the Pata Plate with chicken – Toro leaf rolled with masala spice served with tzatziki, apple atchar, smokey chicken and flat bread.
Price: R87.

Possum’s Deli and Bistro
Try: free-range quail wrapped in bacon with carrot and pine nut filling, served with couccous and orange ginger and prune reduction
Price: R110.

Try: the 5-spice calamari – a tempura-style deep-fried calamari dish with Asian greens and a dipping sauce.
Price: R85

Tashas in Sandton, Hyde Park, Melrose Arch, Morningside, Rosebank and Village View
Try: the summer salad with avo, watercress, spinach, sprouts, pumpkin seeds, black mushroom, thinly sliced red onion and mange tout served with chicken and a honey mustard dressing.

Thomas Maxwell Bistro

Try: the mussels in garlic, lemon and parsley cream, served with pommes frites.


Carlton Café
From 1 November 2012, you can palate a panko prawn, mint grilled pineapple and crispy kataifi pastry salad with tossed summer greens dressed in a fresh lemon and mint vinaigrette for R85.

Karoo Café
Try: pan-fried chicken breast in creamy white wine and oregano sauce, served with wild rice salad.

Silver Orange Bistro
Try: seared Scottish salmon set on potato and green pea puree and served with citrus salad and sauce béarnaise.
Price: R135.

Zest Bistro
The menu changes regularly with dishes such as grilled lamb and roosterkoek with mint, tomato, salad leaves, tzatziki, onion rings and shoestring potatoes featuring.


9th Avenue Bistro
Try: grilled Norwegian salmon served on a bed of warm pickled summer vegetable salad with tomato, vanilla confit, new potatoes and mango.
Price: R140.

Try: the Grand Hotdog – a cheese griller Bockwurst sausage on homemade ciabatta with crispy fries, mustard and onion rings.
Price: R60.

Craft Trattoria
Try: the Pear & Gorgonzola, made up of rocket, sticky balsamic dressing and red wine pears.
Price: R59.

Marco Paulo
Try: spaghetti with marinated artichokes, olives, rocket, shaved parmesan and grilled chicken breasts.
Price: R89.

Café 1999
Try: the honey glazed lamb cutlets grilled and stacked onto leek mash potato, drizzled with 3 pepper sauce with mushrooms and sautéed baby spinach.
Price: R150.

Unity Brasserie and Bar
Try: the beer battered fish and chips with home-made tartare sauce.
Price: R65.

Cape Town

Bistro Sixteen82
Try: the pork ragout papperdelle with ragout of pork belly, home-made egg pasta and a goat’s cheese fondant.
Price: R95.

Constantia Uitsig Restaurant
Try: the grilled venison loin with caramelised honey sauce, served rare to medium rare with spinach, pine nuts and cream potato.
Price: R170.

Dear Me
The menu changes daily – from grilled angelfish, braised fennel bulb, spinach, baby nicola potatoes and dill cream to free-range pork croquetas, mustard and pickles.

The Foodbarn
Try: the shallot, pecorino and fennel risotto.
Price: R90. Add sautéed prawns for and additional R37.

Try: the pepper seared tuna salad with white beans, fresh pear and parsley vinaigrette.
Price: R75.

La Mouette
Try: the Moroccan style lamb confit shoulder, crispy pastille, tabbouleh, smoked aubergine puree and tomato harissa.
Price: R135.

Societi Bistro
Try: the Fillet au Poivre with Madagascan green peppercorns, brandy cream sauce, wilted spinach and hand cut chips.
Price: R135/R173.

Societi Brasserie
Try: the fresh mussels marinières with white wine, cream, garlic, frites and mayo.
Price: R108.

The Woodlands Eatery
Try: the lime, chilli and prawn salad.
Price: R70-R85.


96 Winery Road
Try: the original Gatriles duck and cherry pie with roasted duck meat in a rich port and black cherry sauce, topped with home-made puff pastry.
Price: R120.

Try: the steamed cauliflower ‘sandwich’ with melting gorgonzola cheese, guava and roasted macadamia pesto and vanilla oil.
Price: R99.

Bar Bar Black Sheep
Try: the viskoekies made with snoek, the traditional way. Served with sliced sweet potato (baked in the oven with butter, cinnamon, brown sugar and ginger) and a side sambal of pineapple and coriander.
Price: R85.

Bread & Wine
Try: the liquid pea ravioli with artichoke, broad beans and lamb pancetta.
Price: R105.

The Burgundy Restaurant
Try: the fresh line fish with basmati pilaf, basil pesto, tomato and olive salsa and grilled vegetables.
Price: R100.

Café Felix
Try: the rack of lamb served with garlic pommes puree, fresh vegetables and a red wine jus.
Price: R135.

The Common Room at Le Quartier Francais
Try: the pasture fed beef sirloin with buchu béarnaise.
Price: R180.

Fyndraai Restaurant
Try: wild mushroom and garlic risotto with creamed cheese mousse served with parmesan wafer and Kalahari truffle essence.
Price: R92.

Try: masala and moskonfyt-glazed yellowtail, cauliflower and red lentil curry
Price: served as part of the 2 course (R185) or 3 course (R215) menu options.

Hilda’s Kitchen at Groote Post
The menu changes daily and you can expect dishes like the steak roll with aioli and hand-cut chips or the slow-roasted pork belly.

Ile de Pain
Try: the crumbed aubergine parcels with mozzarella, zucchini, basil pesto and caponata.
Price: R65.

The Kitchen at Maison
Try: the crisp Shanghai pork belly, sweet potato miso butter, butternut, marrow, tempura onion, gomaio and au’s jus.
Price: R135.

Try: pan seared quail breasts on mushroom risotto or the grilled Mossel Bay soles meuniere.
Price: R90-R145.

Reuben’s Restaurant (Franschhoek)
Try: the pork belly served with pommes puree, sautéed mushrooms, caramelised and chilli ginger sauce.
Price: R145.

Try: the mixed wild mushroom risotto served with rocket and parmesan.
Price: R89.

Sofia’s at Morgenster
Try: the chicken kiev served with cheese sauce, baby fondant potatoes and jus.
Price: R125.

Stables at Vergelegen
Try: the seared calamari tubes with chilli and garlic.
Price: R95.


The Bistro
Try: smoked salmon carpaccio served with cucumber ribbons, lemon and capers.
Price: R54.

Gordon’s Restaurant
Try:  deboned leg of spring lamb with a potato timbale, fresh garden veg and a light Madiera sauce. A starter would be a baked guinea fowl spring roll on a bed of wild rocket with a raisin & muscadel sauce.
Price: Set menu, R300 per head.

Haricot’s Deli & Bistro

Try: twice-baked goats’ cheese soufflé served with a micro green, apple and walnut salad.
Price: R60.

Skye Bistro at Fordoun
Try: the slow-roasted pork belly served with corn fritter and beetroot dressing.

Two Dogs Bistro
Try: signature beef fillet – roast and served with crushed herb potato, sauteed mixed mushrooms, green beans, glazed baby carrots, soubise onion and rosemary stock reduction jus.
Price: R139.

North & Central

Mrs Simpsons
Try: the duck with blueberry jus.

O’s Restaurant
Try: the home-made steak and onion pie with sour cream crust and chips.
Price: R60.

By Kelly Pluke and Jodi Seale

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