Choosing a restaurant for a romantic evening can be a daunting task. Whether it’s a slightly awkward first date or a 30th wedding anniversary, the food and ambience play a big role in making a dining experience a special one. From twinkling sunset dinners to charmed weekend lunches, here’s our pick of the most romantic restaurants around the country.
Buzz 9 Bar & Grill (Melville)
On the occasions when Oh Miss Oh, the funny and lovely burlesque artist performs here, she turns the evenings into charming adventures with a little sauciness. All kinds of couples can smile meaning fully into each other’s eyes over the famous cocktails.
EB Social Kitchen and Bar (Hyde Park)
If you find collections of books very sexy, plus outstanding food from a Michelin-starred chef, you can’t go wrong here. Another tick in the pro column is the 1001 Nights cocktail for two to share. It’s beautiful and secretive – you never know which liqueurs are added to the gin, fruit extracts and ginger – and it’s a marvellous treat to abandon yourself to shared mystery and deliciousness. The tapas-sized dishes also make excellent food to share.
Il Giardino degli Ulivi (44 Stanley)
Despite the Italian name, the feel of the place is of Paris in the spring, at an outdoor restaurant, with a gypsy band playing. The metal café chairs, the water fountains and the sound of conversation and laughter are very romantic. In addition to the pizzas, the food is very good but not so Italian, with offerings like balsamic fillet or prawns with aioli and chips.
La Cucina di Ciro (Parktown North)
Exceptional wedding anniversaries should be celebrated here among the damask roses. Some of the rooms are more intimate than others, but all are gorgeous and softly lit. Owner Ciro, it seems, knows everyone in Joburg, but if this is your first time here, he’ll never forget you. His delicious food fantasies are based on familiar classics.
La Vie en Rose (Illovo)
Breakfast can easily be the most romantic meal of the day – as long as it’s somewhere attractive, preferably outdoors, with the right food and drinks. La Vie en Rose’s garden is perfect.
The Living Room (Maboneng)
The tropical garden in the sky is very lovely, of course, but the romance starts at sundowner time on Sundays, with wonderful snacks and cocktails. As the sun disappears, green and blue lights come up and the band begins. Guests can choose to dance or linger amongst the plants; it’s an irresistible magic garden.
The Local Grill (Parktown North)
Treating a true carnivore to a superb steak is one of the most tender things you could ever do for them. There’s great attention to any and all details to do with meat here, and the ambience is mellow and meaningful in the evenings. Don’t miss that chocolate pudding for afters.
Lucky Bean (Melville)
Ordering a dish to share is always special. Here they serve coq au vin deux a deux: a small whole chicken, served in a bowl with vegetables in an unbelievable sauce, to slice and spoon out between the two of you. The place is a good looker, too, known for fun and attentive service. Lucky Bean is good for an ice-breaker occasion or with your favourite favourite. And don’t miss the messiest, richest chocolate pot in the world.
roots at Forum Homini (Kromdraai)
The food is fabulous, especially when paired with wine, but the Forum Homini suites make this location extra romantic. (You don’t want to drive home after dinner anyway.) Almost hidden around the waterhole, the rooms are cave-like and super sexy. Plus, the next morning’s breakfast is another gourmet treat so you can savour the romance. R420 each for six courses and R140 each for a three-course breakfast (excluding accommodation).
A’la Turka (Centurion)
According to purveyors of fairy tales, grand romances and castles go hand in hand. The Yadah Castle, on the R 21 to OR Tambo Airport, is exactly such a destination. This ever-growing space is the latest residence of a long-time favourite, A’la Turka. They serve very good Middle-Eastern and Turkish cuisine in beautifully lush and seductive surrounds – think cushions, fabric gently swaying in the breeze, candelabras, coloured glass, belly-dancers, and food that you can feed to your loved one by hand. Together you can feast on platters of titbits, saucy bowls with soft flat breads, meat on skewers and gentle casseroles perfumed with pomegranate and rosewater. End the night with Turkish Delight with fresh seasonal fruit or ice cream.
Afro-boer (Die Wilgers)
For those who would prefer to start the day with a grand romantic gesture, how about an early morning breakfast among birds in the garden, with fresh-cut roses on the table and a cappuccino accompanied by tiny heart biscuits? Indulge in a little pan omelette with smoked trout, avocado and crème fraîche paired with Saronsberg MCC Brut, and follow with some salted caramel and chocolate tart to share. For February they’re also offering a red juice with pear and berries, French toast with nastergal jam, pink hibiscus white tea, and a coconut-ice heart to take home. Alternatively, you could recline on a picnic blanket while staff keep you supplied with Suikerbossie MCC and granadilla cupcakes.
Brasserie de Paris (Waterkloof Ridge)
With a huge open-air roof garden and intimate Romeo and Juliet balconies, this is another restaurant for romantic pairs who want a bit of sophistication. They always have Champagne – such as Tribaut Brut Origine NV – and can also offer a kir royale made with Crème de Cassis and Darling Cellars MCC Blanc de Blanc, for those whose romantic inclinations are a little sweeter. Go for the 440g châteaubriand with green beans, pommes frites and béarnaise sauce (R315), which is meant to be shared between two people. Decadent desserts include chocolate and coffee mille feuille with mint ice cream and almond brittle. End the night with a plate of homemade mignardises, truffles, madeleines, financiers and macarons.
De Kloof Restaurant (Waterkloof)
Find a seat outside in the early evening to gaze westwards as the sun sets, then follow it with dinner in this intimate restaurant. The De Kloof team suggests either the classic Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel Rosé (R229) or the stunning Avondale Armilla MCC (R380) as the best bubbles for any celebratory dinner. The menu starts with Summer in Asia, which is an avocado gazpacho with angelfish ceviche, watermelon salsa, tempura mussel, and panko white anchovy. This is followed by Smoky Joe: artichoke and pancetta pearl barley risotto, milk-poached farm chicken breast, confit chicken leg and gizzard pies, smoked tomato butter sauce, and shimejii mushrooms. End the meal with a dessert of hazelnut cheesecake with almond-and-kabocha mousse, white chocolate and pistachio crème anglaise, and strawberries.
Granita at Kievits Kroon (Kameeldrift-East)
It may be a bit of a drive to the outskirts of Pretoria, but Granita is part of a hotel so you can make a night of it. The restaurant is small and intimate, but it is their terrace overlooking the expansive lawns and pools that’s the real gem for dinner for two. With not too much light and gentle perfumes wafting towards you from the surrounding garden, this is big-ticket romantic dining. Menu items that speak the right language include roasted quail, caramelised onion purée, coffee jelly and hazelnut crumble paired with their own Sauvignon Blanc 2013; seared scallops with poached prawn, soy meringue, soy foam and salmon caviar served with Hartenberg Riesling 2012; and vanilla rum mousse, coconut sand and quinoa wafers served with Thelema Muscat de Frontignan 2014.
La Madeleine (Lynnwood)
The restaurant is situated in a lush Pretoria garden, and you can easily ask for a small table to be tucked into a quiet corner. The philosophy of Daniel Leusch and his daughter Anne, who head up La Madeleine together, is to woo a younger generation of patrons by offering them elegance at great value. Their special three-course set menu for the 14th is staggeringly affordable at R230 per person. For starters they present a choice between creamy coconut and cider mussels, crab bisque, or prawn salad with mango and avo. Main course options include Norwegian salmon with béarnaise sauce and crispy pomme paille; veal escalope with a creamy lemon sauce and pasta; and beef short-rib slow-cooked in red wine with sweet potato mash and crispy onion rings. Dessert choices include chocolate cake with fresh mint ice cream or a tartlet filled with a cream of yuzu and apple-and-celery sorbet.
Laughing Chefs Restaurant (Rietondale)
Even the most stoic diner, finding themselves in a lush garden with no less than three waterfalls, a massive fish pond and soft background music, is bound to succumb to romance. The menu offers a number of items that are meant to be enjoyed with a partner and a bottle of Pongrácz (R230), such as the cheese pot with bruschetta (R45), camembert-and-raspberry parcels (R38), or mushroom and blue cheese bake (R50). Other delicious mains include lamb shank (R180) or roast pork belly with verjuice, pears and onions (R150). Desserts include popcorn crème brûlée (R40) or decadent hand-made chocolate truffles (R40) paired with a great coffee or espresso.
Restaurant Mosaic at The Orient (Elandsfontein)
Ask for a private table on the tower balcony if you really want to be alone, but before you get that far, slip into the art nouveau champagne bar for a flute of fine bubbles. Need we say that Chantel Dartnall’s food is some of the very finest – and probably the most romantic – in the land? Here you can pop any question you like. There are extensive menus to choose from at this Top 10 regular, ranging from R1200 to R7350 each. (You can also take a room and spend the night.) To really push out the boat, try the fresh oyster, macerated in champagne and set on a light apple jelly topped with slightly acidic champagne foam and topped with a homegrown pearl set in a spoon of salty sturgeon Caviar d’Aquitaine. The entire dish is presented in a custom-designed, hand-forged glass bowl that resembles a wave washing over the oyster.
Prue Leith Restaurant (Centurion)
This restaurant is situated in a manor house overlooking lush gardens, with elegant interiors and beautiful private spots to dine in the garden. Their Valentine’s Day menu (for R420, or R550 with wine) includes the likes of tea-smoked ostrich carpaccio with Belnori chevre and pomegranate; prawn bisque with tomato and fennel; duck breast and confit leg, quinoa, caramelised baby onion, black fig, summer berries and jus; and Lesotho highlands trout with a quail Scotch egg, beets and peas. Dessert is a strawberry and meringue dish with lemon cake, strawberry mousse, Limoncello curd, meringue kisses, strawberry ice-cream and coulis, finished off with a plate of heart-shaped passion fruit pralines and pink marshmallow friandises.
Priva Gastrolounge (Waterkloof Heights)
It’s the service and unapologetic decadence that makes this restaurant so romantic. With a magnificent view over Waterkloof Ridge (they’ll happily set up a little table for two on the stoep to enjoy the view) and live Jazz every night from Wednesday to Saturday from 7.30pm to midnight, this is James Bond-level, grown-up seduction. Start with Champagne and oysters, then move on to mains like beef fillet in miso cream with exotic mushrooms, and end the night with a hot chocolate fondant. They also offer a very romantic dessert in which hand-made chocolates are paired with specifically selected wine styles to bring out the best in both.
Red Tomato Supper Club (Muckleneuk)
Guests have the option of staying over after a night of eating and drinking in the romantic Rose room, which includes breakfast on the wonderfully old-fashioned stoep the next morning. Guests are welcome to bring their own wine, but you could also opt for the rose-flavoured Cap Classique cocktail. Their five-course menu for R350 starts includes standouts like duck tartare with pickled berries and almond soil, a pâté de campagne with smoked onion served under a little cloche filled with smoke; and chateaubriand to share. Plus there’s always a playful dessert to end the meal.
9th Avenue Bistro (Morningside)
An evening here is a perfect way to celebrate an anniversary or impress the new love in your life – especially if you’re both food lovers. Sophisticated dishes are exquisitely presented, the service is attentive and the wines are delicious. Dishes include roasted butternut squash ravioli with candied pecans, duo of beef with bone marrow and potato mash, or crispy roasted free range duck with pickled plums and creamy cabbage.
Bel Punto (Umdloti)
Guests can savour summer cocktails and uninterrupted sea views from the balcony of this breezy contemporary restaurant. The menu boasts traditional and modern Italian cuisine, from wood-fired oven-roasted quail to deep-fried olives, and the seafood is especially good. The combination of the scenery and the outstanding food make this an ideal treat for a leisurely weekend date. Romantic tip: Share an indulgent espresso crème brûlée to end off the meal.
Café 1999 (Morningside)
This vibrant eatery has a casual yet intimate feel and is perfect for young couples or first dates. The menu has a wide range of dishes in varying sizes, with options such as coriander and potato fish cakes; chicken livers with bacon, garlic and chilli; homemade gnocchi with gorgonzola and butternut; or chermoula-grilled lamb cutlets with oyster-mushroom cream sauce. The wine list is also a winner for vino enthusiasts.
Glenwood Bakery (Glenwood)
By day, this little neighbourhood bakery churns out fresh breads and the best croissants. By night (on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays) it becomes a hip little street-side eatery with simple yet delicious pizzas. For a great first date spot, grab a table on the pavement, bring your own wine and sip out of tumblers while enjoy the balmy Durban weather.
Harvey’s Restaurant (Umhlanga Rocks)
The beautiful bar with its impressive cocktails will set the date off on a festive note. The food is refined yet approachable, and includes a dessert specifically designed with young lovers in mind. The decadent Chocolate Journey for two features brownies, an assortment of imported chocolates, roasted white chocolate and lavender ice cream, homemade fortune cookies, milk chocolate and caramelised-walnut mousse, white chocolate and lime truffles, and comes served with a hot lava cup – the perfect way to end a hot date or an anniversary celebration.
Ile Maurice (Umhlanga Rocks)
A long sunset walk on the Umhlanga promenade can be followed by a meal for two at this intimate Mauritian restaurant. It’s a dreamy spot for both young and old couples and offers authentic dishes such as fresh crab simmered in a light béchamel sauce, bouillabaisse with Saldanha mussels and king prawns, and enticing and fragrant curries. Sit on the terrace and enjoy sunset sea views and a beachy breeze.
Little Havana (Umhlanga Rocks)
Handsome Little Havana offers a sophisticated dining experience for special occasions. The restaurant is devoted to preparing the ultimate steak with options such as rump with a mushroom and herb risotto and horseradish chive butter, or the entrecote béarnaise with shoestring fries. It’s a real treat for meat-lovers but offers some brilliant seafood dishes as well.
Market Restaurant (Morningside)
Whether it’s for a romantic weekend lunch or a dinner under the stars, this tranquil courtyard eatery is a great date spot. Try the pork belly with wine-braised vegetables, or the twice-baked gorgonzola soufflé to start. Mains include fresh line fish, free-range duck, or simple wild mushroom and asparagus tagliatelle. The eatery also hosts wedding functions with space for up to 120 guests and a dedicated wedding or canapé menu.
Bistrot Bizerca (City Bowl)
The courtyard is beautiful and peaceful, making it a serene break from the bustle of the city. Diners can look forward to dishes such as oysters with Cape gooseberry dressing, chalmar beef fillet tartare, grilled sirloin and beef cheek fricassée, and apple tart with crème fraîche ice cream.
Greenhouse at Cellars-Hohenort (Constantia)
This beautiful, tranquil and refined setting could offer a magical evening or afternoon of romance. The food options even include a tasting menu dedicated to the virtues of Dom Pérignon. For R3 600 per couple, the experience includes seven stages paired with the world’s most romantic drink. The menu also features the Four Degrees of Cheese dish, a delicious, luscious experience for the senses.
Kitima (Hout Bay)
This historic building is gorgeous, with a warm atmosphere that’s thoroughly romantic for special dinners or an impressive date night. The menu boasts a variety of tempting dishes, including an array of made-to-share items such as dim sum, sushi and platters.
La Mouette (Sea Point)
Whether you’re outside next to the soothing fountain with the fairy lights twinkling in the trees or in a cosy nook of the beautiful old house (alongside a crackling fire in cooler months), this intimate restaurant is a perfect place to spoil someone special. They also offer a private room with a fireplace for the more reclusive couple.
La Boheme (Sea Point)
Ideal for a first date or a casual couple’s dinner, this neighbourhood wine bar is a comfortable spot for new lovers and friends. Enjoy a range of exciting wines and pair them with bistro-style tapas or a three-course meal. Options include their popular fillet with luxurious mushroom risotto, or made-to-share seafood paella.
La Colombe (Constantia)
A charming treat for an anniversary or a celebratory lunch for newlyweds, the number two restaurant in the country does romantic right. This relaxed yet modern space sits perched on the side of a mountain – the ideal backdrop for lingering lunch with a loved one. In the summertime, guests can enjoy the shaded deck and small umbrella-shaded courtyard. The food is a celebration in itself and will complete the package of the perfect day.
Kloof Street House (Gardens)
This ornately decorated old house is a great spot to enjoy a candle-lit dinner with a dramatic atmosphere. The restaurant has different sections depending on the occasion; on Sundays, there’s a jazz brunch with soothing sounds to suit the loved-up mood. Enjoy casual yet flavourful dishes such as osso bucco with risotto Milanese; fish of the day with truffled cauliflower purée; a wagyu beef burger with camembert and wild mushrooms; and roasted free-range chicken with chorizo and buffalo mozzarella.
Outrage Of Modesty (City Bowl)
Whether you’re meeting someone for a drinks date or are looking for a spot to go before dinner, this is the place to be. The edgy bar recently opened with a reservations-only policy, making it a special experience for trendy lovebirds. Choose one of the seating times and look forward to trying their incredibly creative cocktails like the Berry and the Bee, with wild blackberry flavours, perfumed honey and tangy fennel pollen.
The Pot Luck Club (Woodstock)
You’ll need to book months in advance at this new entry to the Top 10. Situated on top of a silo, the vibrant restaurant offers some of the best views in Cape Town. If you’re lucky enough to get a table next to a window, woo your date with the sparkling views of the city and order a cocktail or two with your mouth-watering made-to-share plates.
This picturesque wine-farm eatery offers an unbeatable view of a sunset sky over the lake and mountains, paired with exquisite food and wine. Expect dishes like trout gravadlax with semi-dried orange, baby beets and buffalo labneh; and crushed broad bean risotto with a poached hen’s egg and ashrind goat’s cheese. To end on a sweet not, enjoy a Jordan Noble Late Harvest with Valrhona white chocolate mousse, blackberry coulis and buffalo yoghurt ice cream.
Makaron Restaurant (Stellenbosch)
The effortlessly chic restaurant is a truly special destination for a night to remember. For a luxurious anniversary present, book a room at the gorgeous Majeka House and head to the restaurant for whimsical dishes such as the starter of ancient grains and silken cauliflower velouté.
Postcard Café (Stellenbosch)
The riverbank where this pretty daytime café is located is a very relaxing spot to recline with your partner. 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 mountains on either side. The menu offers light lunches such as antipasti, crispy prawn salad, teriyaki beef burger, and a cheese-and-preserves plate – all designed to pair with refreshing Stark-Condé wines.
Ryan’s Kitchen (Franschhoek)
Visit this very intimate restaurant for a cosy celebratory date night. Guests can enjoy watching Ryan cook in the open kitchen, turning out imaginative dishes such as seared tuna with fennel kimchi and lemon-and-rooibos jelly; lamb rump with Durban spices, spinach curry and creamed potato; and plum soufflé with a cheeky liquorice ice cream.
Schoon de Companje (Stellenbosch)
This bustling eatery is perfect for a no-commitment first date breakfast. Linger for brunch and enjoy dishes like brioche French toast with apple and brie; smoked trout scotch egg with toasted baguette; or a sharing platter of a variety of breads, meats, cheeses and pestos. Finish it all off with a Fanny Chanel ice cream and take a hand-in-hand stroll around the quaint streets of Stellies.
While we take care to ensure all the information in this story is correct, please note that some items may change without our knowledge.
Have we missed out one of your favourite romantic restaurants? Let us know in the comments section below.