When the temperature rises, things can get a little hot and humid in the city. To help you escape the labyrinth, we rounded up the best rooftop bars in Joburg, Pretoria, Cape Town and Durban.
Situated on the rooftop – the 16th floor – of the Reef Hotel near the big Standard gallery in Anderson Street, this appropriately named spot offers a 360-degree view of the city beneath. It’s furnished in white against the night, attracting cool men in jewels and women in body-con. They also do high teas (pun intended), along with a surprisingly good, wide-ranging food menu. There’s also a deadly cocktail called a Scorpio. Nobody ever remembers what was in it.
Level Three Rooftop Deck (Kramerview)
The stunner of a deck wraps around the building, affording views of the separate skylines of Joburg and Sandton. There’s a sundowner rooftop bar, but it’s only open once a month. Check out the Wine Not Pop Up Bar for open dates. (The next is 6pm Tuesday 15 December 2015). Wine is the drink of choice but there’s much else besides. There’s also a DJ and it’s not unusual to see people dancing. Food is suited to the occasion – and that’s what it is: an occasion to look forward to and celebrate.
The Living Room (Maboneng)
At the top of the Main Change building is a tropical forest in the sky. From Thursday to Sunday from midday to 9pm this is the most fragrant sundowner spot. Sip on a Hello Aloe or Pineapple Express and enjoy the food – which is all fresh and beautifully healthy, except for the artery-clogger of a poutine dish. The best time to visit is on Sunday afternoons with the market streets below, or when there’s live music.
The San Deck (Sandton)
This wide, open bar has couch seating, fire pits and a staggering view. Float around by day – they’re open from 10am onwards – or saunter in for after-work drinks. Nibble on four-piece cocktail plates featuring chicken lollipops and the ilk and sip on svelte cocktails. Try a prettily served Sandtonista, or one of the mojitos and cosmopolitans.
Sir James van der Merwe (Kramerville)
Open Wednesdays from 4pm onwards, this is an unforgettable option – and not just for the views to the north-west. The décor is staggering. The food is brought in by caterers and always good – think beautiful snack boards and the likes. The soaring bar serves bottles of champagne in ice bowls. There’s a venue for private functions next door called Katy’s, which has the same view.
Skyline Gardens (Braamfontein)
Enjoy views of Nelson Mandela bridge and the Hillbrow Tower from your vantage point above Biccard and Womarans Streets. This is a rooftop garden sanctuary of intimate lounge pods, a cocktail bar and alfresco food. It’s run by the Randlords and Private Practice folk, Southpoint. You need to book the venue.
Smack Republic (Maboneng)
The mini-micro brewery is downstairs, the micro art gallery is upstairs. Buy some snack food from the market downstairs, order your beer and navigate through the art gallery to the roof. It’s open on Sundays from 10am onwards.
The Union Bar – Gin Rooftop Garden (Benmore)
This moveable gin cocktail pop-up will be here in its lush rooftop setting at the top of the Capital Hill Building until 12 December, after which it may morph or move on. It’s a really gorgeous space – the view is awe-inspiring and the DJs top notch (check on Facebook to see who’s playing). Try one of the 15 versions of gin and tonic, flavoured with interesting things like fruits, spices, herbs, pepper and chilli. The watermelon one beats anything experienced. The menus change all the time but expect beautiful, fresh plated food. No under 21s.
The Westcliff, Four Seasons Hotel
The sun sets on the other side of the cliff, but watch as the more leafy side of Joburg gradually darkens from the rooftops’ View or Flames Terrace. Drink the best margarita in your living memory or try the Summer Splash, which contains peach and amaretto with tequila, or a Flamelicious with champagne, passion fruit and vanilla. There’s also a great champagne selection. Nibble on lamb samoosas with cumin, lime, labneh and mint.
Brasserie de Paris (Waterkloof Ridge)
This restaurant’s rooftop – which feels a little like a hidden retreat known only to a few – is the ideal spot to book if you want to get away from outside interference but cannot quite make it to the bush. The rooftop is a walled-in space that makes it private and almost cosy, with just a few openings from which to look out over the Pretoria treetops. There is no particular cocktail list, but they welcome the challenge to create any classic cocktail upon request. The wine list is exceptionally well considered, with a surprising number of smaller wineries that punch well above their weight. Their December à la Carte menu starts with a number of fantastic classics, ranging from goat’s cheese mousse with walnut toast to lovely traditional escargot with garlic purée and parsley jus. The main course section offers five choices of which the basil-crusted lamb rack with pomme Dauphinoise, pea purée and mange tout is a definite winner, or try their vegetarian option of ratatouille with smoked aubergine and onion tarte tatin. Their crème brûlée remains one of the best in town.
Moroccan House, La Terrasse Rooftop Café & Deli (Menlo Park)
The multiple floor configuration of Moroccan House on Atterbury Road allows it to dedicate the top floor to open air dining, and since this area is only partially covered, it allows beautiful views into the trees and surrounding vegetation. Part of the building is used to display a vast and beautiful range of Moroccan décor and interior items – carpets, tagines, light fittings, crockery and more – and there is also a guest house, function venue and a décor rental business on the premises. Sip on a freshly squeezed orange juice with rosewater and cinnamon (alcoholic or non-alcoholic) or a strawberry and mint-infused cocktail with cardamom syrup and vodka. They have an extensive range of cordials – rose, hibiscus, rosemary, citrus and more. The food menu offers breakfast, Moroccan baked items, design-your-own platters, soups (the cold beetroot and pomegranate is lovely on hot days), beautiful tagines, chicken b’stilla and slow-cooked oxtail tangia. Finish with rosewater-scented cheesecake.
Red Tomato (Waterkloof)
Red Tomato is the brainchild of Renette Vosloo, who is the energetic owner and chef of this business that is part guest house, part restaurant, part pop-up event and catering company. In between being a Kokkedoor ambassador and a morning TV food presenter, she can also whip up a party in no time. She recently orchestrated an elegant party on top of the newly renovated Agrivaal building in Edmund Street in Pretoria city centre, where instead of suburban rooftops or treetops the view was all glamorous city lights and stars, with views spanning from the Union Buildings to the Voortrekker Monument. Check the Red Tomato Facebook page for news of future events.
Priva Gastrolounge (Waterkloof Heights)
This is still the most glamorous rooftop venue in Pretoria. The view over the Waterkloof valley is spectacular. The entire restaurant is built on the rooftop, with most of the outside area covered to offer some protection when the weather turns foul. There’s live music, a phenomenal wine and beverage selection (including great MCC by the glass), an awe-inducing whiskey menu, a dedicated cigar menu and creative cuisine. And to top it all off, they stay open until the early hours of the morning. The à la carte menu offers everything from a deconstructed prawn Ritz to a ‘gourmand’ burger and sticky pork riblets. Perhaps the best way to enjoy the food and the stars here is to opt for their tasting menu (with or without wine pairing).
Restaurant Mosaic at The Orient (Elandsfontein)
If your fantasies extend to towers and winding stairs, perhaps Restaurant Mosaic’s storybook tower-room will push the right buttons. While they have the tower available and set up, its use depends on climatic vagaries since it can become hot, dusty and, at worst. However, on the evenings when Pretoria’s weather cooperates, the rooftop setting provides a spectacular setting for a romantic dinner. Perched three to four stories high, it offers breath-taking views of the Francolin conservancy and the beautiful Magalies Mountains, and you will be spoiled by the entire Mosaic team who always put all their effort into making this truly one of South Africa’s Top 10 eateries. This is decadence and theatre, and well worth the visit and expense.
Lighthouse Bar (Umhlanga Rocks)
Overlooking Umhlanga beach and the iconic red and white lighthouse, this bar offers a sophisticated and elegant sundowner experience. Dark wood, leather detailing, and a crimson and gold colour theme add a touch of opulence to the seaside venue. Classy snacks such as charcuterie, oysters and Arancini balls fill the food menu while the drinks list offers wines by the glass, beer and delicious cocktails. Try the apple and mint cosmopolitan for a refreshing antidote to the humid Durban heat. There’s live music on Wednesdays to Fridays and large plasma screens that screen the matches when big sporting events take place.
Harald’s Bar and Terrace (City Bowl)
11 storeys up, perched atop the urban hotel, Park Inn by Radisson, this bar has a front row view of Table Mountain. The light, breezy terrace is the ultimate spot to watch the pink sky turn purple as the lights of the city start to twinkle. The menu boasts laid-back yet trendy pub grub, from potato skins and nachos to pizzas, baskets and wraps. There are also great party-size platters that are perfect to share. By day, the sun heats up the deck with umbrellas dotted between the seating. By night, the popular spot is lit up by cool blue lighting as the cocktails start flowing.
Rick’s Café Americain (Gardens)
The chilled out and comfy atmosphere at this buzzing bar is perfect for those scorching summer days. The deck-like rooftop space is not as high as some, but has ample shade as well as a misting system to keep things cool. The extensive menu has something for everyone with a few Moroccan-style dishes thrown into the mix. Feast on the tapas selection with sticky and sweet mini barbecue riblets and beer-battered chilli poppers, stuffed with feta and cream cheese. The drinks menu is five pages long and includes everything from rum, gin and vodka to craft beers, bubblies and cocktails. There is a cocktail special that runs from 3pm to 7pm daily.
Sky Bar at Grand Daddy Hotel (City Bowl)
Situated near the bottom of busy Long Street, The Grand Daddy Hotel’s rooftop airstream trailer park has a stylish bar that’s ideal for summertime drinking. The silver trailers and Bedouin tents block some of the view but create a great retro ambience. The coming summer months will see the bar transform in to Pink Flamingo Rooftop Cinema (check out the film schedule here.). There’s a tapas menu from downstairs restaurant, Thirty Ate, which is perfect for a light bite. The cocktail menu has signature drinks such as the Trailer Park Happiness with premium gin and Cruz vodka, raspberry and lemon juice topped with lemonade and served moonshine-style. There are also classic cocktail options as well as beers and wine.
Tjing Tjing (City Bowl)
Part rooftop bar, part cosy attic, Tjing Tjing is situated in the heart of the Mother City’s CBD. The restored two centuries-old heritage building specialises in interesting cocktails, a great wine list, and a variety of craft beers and draughts. For the foodies, there is an Asian-infused tapas menu with options like tuna tataki with ponzu and sesame, sticky pork belly skewers, and deep-fried sushi rice cubes with hot buttered soy. On Wednesdays they host free wine tastings from 5pm to 7pm.
The Waiting Room (City Bowl)
With views of Table Mountain, Lion’s Head, and the Long Street strip below, it’s no wonder that this rooftop bar is always buzzing. There’s no food on offer here, but Royale Eatery below is ready to fuel up party-goers with their famous burgers. Sip on local craft beers and spirits and catch the live music most nights of the week. Check out their Facebook page for details of upcoming shows and bands performing.
Zenith Sky Bar and Pool Deck (Green Point)
Set atop Green Point’s plush Cape Royale Hotel, this exclusive rooftop bar, complete with grass patches and a gleaming pool, offers gorgeous city and sea views. Relax poolside on the deck with some refreshing cocktails and order snacks to keep hunger at bay. The food is Asian-inspired with plenty of sushi options and platters. The cocktail list includes the classics as well as some more exotic options such as the summer cup with ginger liqueur, fresh strawberries, lemons, cranberry juice and lemonade. This place gets pretty busy during the summer months so be sure to call ahead before heading up to the top.