The wildness in the name of restaurant and bar The Wild Side in Johannesburg is an invitation. The restaurant’s off-the-wall attitude is about giving the city a different dining experience, offering people a space where they can escape and be comfortable to be themselves.
In these crazy pandemic times, this can mean putting your worries and anxieties on hold for some time while still being safe. Music – comprising of live shows and DJ sets – is an integral part of the experience, so the restaurant is definitely vibrant. However, this vibe and the wild ethos of the eatery come through in a tasteful, understated and controlled manner.
Situated on 6 Burnside Avenue in Craighall, The Wild Side already works with a winning outdoors environment. The space boasts a charming garden where the dining happens. The Library and the Patio sections are used to host private functions. Then there’s the bar and the retail section selling chic homeware.
The quirky, quaint décor boasting animal prints, animal-themed art and bold colours and textures captures the liberating philosophy of the place. This quirkiness is also echoed in the food.
Extensive, with sizable vegan options, the menu offers breakfast, light meals, salads, pizzas, burgers, rolls, sandwiches, mains, desserts, wines and cocktails.
Its personality shines through in the fun names of the dishes that hint at the ingredients and the approach.
Pizza titles such as The Dad Joke – cheesy and smothered in mozzarella, mature cheddar, gorgonzola and parmigiana – or Don’t Cry for Me – giving a nod to Argentinian influences with its beef strips, caramelised onion and chimichurri – are a clever mind exercise. The witticisms in other dish names may prompt questions, and this is deliberate.
“When we wrote the menu, we did it so that the headings are something you will have to think about to give people an experience. I want people to experience the menu, and not just read it and say give me that. The problem with hospitality in this country is that people don’t engage and we want that to change,” says owner Yanky Woolf.
His signature welcoming gesture is an offering of a shot of tequila.
“We offer an off-the-wall experience, which may not be to everyone’s taste, and that is okay. But we take our food very seriously,” he says.
After being in the hospitality industry for 30 years, Woolf teamed up with partner, Stephen Papale and chef Sean Haarhoff to open his first restaurant. The Wild Side targets the 30+ market. Breakfast is available from Friday to Sunday from 9am to 12pm. You can enjoy lunch and dinner from Tuesday to Saturday. On Sundays, only breakfast and lunch are available. The restaurant is closed on Mondays.