Purée, emulsion, gel, jus, sorbet… There’s no denying that fine dining incorporates seriously fancy food and chemistry-kit techniques. But it’s also about creating the experience of a lifetime. It’s not everyday dining, and that’s precisely the point. Fine dining surprises the taste buds with playful and clever combinations, imaginative storytelling, and presentation that makes you gasp (and want to pull out your phone to capture the moment forever). It’s just this which makes them perfect for commemorating an anniversary, celebrating a birthday or making memories with somebody special. On 25 November we announced the Top 10 restaurants in South Africa. None in your vicinity? Here’s our ‘best of’ guide to the fine dining options all around South Africa.
Clico Boutique Hotel
Eat Out recommends: Butternut squash velouté with walnut foam and exotic mushrooms, or St James Scotch Reserve gravadlax with a herb salad. For mains, try grass-fed fillet rolled in soft herbs, topped with horseradish butter, and served with fondant potatoes and a thyme jus.
Cube Tasting Kitchen
Eat Out recommends: A ‘brownie’ of swarthy choc pasta or the yellow-spiced crab bisque with candied fennel.
DW Eleven-13 (No. 6 in the Top 10)
Eat Out recommends: The springbok tataki served with nori and beetroot gel; roasted chicken served with braised lettuce; or the grapefruit-glazed salmon with candied fennel.
Eat Out recommends: Parma ham with apple clove chutney, melon and parmesan, or a duo of frog legs and snails with traditional garlic parsley butter.
Rambling Vine at Mount Grace
Eat Out recommends: Snails and shimeji mushrooms in puff pastry or potato and grilled garlic soufflé as starters. For mains, order Belgian seafood stew, served with a liquorice cream infusion, or an elegantly dainty deboned quail with a pickled tongue farce, served with pomme Dauphine and thyme jus.
Roots at Forum Homini
Eat Out recommends: Bouillabaisse of root vegetables; duck from head to toe (breast, confit leg tortellini and foie gras foam); or the springbok served with a cocoa bean ragout.
The Saxon (now Five Hundred and Saxon Qunu Grill)
Eat Out recommends: Sweetmeat tortellini; springbok with polenta and sweetcorn; or David Higgs’s broccoli special, comprising pickled broccoli, broccoli purde and a parmesan and hazelnut crumble.
Brasserie de Paris
Eat Out recommends: Goat’s cheese beignet, classic salmon, and the citrus crêpe salad for dessert.
Eat Out recommends: Veal prepared in a mushroom, onion, wine, cream sauce served with fettuccine alla crema, or prepared in coarse peppercorns, flambéed in brandy and cream, and served with fettuccine alla crema.
De Kloof Restaurant
Eat Out recommends: Caramelised pearl onion and Jerusalem artichoke tarte tatin with thyme, Szechuan caramel-toasted hazelnuts and gratinéed goat’s camembert. For mains, order slow-braised oxtail ragout, or veal brisket with truffle mash, a melange of wild mushrooms and rosemary jus.
Granita Signature Restaurant
Eat Out recommends: Rack of lamb, braised springbok shank, salmon, sole and a vegetarian stack served with basil tomato crostini.
Eat Out recommends: Foie gras; crocodile carpaccio; seared scallops; duck salad with baby spinach, shredded duck, feta, sweet peppers and hazelnut dressing; or steak tartare.
Eat Out recommends: Seared tuna with sesame, tapenade, lemon sauce and quail’s egg; the deconstructed quiche Lorraine; or the tomato soup with a grainy mustard.
Eat Out recommends: Honey-mustard warthog; the homemade ratatouille cannelloni for vegetarians; or the ostrich bobotie flavoured with a traditional Cape Malay sweet and sour curry, apricot jam, cardamom and mustard seeds, topped with almonds, and baked golden brown.
Restaurant Mosaic at the Orient
Eat Out recommends: Tilapia with peas and fava bean ragout; lamb loin with sweetcorn and king oyster mushrooms; or the deboned quail with artichoke crème.
Eat Out recommends: Chilled gazpacho with oven-roasted crayfish tail, or truffle-infused goat’s cheese with marinated vegetables. For mains, order jus-glazed beef fillet or the pan-fried sirloin with mushroom crème and French fries.
Delaire Graff Restaurant
Eat Out recommends: Poached oyster with saffron tapioca and chorizo broth; confit duck with celeriac; or salad of cos lettuce with parmesan cream and smoked beef dust. The slow-cooked lamb neck with white barley, and the pork shoulder with gingerbread French toast and citrus curd are unforgettable.
Haute Cabrière Cellar Restaurant
Eat Out recommends: Spiced Karoo lamb tartare with caper and raisin purée, or pumpkin and lemongrass risotto with walnut and crème fraiche mousse to start. For mains, order salmon trout with roasted apple; wild mushroom open lasagna; or pickled mussel and wild cucumber salad.
Eat Out recommends: Green papaya, mushroom and bamboo shoot salad; seven-spice Thai pork belly; or signature tamarind beef sirloin served in rijstafel style.
Eat Out recommends: Karoo lamb or prawn and chorizo salad with almonds and garlic foam.
Jordan Restaurant (No. 3 in the Top 10)
Eat Out recommends: Mussels en papillote, steaming with lemongrass, ginger, garlic and coconut milk for a starter, or Chalmar beef fillet with marrow and morels for mains.
Eat Out recommends: Vegetable ‘black pudding’ made with beetroot, and served with beetroot tartare and rich, baked crottin; or the fish and vegetable nigiri with pickled cucumber for starters. For mains, a succulent palette of free-range chicken with nasturtium flower beignet, barley and pea risotto, and lemon velouté.
Pierneef à La Motte
Eat Out recommends: Signature bokkom (salted dried fish), pickled ox tongue, snoek and sweet patat.
The Restaurant at Waterkloof
Eat Out recommends: Magaliesberg duck breast, sticky spare rib dim sum, shallot tart tatin, or compressed apple poached in ginger beer.
Restaurant at Grande Provence
Eat Out recommends: Cajun-spiced soft shell crab with red pepper aioli; tom yum goong risotto with shellfish cream; and a teriyaki duck and wild mushroom broth served with a smoky prawn wonton. For mains, braised pork belly with apricot and apple crumble; bone marrow chicken ballotine with pommes duchesse; and roast quail with truffled gnocchi.
Rust en Vrede (No. 5 in the Top 10)
Eat Out recommends: The presse of guinea fowl with foie gras, celeriac remoulade and shiitake, or the pan-seared sea bass with prawn lasagne, gem squash and vanilla bisque. For the more adventurous, the rabbit cassoulet is amazing.
Eat Out recommends: Duck liver parfait in a silky naartjie jelly coating and the baby chicken with sweet corn custard and blood orange purée.
The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Français (No. 2 in the Top 10 and Margot Janse named Chef of the Year 2012)
Eat Out recommends: Skinny chakalala straws filled with creamy mielie meal; potjie bread baked in a blik, served with caramelised butter, curry-dusted slivers and yellow dhal; and Klein Karoo waterbuck loin with sorghum.
Eat Out recommends: Duck liver parfait with beetroot streusel; smoked snoek ravioli with almond crème and butternut velouté; or spiced beef sashimi with wasabi mayo and spiced lemon emulsion. For mains, teriyaki beef fillet with carrot ginger purée and confit potato, or sunflower seed risotto with soya honey-glazed brinjal and coconut.
Eat Out recommends: Rich duck liver pâté with roast pistachios and blood orange jelly, or the rich salmon tian with finely diced fresh salmon, caviar and crème brûlée. For mains, the lamb trilogy of biltong-dusted lamb loin, lamb tortellini, and grilled cutlet with wholegrain mustard.
Eat Out recommends: The Asian-style fried calamari and the pumpkin soufflé with orange poppy seed ice cream.
Eat Out recommends: Classics with a new spin such as the prawn cocktail, chicken noodle soup, tartar or Bea’s rice pudding and cheesecake.
Eat Out recommends: The pig trotter with truffle oil and the apple tart.
Eat Out recommends: Roasted butternut with mesclun leaves and springbok wontons; medium-rare Chalmar sirloin served with a chap chae salad; and a Vietnamese spring roll. For mains try the roasted pork belly; pan-fried calf liver in a calvados sauce; or the line fish of the day.
Eat Out recommends: Spicy Malay omelette for breakfast, or later in the day go for the seafood risotto or the slow-braised springbok shank.
Eat Out recommends: Devilled kidneys and sweetbreads with poached quail egg, and the signature quartet of pork: crackling, homemade sausages, hash brown and belly.
The Greenhouse (2011 Restaurant of the Year and No. 8 in Top 10 for 2012)
Eat Out recommends: Crayfish custard and celeriac espuma; coconut and cinnamon jelly, ponzu snow and ginger aoli; crudités in terracotta flower pots with edible soil; macaroon lollipops and inverted brûlée in an upside down glass.
Eat Out recommends: Bouillabaisse, cheese and truffle croquettes, or the duck rillettes with mushroom brioche.
Eat Out recommends: Yellowtail sashimi with jalapeno, the black cod and the Wagyu beef.
Eat Out recommends: Pan-fried salmon trout with pickled fennel, spätzle, seaweed and curry leaf velouté; the smoked pork neck with sweet potato colcannon, apple and onion purée; or the beef cheek, rib-eye and tongue and cauliflower tortellini.
Eat Out recommends: Pasture-reared chicken, farmed cob, fallow deer or free-range duck and guinea-fowl enhanced by fragrant oils, purées, heritage herbs, berries and vegetables.
The Test Kitchen (2012 Restaurant of the Year)
Eat Out recommends: Dressings and sauces elevate the main ingredient with earthy wood-smoked flavours, piquant Asian ginger, mirin, miso and yuzu jelly, herbaceous varieties of cabbage and cauliflower and earthy beets and leeks. Tender slow-cooked or sous vide meats and poultry contrast with the purity of flavours in yellowtail tataki or trout tartare.
Eat Out recommends: Cape Malay flavours and ingredients such as biltong, samp, milk stout, game and ostrich.
Eat Out recommends: Pan-seared fois gras with date purée, spiced almonds, candied pickles orange and brioche, or the pan-seared scallops with butternut purée, Chinese sausage, salted black beans and rice cakes.
The Grill Room at The Oyster Box
Eat Out recommends: Oysters Rockefeller, crayfish cocktail, gravadlax, steak tartare and a Caesar salad for starters. For mains, confit of duck served with roasted peaches and a honey sauce; braised oxtail pot pie; or pork rib-eye wrapped in bacon and served with a ginger sauce.
Magnolia Restaurant & Cocktail Lounge
Eat Out recommends: A starter of chilli salt squid with papino and avocado carpaccio, aioli and curry oil; and mains of springbok shank, slow-roasted with juniper, clove, nutmeg and cinnamon, and served with caramelised apricots and butternut cardamom mash.
Eat Out recommends: Spaghetti vongole of clams, tomato, garlic herbs and olive oil; or lime prawns with herbed couscous and coriander dressing. For mains, choose between fillet with marrow and Hollandaise; Moroccan-spiced lamb cutlets; or pork belly roll with honey-glazed gravy.
Eat Out recommends: Starters of sirloin steak on ciabatta, or superb Thai chicken cakes with oriental noodles, avocado and wasabi mayo. Main courses include prawn and pea risotto, or steak Benedict (fillet, poached egg, vegetable fingers, a wild mushroom and goat’s cheese slice and classic Béarnaise sauce).
Seven on Kellner
Eat Out recommends: Duck breast with oriental sweet glaze on stir-fried noodles, or homemade beef burger with bacon and jalapeno mayonnaise.
Eleven on Lain
Eat Out recommends: Sundried tomato and goat’s cheese tartlet or masala fish with chorizo risotto.
Eat Out recommends: Seared Szechuan pepper tuna with Japanese radish and cucumber sorbet.