Coming to the City of Gold for the first time ever is exciting and intimidating. You could easily go broke trying to visit every restaurant in the city, but while there will always be plenty of people chasing the next hot things – unicorn hot chocolate and black charcoal burgers – there are certain restaurants that have outlasted the rest. Let us take some of the pressure off by suggesting where to eat.
Mad about meat?
In a town of big deals making big deals, Wombles is prime decision-making territory. Or, you know, just a perfect place to have an incredible meal. There’s a reason why this protein-heavy eatery has been around for an amazing 36 years – it’s where big contracts are signed, first dates turn into steady relationships and meat-eaters find solace with other like-minded omnivores. Owned and run by husband-and-wife team Duncan and Yvette Barker, this steakhouse stands out from the rest with white tablecloths, polished silver, elegant glass and an African safari theme running through. Chef Duncan mans the open grill like nobody’s business, so whatever you order, you’ll be in good hands. We highly recommend the fillet on the bone topped with a porcini, mixed mushroom, red wine and marrow bone sauce as well as the grilled prawns served in the shell with a garlic, lemon and parsley butter and a peri-peri sauce – they’re worth the meat sweats and they’re worth the splurge! Don’t think about skipping the avocado ritz starter though – nor the rosewater ice cream dessert filled with Turkish delight, nougat, chocolate and rose petals, topped with a raspberry sauce.
G9 & G10 Hobart Grove Shopping Centre, 88 Hobart Road, Bryanston
011 463 8558
Countless bowls of soothing ramen can be found across Joburg, but Love Me So stands out for its overall quality. The usual noodle-bar gimmicks aren’t part of the equation here – from rich pork-based soups to modern, fusion versions, this noodle-in-broth joint offers the best ramen in the City of Gold! Nab one of the few bar stools outside and dive into ‘izakaya’ or small plates made for sharing first. We recommend the spicy soya and honey chicken wings glazed with sesame and chilli; the light homemade gyozas stuffed with fresh prawn, ginger, garlic, chilli, spring onion and coriander; and tempura squid with a perfectly golden-brown crunch. Next, order the toridashi ramen – a buttery pork and chicken broth stocked with hot garlic, sesame paste, miso corn, homemade kimchi, bok choy and sheets of nori, topped with thin, tender slices of marinated chicken breast. The flavours are bold, the intimate space is tightly packed and the staff are friendly – that’s why we love this gusty spot. And did we mention the Hidden Dragon cocktail made with fresh basil, tequila, lemon, lime and pineapple? Served with a Cream Soda Fizz Pop on top, it’s an absolute must-order!
63A 4th Avenue, Melville
060 717 6728
Chippin’, dippin’ and margarita sippin’
From tip-top tostadas to brilliant burritos and exemplary enchiladas, Perron puts the ‘fun’ in fundido. All the trademarks are here at this taqueria built for Jozi’s hungry hordes: A low-lit, inviting space, strikingly modern design, cherry staff, easy-listening grooves and Mexican food with a hipster spin. Generous tacos served with lashings of old-school hospitality is the deal here – the battered masala cauliflower and broccoli tacos hit the spot, as do the adobe marinated prawn and beer-battered avocado tacos. Head to the bar for cocktails and nibbles like the Jalapeño & Coriander Margarita and a side of Killer Guac – avocado salsa served with tortilla crisps – or spinach and trio of cheese filled Popeye Empanadas. Or, sit in the main space for full-on nosh – perhaps jalapeño poppers served with homemade fire-roasted tomato salsa followed by the Veektor burrito stuffed with chipotle chicken and Spanish onion or the Oh Happy Glaze pork belly bathed in chilli, lime and agave. Whatever you do, don’t leave without trying the churros served with your choice of a chocolate or coconutty dulce de leche dipping sauce. There are punishing shots of mezcal too.
Take note: Perron in Illovo has sadly closed down.
Shop D3A, Hobart Grove Shopping Centre, corner of Hobart & Grosvenor Roads, Bryanston
011 706 7841
Tapas is a celebration of life
One of the city’s hippest tapas-restaurants-cum-cocktail-bars, A Streetbar Named Desire is a lusty space and welcome oasis on the fringes of Parkwood. Plush couches, velvet-fringed barstools, deep jade-green walls, a marble-topped bar and views similar to Marble offer a nice backdrop to the piquant, Middle Eastern/Ottolenghi inspired cuisine. The restaurant is authentically Middle Eastern yet inherently Joburg: Standards like the courgette fritters served on a bed of cucumber yoghurt dipping sauce and the smoked paprika fried squid with lemon-za’atar aioli are well executed, but more inventive dishes like the grilled lamb chops with apple, harissa and green tahini and the Iraqi spiced chicken breast with garlic, almond and parsley relish and chicken and chicken crackling are more interesting. Other standouts include the fiery prawns with a yoghurt dipping sauce, the Baharat rubbed sirloin with cardamom reduction and the salted almond and amaretto ice cream with anise biscuits. Cocktails are another main attraction – we recommend the Silver Cloud (gin, peach shrub, lavender syrup, lemon juice and egg white) or the Coffee & Croissant (brown butter gin, coffee, vanilla syrup and tonic water).
Parkwood Mansions, 144 Jan Smuts Avenue, Parkwood
011 268 6485
Fire up the grills
Come to Banchan Korean Restaurant, the city’s finest do-it-yourself Asian meat mecca, with a hearty appetite. This petite and unassuming Korean BBQ restaurant is located just a few blocks from the epicentre of Sandton but feels worlds away. The fun, shareable nature of this tradition makes it a popular group dining affair – each table is outfitted with a barbecue burner, and owner Jamie will not only help you navigate the menu but show you how to cook at the table. K-pop blasts through the speakers as crowds chow down on family-style plates KFC (Korean Fried Chicken) in your choice of herb fried, spicy sweet and soya garlic; mini chicken wings in a fierce chilli sauce sprinkled with sesame seeds; and deboned chicken balls lightly coated with mustard, wasabi and soy sauce, topped with spring onion and mustard seed. Adventurous eaters should try the steamed king-size Korean gyoza dumplings stuffed with pork and vegetables followed by the beef short rib marinated in a soy sauce mixture and served with pickles and fresh cos lettuce. Once you’ve had your fill, try the matcha green tea ice cream that has a complex flavour and texture that’s sure to amaze your taste buds.
Corner of 10th Street & Elizabeth Avenue, Parkmore
072 913 3269
The smallest fine dining room in Jozi
In a city as big as Joburg, intimacy isn’t something that’s particularly easy to come by, but La Petite Maison has managed to carve out its own tiny, delicious space on the Melville dining scene. The size of the tasting menu (your choice of four or six courses paired with boutique wines or unpaired) matches the minimal surroundings, with just a handful of meat, fish and veggie dishes available. We recommend opting for four courses with wine pairing, which costs R900 per person. Start with the Kalahari ostrich tartare balanced with avocado purée, deep-fried shiitake mushrooms, trout caviar and radish followed by the market fish and prawn – a new dish featuring market fish done two ways (pan-fried and tartare) accompanied by a tempura prawn, mango, Thai laksa and coriander mayo. For the third course, vegetarians will appreciate the pan-roasted king oyster king oyster mushroom and gorgonzola sauce, while meat-eaters must try the skoppo ravioli filled with the best bits of braised sheep’s head and shoulder. Dessert welcomes a feast of fusion – the lavender and honeycomb with dehydrated milk foam, honey mousse, almond crumble and almond ice cream is a flavour explosion.
1 7th Street, Melville
010 593 7986