• A taste of coriander-spiked biltong can transport you to the heart of the Karoo, just as a grating of Parmesan says ‘Italy!’ in a bite. Food and flavours can transcend boundaries, both figurative and literal. Try these trusted establishments for a taste of anything from Athens to Addis Ababa.

    Big Time Taverna – Greece

    Big Time Taverna is an institution in the Eastern Cape and a must-visit destination in the canal town of St Francis Bay. It’s run by the same Greek family who opened it more than 25 years ago. Today, Melina, Alexi and Nikita Tsiotsiopoulos honour their late husband and father Peri Tsiotsiopoulos’ legacy with authentic Greek food and drinks served at their prime canal-side spot. The seafood options, naturally, are impeccable, as are the traditional Greek meze. Order a plate of hummus and warm pitas with sheftalia. This fatty pork, lamb and beef mix sausage is wrapped in caul fat and grilled to perfection. Wash down the fatty flavours with some Ouzo for a real anis-infused Greek send-off.

    Mayotte Cir, Sea Vista, St Francis Bay, Eastern Cape

    Nolio – Italy

    This little bistro in Gqeberha’s vibiest street makes the best, authentic Neapolitan pizza in South Africa. Chef and owner Jonathan Gunston only offers a small selection of pizza options, done perfectly. The chewy fermented crust is thin on the inside but with a bubbly dough rim holding snug the most flavourful tomato sauce and toppings. Apart from the pizza, Jono’s renowned for his seafood offerings. The whole baked linefish is seared in the wood-fired pizza oven with garlic, wine and cherry tomatoes, giving it that sublime woodsmoked aroma.

    Stanley St & Moffat St, Port Elizabeth Central, Gqeberha

    Addis in Cape – Ethiopia

    Since its opening in 2007, Addis in Cape has become a Mother City institution that offers a delicious window into Ethiopian culture. For first-timers, go with your servers’ recommendation and get the big sharing plate with a selection of various curries and stews. The vegetarian and vegan options are fantastic and it’s great fun mopping up the flavourful stews with rolls of tender injera – a traditional flatbread of sour fermented teff flour. End the meal with fresh popcorn and a cup of strong black coffee, as one does when in the real Addis Ababa.

    168 Loop St, CBD, Cape Town

    Izakaya Arata – Japan

    Chef Arata Koga of Izakaya Arata lives above his tiny Japanese eatery in the renowned Gqeberha restaurant strip of Stanley Street. He constructs every steaming bowl of ramen and slices each sliver of fresh sashimi himself from behind the kitchen counter overlooking the eatery. The menu changes regularly, but pray his shiitake tempura plates are available. In winter, nothing beats his pork chashu (braised pork belly) ramen bowls and for summer, there’s always sushi.

    15 Stanley St, Stanley on Bain, Port Elizabeth Central, Gqeberha

    Marble – South Africa

    Every eatery in Mzansi is technically a South African one, but not many celebrate the soul of South African food as well as Marble. ‘Meat and flame enthusiasts’, as they describe themselves, is just a polished way of saying, ‘Ons gaan nou braai’. Acclaimed chef and TV personality David Higgs is the mastermind behind this distinguished establishment, serving up authentic South African classics in a world-class way. Karoo lamb roll, for one, is served with chakalaka while other classics like fried bread, tamatiesmoor and the beloved braaibroodjie all feature on the high-profile menu.

    Trumpet on Keyes Corner 19 Keyes and, Jellicoe Ave, Rosebank, Johannesburg

    The Spice Emporium & Snack Bar – India

    The Harie family with its rich, 101-year-old legacy in the spice industry is the force behind The Spice Emporium’s success, which has grown from strength to strength over the last 34 years. The shop is adored by foodies across SA for its amazing masalas, and no self-respecting cook would ever leave Durban without swinging by Monty Naicker road first. Nowadays, thankfully, their online shop ships those iconic spices straight into your kitchen. The Spice Emporium’s equally famous Snack Bar inside the shop offers Indian street food, aka chaat, for hungry shoppers.

    33 Monty Naicker Rd, South Beach, Durban

    Lebanese Bakery and Kitchen – Lebanon

    You’ll be pressed to find pitas as poofy and fresh as the ones pulled from the Lebanese Bakery and Kitchen’s oven every day. Owners Khaled El-Alfy, and Clara Bubenzer believe in creating their Levantine dishes with love and have crept into the local southern suburb’ers’ hearts in record time. The cumin and garlic-spiked falafel sandwich will melt your heart, especially when enjoyed with a slow sip of cardamom-laced Turkish coffee. Mother City dwellers would be happy to know that a second store recently opened in the Cape Town CBD on Constitution Street.

    203 Imam Haron Rd, Claremont, Cape Town

    Bierfassl Restaurant and Pub – Austria

    It’s known among Midlands’ locals as ‘the home of the crispy eisbein’ and this unsuspecting little Austrian pub sure knows how to cook a hog’s hind leg! The pub is especially whimsical in winter when the snow covers the roof and fence – transporting patrons to a traditional Austrian eatery complete with sauerkraut and weissbier. A nod to their name, Bierfassl (meaning ‘beer barrel’ in German) offers more than 35 different beers from around the world, including tall draughts from Nottingham Road Brewery down the lane.

    Rawdons Estate R103 KZN Midlands, Nottingham Road

    ëlgr – Sweden

    The icy North meets sunny South Africa in chef Jesper Nilsson’s ëlgr on Kloof Street. The menu is very much a global celebration of fine cuisine, with a subtle but distinct nod to chef Nilsson’s Swedish roots. Ingredients like beetroot, Brussels sprouts and pork poke their head out in various creative eats, including on the Neapolitan-style pizza. (Don’t judge it until you try it!) Try the moreish charcuterie board with cured meats and pickles to kick off or opt for the curated chef’s sharing meal to get a holistic taste of chef Nilsson’s inspired creations.

    75 Kloof St, Gardens, Cape Town

    Restaurante Parreirinha Johannesburg – Portugal

    One of the stalwarts of Joburg’s eclectic food scene. The quaint spot in the heart of La Rochelle sits inside an old police station and has been serving criminally good Portuguese food for over 47 years. The joint was initially opened by two brothers-in-law in July 1975 and today still, the rich and tangy trinchado is stealing hearts.

    9–6th St, La Rochelle, Johannesburg

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    Written by Louzel Lombard Steyn for Food&Home Autumn 2023.

    Feature image: NOLIO/Facebook