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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.

Johannesburg

Bellagio
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.

Salvationcafe
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.

Pretoria

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.

Durban

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.

Bellavue
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.

Hemelhuijs
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.

South

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.

Babel
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.

Gaaitjie
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.

Pembrey’s
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.

Scotty’s
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.

East

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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