Heading off on holiday but wanting to keep your meals plant-based? We’ve done the hard yards and found a few of the best veggie food haunts.
A few years ago, meat alternatives on restaurant menus were hard to find without asking for substitutions or omissions to dishes, and exclusively vegetarian or vegan restaurants were few and far between.
Those days are almost in the rearview mirror as we speed past, and most restaurants now offer a decent selection of generally tasty vegetable-focused dishes, and the number of exclusively plant-based restaurants has grown exponentially.
Chefs countrywide are pushing the boundaries and exploring meat-free dining.
1. Plushi, Cape Town
This online, zero-waste, vegan sushi restaurant experiments with vegan and Asian cuisine. It aims to find the best plant-based sushi and deliver it to your door. Look out for the monthly mystery roll featuring exciting flavour combinations. The eight-piece Zebra Roll should definitely be in your order, as should the California rolls with pan-seared teriyaki tofu, brown mushrooms and mung bean sprouts, topped with charcoal-truffle mayo.
2. Nina’s Café, George
The Mediterranean eggs on toast at Nina’s Café are the stuff of vegetarian dreams. Husband and wife team Wern and Tasha van der Watt do fusion food, and all ingredients are sourced locally. The restaurant is not exclusively plant-based, but you can’t go wrong with its veggie offering. The beetroot and butternut salad is an excellent choice for a light lunch, and the naked vegan burger packs a flavourful punch.
3. Leafy Greens Whole Food Café, Muldersdrift
Located on an organic farm, the menu has a wide range of breakfast and lunch options. The vegan pizza is an excellent contender for best in Joburg. But the buffet (served from 11am) is the main attraction – stack up the homemade crackers with a variety of toppings, salads, homemade hummus and fresh bread. The shop also sells various vegan health, beauty and food products.
4. The Fussy Vegan
Go here for some of the tastiest burgers, chimichangas, and subs. And thank us later. A project that was initially set up to disrupt and inspire, it has challenged the status quo – it’s on fire. There are three locations in Gauteng – Blairgowrie, CityROCK, and Greenside – and one in Gardens in Cape Town. If you order only one thing, make it a chimichanga – a wholegrain tortilla stuffed with Beyond chilli, vegan mozzarella, and dirty rice, deep-fried and topped with cashew sour cream, salsa, and guacamole.
5. Saskia Fine Dining Restaurant
Fine dining at the Fusion Boutique Hotel in Polokwane: it’s named after Rembrandt van Rijn’s wife and muse, and is a lovely vegan-friendly option. Every item on the extensive menu looks like a work of art, and is tasty to boot. Order the burnt lime cauliflower starter and the gourmet mushroom risotto; you won’t be sorry. Saskia also has an extensive wine list and a fun cocktail menu.
6. Koekela Café
The quirky house and beautiful gardens are an inviting Bloemfontein haven. Gabrielle Moggee du Plooy invites you into her creative space to taste some of the best treats in the Free State. The menu is vegetarian- and vegan-friendly, and the burgers are a treat – easy on the eye and on the tastebuds. Gabrielle will also make up a road-trip box for a long car ride if you phone in advance. Never drive past Bloemfontein again; turn off the highway and pull up to this gem in Westdene.
7. Divine Foods at The View and Divine ME
Think Graskop and you think Kruger pitstop, a place to stretch the legs and fill the tummy, vegetarians and vegans included. As the name suggests, at Divine Foods at The View, you are greeted by a top-shelf view over the escarpment. But eyes on the menu; the vegetarian platter is a large portion of flavour. At Divine ME, opt for the vegan mushroom burger.
8. Old Joe’s Kaia
If your trip to Kruger, Mozambique or Swaziland has been a long one, and you need to rest your head for a night, Old Joe’s Kaia is the place to do it. The entire lodge is vegan. If you’re staying over, meals are taken at The Seedling Plant-based Kitchen, and are only served to non-residents by appointment. There are also various plant-based cooking workshops.
9. Baobab Wholefood Café
This plant-based and health-focused café is found inside the WERK warehouse in the Lower Baakens Valley in Gqeberha. Here the emphasis is on unprocessed food that is as close to its natural form as possible. The entire menu is vegan, and gluten-free options are available. When the Eastern Cape wind is rough and chilly, the macadamia and amaranth porridge is comfort food at its best, the topping of dried white mulberries attractive and tasty. If you want, you can also check out more restaurants in Gqeberha.
10. Café Zest
We’re going to go out on a limb here and say that the Gourmet Vegetariano Pizza is one of the best pizzas in the country. And not just because the drive to Upington from, well, basically anywhere takes forever. It’s our go-to on road trips to the Kgalagadi, and it never disappoints. Ask the waiters for recommendations – and trust us when we recommend the Go Green Pasta and the toasted sourdough with mushrooms and avo. This is how you make a vegetarian menu.
ALSO SEE: Vegetarian lentil bobotie
A version of this article originally appeared in the February 2023 print issue of Getaway by Mart-Marie du Toit
Feature Image: Unsplash