Here’s where to find a true taste of SA in the concrete jungle.
This modern, light and airy restaurant offer space and familiar atmosphere in which to experience Pretoria cuisine. Staff members gladly don items referring to Venda, Shona and Sepedi culture, and there’s also been the odd Basotho blanket or Protea here and there. They open shortly after 7 am when you can order an excellent cappuccino made from beans all the way from Tanzania, or tea from a farm in Malawi. Later in the day, opt for an icy cooler made from cranberries and traditional rooibos. Lunch items that may interest out-of-town guests include livers in sour sauce; spinach lamb salad; smoked pork flatbread with roast apples and farm-style mustard; a shredded lamb sandwich with Mrs Balls chutney; or farm-style fishcakes. They’re famous for their delicious baked goods, so it would be a sin not to have a sweet ending such as granadilla tart, coconut mulberry tart or koeksisters.
Any visitor to Pretoria needs to know these essential words: lekker (delicious), dop (a drink) and braai (barbecue). And at Bra.i, you’ll have the chance to use all three. A culinary homage to the more carnivorous side of South African eating culture (some might call that the main side), Bra.i is just the place for a juicy stukkie vleis (cut of meat), with a cold one on the side. The portions are generous and they offer truly local condiments and sides like chakalaka, pap and roosterkoek. Save a bit of space for the carrot cake.
If you’ve heard about boerekos (traditional Afrikaans dishes), this is the place to get your fix. (And yes, they do have English menus – you just need to ask!) Unusual specialities include skilpadjies (calf’s liver and mince), lamb tripe, venison potjie (stew) and bobotie (minced meat with slightly sweet curry flavours). And, if you’re feeling really adventurous, try the sheep’s head (just be sure to arrange with management a week in advance!). Other hearty, less exotic South African favourites include lamb chops, steak and oxtail.
Located in the heart of Pretoria’s diplomatic hub, Café 41 is just the spot for out-of-towners in search of a welcoming ambience, free WiFi and something scrumptious. It’s a neighbourhood favourite, but with an international feel and invariably smiley service. Easily accessible via the Fountains Circle, Café 41 is an ideal choice for business travellers who need a central location for a quick coffee meeting – or tourists en route to the Voortrekker Monument or Groenkloof Nature Reserve. The coffee is excellent and the vast menu boasts Mediterranean classics like meze and moussaka, but with an unmistakeably South African slant. Vegetarians are well catered for.
? Available for online bookings on the Eat Out app.
For the past 40 years, feeding tourists has been a regular feature of La Madeleine’s monthly roster. If you don’t enjoy the lilt of foreign tongues and a packed restaurant, it’s best to go on a day when there’s no large bus parked outside the restaurant. Start with a lovely authentic mushroom soup, followed by Wildebeest tongue poached in stock, served at room temperature with a sharp vinaigrette made with gherkins, parsley and red onions. A little vermillion fish from Mozambique served with beurre blanc could follow, or kidneys of kudu served with a port sauce. For dessert, a slice of banana cake made with rum is served with an orange sauce.
Even though this restaurant, which nestles in the shadows of the Afrikaner Voortrekker Monument, operates only on Sundays, it’s the place to take visitors to experience authentic inland Afrikaner food in a massive buffet. The selection changes often, but usually includes pâtés served with yeasty home-baked bread and possibly even jam; veg such as pumpkin, spinach and beans; a soup, even on the hottest of Pretoria days; a variety of cold cuts and salads; tongue in mustard sauce; a carvery of beef, lamb and pork (a stampede might ensue for the pork crackling); and tripe. Lastly, the dessert table – which will transport those of a certain age back to the church bazaars of their youth – groans under such delights as sago pudding, malva pudding and sweet dumplings.
Take your taste buds on a culinary exploration beyond South Africa’s borders and try some West African classics at this chilled out restaurant in Groenkloof. The jollof rice with your choice of meat is a must. For a truly authentic West African experience, try the goat meat or fish pepper soup. If you’re around on the last Sunday of the month, pop around for the lunchtime buffet and savour some exotic tastes from Senegal, Nigeria and beyond.
At Savanna, chef Felix Okochi serves food from the Congo, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Gabon, Nigeria, Benin and Mali. The restaurant is centrally located, almost on the doorstep of the Pretoria Art Museum. To quench your thirst, ask for home-made lemonade with fresh ginger called yamamkongui. Also, try the jollof rice, okra stew served with semolina, a cassava and couscous dish, fried plantains or egusi, a stew made from calabash seeds. Bring visitors to this lovely little restaurant to hang out with diplomats and listen to the chatter in myriad different languages.
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