Reasonable prices, home-cooked food, and a warm, inviting ambience, there’s nothing like a good bistro. For many of us, it’s these unfussy establishments that are the real gems. The ideal bistro has friendly but efficient service and simple, tasty food; it’s the kind of place you can visit every month with friends or family without breaking the bank.
Some say the bistro originated in the apartments of Paris, when landlords opened their kitchens to the public to sell simple, homemade food to supplement their rental income. As the popularity of these establishments grew, tables began spilling out onto the pavement, and the bistro was born.
This year at the Eat Out DStv Food Network Restaurant Awards, it was Cape Town’s Bizerca Bistro that took home the honours for Best Bistro. To help you find great bistro food wherever you are in South Africa, here’s our list of the top bistros in the country.
Try: the seafood salad made with calamari, squid heads, prawns, mussels, scallops, fennel, avocado, red onion, red peppers and lemon
Try: Moules frites – fresh Saldanha mussels with chips and homemade mayonnaise
Café Del Sol
Try: calamari tubes filled with red pepper, green olives, capers, Ricotta cheese, parmesan and a touch of chilli, served with cappellini pasta, mixed with seasonal vegetables and a beurre blanc sauce
Try: the roast quail with parmentier potato, mange tout and grape and olive sauce
Try: wild mushroom ravioli with apricot, beetroot puree and jus
Tashas Melrose Arch
Try: fillet tagliatte, made with 50g beef fillet strips, rocket, pine nuts, chips and a tagliatte sauce
Thomas Maxwell Bistro
Try: half-shell mussels simmering in garlic, lemon and parsley cream or tomato Napolitana with chilli, served with chips
Price: R75-R125 (depending on starter or main dish)
Carlton Café Delicious
Try: oven toasted grissone with sweet chilli chicken strips, lemon and garlic mayonnaise and gherkins.
Try: duck confit with prune jus and honey butternut almonds
North and Central
Wakkerstroom Bistro Papillon
Try: pork fillet medallions with blue cheese sauce and preserved green fig confit
Vida Arte Restaurant and Deli
Try: Chilli changers, made with tortillas, chicken, onion and cheeses, shallow fried and served with guacamole and salsa, tortilla chips and salad
Try: Moroccan tagine of lamb shank, with apricot and almond cous cous and smoked yogurt
Price: part of a set menu R160 for 2 courses and R185 for 3 courses
Try: Penne Salsiccia; a slow roasted Italian sausage with penne and fennel
Try: Pasta Agnolotti Piedmontese; a slow roasted beef and oxtail stuffed pasta in a beef jus with wild mushroom and roasted garlic.
Try: pork belly roasted for 12 hours in garlic, white wine and bay leaves, served on a herb mash, vegetables, jus made from the roasting ingredients and crackling on the side.
The Cellar Boutique Restaurant
Try: the pork fillet with a herbed crust, served with fresh greens, croquet potatoes and apricot cream
Corner Post Bar and Dining Room
Try: Char-grilled Greenfield rib eye steak, with chips and béarnaise
Steve’s 12 Bar Blues
Try: chicken Cacciapore, is a hunters’ casserole dish which is made with grilled chicken, root vegetables, herbs and capers. The sauce has anchovies, white wine and vinegar in it.
Try: Pork neck steak, served with potatoes, fennel puree, roasted onions and green peppercorn sauce
Try: Braised farmed pig trotter, with seared scallop, truffle oil and petite salad.
Caveau Wine Bar and Deli
Try: Caveau steak roll, served with straw chips, onion rings and mushroom sauce
River Café at Constantia Uitsig
Try: seared tuna, served with a salad
Try: slow roasted free-range pork neck kassler, Drift farm honey, sweet potato dumplings, baby corn, mustard veloute and pickled radishes
Try: grilled free range beef fillet, served with asparagus, artichokes and onion tart, finished off with a truffle scented brandy jus.
Try: Ostrich meatballs with tagliatelle and Napolitano sauce
Try: mushroom risotto with spinach and parmesan
The Woodlands Eatery
Try: lamb pita, made with Tuscan slow roasted lamb, rosemary and a dash of crème fraiche
Bar Bar Black Sheep
Try: pork and black beans stew
Bread & Wine
Try: the anti-pasti plate with 7 to 10 different charcuterie meats
Price: R110 (for two people)
Try: slow roasted lamb shoulder with minted peas, mash potato and red wine and rosemary jus.
The Common Room at Le Quartier Francais
Try: the tapas dishes like fish pops, lamb frikkadals and crispy smoked pork riblets
Price: R35-R50 per tapa
Cuvee at Simonsig
Try: caramelised beef fillet, served with potato rosti, wilted spinach, wild mushrooms and brandy jus
Try: a trio plate with grilled squid and chilli, pork belly and onion jus and lemon buttered mon fish
Try: lamb loin, potato vanilla puree and onion jus
Ile de Pain
Try: pure beef burger with tomato, crispy onion, rocket and tomato relish
Kasteelberg Country Inn and Bistro
Try: pork belly with mash potato and roasted vegetables
Try: pork belly, served with butternut mash potato and soya reduction
Oep ve Koep
Try: calamari babotie, served with sambal and a starch that the chef decides on
Try: roasted duck leg confit, served with vegetables, salad and an orange sauce
Reuben’s Restaurant and Bar Franschhoek
Try: lemon grass and ginger lamb rack, served with a curried apricot butter, fondant potato and asparagus
Try: venison loin, served with pepper glaze, butternut puree, tomato confit and wilted letters
Try: wild mushroom risotto
Wild Peacock Food Emporium
Try: full portion of mussels, served with thin French fries and fresh ciabatta
By Katharine Jacobs and Kelly Pluke