When it comes to gastronomic grandeur, Johannesburg has always played second fiddle to Cape Town. In the last few years, however, thanks to a slow-but-steady revitalization of the city, Joburg has recently begun to steal the spotlight, winning over the hearts and palates of the culinary community. Here are some of the restaurant scene’s standouts.
The Blackanese Sushi and Wine Bar
Located in the city’s trendy Maboneng Precinct, The Blackanese offers a satisfying and accessible blend of Asian and African culinary delights. On the menu, favorites like California rolls and sashimi are listed alongside distinctly South African versions of sushi, like Blackanese’s bestselling biltong roll (a popular regional meat jerky).
On weekends guests can also enjoy a smoky prawn braai (the Afrikaans word for “barbecue”). The restaurant’s sushi-making classes are an excellent opportunity to learn along with locals and see how South African chefs make a foreign cuisine their own.
To truly experience authentic, traditional South African dining, one must eat at least once at a shisa nyama restaurant. Shisa nyama, a Zulu phrase meaning “to burn meat,” is a buy-and-braai establishment where patrons select a cut of meat from an on-site butchery that’s then cooked on massive outdoor grills and served with simple sides like pap.
Situated at the foot of Soweto’s colorful Orlando Towers, Chaf Pozi is one of Joburg’s most beloved and lively barbecue hot spots. Dining is casual and communal, so while it’s not the place for an intimate date night, it’s an ideal chance to mix with locals over a cold South African beer as you listen (and even dance) to live music and chow down on an unforgettable grilled feast.
Think of Marble as the high-end version of Chaf Pozi, where the emphasis is still on barbecued meat but the atmosphere and fare are more refined and varied.
Award-winning chef and co-owner David Higgs is famed for his innovative and thoughtful approach to wood-fire grilling. Little wonder then that the grill is a central part of the decor at Marble, with an open kitchen showcasing all the creative ways that not only meat, but seafood, produce and breads, can be cooked over an open flame.
Don’t miss your chance to try South African game meat like kudu and springbok, as well as malva, a decadent South African pudding. Located on the top floor of the Trumpet Building, the views of the city are as stellar as the cuisine.
Whether or not you’re a tea lover, a trip to check out Yswara is a must. This elegant tea house is a beautiful, pink-hued sanctuary designed to sooth the spirit before you’ve even had a sip of the tea.
Proprietor Swaady Martin-Leke offers a carefully curated range of teas grown ethically with traditional harvesting methods in Africa. The infusions feature unique ingredients sourced across the continent, including rooibos, Penja pepper, honeybush, wild yam and buchu.
Every leaf is hand picked and then left to dry in the sun. The names — like Shaka Zulu and Nandie of Zululand — are as intriguing as the intoxicating fragrances, and the golden-pink colored tins make gorgeous souvenirs of the flavors of Africa.
Like the restaurant scene, the microbrew industry in Johannesburg has also recently been receiving its fair share of acclaim. Mad Giant is an eclectic combo of brewery, pub and fine dining restaurant located in a sprawling, airy affair where tables for two share space with affable crowds enjoying pints at large communal bench seating.
The beer selection features standard favorites like the national-beer-trophy-winning Killer Hop, a refreshing pale ale, as well as limited-edition and seasonal brews.
Winehouse at Ten Bompas Hotel
The boutique hotel Ten Bompas Hotel, Johannesburg, a Member of Design Hotels features a restaurant, Winehouse, that is as lauded for its food as it is for its enormous wine cellar.
The international menu is predominantly influenced by French cuisine with an emphasis on lush, rich sauces and broths, and much of the produce is sourced from the property’s organic garden.
The extensive wine menu has a spectacular collection of international vintages, as well as a spectrum of South African wines that highlight the country’s most notable vineyards. Winehouse is best known for its nine-course degustation tasting menu that comes with optional wine pairings.
Bean There Coffee Company
While Capetonians pride themselves on their laid-back approach to life and business, the residents of Johannesburg appear to embrace a more hectic pace. It’s no surprise, then, that the populace really appreciates a good cup of joe, as evidenced by the astonishing number of coffeehouses around the city.
Bean There Coffee stands out as the top choice among connoisseurs. It was the first in South Africa to use certified fair-trade coffee, and it sells only single-origin African coffees beans from countries like Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya and Tanzania. They also offer home brewing courses and coffee tasting classes.