The ultimate ‘local’ has great, affordable food and warm, friendly service – it’s like eating in your own kitchen, but without all the actual cooking and cleaning up. Comfortable, consistent and reliable, neighbourhood restaurants are sometimes a little rough around the edges, but when you have to travel less than five minutes to reach them – and the owner knows you by name – it’s a lot easier to forgive them. Hennie Fisher goes on a suburban safari, to find the best neighbourhood restaurants in Melville, Linden, Braamfontein, Lonehill, Fordsburg, Ferndale and Florida North.
Bay Leaf (Fordsburg)
This casual eatery on Mint Road offers a lovely mix of Indian and Pakistani meals, with the obligatory list of Chinese dishes thrown in for good measure, and sells almost as much take-out as it serves in-house. Go for classics such as butter chicken with rice or naan (R65); lamb karahi and naan (R68); grilled chicken tikka with chips and salad (a very affordable R40); and chicken or mutton briyani (R50).
Daleahs Eatery (Braamfontein)
This modern little eatery on Braamfontein’s de Beer Street serves café food at very affordable prices. Try the chicken prego slider served with fries or salad (R85); the Mexican sandwich with bacon, guacamole, cheddar and lettuce (R68); the Twisted chicken sandwich with chilli chicken, mayonnaise, coriander and a splash of lime juice (R65); or the Como Estás sandwich made with steak, spicy tomato salsa, feta crumble and olives (R70).
Fat Zebra (Linden)
This gem serves dishes primarily from the warm and inviting pizza oven in a delightfully casual dining space eminently suited to socialising. The Elvis breakfast consists of crispy bacon, peanut butter and sliced fried banana drenched in syrup on toasted ciabatta (R65), with further appealing options including the peri-peri beef fillet prego on a roll or with a side salad (R80) or the Portuguese baby chicken (peri-peri, lemon and herb) with crispy cubed potatoes (R90).
Les Delices de France (Florida North)
This spot serves essentially French food in a modern way. Recommended are old-styled classics such as the beef chateaubriand (oven-roasted beef fillet with béarnaise sauce, for R160); duck leg confit with sautéed potatoes (R175); and a simple steak tartare with chips or toast (R155).
Lugz is an authentic Durban Indian fast food eatery that takes pride in its mutton bunny chow with salad and pickle (a quarter loaf for R50 or half for R100). Other good options are chicken biryani with salad and yoghurt (R65), and the mince-and-cheese roti roll with salad and pickles (R53). The dedicated following of customers believes this establishment sells the best bunny chow in the country.
PRON – People’s Republic of Noodles (Linden)
This is the place for hand-made, high-quality Chinese noodle dishes in a contemporary but relaxed atmosphere. A new venture of The Red Chamber’s Emma Chen, the restaurant serves food that’s simple but excellent, such as the prized Szechuan chilli chicken noodles (R70), cheese bread (R25) and a very elegant cucumber-and-tofu salad for R40.
Pulp Fiction (Melville)
Relatively new on the culinary scene, this trendy new Jozi place serves everything from burgers to something described as Bangkok Dangerous: slow-cooked crispy pork belly with a coconut tamarind sauce, char-grilled bok choy, red pepper gel, pork crackling, and a steamed homemade wasabi bun. While the lunch menus tend to favour easy eating, for dinner the approach shifts more towards the fine dining spectrum – but there’s a cocktail bar and jukebox to add to the retro vibe. Try the Royale with Cheese, a 200g beef patty on a sesame bun with chimichurri, camembert, side slaw, a rich jus and duck-fat fries (R80) or Inglorious Braised Ribs, thick-cut short ribs coated with a coffee-and-cumin rub, slow-braised in beer until tender, and served with garlic mash and seasonal vegetables (R89).
Reisi’s Bites (Melville)
Another gem in Melville, this café-style eatery offers a relaxed environment to enjoy their interesting menu. Try a bacon-and-avocado waffle (R55); the Boss Burger, stuffed with bacon bits and cheddar cheese, and layered with lettuce, red onion, tomato and Reisi’s secret sauce (R65); or the delicious prawn-and-chicken curry with rice and optional chutney and banana (R80).
The Steamworks GastroPub (Lonehill)
A suburb not always known for its restaurants, Lonehill has welcomed the gastro pub concept. Something between a bar and a restaurant, Steamworks offers a modern dining experience with a casual, fun ambience. Recommended dishes include tandoori chicken with cashew nuts, mint, coriander and pomegranate with yoghurt dressing (R95); deboned leg of lamb with juniper berries, garlic, rosemary, honey-roasted parsnips and homemade mint sauce (R130); and aged minute steak with tomato jam, wild rocket and cambozola cheese (R85).