Wednesday, February 12th, 2014by Kelly Pluke, Tracy Gielink and Marie-Lais Emond
Not having anywhere to go on Valentine’s Day doesn’t necessarily mean you are a cat-lady (or man). It could be that your busy schedule has caused you to overlook the red-heart decorations in the display of every shop window; that you don’t have the bank balance to spend on roses, lingerie and imported chocolate; or it could be that you prefer to spend the day alone, watching Suits or playing Xbox FIFA 14. If you’re anything like me, your reason is actually because making the choice of where to spend a romantic evening seems almost impossible. Luckily, this list of romantic restaurants narrows the choices down to suit any stage of your relationship.
Hard to beat an underground dinner for a truly unusual and exciting experience, hosted by The Forum, beneath a 1920’s iconic building in Newtown, the Turbine Hall. Expect burnished metal, beautiful lighting and glamorous décor, along with that lovely food.
Degustation menus at Roots are designed to heighten sensory pleasure, with all that comparing, tasting and sipping of glasses filled with just the right complementary stuff by a sommelier. Before your long and luxurious lunch or dinner, book yourselves one of the Forum Homini cave-like suites for afters.
Instead of a table, book the romantic picnic basket for two at Moemas, making sure it holds enough of Daniella’s not-so-arguably best patisserie in the country. Add your own nectar of Bacchus or Cupid and take it to any shaded spot in one the many lovely parks of Johannesburg, for your very own charming birdsong lunch.
No rosebuds in sight at DW Eleven13 – it’s shaded but not dark, with enough space for intimacy and privacy. The desserts are the deal breaker.
The thrill of dinner in the sky, at 50-60m elevation, is the major ingredient of this arrangement, suspended above the lights of Fourways. A romantic breakfast in the same skybox is possibly even more of a romantic occasion.
DW Eleven13 in Johannesburg
Couples with kids
For the grandest view, way above the treetops of Johannesburg’s north, visit Emoyeni Restaurant. Arrange for a tête-á-tête table on the balcony, order sparkling drinks to match the stars and succumb (after getting a babysitter) to the pleasure of being thoroughly and very quietly pampered.
Prove that a romantic afternoon can include the children by booking your table at La Cucina di Ciro on the beautiful, wide veranda.
La Cucina di Ciro in Johannesburg
More options Bellgables – The surrounding gardens are littered with statues and urns, and the inside of the restaurant overflows with flowers, gilt frames, candelabra and ornate displays on every conceivable surface. Bellini’s – One of Joburg’s favourite brasseries, it’s a guaranteed good date venue. Sit on the veranda or enjoy the bustle in the restaurant by sitting with your knees touching. La Scala – the balcony’s ‘sky’ makes for the perfect romantic setting.
Fun and romance should go together more often, as encouraged by the jovial chef-owner of this eclectically inspired place. La Pentola is not for trad types: the food is an engaging journey of enjoyment, sometimes eccentric.
Somewhere between Paris’ Maxim’s and Klimt’s Vienna, must be the most romantic Highveld spot imaginable. Flowery, yes, but each table area is discreetly set behind its own etched glass. It is easy to see why so many questions are popped here, so take your final coffee or liqueur (with more delicious treats) on the balcony of the tower.
Mosaic in Pretoria
In such a lovely setting at Brasserie de Paris, it’s difficult to decide between the romantic lunch or dinner. Expect helpings of traditional Gallic charm and taste.
The food of love can always be depended on at La Madeleine, one of the better (and very far from the most expensive) restaurants in South Africa. Once past the rustic door and seated, let Daniel Leusch weave his personal magic over you and create deliciousness that’s dedicated to just the two of you.
Couples with kids
At De Kloof, the chefs are incredibly good and the style of food is madly exciting. The view is really pretty by day, set on a golf estate, and beautiful, especially outdoors, by night
De Kloof in Pretoria
More options Kream – Somewhat kitsch, but if your date is impressed by showy decor, this is a possibility. Padbok Thai – The dim sum will have you and your partner sharing and interacting like couples should. Silver Orange Bistro – The food and surroundings transport you to another world. Stef’s Table – The charming interiors and personal service make this a great treat for Valentine’s Day.
Kream in Pretoria
The picturesque courtyard, Italian menu and people watching opportunities at Spiga d’Oro take the pressure off a first time rendezvous. The food is consistently good – order mezze style starters for relaxed eating – and is reasonably priced so there’s no pressure on whoever picks up the tab.
Vibey Café 1999has a casual air, but don’t be fooled as this is for foodies who relish attentive service and interesting wines. Perks? It’s vegetarian friendly; food comes in different sized portions; and, when available, the tuna is the best in town.
Savour cocktails and uninterrupted sea views from the balcony of Bel Punto. The contemporary restaurant produces traditional and modern Italian cuisine from wood-fired oven roasted quail to deep-fried olives, and the seafood is especially good.
Bel Punto in Durban
Handsome Little Havana offers a sophisticated dining experience free of pomp and ceremony. The restaurant is unapologetically devoted to preparing the ultimate steak (we recommend the Greenfields organic ones) but the menu is all encompassing.
Lap up French charm and a colonial atmosphere at Ile Maurice. The décor has not changed – nor has the menu – but therein lies the charm. French classics sit comfortably alongside fragrant Mauritian cuisine, which is strong on seafood and prepared with aplomb.
9th Avenue Bistrois as good as it gets. It’s all in the detail, from intuitive service to an outstanding wine list and beautifully presented food that offers an inoffensive contemporary take on classic fare.
Couples with kids
Sage is the perfect venue for a family Valentine’s Day outing. There are loads of activities and child minders to keep the little ones happy and the kids’ menu focuses on freshly prepared, home-style choices. All of this means mom and dad get to enjoy their gourmet pizza or contemporary café-styled food in relative peace.
More options Harvey’s Restaurant – The beautiful bar and impressive cocktails will have a young couple enjoying the stylish but relaxed setting. Havana Grill – The magnificent view of ocean, mahogany furniture and crisp, white tablecloths, matched with a lamb shank make for the perfect classic date. Plaka (Umhlanga) – The inviting décor is crisp white with touches of ocean blue, which is great for romance.
Harvey’s Restaurant in Durban
Alexander Bar is a great place for chatting and getting to know your date. It has a revolving couch, functioning rotary dial phone system between tables, flattering lighting and soothing music to keep things going.
Rick’s Café Americain has twinkly lights and couches upstairs to facilitate getting to know one another and leaning in close over a plate of tapas. The slightly noisier bar downstairs might also do the trick.
Rick’s Café Americain in Cape Town
The outside fountain at La Mouetteisdramatically romantic, adding to the arena of the grand historic setting. You will feel like a couple falling in love during Victorian times.
At the Green House at Bablylonstoren, sit inside the charming Victorian glass house or outside under the trees and sip on colour-coded juices while you choose from the unfussy menu. After brunch, take a walk in the estate’s lush orchards and gardens.
The historic building of Kitima is gorgeous, with a warm atmosphere that’s thoroughly romantic and a variety of Asian food to satisfy any pair.
Tableside views of the courtyard and pool of quacking ducks atLa Colombemake it the perfect setting to enjoy one of the wines from Constantia Uitsig with your beloved.
La Colombe in Cape Town
Couples with kids
A romantic outing with little ones can be tricky, but with places like Blue Water Café andDunes Beach Restaurant and Barmaking it simple, the kids and your partner will be happy. A beautiful view secures the setting while the play areas will have the kids entertained for hours.
If you’re lucky enough to get a babysitter on Valentine’s Day, Kloof Street House is a great spot to enjoy a candle-lit dinner in a colonial-inspired restaurant. The restaurant has different sections depending on what the occasion is.
Have a romantic breakfast while the kids are at school. Hemelhuijs offers sumptuous dishes and quirky but chic décor.
Claiming to have the best wraps in town, Café Crème is a cosy coffee shop also offering dishes like French toast and the like. Good for a breakfast meeting.
Schoon de Companje is a bustling market-place style eatery with many nooks and food offerings. Perfect for a no-commitment first date, you can stay as long as you like and finishing it all off with a Fanny Chanel ice cream and a stroll in a leafy Stellies lane.
Ryan’s Kitchen is a very intimate, cosy restaurant and you can enjoy watching Ryan cook his imaginative food while being thoroughly spoiled.
Thoroughly romantic, Jordan offers an unbeatable view of a rose-tinted sunset sky over the lake and mountains, and exquisite food and wine.
Tables at 96 Winery Road are well-spaced to allow for comfortable dining, and the quiet background music provides a lovely ambience.
The elegantRust en Vrede is the ideal restaurant to reinforce the relationship between you and your partner. The combination of John’s graceful food, accompanied by superior service led by his wife, Andrea, and sommelier Joakim Hansi Blackadder is the recipe for ultimate romance.
Couples with kids
Immaculately styled and sleek inside with a wide stoep overlooking the lawns, The Kitchen at Maison is beautiful place where the kids can play and keep busy too. Adults can do the wine tasting while sitting comfortably next to each other in the lounge.
The old manor house at Harvest at Laborie makes a light and airy space, whether you’re on the terrace with their amazing views, or settled inside next to a fireplace. There’s a jungle gym and big lawn for the kids to play on.
The riverbank where Postcard Café is located can be very relaxing. Ask to sit outside beneath the leafy trees or on the patio and look out over the perfect reflecting lake with its lily pads, and up the lawns towards the jagged mountains on either side.
Makaron in Stellenbosch
More options Die Rooi Granaat – Wonderful for a romantic adventure or road trip. Emily’s Restaurant – The magnificent view is still the star attraction and the irresistible romance of the Bitou River is best enjoyed late afternoons on the sundowner deck, cocktail in hand. Makaron – The restaurant is coolly modern and elegant with some of the best wines on offer to impress your date.