What’s the most amazing thing you’ve eaten this winter? Which dish do you order every time, whether you’ve been to the restaurant once or a hundred times? We asked some of our critics, along with chefs and foodies, to share the dishes that have really stood out for them this winter. Think of it as a to-do list for the remainder of the chilly days. (And please tell us about the best dish you’ve eaten this winter in the comments!)
1. Fillet on the Bone from Villa Bianca (Croydon, Joburg)
“The best dish that I’ve eaten recently is a fillet on the bone with a cranberry sauce from villa Bianca. Perfectly cooked, well-balanced flavours and great wine pairing recommendation.” – Thulisa Martins, Eat Out critic.
The price: R185
2. Veal cutlets at Mastrantonio (Illovo)
“These dainty little cutlets are almost too elegant to eat. They’re cooked in the Italian style with simple vegetable accompaniments.” – Hennie Fisher, Eat Out critic.
The price: R210
3. Tapas at Escondido (Illovo)
“I’ve been back to Escondido in Illovo twice in the last month because their food is so delicious, particularly when wolfed down with a glass of pinot noir,” says author and blogger Sarah Graham. “It’s super cosy and very festive in there at this time of year. The highlights are their oxtail ravioli (not available right now), crispy squid (R49); zucchini fries with tzatziki (R55); lamb riblets in spicy plum sauce (R65 when on the menu); sage risotto (R44 when on the menu) and paella (R170 for two; R340 for four).” The menu changes daily.
4. Carrot pâté at The Pudding Shop (Parktown North)
“Chef Zeus Gusson told me it was simple to make: just mixing carrot with nuts in a blender. But it was the blend of spices involved – very balanced indeed, like all their food. I know there was cardamom, but there must have been two more. I love it when one spice doesn’t lord it over others and they all meld together into taste perfection.” – Marie-Lais Emond, Eat Out critic.
The price: R25
5. Butternut soup at EAT Bistro (Northcliff)
“My heart sank when chef Philippe Wagenfuhrer told me that the starter of the tasting menu was butternut soup. Butternut is my unfavouritest vegetable and butternut soup is one thing I really have to be force-fed. I was polite enough to pick up my silver spoon when a fairly big soup plate arrived, and found that the dish was utter perfection. The soup was thin, like a consomme, perfumed with Mozambican spices reminiscent of a fish curry, and was crowned with a whipped coconut froth. I polished it off – all of it. He had hidden bits of butternut throughout the rest of the meal, too. I spotted them as crisp little croutons, on a plate of ‘otherwise’ salad (no leaves, just delicious parts of vegetables and some fruit). It was also part of a chocolate rubble under a plum dessert. Well, well. I ate my words.” – Marie-Lais Emond, Eat Out critic.
The price: R45
6. Farm fresh snails from Stanley’s Snails (Benoni)
“I had the good fortune of tasting real escargot, at a snail ‘farm’ in Benoni. A brilliant find and now I know what snails taste like without masses of garlic butter.”– Marie-Lais Emond, Eat Out critic
The price: They’re sold in vacuum packed with garlic butter (R50 for six) or in a Mediterranean tomato sauce (with or without garlic or chilli) in jars (R50 for six; R100 for 12).
7. Chorizo risotto from Café del Sol Botanico (Bryanston)
“It was the perfect winter meal; the embodiment of the term ‘comfort food’. The spicy chorizo, exotic mushrooms, paprika, tomato and white wine complemented each other perfectly. The rice was served perfectly al dente, with generous shavings of chorizo and mushrooms. Goes really well with a glass of red wine.” – Echbert Boezak, Eat Out critic.
The price: R140
8. Potato and cauliflower curries at Oriental Palace (Central Pretoria)
“This odd 70’s-style round building in the centre of Pretoria has a great Indian (Halaal) restaurant with world-class breads to mop up great warming curries.” – Hennie Fisher, Eat Out critic.
The price: R65
9. A burger from Burger Bistro (Villiera)
“On cold nights when you’re not up for dressing-up and you just wants to have some comfort food in jeans and a parka, head to Burger Bistro. Their no-nonsense burgers are simply made, good quality and great value for money.” – Hennie Fisher, Eat Out critic.
The price: burgers range from R46.50 to R87.50
10. Smoked egg at Black Bamboo (Ashley Gardens, Pretoria)
“A delicately smoked egg yolk is nestled in wilted spinach, sautéed wild mushrooms and paper-thin radish shavings, and is served with toasted seed bread and garlic butter. If you’re lucky enough to find it on the menu, order it.” – Alida Ryder, Eat Out critic.
Note: this dish is not on the menu right now, but may appear again soon.
11. Super steakroll from Zak and Tonic at I Heart Market (Durban beachfront)
Visit this stall for a four-week matured sirloin on panini with aoili, chimichurri and rocket. “The simplicity of this meal is what makes it so moreish. The meat is so tender, the bread pillowy and the sauces unctuous.” – Anna Savage, I Heart Market.
The price: R50
12. Pizza from The Glenwood Bakery (Glenwood)
“I love a simple margherita pizza made from good ingredients. The Glenwood Bakery does this perfectly with a sourdough base, slow-cooked tomato sauce and good cheese. I like mine served with a Caesar salad topping. Delicious! The ambience is great too. It feels like you’re visiting at a friend’s house. (Pizza is available on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights only.)” – Tracy Gielink, Eat Out critic.
The price: R45 for margherita
13. Trifolati at Al Firenze (La Lucia, Durban)
“A plain, rustic dish that’s all about simple tastes and textures. Al Firenze has had this dish on the menu for many years, but it always manages to exceed expectations – and is a reason in itself to visit the restaurant. Trifolati is a starter dish but I eat it as a main. An incredibly generous portion of wild boletus mushrooms is sautéed with olive oil and garlic, and chopped parsley adds a subtle freshness. The mushrooms hold their form – each bite rewards with the slightest resistance, which shows they’re perfectly cooked. Soak up the lashings of sauce with bread. Bliss…” – Tracy Gielink, Eat Out critic.
The price: R72
14. Banger bagel from Max Bagels (Cape Town city bowl)
“For wheat-intolerant people like me, the promise of a soft, white bagel made of spelt – that for some reason we can eat – is wondrous in itself. But combined with glorious pork bangers, hot mustard and beautiful tangy pickles, it’s a thing of beauty.” – Katharine Jacobs, Eat Out online editor.
The price: R50
15. Bibimbap from Korean Soju (Sea Point)
“Served in a piping hot stone dish, this traditional Korean dish is named for the stirring that takes place at the table. Think rice (which goes golden and crispy if you leave it a little), sweet, spicy sauce, beef mince and magnificent, umami-rich mushrooms.” – Katharine Jacobs, Eat Out online editor.
The price: R98
16. Pan-roasted quail with millet, pecan nuts, sultanas and burnt orange emulsion from Open Door Restaurant (Tokai).
“A subtle combination of sweet sultanas, orange emulsion and juicy quail with the slightly nutty crunch of the millet (and pecans) makes a delightfully light, flavoursome dish.” – Amy Ebedes, Eat Out community manager.
17. Beef burger at Redemption Burgers (Woodstock)
“There are glorious crunchy onion rings in there; a little squeeze of mayo. Otherwise it’s simple and classic, but it’s got that X-factor. For my money, it’s the best burger in Cape Town. (Please don’t shoot!)” – Katharine Jacobs, Eat Out online editor.
18. Gluten-free orange almond and coconut cake at tashas (V&A Waterfront)
Eat Out editor Abigail Donnely had an amazing, moist slice of this gluten-free cake at the Waterfront branch of tashas.
The price: R48
19. Truffle parmesan fries from Lunchworks (City Bowl)
These fries have a cult-like following at Eat Out HQ, which is thankfully just around the corner from this city haunt. Lightly truffled, and generously parmesanned, these chips are prime candidates for theft in the office.
The price: R25 for a small bag (although it’s advisable to buy more than one serving in case of pilfering from colleagues).
20. Burger from Jerry’s Burger Bar (Observatory and Gardens)
“It had the perfect patty-to-bun ratio,” gushes Eat Out account director, Kelly Cloete. This is not the first time we’ve raved about these beautiful brioche buns and perfect patties.
The price: Burgers range from R62 to R110
21. Marrow bones from Salvin at Oranjezicht City Farm Market (Granger Bay, Cape Town)
“Santa Anna’s (the smoking kings) joined me and a few Outlandishes at Spasie to work with the meat. We smoked marrow bones (aptly called prairie butter) and served them with sourdough (from Schoon de Companje and Woodstock Bakery). The slightly smoked marrow spread over toast with a squeeze of lemon was utterly perfect. I can’t go on too much about it because I’ll crave it too much.” – Jules Mercer of Outlandish Kitchen. (You can recreate it with bones from ethical meat supplier Salvin, who sells at Oranjezicht City Farm Market at Granger Bay.)
The price: R24 per kg of marrow bones from Salvin
22. Mushroom Tapioca Pudding from Ryan’s Kitchen (Franschhoek)
The head chef at The Tasting Room, Gerald van der Walt, has the inside scoop on some of Franschhoek’s best food – and this tapioca dish was an absolute winner for him. “It has a rich risotto-like texture, but the pearls give it an extra bit of body, another dimension. It’s loaded with mushrooms and cheese: rich and gooey, very delicious.”
The price: R80
23. The Charcuterie Platter at Bread & Wine (Franschhoek)
“A bit biased, I know, but I have had it a few times, and it is consistently good. Neil has mastered his craft, almost to the point of making it an art form. He has a wealth of knowledge and it shows best in his charcuterie.” – Gerald van der Walt, head chef at The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Français.
24. Sautéed gnocchi and mushrooms with smoked aubergine, parmesan and Jerusalem artichoke at Overture (Stellenbosch)
“My favourite dish, without a doubt,” declares Eat Out critic Petro Lotz. “The dark plate was a beautiful foil for the homely, hand-made, plump gnocchi; the dish was gentle and creamy, with just a touch of salty tang provided by the parmesan. The aubergine was served as a smooth purée and the Jerusalem artichokes as shavings. Fresh, bright-green pea shoots were the only garnish to this heavenly, understated plate of ambrosia.”
The price: It comes part a three-course menu for R395
25. Rose geranium truffle from Von Geusau (Greyton)
“This soft truffle made with Von Gesau’s artisanal chocolate has a beautiful flavour from the rose geranium – it tastes just like Turkish delight.” – Katharine Jacobs, Eat Out online editor.
The price: R7 each
26. The cheese plate at Rupert and Rothschild Restaurant (Simondium)
“The French Rothschild’s cheese from Paris, a brie layered with truffle, was insane.” – Abigail Donnelly, Eat Out editor.
The price: R115
27. Courgette ravioli with tomato butter from Terroir (Stellenbosch)
“This was magnificent,” says Eat Out editor, Abigail Donnelly. “Soft pillows of ravioli were smothered in an acidic tomato butter with parmesan purée and brinjal and sun-dried tomatoes – perfection in taste and technique.”
The price: R199
28. Pumpkin risotto with crispy sage leaves at Bistro 13 (Stellenbosch)
“Hot and oozing with cheese, a creamy bowl of the best pumpkin risotto with crispy sage leaves and a river of brown butter.” – Abigail Donnelly, Eat Out editor.
The price: R110
29. California rolls at Fushin (Port Elizabeth)
“If I really had to pick a winner, I would go for the Peruvian Prince, a stunning presentation of prawn and avo rolls, topped with baked Peruvian scallops. The sheer luxury of all these ingredients is beautifully offset by finely chopped scallions, a sprinkle of black sesame seeds and bright red caviar. A nest of shoestring beetroot accompanies the obligatory pickled ginger and wasabi. The fact that you can get proper bubbles by the glass here adds to the enjoyment.” – Petro Lotz, Eat Out critic.
30. Fish stew at Yum Yum restaurant (Tzaneen)
“In the middle of the bloody bushveld, seafood as fresh and well-cooked as at any seaside café in Marseille! They even have huge fresh Luderitz oysters. The stew is made simply with tomato and herbs and served with great home-baked bread.” – Hennie Fisher, Eat Out critic.
The price: R105
31. Scallops and angel-hair pasta from Zest at Kavinga (Nelspruit)
“What is it with these places where the ocean is so far away, yet they serve such great seafood? These scallops were plump and fat and big (with roe on) and perfectly cooked.” – Hennie Fisher, Eat Out critic.
The price: R65
32. Home-cured salmon at Saffron (Nelspruit)
“The home-brined, cured and smoked salmon – just as it is, with absolutely no accompaniment – is fat and rich and decadent. The simple flavours permeate the fish – it’s the best tapas around.”
– Hennie Fisher, Eat Out critic.
33. Porcini and mushroom soup at Walkersons (Dullstroom)
Critic Hennie Fisher was particularly struck by the porcini-and-mushroom soup he sampled on a recent visit. “Anyone can make a porcini and mushroom soup, but if it is made exceptionally well, it’s so much better than anything else. Dullstroom, where it’s always cold, should have soup on tap!”
The price: The soup forms part of Walkerson’s four-course menu at R325 per person. (The flavour changes daily.)
While we’ve taken care to check these prices and dishes, some may change without our knowledge. Best you start ticking them off before spring arrives and they disappear.