Always on the lookout for something novel and imaginative, South African restaurateurs have set up shop in some fascinating spaces. Their creativity sees them putting unusual dining concepts to work, making magic with their menus and providing service with surprising touches.
Babylonstoren, one of the oldest and most beautifully restored Cape Dutch properties in the country. It is a farm hotel set in the spectacular surrounds of the Drakenstein Valley between Franschhoek and Paarl in the Western Cape, which is about an hour's drive from Cape Town. Here you'll find The Greenhouse, a green steel-and-glass building that doubles as a tearoom and an experimental space for cultivating plants. Here diners can tuck into wood-fired bread, crispy salads and farm-crafted cheeses, served with guavadillas (a guava-granadilla hybrid) and dragon fruit from the East.
Babylonstoren is one of the oldest Cape Dutch farms. Image courtesy: © babylonstoren
The Zen-style interiors of Hemelhuijs in Waterkant Street in Cape Town, with its charcoal walls accented with white, offers unusual combinations like marzipan and dried apricot rolled chicken, or a hot drink combination of Belgian white chocolate, Japanese green tea and steamed milk, all served using their own home-ware designs.
The restaurants will have directions on their individual websites.
If you're in Cape Town, you might want to visit the winelands to purchase excellent local wines. In Johannesburg, markets like Neighbourgoods Market in Braamfontein are a must for foodies intent on finding out more about the local food scene.
Learn to cook Cape Malay cuisine in Bo-Kaap in Cape Town. Or find out about one of the local cookery schools in Johannesburg, where you can learn more about how South Africans like to prepare our favourite dishes.
The Greenhouse, Babylonstoren
Tel: +27 (0)21 863 3852
Tel: +27 (0)21 418 2042
The Test Kitchen
Tel: +27 (0)11 325 5008
Cube Tasting Kitchen
Tel: +27 (0) 082 422 8158
Tel: +27 (0)12 346 4642
Tel: +27 31 309 4453 / 4434
Silver Orange Bistro
Tel: +27 (0) 82 378 2948
Restaurant prices differ depending on what you order and where you eat. A main meal will cost in the region of R80 to R150 depending on where you are dining. There is a corkage fee for wine at most good restaurants.
Always ask for the house speciality. Many of the super-cool chefs prepare their meals using fresh local produce and therefore menus change regularly.
The chef Luke Dale-Roberts, is the phenomenon behind The Test Kitchen and favourite chef of Heston Blumenthal (a British celebrity chef and the proprietor of The Fat Duck in Bray, Berkshire). At Test Kitchen, the service is impeccable and customers will be thrilled by watching the open-plan kitchen. The rhythm of the chefs has been compared to the seductive movement of a tango. Located in the silo of the original Biscuit Mill, The Test Kitchen has fabulous city and mountain views and serves his signature-style tapas. Be sure to book now.
Naturalis is Luke Dale-Roberts’s latest project. Housed in a restored set of containers in Cape Town, the experimental cooking sees a mix of fermentation, curing, culturing and drying. Diners self-serve from a central ‘harvest table’, on which they can expect dishes such as roast aubergine salad with pine-nut yoghurt and lemon preserve salsa or Thai-style salad with fresh pineapple, coconut and tomato with a creamy Thai dressing.
The popular chain of boutique cafés, Tashas, has gone all out with a new venture at the upmarket Hyde Park Corner in Johannesburg. Called Tashas le Parc, its black-and-white art deco trelliswork has a strong French flavour, as does the menu with French offerings like vol au vent (puff pastry with a filling) and onion soup. The patisserie counter is particularly enticing.
Cube Tasting Kitchen in Sandton's Kramerville district in Johannesburg serves small groups of diners a 10-course tasting menu paired with wine. Diners are advised to set aside at least three hours for this gastronomic journey which includes entrees, salads, four or five mains and a couple of desserts. Kramerville, formerly an industrial area, is fast gaining a reputation as an up-and-coming design district in the city.
‘Fifty shades of cream’ and dipping pendulum lights adorn the double-volume, upmarket Kream Restaurant in the Brooklyn Bridge office park in Pretoria, pitched at the discerning diner. The a la carte menu here is largely continental, although you will find traditional biltong and Mozambican chilli making an appearance in some of the dishes. The wine list is extensive and there are some rare whiskeys and cognacs to be sampled.
Neil Roake’s Freedom Café in the port city of Durban is located in a revamped, bright-red shipping container set in the garden of the Concierge Boutique Bungalows in Greyville. Wild wallpapers, funky use of primary colours, mirrored walls and kitschy ceramic sausage dogs make a whacky impression. Craft Trattoria in Glenashley, Durban, is another Roake creation, once again with quirky design motifs (the huge red lips mounted on one of the walls are unmissable).
The much-awarded Silver Orange Bistro at Hartbeespoort, west of Pretoria, is located on a family-owned citrus farm. The thatched bistro comprises a number of rooms dominated by Venetian crystal chandeliers, and an outside dining area. All the chefs are Prue Leith Chefs' Academy graduates and the dishes are prefectly presented.
As for our local chefs, just mention the names Luke-Dale Roberts, Reuben Riffel and Chantelle Dartnell. They are all becoming icons of ultimate cool in the kitchen.
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