With everything from genuine Indian spices to craft beers to chocolate-drizzled cakes, Joburg is a truly global culinary experience – all in one city. Here are five of our favourite restaurants our diverse metropolis has to offer, each perfect for a unique dining out experience.
Brothers and owners Marco and Fabio have a vision for their establishment: restaurant-come-deli with great coffee and that ‘neighbourhood-local’ feel. Their style is traditional Italian using robust flavours. Says Marco, “Roman cooking is bold – there’s nothing vague about it. We’re giving people that old Italian taste, but still in keeping with modern times and ingredients. “The South African palate has evolved to understand more traditional Italian cooking. Twenty years ago, if you ordered a cappuccino, you got filter coffee topped with whipped cream – now everybody offers real espresso.” The oxtail, carbonara and Amatriciana are all made as they would be in Rome, but they’ve also adapted their menu to local tastes in offering gluten-free options and pizzas with toppings like pulled pork and brisket. Dinner is always busy, and lunch and breakfasts are heating up!
Vilakazi Street enjoys its glut of Kwaito-thumping, tourist-trap taverns. So, how nice to see a sleek, minimalistic, vuvuzela-free bistro on this famous street. I grazed on the Thrive beef burger, which had just the right silky soft blue cheese-sauceto-meat ratio, so that it didn’t dribble out of the bun. The juicy lemon-butter fillet cubes arrived in a sapid broth perfumed with pan-crisped rosemary and was utterly delicious. Thrive’s food is rich and luscious, and designed to be looked at, much like the restaurant’s architectural aesthetic itself: cement-screed interiors, stylish lighting and plate-glass windows that open Soweto like a book. Java junkies will appreciate the beans – a special blend conjured uniquely for Thrive by the barista from the quality-strict Culinary Equipment Company, which make the brews very, very gluggable.
Expect pukka North Indian dishes with no fanfare – the marinated ‘Drums of heaven’ chicken drumstick starter is a must, and the cut-with-a-spoon tender lamb curries are perfectly spiced. Add a glass of craft beer from the choice of microbrewers on the menu and you’re sorted – there is a select range of dark and pale ales from the likes of Cape Brewing Company, Darling Brew, Jack Black Brewing Co. and others. Note the Tuesday night special of a complimentary craft beer with your meal. Having seen the speed at which I annihilated the butter naan, the super-efficient waiter delivered a second round of crispy, hot garlic naan within minutes.
Belle’s Patisserie is an award-winning patisserie where a love for food, a passion for baking and an enthusiasm for creating mouth-watering taste sensations abound. Belle’s prides itself on creating fresh, wholesome, sweet- and savoury food that’s packed full of flavour, offering an extensive range of decadent pastries, cakes, tarts, desserts, biscuits, speciality cakes and savoury platters that add a sumptuous touch to any celebration. While famous for delectable sweet treats, Belle’s also creates delicacies for even the most health-conscious – their trademarked ‘Skinny Menu’ boasts a variety of Banting, Paleo and low-GI alternatives. They also provide executive catering for any occasion.
Combining the raw and refined, The Potato Shed embodies the spirit of a bootlegger brewery, coupled with that of a Southern American-barbecue smokehouse, and the menu boasts beautiful, modern dishes prepared in pit smokers, fire pits, robata grills and wood-fired ovens. Diners will feel the heat, see the flames lick and watch the smoke drift lazily from the open kitchen, all the while overlooking the iconic Market Theatre and Miriam Makeba Square. At The Potato Shed, the humble spud is king – enjoy it slashed and stuffed with truffle mozzarella, soya-glazed mushrooms and salsa verde; fried with black salt and saffron mayo; or smashed with garlic, truffle oil and horseradish, to name a few. There is a wide selection of locally sourced craft beers to choose from, as well as an artisanal, local gin range, craft tonics, oak barrel-brewed cocktails, and cocktails on tap. This edgy, steampunk-inspired restaurant makes for the perfect go-to destination for urbanites frequenting Newtown.