Get out of your winter rut! Spring is here, which means it’s time to check out contenders for the best new restaurants and seasonal menus in Joburg. From a fancy dinner option at a boutique hotel to an Insta-worthy reimagined Mediterranean joint, these restaurants make the most of local ingredients in season with options to match every mood and palate. Remember: Your next meal is only as good as the foodie points you’ll get for eating it.
Editor’s pick: Ethos Restaurant
Best for balancing your culinary and Instagram interests
Dying to get away? Stepping into this Morningside hotspot will make you feel as though you’re dining outdoors during high season on the coast of Greece. They’ve mastered the art of making us feel like we’re on holiday in both their cuisine and overall vibes. The sleek, contemporary space – featuring the use of wood, brass, terrazzo, marble, ceramic tiles and different textiles as well as a big olive tree in the middle of the restaurant – meticulously lays out the Mediterranean story and is an excellent foil for the colourful dishes.
The artful menu changes with the seasons: The octopus carpaccio with pickled asparagus, pepper emulsion, salsa verde and fried chickpeas as well as the Tuscan chicken with Tuscan sauce, Grana Padana, sundried tomato and edamame beans are both beautiful creations in an ongoing succession of unusual options from the starters section. Most diners here, however, seem to be drawn to the restaurant for the chef’s more distinctive creations. The crayfish moussaka is an unorthodox marriage of supremely tender and sweet crayfish, aubergine, baby marrow, potato, mozzarella cheese and creamy bisque that turns out to be truly inspired. In the tomato and mozzarella tortellini, a decadent, creamy pine nut and sage crème surrounds pillowy-soft tomato-infused pasta filled with marinated mozzarella, balsamic pearls, smoky tomato essence and Parmesan foam that drinks up some of that rich flavour.
Though the food is of the same calibre as top fine-dining destinations, it doesn’t come across nearly as buttoned up. While a good chunk of the dishes live up to the setting, many others – the basic iced platters of raw oysters, the rump with mushroom purée – seem better suited for a more casual meal. The desserts come elaborately plated and are almost too gorgeous to eat, such as the ‘coconut’ filled with caramelia cremeux, which you get by cracking open its hard-shell meringue and dark chocolate exterior. What’s more, the bartenders serve up ’gram-worthy drinks like our favourites, The Berry Finest made with Tanqueray, berry blend reduction and dry vermouth generously topped with dried flowers as well as the All My Peaches; a blend of Belvedere Peach Nectar, macadamia nut milk, orgeat and a touch of Aperol that makes for the perfect summer drink.
Shop 5, Sandton Court, 183 Rivonia Road, Morningside
010 446 9906
Best for a long, leisurely stop for orange juice, bubbly and a #nofilterneeded plate of eggs
Shakshuka haven, Pablo Eggs-Go-Bar may have closed down, but the go-to boozy brunch spot has found a new home in a stylish new Sandton landmark with an expanded menu and trading hours. Modern, minimal and cheerful with a raw industrial edge, Pablo Sandton in the MINT Hotel is an ode to its Melville precursor through its signature colour palette, pressed ceilings and combination of lower banquet seating and more social bar-height tables. With the dining area leading out onto the hotel’s pool terrace, the restaurant attracts a fashion-conscious crowd that also appreciates the quality sharing-style menu of breakfast and brunch dishes, mezze and small plates, pizza, wood-fired grills and Middle Eastern inspired tacos. Perfect portions (not too much, not too little) and perfectly fresh, you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu – but for brunch, the red or green shakshuka bowls, smoked salmon English muffins and oven-baked granola with Greek yoghurt and seasonal fruit with a fantastic mimosa or Bloody Mary draw the crowds. They also serve some of the most scrumptious wood-fired pizzas in the city, which have garnered the owners a loyal following since the opening of Dos Manos.
MINT Hotel, 84 Katherine Street, Sandton
078 206 4463
Best for an approachable and affordable tasting-menu experience
In our opinion, anywhere with a dinner menu that changes with the seasons is obviously doing something right. By placing a refined focus on seasonal ingredients, Basalt offers foodies a multi-course hit list of elevated dishes that don’t skimp on presentation. When it comes to romantic restaurants, the grande dame of The Peech Hotel ticks all the boxes. Candles? Check. Cosy corners? Check. Swish staff and a cosmopolitan crowd? Check, check, check! Here, head chef Feni Malebye-Lutalo serves a showstopping progression of three dishes that won’t leave you feeling uncomfortably full for R395 per head. Upon arrival, guests are pampered with a glass of bubbly followed by a parade of seasonal delights. Expect produce-centric cooking, chef-y compositions and hints of traditional Asian flavours. The beetroot cured salmon with beet purée, salmon roe and dill gel is almost too pretty to eat, but you’ll most definitely dig right in anyway. What to order for mains? The much-photographed slow-roasted duck breast with teriyaki sweet potatoes and miso-glazed pak choi, of course. The pan-roasted line fish is also one of Joburg’s best, served with a cauliflower steak and curry leaf burnt butter sauce.
The Peech Hotel, 61 North Street, Melrose
011 537 9797
Best for a fancy pint, poshed-up pub grub and plenty of good times
Sip on the city’s finest suds at The Noble, a new destination for beer lovers. Opened by the owners of Nobleman Brewing Company in Magaliesburg, this spot is full of happy dudes drinking beer while surrounded by homely furnishings and rustic tables. In accordance with the location, it eschews ‘pubbiness’ in favour of a beer-hall-cum-restaurant feel. And there’s a reason everyone’s euphoria levels are so turned up: The Illovo outlet features above-average, crowd-pleasing grub as well as a well-thought-out drinks list, resulting in an agreeable balance between drinkers and diners. The local-focused taproom serves serious brews including a pale ale, lager and pilsner plus classic cocktails like mojitos and piña coladas. The best bar food is the burnt jalapeño poppers oozing with hot, cheesy filling, the bacon-wrapped onion rings that put a tasty spin on the classic favourite and the ‘dirty fries’ – a bowl of thick golden cut chips that are crunchy on the outside and like mashed potatoes within, tossed in BBQ pulled pork, spicy salsa and mozzarella. We also recommend the gorgeously charred and deftly spiced Greek lamb burger layered with marinated tomatoes, red onion, feta and tzatziki inside a pliant bun.
Illovo Junction, 178 Oxford Road, Illovo
076 694 0362
Best for indulging in authentic flavours of South America
South America is famous for its beef and for its wine. At this small and simple restaurant, chef Nikita Zoulis brilliantly captures the spirit and versatile flavours of the continent – it’s as close to dining in Argentina or Brazil as you’ll find in Joburg. Expect cosy, moody lighting to accompany the authentic menu items as well as sidewalk seating for when the weather cooperates. Meat forms the backbone of the new summer menu, with plenty of open-flame specialties including fillet, rump, sirloin, T-bone and rib eye. The freshly made empanadas filled with beef and root vegetables, lemon chicken, leaks and fresh herbs or spinach and Danish feta are enough to stimulate your taste buds before moving on to a main course. The steaks are excellent and you’ve got a range of sauces, from chimichurri to red wine sauce, to pump up the flavour even more. There’s also a beautiful burrata pasta that makes use of this summer’s tomato and basil and pairs them with burrata cheese. When you toss it all together, the burrata magically melts into the most luxurious cream that oozes all over the tagliatelle, creating a silky sauce that coats every strand … yet it still leaves a few melty cheese puddles in there for you to enjoy too.
67 7th Street, Linden
087 655 4480