When you think of the best things to do in Joburg, eating like royalty is one of the first activities that come to mind. But there’s no denying that Joburg’s dining scene has changed dramatically over the past few months. Restaurants innovated, they pivoted and some even opened – there’s never been a time that the City of Gold needed its restaurants more and, as always, they were there for us. We realise that everyone is moving at a different pace: While some people are excited to dine out, others are sticking to restaurants that deliver for the foreseeable future. But no matter your comfort level, if you love food and live in Joburg, we suggest you check out our must-try list of the best new restaurants Joburg has to offer. Don’t forget to wear a mask, respect social distancing and tip generously!
Our top three new restaurants in Joburg
Stimulate your senses and prepare to have your taste buds tickled by the best small and café plates at Proud Mary, the latest project by restaurateurs Gary Hollywood and Warren Murley, previously behind La Boqueria. Located on the ground floor of The Bank, Rosebank’s latest multipurpose development, this hotspot features a globally-inspired menu, Instagram-ready cocktails and an excellent raw bar stocked with plenty of oysters, salmon sashimi, sea bass ceviche, tuna tartare and marinated octopus. From the building’s modern black brick exterior to the quirky midcentury interiors – we’re talking textures of brass, terrazzo and natural wood with contrasting tones of teal, oxblood and emerald – the clean, elegant space flows seamlessly and has a very New York feel. The impressive bar does a lot of things fantastically, including cocktails like the Gin Blossom Tea that not only dazzles in presentation, but allows customers to see their drink’s flavours of Sipsmith Gin, cherry blossom and pink tonic birthed before their eyes. The menu spoils both vegetarians and meat lovers for choice: There’s mouthwatering burrata with orange pickled fennel and fresh dill, a soul-soothing coconut red curry with crispy ginger and nut gremolata, must-order sticky pork belly topped with sesame seeds and fresh coriander and a noteworthy wagyu burger on a seeded bun with silky béarnaise sauce and triple fried chips. It also relishes the taste of the sea with delicacies like octopus roasted over an open coal fireplace and al dente crab linguine with fresh herbs, chilli, garlic, white wine and lemon butter. There will undoubtedly be a wait for a table, but put in the time or book in advance and you’ll find yourself seated in an airy space full of stylish diners that will make your afternoon or evening unforgettable. The outside dining area can get loud on busy nights, so ask to be seated inside if you want a quieter experience.
The Bank, 26 Cradock Avenue, Rosebank
010 023 3316
Chef James Diack is passionate about making sustainable eating easy – and delicious – and nowhere is his obsession more evident than at Coobs. After closing down in Parkhurst last year, this paddock-to-plate eatery has since reopened in Parktown North where it enjoys one of the city’s most enviable addresses. The gorgeously appointed restaurant, with a dining room and outside deck that keep the vibe romantic and rustic, is still about as big-ticket as restaurants get – but the intimate and unpretentious mood will make you feel right at home. The menu is contemporary country in style, featuring sustainable produce such as fruit and vegetables as well as wagyu beef from James’ family’s farm, Brightside Farm in Magaliesburg. So, what’s good? All of it, but for starters, specifically the beef tartare with aioli, quail egg yolk, homemade ketchup and a black pepper lavash, which is a feast for the eyes as well as the belly. James’ skills with pasta dough have garnered him a loyal following, so the goat cheese tortellini is still on the menu for good reason – swimming in a broad bean crème, it comes with good levels of warmth and sharpness plus some texture from the asparagus. Now it’s time to luxuriate in the sweet life for mains. There’s Asian grilled duck breast, burnt citrus glazed pork belly, an organic veg pot pie and the famous wild boar ragu served with homemade pappardelle on the menu. However, our top pick is the plate of risotto dyed heavy metal black with squid ink, one of the city’s most luxe plates of rice. A scattering of crispy calamari and line fish break up this silky suspension, and any sauce left over should be mopped up with light-as-air house bread. Order the banoffee dessert – roasted banana parfait, dulce de leche, hazelnut brittle and Kahlua ice cream – for a perfect finish. Even if you’ve dined at Coobs a dozen times, chef James Diack’s vibrant, visceral cooking keeps you coming back.
19 4th Avenue, Parktown North
010 880 4793
The Station – Parkhurst
Welcome to the golden age of bar food, when you’re just as likely to go to The Station – Parkhurst for a great meal as you are a great drink. A haven for pub purists with a red telephone box, ‘Mind the Gap’ signage, expansive station maps and London Underground elements in every corner of the space, this little slice of London in Parkhurst focuses just as much on food as booze and is raising the standard for bar food across Joburg. The restaurant and bar is constantly hopping, and it’s not just for the gin and tonic specials or the glorious patio from which you can take in the London vibe. Pub fare like chicken wings, prego and steak rolls, schwarmas, nachos, burritos and quesadillas dominate the menu, but in our opinion it’s the tapas that justify a visit. The Camden Chicken Strips are a superior product – panko crumbed chicken strips are fried until golden brown and extra crisp, served with a honey mustard or green peppercorn dipping sauce. We also recommend the gooey, melty Mayfair Mozzarella Sticks and the Buckingham Bacon Poppers with the melting goodness of cream cheese, cheddar, mozzarella and chorizo oozing from the inside. Don’t overlook the main meals though, as the London Eye Hot Beef Pan with beef cubes served in a peri peri sauce and The Tube Calamari grilled in olive oil and lemon butter are both brilliant combinations. When your tummy is rumbling for a comforting dish, order the London Fish & Chips – think golden batter, succulent fish and chips that are crunchy on the outside and like mashed potatoes within. The bar, which boasts a selection of more than 150 local and international craft gins to explore, is dedicated to serving whopping gin and tonics complete with garnishes we’d describe as gin salad. From grapefruit and cucumber to mint, basil, thyme, star anise, cherries and juniper berries, it may not count towards your 10 a day, but it’ll have you feeling a bit of alright in no time!
Corner of 4th Avenue & 10th Street, Parkhurst
087 808 4793
Other new restaurants worth checking out
Embarc Restaurant is a slice of the sweet life on the corner of 4th and 13th on the Parkhurst strip. Here, chef-partners Darren O’Donovan, Lisa de Beer and Mitchel Du Plessis – whose combined resumes include Aurum Restaurant, Est Est Alea and Cube Tasting Kitchen – wow diners with an assortment of savoury and sweet small plates. Chic hardly begins to describe the understated space that captures the spirit of an upscale, chef-driven taperia. Most of the small plates are memorable – from the silky, milky and wonderful locally produced burrata with tomato, basil and strawberry to the wafer-thin ‘beef and beer’ carpaccio with beer reduction, yeasted mayo and popped barley – while many of the desserts are downright extraordinary, such as the white chocolate that’s balanced out by the floral taste of lavender along with shortbread, tonka bean and honeycomb. And, rare is the order that doesn’t include one of the city’s most lauded risottos – a creamy, velvety showcase of Parmigiano-Reggiano, onion, truffle and pine nuts. Embarc Restaurant is also home to flawless seared salmon, pork belly, duck breast and coal-fired lamb, perfectly prepped steaks, vegan options that are just as thoughtful as their meaty counterparts and a smattering of eclectic wines to keep the mood social and festive.
Corner of 4th Avenue and 13th Street, Parkhurst
081 848 6480
Morning Glory Café
We’ve got a crush on blush! Pink is hot right now – not just ice-cream parlour colours like pastel pink, but hot pink and millennial pink. At Morning Glory Café, pink has cast off its sugary fluffiness and been reborn tougher. Who would’ve thought breakfast and interior design would form such a happy marriage? With its dusty pink walls, exposed brick, subway tiles and neon signage flashing ‘rise and grind’, owner and architect Chad Brandon Paul wrote the handbook for Instagrammable coffee shops. This is the new place to be for breakfast on weekends, but it’s worth a stop for a morning fuel-up or a linger over a strong and stiff coffee any day. The killer menu spans everything from Posh Oats with apple crumble, flaked almonds and cinnamon to the Classic Bacon Bun – a toasted roll with farm butter, crispy bacon and greens. Breakfast highlights include the delicious, always-fresh espresso drinks with impressive foam work, egg-in-a-hole bagel, cornflake-coated French toast stack and the open toasted croissant topped with two poached eggs, bacon, rocket and hollandaise sauce. For a kinky treat, try the Banana Rama – gently toasted old-fashioned banana bread served with a fluffy espresso cream and cashew nut brittle. They’re open until 13h00 on weekends for those craving breakfast for lunch.
Park Corner, 146 Jan Smuts Avenue, Parkwood
064 544 6556