While Cape Town tends to steal the spotlight as far as restaurants are concerned, Johannesburg’s eateries should not be underestimated. Casual cafés, highly memorable fine dining experiences, gritty dinner clubs – you can definitely eat your way around the city’s culinary highlights. Here are some of our personal favourites.
Couple the city’s premier chef with South Africa’s love of cooking with fire, and what you get is one of the top Johannesburg restaurants. David Higg’s stylish eatery for “meat and flame enthusiasts”, has been a runaway hit ever since lighting its first fire in 2016, and no wonder – from its location in the Trumpet building’s top floor space on the Keyes Art Mile (Johannesburg’s growing foodie and art hub), to the action on the grand wood-fired grill, this is Joburg dining at its finest. And it’s not just for carnivores either – Higgs throws an array of ingredients onto the coals, including fish, vegetables and bread.
Lunch & dinner – www.marble.restaurant, 010 594 5550
Sharing a vast, industrial space with the award-winning Mad Giant Brewery in the city’s cool 1 Fox development, Urbanologi whips up a range of irresistible Asian-inspired tapas dishes. Chef Jack Coetzee is on a mission to produce locally sourced, zero waste, nose-to-tail and root-to-tip plates that pack a punch flavour-wise. The menu changes depending on what is available, with taste sensations such as venison tataki with sriracha emulsion and kumquat ponzu leaving enthusiastic diners hankering for more.
Lunch & dinner – www.urbanologi.co.za, 011 492 1399
Café del Sol Botanico
It may be South African, but this superb Italian restaurant is led by two siblings who grew up surrounded by authentic Northern Italian fare which their two nonnas would prepare on a daily basis. Not to be confused with the original Café del Sol Classico, this new reincarnation in Bryanston is set in a lush conservatory complete with botanical art and a vertical garden. The menu carries across some of the Classico favourites (think fresh ragu, homemade gnocchi, seafood risotto and stuffed calamari), but mixes things up with a pizza oven and contemporary southern Italian influences. A slice of bella Italia right in the centre of urban Johannesburg.
Lunch & dinner – www.cafedelsol.co.za, 011 704 6493
For a romantic gourmet evening, head to the hidden gem that is the AtholPlace Hotel in the upmarket suburb of Athol. Part of the brilliant Morukuru Family of hotels, the property’s eponymous restaurant ticks all the boxes – dreamy location amongst lush greenery, a thoughtfully crafted dinner menu, and a relaxing, decidedly non-snooty atmosphere with the most charming service. Start the evening with a glass of wine and canapés in the bar and library, before being escorted to the elegant restaurant, with views out to the manicured lawns and pool. The regularly changing à la carte menu is sure to please all palates, with meat, fish and vegetarian options.
Breakfast, lunch & dinner – www.morukuru.com/places/atholplacerestaurant, 011 783 7553
One of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants (so of course one of the premier Johannesburg restaurants), Marthinus Ferreira’s elegant gourmet temple has been top of many a foodie’s bucket list since 2009. Ferreira loves to experiment with little known ingredients, while also adding his own twists on familiar dishes (including his own childhood favourites). Dip your toes into the fine dining water with the four-course menu, or go all out with the eight-course tasting menu where the dishes are paired with boutique South African wines. This is the kind of place you want to take a date for a special occasion.
Lunch & dinner – www.dw11-13.co.za, 011 341 0663
This unpretentious renovated warehouse in Milpark hits the spot if you are looking for a casual lunch after browsing the local design shops. Find a nook inside or enjoy the alfresco courtyard on warmer days and take your pick from a broad spectrum of dishes, from 5 Spice Calamari, to Mezze Platters and BBQ Pork Belly Rolls. Then there are the handmade burgers (the signature Salvation Gourmet Burger with bacon, caramelised onion, guacamole and cheddar is a hit), plus salads and sandwiches. Oh, and freshly baked bread and cakes.
P.S. You might also want to come back for the excellent breakfast and brunch menu.
Breakfast & lunch – www.salvationcafe.co.za, 011 482 7795
Yeoville Dinner Club
Radio personality Sanza Sandile originally started his hugely popular dinner club as a casual weekend spot for friends to get together and celebrate Pan African dishes. The concept snowballed and turned into a daily lunch and dinner affair, while retaining its intimate concept – with diners hosted by Sanza around an 18-seater table. The mostly vegan menu is made from scratch and features delicious-sounding dishes – think Jolof rice, egusi, okra and mandazi. The tiny, convivial space is the perfect urban location to experience authentic African cuisine and make new friends while sipping on Zulu cocktails.
Lunch & dinner – www.facebook.com/yeovilledinnerclub, 084 447 4235