It’s springtime, and the eating is easy. Now that you can go out, where should you go out? After a tough year marked by news of closures, for the first time in a year and a half there are several openings to report. Across Joburg, new, buzzy eateries that make the most of local seasonal ingredients and options to match every mood and palate are popping up block by block. While this is by no means an exhaustive list of every good new spot, one thing you can rely on is that we’ll only include places that we’ve genuinely checked out. Without any further ado, these are our favourite places to eat and drink, and our favourite places to tell everyone else to eat and drink, in the City of Gold at this very moment.
Editor’s pick: Alto 234 Bar
Sandton’s rooftop to know about for a sky-high cocktail
As spring activities go, it’s hard to beat whiling away an afternoon or evening at one of the best rooftop bars in Joburg. Ready to get high? Going up! The City of Gold never looks as beautiful as it does from up here at Alto 234 Bar. Open just in time for the heatwave, this rooftop bar atop The Leonardo is exactly the kind of plush glass-encased bar you’d expect to find on the 57th and top floor of a buzzy, see-and-be-seen hotel – a minimalistic aesthetic, a comfortable coolness, an extensive drinks list and smooth service that anticipates your every move. African prints in shades of green and orange, black and brass metal finishes as well as and trendy custom-designed furniture provide an approachable atmosphere for the inevitable Insta-worthy selfie. Drawing day-drinkers and sunset-seekers, this stylish sky-high establishment set against the Sandton skyline seamlessly goes from a vibrant terrace to a sleek late-night spot. Revel in some of the city’s most cinematic views as you sit amongst the rooftops in the airy, lush setting and sip on one of the expertly crafted cocktails. The cocktail menu is short and succinct, and changes regularly: The menu might include the ultra-refreshing What’s Poppin’ (Inverroche Amber, strawberry wine, citrus and lemonade) or the Golden Raindrops, made using Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve, apricot, vanilla, L’Ormarins Brut and edible gold glitter – it’s bitter, sweet and tangy all at once, hitting a magical synergy between the honeyed whisky and zesty sparkling wine. On a really sunny day, we’d suggest opting for the well-prepared, slow-drinking Flora cocktail to quench your thirst while you bask in the sun. Made to perfection with Tanqueray No Ten Gin, elderflower and citrus, it’s ideal for a boozy afternoon. For a perfect after-work kick, make sure to order the Don Summer – a mix of Don Julio Reposado Tequila, orange, thyme and dry lemon. Guests can also graze on bar snacks and a rotation of seasonal tapas by The Leonardo’s award-winning dining destination, Aurum Restaurant. We recommend the marbled wagyu biltong, truffle salt cashews, oysters with a soy and lemongrass dressing topped with purple garlic flowers, seared foie gras, crayfish peri peri and the delicate salmon infused with a cure made of herbaceous dill, tart orange, sour lemon and mild vodka. Book online for the Afternoon Experience from 12h30 to 15h30, the Sunset Experience from 16h00 to 18h30 or the Night Lights Experience from 19h00 to 23h00 for a price tag of R300 per person (excluding food and drinks) and look forward to a glamorous and refined – yet unfussy – affair. This is one of Sandton’s glossiest addresses.
You should also know: Well, if you’re there … you may as well order a 200ml Moët Mini (with a golden sipper, of course) from the exclusive Moët Mini Machine using Moët tokens – or a bottle if you’re eager. Stay until sunset for an unforgettable view of Sandton in the fading light.
The Leonardo, 75 Maude Street, Sandton
011 806 6888
Refined Mediterranean cooking amid the buzz of Rosebank
After moving to a smart new space in Oxford Parks, Ethos Restaurant has become one of Rosebank’s top tickets thanks to the deft hand of executive chef Ken Phuduhudu. His fierce energy (he worked alongside chef Luke Dale-Roberts at The Test Kitchen) translates to abstract-expressionist edible artworks presented on handmade ceramic ‘canvases’. Everything in this seafood-centric restaurant seems to achieve the perfect balance of refined and casual: The clean, bright lines, use of wood, ceiling baffles, Arabescato marble, big olive tree and mellow colour scheme make the space both a swanky date spot and a prime location for a business lunch. Either way, the food here is inventive as ever, with top hits including mussels saganaki, spanakopita salad, paella-style risotto and lamb kleftiko that keep the tables packed. The effortless blend of traditional and tranquil, cosmopolitan and cool, continues in the bathrooms decked out with the special little touches that are not easily forgotten, such as brushed gold fixtures and Aesop hand balms. All this, and there’s outdoor seating, chef’s table seating, a 14-seater private dining room and an ace little bar, too. Forks clash over starters of zippy calamari ‘romesco’ full of roasted tomato and pepper flavour; buttery-soft octopus carpaccio with preserved lemon dressing, ras el hanout semi-dried tomatoes and olive dust; and wafer-thin slices of kudu carpaccio with pomegranate molasses ‘balsamic’, aged Parmesan, rocket and avocado. Main dishes emerging from the kitchen include a simple but showstopping herb-crusted lamb rack; boldly seasoned, risotto-like creamy chicken orzo; richly layered lobster moussaka with herb-fired lobster tail; and our top pick – the truly luxurious langoustine and scallop tortellini made with hand-rolled saffron pasta, Mozambican langoustine and scallop mousse. Lemon oil and fresh herbs gently perfume each ounce of meat, while a light bisque cream provides the perfect bed for these little pillows of perfection. Save room for dessert: We’re practically salivating at the thought of that baklava, oozing with honey and sweet as can be, served with pistachio and yoghurt ice cream and a mixed nut tuile. As well as the wine, the cocktails here – from contemporary creations like the beautifully fragrant Litchi Lavender Elixir to perfectly-done classics – are out of this world. We know a good gin and juice when we sip one. This is the spring restaurant opening we’re constantly refreshing Dineplan for, so book ahead and expect high aesthetics, technical wizardry and a moneyed young crowd of foodies illuminated by smartphones. Let the sunshine vibes reign.
You should also know: You’ll find this Ethos Restaurant tucked inside Oxford Parks – a growing walkable precinct that in the next few years will connect Rosebank with Illovo – among heaps of other cool eateries.
Oxford Parks, 199 Oxford Road, Rosebank
A scene-shifting creative hub with exquisite seasonal sharing plates
The weekend starts here! In a city that’s not short on eye-catching openings, it takes a lot to turn heads. But that’s exactly what Peachy – 44 Stanley’s new dine bar – has done, with its pastel coral and mint walls, candy stripe bar, Murano chandeliers and iridescent mosaics set against a backdrop of chillout beats. This is beautifully rooted food with a real sense of adventure by chef Jess Doveton, who’s known for her flavour-packed, authentic Thai cooking with a cleverly light and fresh touch. She works flawlessly together with her close-knit team to ensure an afternoon or evening of delightful food and drink. More than half of the menu is plant-based, with vegan options ranging from prettily plated charred broccolini with a tahini soy drizzle to crisp cucumber salad with a spoonable black vinegar and chilli oil dressing. The aim of the game is to share – to kick off, there are snacks that include next-level tempura vegetables with a salty-sweet satay sauce and piping-hot deep-fried olives stuffed with pimento and dolloped with a punchy roasted garlic aioli. The airy kimchi fritters, with smooth-melting milky Gruyère packed inside a fluffy pocket, are a must-order too. But it’s the crowd-pleasing small plates you’re here for – think lip-smackingly juicy and zingy Korean-style hot wings that are a knockout in every sense (slather them in the rich sauce and nibble to the bone) or meltingly soft pork belly cubes served on a mint salad; a deliciously salty and refreshing combination. For pudding, it’s got to be the delicate peach sorbet or the off-the-charts indulgent deep-fried chocolate chip cookie dough served with salted vanilla ice cream. And then just sit back and take in the dreamy interior while you digest. The cocktail list here is as creative as the food menu, drawing in spices, shrubs and floral ingredients. Start with a sweet and fruity Peach Margarita or Peach Bellini, but finish with an imaginative cocktail like the Influencer in the Wild – made with Havana Club, orange liqueur and marshmallows. If you’re playing it safe, the Beefy Vegetarian (Beefeater Gin, apple juice and lime) works nicely with some of the sharper flavours on the menu.
You should also know: Open Wednesdays to Sundays, check Peachy’s Instagram page (@wearesopeachy) for regular local live entertainment to really get the party going.
44 Stanley, 44 Stanley Avenue, Braamfontein
063 210 3599
The Peeping Tom
Hotly anticipated bistro dishes in a loud neon-lit corner
The Peeping Tom, the latest project from the creator of Morning Glory Café, is as Joburg as they come. A kitsch take on a traditional bistro with exposed brick, pops of lemon yellow and bubblegum pink, and cheeky neon signage (‘fancy as f*ck’, one such sign declares), it’s about to become big news. It’s not fancy, or particularly pretty – this is a place young couples and boisterous groups sip on cocktails garnished with edible flowers inside and out on the street as well as get stuck into a convivial meal with a bold line-up of dishes. Desserts, in particular, are outstanding. We adore the absurdly delicious Paris Breast – a toasted doughnut loaded with strawberries, cream, hazelnut chocolate, caramel and nuts – while bourbon fans will devour the boozy Bourbon Caramel Popcorn Shake. Other dishes are equally spectacular: The Prawns Gone Wild, a simple prawn and avocado cocktail starter; beautifully gooey Mac Au Gratin with truffle, shoulder bacon and fried potato ribbons; a dressed-to-impress Crayfish Roll packed with sweet crayfish meat and flaked hake, served on a humble toasted roll; and the Oyster Bloody Mary in which the spicy flavours of this classic cocktail marry really well with a freshly shucked, briny queen oyster. The Boozy Cock bourbon-infused pulled chicken burger dripping with coriander aioli; melt-in-your-mouth tasty Brisket Flatbread with slow-cooked pulled brisket, Parmesan and plum sauce; and the Eggplant Emoji – crusted eggplant schnitzels served with burnt butter mash, gravy and greens – is also sublime, simple food with prices that belie the quality. The Peeping Tom is one of those perfect, low-key options for almost every occasion, whether it’s a weeknight supper or that dreaded first date. It’s also an amazing place to sit back and simmer after a day in the thrum of the City of Gold and a fabulous perch for people-watching The Parks’ coolest crowd over several glasses of rosé champagne topped with cotton candy. The atmosphere just works its magic. The staff are also more than happy to explain the process behind each fascinating drink. Bookings are essential and can be made via their website.
You should also know: Outdoor tables are fairly limited (but primed for people-watching on Park Corner), plus there’s plenty of space inside, too.
146 Jan Smuts Avenue, Parkwood
064 544 6556