One thing is for sure: You don’t need to spend thousands of Rands in the City of Gold to have an exquisite dining experience. We’ve crisscrossed the city to dine our way throughout Joburg to bring you these places that you actually can (and really want to) eat at, whether you’re looking to splurge a little or it’s rent week.
Best for: A dining chair tour of South America
This brand-new addition to Linden’s dining scene doesn’t muck around! The people have spoken, and the people want meat. Gaucho Restaurant, translating to a native cowboy of the South American pampas, is devoted to the food cultures of South America, from the steak-loving plates of Argentina to the simple everyday dining of Chilean family meals.
The restaurant lays its carnivorous scene at the entrance with an impressive black bull’s head sculpture. The interiors are very masculine – think a blend of charcoal and wooden walls, black wooden furniture, hanging light fixtures and pot plants, and touches of black and gold décor throughout. Dining here is like being transported to Buenos Aires, where cowhide in its various forms covers the menu … and every other available surface.
Chef Nikita Zoulis’s uncomplicated menu holds a few surprises, though patrons are pleased to discover that almost everything is flamed over an open fire. Keep in mind when plotting your meal that this is not a small-plate restaurant – the portions are generous and rich. We recommend starting with some freshly made empanadas: Beef with root vegetables, lemon chicken with leeks and fresh herbs or spinach with creamy Danish feta. In our opinion, these pockets of flaky, buttery pastry are the best in town! Or try the stuffed brown mushrooms served with toasted walnuts, garlic and parsley – a classic, crowd-pleasing appetiser with a warm and hearty flavour combination.
For mains, the rump steak is the perfect cut for the bold flavours of the chimichurris on the table – order it with a side of the red cabbage and carrot slaw. Another specialty that packs a punch is the grilled Chilean sea bass with a toasted almond salsa, which is complemented well by a side of roasted baby brinjals. The menu also offers mains like a whole spring chicken marinated in lemon, rosemary and garlic, an aubergine parmigiana and braised black bean chilli. Three courses may defeat even the heartiest of appetites, but if you can manage dessert, you’ll be spoilt for choice with options like crêpes with strawberries, old-fashioned gingerbread with molasses whipped cream and sorbet.
We must also mention that the wine list is extensive with a great selection of meat-friendly wines plus the waiting staff are passionate about meat and delight in sharing their knowledge. We highly recommend Gaucho for a casual date night … or a night where the food is more important than the conversation.
67 7th Street, Linden
Best for: Carbo-loading like a true Italian
If you’re craving fritto misto di pesce, melanzane alla parmigiana, aglio olio e peperoncino and the best pizza in Joburg, you’ve come to the right place. In the Trumpet Building Atrium situated at the heart of Keyes Art Mile art precinct in Rosebank you’ll find trendy authentic Italian restaurant, Sotto Sopra that opened its doors late last year.
Translating to ‘upside down’ or ‘topsy turvy’, the restaurant’s name pays homage to its bold, dynamic, playful and colourful aesthetic. There are two levels – the first area extends the idea of the traditional Italian trattoria experience and serves thin-base Roman style pizza and in-house handmade pasta in an open, relaxing and flamboyant dining area, while the other area offers a luxurious dining experience in a space decked with a luscious floor-to-ceiling plant wall and comfortable, cosy seating all behind glass doors looking out onto the buzzing city.
Sotto Sopra uses the ethos that Italian food is all about using fresh ingredients to create extraordinary dishes as its foundation, and simply adds its own ‘spice’ to the food to make it suitable to the South African palette. Start with an order of Sotto Foccacia generously topped with prosciutto crudo, burrata, roasted peppers, marinated aubergines and pesto or the crispy blend of fried seafood and the paper-thin, tender slices of rare sirloin. Then dig into a bowl of carbonara with seasoned pork cheeks and silky spaghetti smothered in some of the creamiest, cheesiest sauce we’ve ever tasted.
There are plenty of mains to choose from, but you can’t go wrong with pizza – especially if you’re ordering the La Collina crowned with gorgonzola, avocado, chilli and garlic or the Prawn Paradiso garnished with peri-peri prawns. For dessert, there’s tiramisu, limonmisu, affogato, vanilla panna cotta and more. You can also expect to indulge in classic Italian cocktails like the Aperol Spritz, Negroni and Americano as well as Malfy G&Ts. Sotto Sopra is turning Italian cuisine not only with its à la carte offering, but six and nine course tasting menus with wine pairings too.
21 Keyes Avenue, Rosebank
010 824 0777
Best for: Brunch … mimosa … repeat
We like to live by the words ‘work hard, brunch harder’, so seeking out the best brunch in Jozi is a weekend ritual for us. Sure, we want fresh oysters and perfect eggs benedict, but we’re looking for more than just breakfast – it’s a bottomless boozy brunch we’re seeking to make it feel like it’s truly the weekend. The good news is that we’ve finally found it at the historic Hallmark Hotel in Maboneng.
Interesting fact? The Hallmark House was built in 1970 and used to be a diamond-polishing centre. Today, the 46-room Hallmark Hotel offers two in-house restaurants – The Marabi Club on the ground floor and the 999 Rooftop on the rooftop. Upon arrival for Sunday brunch, you’re taken up to the 15th floor and seated at the newly renovated rooftop restaurant, which offers unparalleled views of the city skyline (get your phone cameras ready!). Here, chef Katlego Mlambo, the 2019 Eat Out Nederburg Rising Star award winner, cooks up a brunch feast that’s tailor-made for imbibing.
His buffet brunch menu features dishes like flaky, buttery and deliciously authentic croissants; an epic charcuterie board filled with cured meats, cheeses, nuts, olives and more; his tried and true Asian-style oysters and ceviche; salmon gravlax with a beautiful dill crust; and sushi, sashimi and build-your-own poké bowls. You’ll also get to choose one hot dish from the à la carte menu – we highly recommend the eggs royale for a luxurious yet lazy brunch. Once you’ve filled your face with all the savoury bits (and we do mean all the savoury bits), check out the giant dessert table.
Brunch costs R350 per person and runs from 11h00 to 15h00 with live DJs starting at 12h00. It’s a good thing that cocktails are easy drinking because you’ll want more than one at the Hallmark Hotel’s Sunday brunch service. For an extra R250, you can order unlimited creative concoctions like the Smoked VSOP or Sunset Kiss, which will entice you to lounge all day and stretch brunch for hours. A cash bar and DJs continue from 15h00 and at 17h00 a tapas menu is offered. Be sure to book at least a week in advance as tables fill up quickly!
54 Siemert Street, New Doornfontein
011 402 0086