Fondly known as the city of roses and Mangaung (which means place of cheetahs in Sesotho), the bustling city of Bloemfontein boasts a rich cultural heritage. As one of South Africa’s three national capitals (and home to almost 370 000 citizens) it’s no surprise that this city – also an important transport hub – hosts a vibrant restaurant industry. There is something for everyone – carbo loaders can fill up with authentic Italian dishes and pizzas, coffee addicts can sip their fix on the sidewalk and carnivores are treated to perfectly matured steaks. So, if you’re in the judicial capital this school break, make sure to grab a table at one of these restaurants.
Atma Vegetarian Restaurant
If you have an adventurous palette, this is the spot for you. Atma serves authentic vegetarian Indian eats ranging from vegetable samosas, to pakora (vegetables mixed with crumbed bread and deep fried) and Thal (a sweet dish similar to fudge).
Avanti Italian Restaurant
True to its Italian background, Avanti celebrates fresh ingredients. The blackboard menu features a selection of tempting starters, main courses and desserts that change weekly according to availability and seasonality. A highlight is the pepper and pistachio crusted fillet, served with sweet roasted onions and potato dauphinoise.
Famous for their pizzas, Bella Casa also offers an extensive menu featuring pastas, steaks and other Italian dishes. It is housed in a beautiful Edwardian-style house with touches of red décor.
Coco C Restaurant and Chocolatier
It’s not just the crystal chandeliers and velvet sofas that are impressive – the menu sports true gourmet cuisine. You need take only one look (and bite) of the pork belly with fortified chocolate sauce as proof.
De Oude Kraal Restaurant
Lunch and dinner is served by appointment only and is usually a five- or six-course menu. Chef Marie Lombard prepares South African food with heart and skill and her husband, Gerhard, knows his way with wine.
Full House Sushi Bar
If you’re on the hunt for authentic Asian cuisine, the locals recommend Full House Sushi. Standout dishes include the spring rolls and calamari fried-rice.
Nicos and George Papadoulakis, owners of Margarita’s, are all about steaks and seafood. Matured beef steak, rump and fillet are cooked to perfection to cater to the meat-lovers’ craving, while the seafood devotee is accommodated with Mediterranean sole, lobster and prawns.
Fluent in all things that have got to do with Chinese cuisine – not so fluent in English – the staff at Nagoya is still friendly. And they really know how to make a good wonton soup.
New York Restaurant
Dressed as a 1980’s New York steakhouse with portraits of the jazz era on the walls, New York Restaurant is the locals’ favourite steakhouse. The Rump Jack Daniels, one of the standout dishes, is rubbed with mustard, pan fried with crushed peppercorns and lemon, flamed with whisky and finished with Demi-glace sauce.
Serving wholesome, unfussy food, Picnic is aptly named. Make your own meal with freshly baked bread and tapas-style condiments, which include onion marmalade, pickles and cheese. It’s a funky spot for an unhurried breakfast or mid-week lunch with friends.
Seven on Kellner
The restaurant is a gem hidden in quite a gloomy part of town, but chef and co-owner Kim Brackenridge works wonders in the kitchen. Order the mushroom and Parmesan risotto with truffle oil and end with the lemon and ginger crème brûlée.
The Terrace at Oliewenhuis
Situated in one of Bloem’s most tranquil gardens, The Terrace offers a relaxing setting with a semi-Mediterranean menu. The Neo-Dutch style mansion has an African carousel perfect for kids.