We spoke to some of South Africa’s top chefs to find out where they eat on their days off.
Karen Dudley, formerly of The Kitchen fame and a tireless champion of the industry, sent us a long list of her recommendations – starting with Downtown Ramen for an easy bite. “The flavours are simple and unpretentious, and it all feels nourishing and satisfying,” says Karen. “The bao are always tempting but the bowls are so substantial that we have learnt to just go for those,” she continues. Another favourite of Karen’s is The Athletic Club and Social in Cape Town’s CBD. “We often have a drink here and sometimes stay for a little boogie!” she says.
Slightly further out of town, we chatted to Protégé head chef Jessica van Dyk to find out her favourite places on a day off. “I recently fell in love with Vadas Smokehouse and find myself visiting more frequently than one probably would think is normal or cool,” laughs Jess. “It offers everything you’d want from a drive out to the Winelands on your day off: a gorgeous location, fresh air and amazing food.” When she makes the drive into Cape Town, she rates Sea Point’s Dahlia on Regent highly: “They will probably become my new hangout!”
While known for its laid-back vibe, there’s some serious eating to be done in Durban. Mathew Armbruster, executive chef of The Chefs Table, shared his little restaurant black book. The spot where you’re most likely to find him on a day off? “Joita’s in Umhlanga. It’s really relaxed, but the food is straight-up delicious!” says Mathew. “Especially when they have fresh sardines – which come roasted and served with lemon. It’s a simple starter, but I could smash 20 of them.”
Mathew also loves The Glenwood Bakery for lunch: “It’s the best homemade bread in Durban, with amazing ever-changing menu options.” A proud player in the KwaZulu-Natal restaurant industry, Mathew says he loves the food scene because of the influences from both the relaxed lifestyle and the beautiful coastline. “Durbanites are very loyal to their local eateries, and it creates a tight-knit community,” he says. “I predict the food scene is going to grow immensely within the next couple of years.”
Though it might not be as scenic as its coastal counterparts, the bustling big city of Joburg is still a culinary force to be reckoned with. The Marabi Club, known for its lip-smacking food and endlessly cool jazz vibes, is run by the equally cool Katlego Mlambo. On a rare night off, he can be found on the vibey Parkhurst strip. “It’s hard to pick, but I love La Boqueria and Modena,” says Katlego. “Modena does this pizza with a giant ball of burrata, loads of olive oil and salt on this beautiful pizza dough. It’s just super simple and honestly delicious,” he says.
When it’s time for a drink, Katlego heads to nearby Rosebank, where both of his top bars can be found – Sin + Tax and A Streetbar Named Desire. “Sin + Tax is this hole-in the-wall spot, and it’s such a cool concept with excellent drinks,” he says. “And Streetbar always has a great vibe with good cocktails.” Katlego says the best thing about Joburg’s food scene is that it plays by its own rules: “You can find everything – from a hearty bowl of pap and morogo made by an auntie in a taxi rank to a world-class dining experience somewhere like Marble,” he explains.