Once a year in January, Google releases their list of the most searched terms of the year. Aside from teaching us the upsetting fact that South Africans want to learn how to twerk more than they want to survive (#3 to twerking’s #1 in Google’s ‘how to’ list and that the people of Saint Helena were more interested in the royal baby than the British were, Google’s search data is so useful that the company is able to track the spread of flu faster than the CDC in the USA.
Our own site data may not have quite the international import as Google’s, but we’d wager that if you’re a South African in search of a great restaurant, our stats are a whole lot more useful to you.
The people of South Africa (and about 10% of international browsers) have voted with their keyboards, phones and iPads, and the results are in. These are the most viewed restaurants on our site for 2013, plus comments from you, our trusty restaurant-goers:
In pole position, this Parktown restaurant has developed a cult following for its Van Hunks Pumpkin Ale fritters, mushroom ravioli and bone marrow dishes. We’re not sure whether it’s the food, the craft beer, or the shabby chic hip interior that has Joburgers searching so frantically for it, but one thing’s for sure – it’s certainly popular!
“It took me over two weeks to get a reservation at The Foundry on a Friday night and after having eaten there, I now understand why!” – Tatum Dunnett
Coming in at number 2, and demonstrating the sheer power of a strong brand (and the insane lengths people will go to in order to get free burgers), the launch of this international chain in South Africa in 2013 saw otherwise sane individuals queuing for over an hour for ‘fast’ food. Whether or not their burgers are better than other takeaway joints is under debate – our taste test was inconclusive after all Taste Test: Burger King against the rest – but dammit if people aren’t determined to see for themselves.
3. The Leopard
Andrea Burgener appeared on MasterChef SA, released a cookbook and received plenty of other publicity this year (including winning our Best Bistro Award at the 2013 Eat Out DStv Food Network Restaurant Awards), but we’ve got a hunch that this Melville restaurant’s popularity is mostly down to the free-style chicken, brinjal with ginger and granny smith apple, white anchovies exploding with lemony herbs, and the hot fudge sauce and bananas.
“Divine, quirky and delicious. And a lovely new location. Big respect to Andrea, Michael and the rest of the team. Loving the new cookbook!” – Tessa Graham
Coming in top for KZN, this classic old curry house serves up every kind of curry, from crab and prawn to lamb, chicken and lentils.
“Excellent service from booking all the way to the execution of my event.” – Louanne Naidoo
Carrying the Restaurant of the Year crown for two consecutive years, Luke Dale-Roberts’s The Test Kitchen comes in at number 5.
“Lives up to all that was ever said and then some. Exceptional food, excellent service.” – Marlene Van Rensberg
6. The Dog’s Bollocks
What started out as a pop-up in a driveway has become something of a Cape Town institution: chintzy lampshades, garden furniture, and Nigel’s incredible burgers win plaudits with the Eat Out team – and our users.
“Best burger of my life!” – Craig Bouwer
7. El Burro
Coming in at number 7, this modern Mexican restaurant balances a super-cool vibe with fresh, tasty food and killer tequila. Make sure you book well ahead if you’re planning to eat there in the evenings.
“El burro is simply fantastic. Week after week the food is consistently excellent. The service is fast and friendly. The owners and manager are always so welcoming.” – Talia Sharon
8. Cafe del Sol
The interior of this Randburg restaurant may not be über trendy, but 2012’s winner of the Best Italian Restaurant has a bevy of admirers who love the comfortable atmosphere, home-made ravioli and light and fluffy gnocchi pillows.
“Awesome and excellent food and fantastic ambience. Every time is a fantastic experience.” – Julia Dos Santos
9. Il Leone Mastrantonio
A Greenpoint gem, this Italian restaurant is famous for its gnocchi and its lively, welcoming atmosphere.
“Professional service. Delicious food. Perfect setting and they gave us free booze… Two thumbs up!” – Sherri-Lyn Corbello
10. San Bar at Sandton Sun Hotel
A gorgeous bar and a central location in the business district work in this spot’s favour, but there’s also that x-factor: a knockout view.
11. DW Eleven-13
Marthinus Ferreira’s Dunkeld West restaurant may been edged out of the Top 10 in our 2013 awards, but one thing’s for sure: it’s still popular with the punters.
“Did not stop smiling throughout the entire service. The food was beautiful and delicate yet packed a punch of flavour. Particular highlights: langoustine and quail starter and the passion fruit panna cotta dessert.” – Julia van Schalkwyk
12. Ashley’s Family Restaurant
This Goodwood restaurant came as a bit of a surprise to the team. Could it be that the owner happened upon a particularly popular search term for his restaurant name (‘Family restaurant’) or is it down to great value food and an unfussy environment?
“Their pizzas are huge to say the least and they do not compromise on their flavour. It’s great if you feel like pigging out and playing ‘the who can eat the most slices of pizza’ game. Great for a family outing.” – Evelyn Knipe
Head chef Bertus Basson’s semi-celebrity status and part-time stint as Ultimate Braaimaster judge is but one reason why Overture makes the list. The other reasons are obviously his phenomenal food (he’s been on our Top 10 list for the past few years) and the restaurant’s spectacular winelands setting.
“Out-of-this-world amazing. Food, service wine pairing were spectacular! Will definitely be back soon.” – Philip Van Rensburg
In a word: CHEESE. So much of it. And frozen margaritas. It’s Tex-Mex rather than authentic Mexican, but in the Cape peninsula, this vibey Obs joint is where you should be having your nachos.
15. Five Hundred
Although not so new to the city, David Higgs was 2013’s most celebrated (and most dashing) chef on the Joburg block. (He’s our reigning Chef of the Year.) His restaurant also got the number two spot on our Top 10 list. Do you need any further reasons to go and see for yourself?
“This is world-class Jozi-dining, in a modern, but intimate setting…Well done David Higgs and team!” – Hendré van Zyl
16. Restaurant Parreirinha
200 people, in one restaurant, gorging themselves on plates of prawns at 11am on a weekday? Not an unlikely sight at this place. So yes, the prawns are plump and delicious.
“We’ve gone there about six times now. Service is faultless, and the food was amazing! Our favourites are the prawn cakes and king prawns with their secret herbs and spices. The prawns just melt away in your mouth. The wine selection is top-notch and having a nightcap in the bar area after dinner was just as enjoyable.” – Leonard Bekker
17. tashas Morningside
One of the first branches in the magnificent tashas chain, this Morningside eatery is the chicest of cafés and does not for a moment let its shopping centre setting interfere. The food is interesting and fresh and tables are laden with heavenly cakes and bakes.
The already popular Bree Street exploded with the addition of edgy, yet chic, tapas bar La Parada, and there seems to be no end to its popularity. We’re not sure more chairs can fit on the pavement.
“Great vibe, great food, will definitely return!” – Michele de Jager
19. tashas Melrose Arch
See above, but with a better setting.
“Tashas never disappoints. Efficient and friendly service coupled with delicious meals and cocktails! They have added new dishes to their menu so there is always something to tickle every palate.” – Tatum Dunnett
20. Bossa Nova Durbanville
To be honest, the Eat Out team is a little mystified by the popularity of this grill and bar in Cape Town’s northern suburbs. Our scouts haven’t been there recently (shame on us), so if anyone can enlighten us, please do. (Update: we’ve just heard from our sources that this is a must for rugby watching and brandy specials – if that’s your kind of thing.)
21. La Colombe
A stalwart of the local fine-dining scene, La Colombe has been trending since it first won a spot on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Tourists and locals alike just can’t keep away. And we thank chef Scot Kirton for that.
“We had the most amazing meal at La Colombe. Service was outstanding as always. Food was definitely the best I ever had in Cape Town. And it is on par with anything in Europe (3-star Michelin restaurants included). The springbok starter was beautifully presented with amazing flavours. Thank you La Colombe for keep your quality and high standards.” – P. Ester
22. The Pot Luck Club
Winner of the Boschendal Style Award, the Pot Luck Club is not just beyond beautiful, it’s also everything you could wish for in a restaurant experience – spectacular food, great wine, attentive service and a multi-award-winning chef. Only problem is you need to book WAY in advance.
“Your Pot Luck experience starts with the elevator trip to the 6th floor, a glass encased Bond-like elevator. The very first thing we noticed on walking into room was the warm welcome from every member of staff. Then the beauty of the room, the position, the view, the décor. Everything works, it compliments, it speaks of harmony. And this is all before we have even tasted a thing! We had the mussels, calamari, beef and pork belly. The wine list was short but clearly well thought out. Prices were more than fair. Overall, a wonderful experience. A visual and sensory treat” – Dion Martin
23. Maria’s at Dunkley Square
A laid-back but lively little Greek eatery. Many a Capetonian has sat on the square with a tumbler of white wine and a platter of meze. The food is incredibly flavourful and definitely worth the hype.
“What a great little gem. Found it while on training. Food is amazing, service is great and options are great. Good wine list and good portions – definite value for money.” – Rudi Mitchell
24. The Woodlands Eatery
It’s clearly not just the Eat Out team that loves this place. Prose can be written about the slow-roasted lamb pizza, but really everything on the menu is delicious.
“Amazing! I ate at Woodlands Eatery for three Sundays in a row and I was never disappointed. Their prawn curry is my absolute favourite.” – Ntsikakazi Hene
25. Jordan Restaurant
Regardless of where George Jardine is cooking, his restaurant is a hit. He’s been Eat Out’s Chef of the Year a few times at his previous restaurant, and has been on the Eat Out Top 10 consistently with Jordan. His food is flavoursome, fresh and beautifully plated and the view magical.
“Location, view, service and food all spectacular. 5 stars all round!” – Philip Van Rensburg
*27 January 2015: this article was edited to remove a reference to a bad experience that has now been resolved.