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South Africa Restaurants

The Africa Café
108 Shortmarket Street
Cape Town
South Africa 8001
Tel: 27 21 422 0221

"In Africa, we like to eat with our fingers. You should feel free to do the same," explains a waitress at the Africa Café, a restaurant located a few minutes' walk from Cape Town's Greenmarket Square. Like the atmosphere, the decor here is festive (mosaics, ceilings decorated with animal engravings, feathered light fixtures), although you'll hardly notice it once 16 traditional Ndebele, Xhosa, and Zulu dishes start arriving at your table. The meal rings in under $30 per person, and you're allowed to order more of your favorite dishes (ours was the Cape Malay Salomi, ground beef seasoned with curry and wrapped in a roti pancake), but chances are you'll be sated sans seconds. It's worth overlooking the restaurant's touristy elements, such as the gift shop and the face painting, because, surprisingly, when the servers dance through the seven dining rooms, banging drums, stomping so hard that the floors shake, and singing heartfelt tribal songs in haunting harmonies, it doesn't feel corny or contrived. It all just reminds you of how far you are from home.—Josey Miller

Open daily 6:30 until 11:30 pm (closed Sundays during low season).

Belthazar Restaurant & Wine Bar
Victoria Basin
V&A Waterfront
Cape Town
South Africa
Tel: 27 21 421 3753

Has Belthazar's star fallen? This beloved restaurant and wine bar, opened in December 2003, cellars 600 vintages and has the largest selection of wines by the glass in the world. We enjoyed the sweet but hearty flavor of the complimentary tomato-based sausage starter, as well as the massively plump mussels on the reasonably priced surf 'n' turf menu, but it didn't compensate for Belthazar's upscale chain restaurant vibe (appropriate for its shopping mall location, but not for its chichi reputation) or the attitude-drenched staff coasting on a seemingly outdated reputation for excellence (it was voted best steakhouse in South Africa in 2005). Aside from the novelty of picking a wine off the impressively long list, we think Belthazar is skippable; if you do go, request an indoor table to avoid the dissonance of dueling street performers along the water.—Josey Miller

Open daily noon to 11 pm.

Bientang's Cave
Below Marine Drive (next to Old Harbour)
South Africa
Tel: 27 28 312 3454

Tucked into a seaside cave and with an outdoor deck just 35 feet from shore, this might well be the world's best whale-watching restaurant. (Be sure to visit from May to December, when pods of southern right whales pass through Walker Bay.) The prix fixe and à la carte menus are tailored to every appetite. Don't miss the seafood specialties, like the traditional South African dish of grilled Cape snoek (fish) in a caramelized apricot sauce, or the rich house bouillabaisse. The homemade Malva pudding is a must for dessert. Reservations are essential.

Highway N2
The Crags
Plettenberg Bay
South Africa
Tel: 27 44 534 8007

Lunch at Bramon provides an introduction to the nascent wine scene along the Garden Route. The casual, bright restaurant of this small Crags-area winery has a cozy vibe, with wooden tables and a central fireplace. Take time to enjoy Cap Classique, the local bubbly, as well as an assortment of wines by Vukani, a label known for its commitment to fair labor practices in South Africa. The meze lunch—which is also available in a garden abutting the vineyard—includes freshly baked breads with a choice of carpaccios (ostrich, warthog, and springbok), a duck liver paté that goes well with the sparkling wine, and local cheeses and pestos made in Port Elizabeth.

Open daily 11 am to 5 pm.

Phantom Pass Road
South Africa 6570
Tel: 27 44 386 0046

You might be surprised to find Moroccan food crowding the five-course set menu of a restaurant with a Yiddish name. But the romantic North African vibe of this restaurant at the Phantom Forest Eco Reserve has made it a Garden Route favorite, with colorful cushions, low tables, and glowing lanterns. The restaurant sits up high and overlooks a small pool, shaded deck, and the Knysna River in the distance below. The menu usually starts with a meze platter (raisin and pine-nut dolmades, pickled calamari, quail egg salad), followed by fish kebabs with a carrot, coriander, and sesame seed salad, then a tagine of chicken or lamb, and finally a selection of desserts (such as the cranberry and rose truffles).

Open Mondays through Saturdays 6:30 to 10 pm.

Cornuti al Mare
Perestrella Street
Plettenberg Bay
South Africa 6600
Tel: 27 44 533 1277

The sign above the blue-and-white–tiled eatery still reads "Cornuti Deli," but those modest days are long gone. Cornuti al Mare has grown into one of Plett's most beloved restaurants and bars. Wine selections like the R62 Unplugged and the Fat Bastard chardonnay set the jovial mood at the lively, sparely furnished dining room. Grab a table on the porch for sea views, and start light with the herb salad with arugula, grilled tomatoes, gooseberries, goat cheese, and pine nuts. Then share one of the 23 pizzas on offer, including more creative options like prawn teriyaki. However, what you really come here for is the seafood, in particular the spicy cacciucco, an Italian fish stew topped with langoustine. For dessert, order the chocolate-and-banana spring roll, deep-fried and covered in caramel and nuts.

Open daily noon to 10 pm.

Hotel Photo
Main Road
Plettenberg Bay
South Africa 6600
Tel: 27 82 344 2661

Two former Lufthansa flight attendants spent their working years checking out the best coffee shops around the world before opening up their own at The Square shopping center in Plettenberg Bay. Some menu items are a tribute to those travels—Rick's Cappuccino Freddo pays homage to the Amsterdam brew—while the mismatched furniture and displays of works by local artists give it a distinctly Greenwich Village feel. Doubleshot installed the first Kees van der Westen Mirage espresso machine in Africa, and it now buy its beans from Origin roastery in Cape Town. To eat, the café offers cakes, sandwiches piled high with local meats and cheeses, and muesli worth skipping your hotel breakfast for.

Open Mondays through Saturdays 8 am to 3 pm.

Emily Moon Hotel
Rietvlei Road
Plettenberg Bay
South Africa 6600
Tel: 27 44 533 2982

The mix of loyal locals and visiting foodies makes for busy dining hours at the Emily Moon hotel's restaurant. The setting alone—an arched dining room next to the pool and above the Bitou River—is worth the drive out of Plett, and an attentive staff keeps the pace smooth. While patrons tend to dress up a bit for dinner, the African/Moroccan/colonial decor, which shows off owner Mark Valentine's art collection, lends everything a casual ambience that gets even more festive as the night wears on. Entrées on the small daily menu focus on fresh, locally grown produce and might include a wildebeest loin with blueberry sauce or a shellfish cartòccio (prawns and mussels steamed in parchment paper).

Open Tuesdays through Sundays noon to 2:30 pm and 6 pm to closing.

Firefly Eating House
Old Cape Road
South Africa 6570
Tel: 27 44 382 1490

The bright red cottage of the Firefly Eating House—located on the causeway leading out of Knysna—takes the "fire" part of its name to heart. Mother-and-daughter owners Dell and Sanchia Hadlow—known locally as the "Spice Girls"—give each dish on the menu a rating from 0 to 10 based on its degree of mouth-scorching-ness.The Hadlows are famous for their Cape Malay spring rolls made with bobotie (a South African specialty of spiced minced meat), but be sure to also try the Karoo ostrich samosas with kumquat chutney. Entrées range from a mild pork with fenugreek, cinnamon, and pear to the aptly named Bang Bang black tiger prawn (fire rating 6–8). Sanchia has chosen some great, lesser-known local wines like the Felteiras Verdelho, Diemersfontein Viognier, and Porcupine Ridge Merlot to complement the spicy fare. The small, intimate eatery is popular with foodies, so be sure to book ahead.

Open Tuesdays through Sundays 6:30 to 10 pm.

Main Road
Plettenberg Bay
South Africa 6600
Tel: 27 44 533 6497

The menu at this sleek, modern restaurant traverses the culinary map of Asia, from the dim sum and vegetable tempura on the lunch menu to the slow-braised chile and garlic lamb with lentil pilaf at dinner. The limited daytime sushi menu triples in size at night, when well-dressed guests head outside to dine on the see-and-be-seen terrace. The main restaurant, with its glass-enclosed dining area, steel wine racks, and leather booths, feels very Cape Town, a testament to how far dining on the Garden Route has come in the last few years. The menu prices also reflect that (though they'll still seem like a bargain to Western travelers).

Open daily noon to 5 pm and 6 to 10 pm.

121 Castle Street
Cape Town
South Africa 8001
Tel: 27 21 426 2368

Tables are hard to get at Ginja, an intimate restaurant serving international fusion food close to the V&A Waterfront. This spot has no ocean or mountain views—think instead of a rather urban location with a narrow alley that leads to the front door. But once inside, it's the perfect spot for a romantic dinner, with low lighting and loads of ambience. (You have to walk through the open kitchen to the bathroom, so the energy in chef Mike Bassett's kitchen can be observed firsthand.) A reservation is essential; if you can't get a table, resist the offer of one at Ginja's sister restaurant, Shoga, upstairs (the kitchen crew and menu are different). For starters, try the Around the World Spoons appetizer, where dishes such as baby squid with Italian ricotta are served up in one delicious mouthful. The menu changes regularly, but a standout staple is the rack of lamb that's marinated in a Chinese barbecue sauce and filled with a spicy, curried apple chutney.

Open Mondays through Saturdays 7 to 10:30 pm.

Hotel Photo
The Grand Café and Rooms
Main Road
Plettenberg Bay
South Africa
Tel: 27 44 533 3301

Half the experience of the Grand Hotel's restaurant is the quirky decor. There's a 1920s cabaret vibe, with big sofas and lavishly appointed tables softly lit by ornate lamps and towering candles. Much of the menu is as rich as the setting, with dishes like sugar salmon and whitebait tempura. For the most part, though, the offerings are strongly focused on standard fish and seafood dishes, such as the grilled crayfish and the sole meunière, all put together by Maggie Ubsdell, who has opened up another Grand in Cape Town.

Open daily from 12:30 pm.

The Grand Café at Granger Bay
Haul Road, off Beach Road
Granger Bay
Cape Town
South Africa 8000
Tel: 27 21 425 0551

Cape Town's cool kids—and, in some cases, their kids—camp out at the Grand Café at Granger Bay, where South Beach meets South Africa. Housed in a converted warehouse with a secret clubhouse–like location down a gravel road, the industrial-meets–Parisian bistro dining room decor includes rusted chandeliers, candelabras, nude sketches, and lots of red roses. Pull up a wicker chair and flip through the menu, which is designed to look like a newspaper, in a Sunday morning manner. There are pastas, salads, and seafood, but go for the flatbread pizzas fired in a wood-burning oven. Well-crafted cocktails, such as the sweet but potent Brazi (fresh grapefruit and lime, cachaca, and Cointreau) and the Back Porch Lemonade (vodka, lemon juice, cranberry juice, ginger syrup, and ginger ale), pair well with a breezy spot in the cabanas out on the deck or on the man-made beach.—Josey Miller

Open Tuesdays through Sundays 12 pm until late.

50A Burg Street
Cape Town Centre
Cape Town
South Africa 8001
Tel: 27 21 424 7000

The steamed dumplings alone warrant a visit to this Asian tapas joint in the center of Cape Town. Some of the best dumplings are the spinach and creamed cheese and the prawn. The dishes are meant to be shared, though each person must order at least three selections. Peking duck is the house specialty and arrives with a basket of feather-light moo shu pancakes. Irritatingly, Haiku has two sittings, at 6 pm and 9 pm, but parking is easy at the Mandela Rhodes House garage just opposite.

Open Mondays through Saturdays noon to 3 pm, dinner seatings at 6 pm and 9 pm daily.

Île de Pain
The Boatshed
South Africa 6570
Tel: 27 44 302 5707

This hip bakery and café has a Vietnamese-inspired breakfast and lunch menu that keeps locals and visitors alike lining up—in spite of its location on Thesen Island, a slightly cheesy urban settlement in Knysna. Order the chicken salad, made with pineapple, avocado, mint, and cashews, or try the "Fingerfood" sampler of five small plates (mini-burgers, duck rillettes, trout salad) with fresh-baked bread from the bakery. Leave room for pastries, croissants, and almond tuiles, and a sweet Vietnamese coffee for sipping afterward.

Open Tuesdays through Saturdays 8 am to 3 pm, Sundays 8 am to 1:30 pm.

Jardine Restaurant
185 Bree Street
Cape Town Centre
Cape Town
South Africa 8001
Tel: 27 21 424 5640

Jardine quickly made a mark on the Cape Town dining scene with Scottish chef George Jardine's focused, unfussy food. The menu has a number of tasty winners, including the beet and horseradish tart with pickled vegetables and a double herbed antelope loin. There's also a five-course tasting menu that changes daily. Reserve a seat at the window for a fabulous view of Table Mountain or a table next to the open-plan kitchen to see Jardine in action. A small bar and lounge downstairs cater to the drinks crowd.

Open Mondays through Saturdays 7 to 10 pm.

Knysna Oyster Tavern
Long Street
Thesens Island
South Africa
Tel: 27 44 382 6941

Established in 1949, this no-frills tavern offers garlicky mussels, snoek pâté, fish and chips, and, as the name implies, a great selection of oysters. Both cultivated and wild local oysters on the half shell are available for takeout or to savor at a beachfront table. Make a reservation if you're visiting during the South African summer or during the Knysna Oyster Festival, held annually in June or July. Tours of the adjacent oyster-processing facility are available for a small admission fee and include a tasting of the bivalves matched with sparkling wine.

La Colombe
Constantia Uitsig
Spaanschemat River Road
South Africa 7848
Tel: 27 21 794 2390

For a sublime French dinner, head 20 minutes out of the city to the Constantia winelands to one of the city's most beautiful wine estates, Constantia Uitsig. It's always hard to get a table at La Colombe, one of Constantia Uitsig's three restaurants (Uitsig and the River Café are the other two), because the food is superb and the service excellent. It's the kind of place where a shared starter is presented on two plates, diners are escorted to the bathroom, and rose petals are strewn over the table to celebrate a special occasion. The è la carte menu changes every couple of days, and appetizers might include king crab, home-cured salmon, and salmon caviar. For entrees, try the catch of the day, such as kinglip with prawn and asparagus risotto, or gemsbok (oryx) carpaccio.

Open daily noon to 2 pm and 7 to 9 pm.

La Petite Ferme Restaurant
Franschhoek Pass Road
South Africa 7690
Tel: 27 21 876 3016

Lunch at La Petite Ferme, a mountainside restaurant, inn, and winery in food-centric Franschhoek, an hour outside Cape Town, puts us in a Great Gatsby frame of mind. With fans whirling overhead, faded terra-cotta tiles underfoot, white linens, white chairs, and white rosebushes, plus a great lawn that stretches to rolling vineyards, La Petite Ferme's sun-drenched veranda calls for a cloche hat and a long strand of pearls, or pinstripes and suspenders. Lunch is the only meal served here, but don't plan to eat lightly. The Mediterranean-African-Middle Eastern fusion menu changes frequently but might include crispy duck with saffron gnocchi, mushroom ragout, and a roasted onion and pear vinaigrette; venison medallions accompanied by a Moroccan vegetable crumble and a tagine jus; and an outrageously rich dark chocolate mousse with Morello cherries, orange Topfen ice cream, and a web of spun sugar. While there is no sommelier, the wine list—which includes several homegrown vintages—does offer pairing suggestions.—Josey Miller

Open daily noon to 4 pm.

Mama Africa
178 Long Street
Cape Town Centre
Cape Town
South Africa 8001
Tel: 27 21 426 1017

Mama Africa caters shamelessly to tourists, and many Capetonians look down their nose at it. Nonetheless, it's a lot of fun. The zany design includes a vast chandelier of broken Coke bottles and faux-mud walls. The bar is not your typical elbow parking lot: It's shaped like a snake. Friendly servers dish up vast portions of African food, such as hunter's stew with springbok, okra, and pumpkin. There is energetic live music most nights (jazz, marimba, African), sometimes enticing patrons to get up and dance—a great way to work off the delicious samosas.

Open Mondays through Saturdays 7 to 11 pm.

Shop 1, The Promenade
Victoria Road
Camps Bay
Cape Town
South Africa 8005
Tel: 27 21 438 0404

On the sunset strip of the Camps Bay beachfront, Paranga attracts a glam crowd of scantily clad sun worshippers and after-work partyers. Some conduct trysts in the intimate back booths; others sprawl on the terrace's comfy couches. The chic interior features sandy tones, hand-blown glass vases, and brightly colored candle holders. Everything in the place is carefully selected, from the high-quality wine glasses to the handsome waitstaff. The eclectic selection of international and local dishes—everything from steak to sushi to Karoo lamb chops—is boldly flavored and dramatically presented. The bar boasts South Africa's most extensive Champagne list.

Open daily 9 am to 10:30 pm.

Phantom Forest Boma
Phantom Forest Eco Reserve
Phantom Pass Road
South Africa
Tel: 27 44 386 0046

Not a guest in one of the hotel's tree-house suites? Then make a reservation far in advance and arrive early to soak up the beauty of the surrounding eco-reserve. Sip pre-dinner drinks, and then settle in at the boma near the freshwater pool to enjoy the sunset over the lagoon. The dinner menu changes daily to accommodate the best seasonal and organic ingredients, but it always dazzles; past dishes have included cured crocodile meat in papaya-and-tamarind sauce and peppered loin of kudu (antelope) with butternut and rosemary risotto. After the cheese course and dessert, coffee is often served around a dazzling bonfire.

Ristorante Enrico
Kettle Beach
South Africa
Tel: 27 44 535 9818

The Italian fare and idyllic location—on the rocks at Kettle Beach—compete for top billing at this large, simply decorated restaurant in Keurboomstrand, near Plettenberg Bay. Neatly stacked canned goods are the only adornment to the spare dining room, which is filled with large wooden tables. Owner/chef Enrico Iacopini was originally known for his Johannesburg restaurant, Roma, where he entertained the likes of Whoopi Goldberg and Luciano Pavarotti. This beach incarnation, popular with locals who drive from Plett as well as people walking in barefoot off the beach, splits its focus between seafood and Italian standards like osso buco, pizzas, and pastas.

Open daily from noon.

Riverside Kitchen
Highway N2
South Africa
Tel: 27 44 877 0900

In this thatched cottage on the Touw River, about a mile east of the town of Wilderness, diners tuck into eclectic South African and European fare that draws heavily on local produce. Start out with the ostrich salad marinated in a passion fruit vinaigrette; then move on to mains like Sole Adèle (poached in white wine with a rich prawn-and-portobello-mushroom sauce) and crayfish thermidor. Don't miss the decadent desserts, such as deep-fried, phyllo-encased ice cream in chocolate-chile sauce.

Closed Mondays February through December.

Salt Restaurant and Bar
Ambassador Hotel
34 Victoria Road
Bantry Bay
Cape Town
South Africa 8005
Tel: 27 21 439 7258

Salt's location, poised on a cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean in Bantry Bay, is spectacular; ask for a table at the window to get the benefit of a glorious view through the floor-to-ceiling windows. The food is not as impressive as the view, but the sauté of squid, chorizo, butter beans, tomato, parsley, lemon, and garlic is deliciously hearty. Since you don't get the benefit of the view at night, come instead for lunch.

Open Mondays through Saturdays 12:30 to 10:30 pm.

Church Street
Plettenberg Bay
South Africa 6600
Tel: 27 44 533 2030

The star attraction at the restaurant at the Plettenberg Hotel? The retractable glass walls showcasing the spectacular sea views. Coming in a close second are the wines: Sand has one of the most comprehensive lists in a country known for its wines. Less spectacular is the menu, which has moments of unevenness. Stick with dishes like the kingklip sashimi, a sushi roll on top of a bed of thinly sliced raw fish, and the Mossel Bay sole. Meat dishes like the herb-crusted Karoo lamb rump don't fare quite as well and often are tough.

Open daily noon to 2:30 pm and 7 to 9:30 pm.

Pezula Resort
The Heads
South Africa
Tel: 27 44 302 3333

Split into a quartet of restaurant, terrace, private dining room, and more casual lounge, Zachary's in the Pezula Resort is all warm golds and ochers (inspired, perhaps, by the shade of owner Keith Stewart's Labrador, the restaurant's namesake). During his years in the Seychelles, chef Geoff Murray developed a style that he calls Island Creole, drawing inspiration from the Seychelles and other regions of Africa. You'll find dishes like Ethiopian kitfo (ostrich, nitter kibbeh, sprouts, grilled flat bread) being offered next to grilled foie gras. The sea scallop BLT is served with bacon vinaigrette, braised cos lettuce, cherry tomatoes, and corn bread purée. It's all backed up by a 1,500-bottle wine cellar. Even breakfast is a hit, with fresh granola so good guests have suggested Stewart export it.

Open daily.

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.