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The best restaurant neighbourhoods Print E-mail

Dining out | Historic restaurants | African restaurants | Vegetarian restaurants | Steakhouses

Kensington

Written by Barbara Ludman

There are many neighbourhoods in Johannesburg with clusters of restaurants offering good food for the discerning diner. 

Melville

Lucky Bean
16th Seventh Street
011 482 5572
Open Tuesdays to Sundays for lunch and dinner.

The Loft
5A Seventh Street
011 482 8986
Open seven days a week for lunch and dinner.

The Ant Café
Seventh Street
078 777 8877
Open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Bambanani
75 Fourth Avenue
011 482 2900
Open Tuesdays to Sundays (weekends at 7am) for breakfast, lunch and dinner

Service Station
Ninth Street and Rustenburg Road
011 726 1701
Open seven days a week for breakfast and lunch.

Greenside

Spiceburg
141 Greenway Road, corner of Gleneagles
011 486 2255
Open seven days a week for lunch and dinner.

Karma
Cnr Gleneagles and Greenfield Roads
011 646 8555
Open seven days a week for lunch and dinner.

Bite
137 Greenway Road
011 486 0449
Open Tuesdays to Saturdays for lunch and dinner and for dinner only on Monday.

Trieste
40 Gleneagles Road
011 646 3473
Open Tuesdays to Sundays for breakfast and lunch.

The Greenside Café
34 Gleneagles Road
011 646 3444
Open Tuesdays to Thursdays for breakfast and lunch, Fridays and Saturdays for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Doppio Zero
Corner Barry Hertzog Avenue and Gleneagles Road
011 646 8740
Open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Parkhurst

Lucky Moo
22 Sixth Street
011 024 4898
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Open seven days a week from 10.30am. Sundays to Fridays to 9pm, Saturday until 10pm.

George's on Fourth
21 Fourth Avenue
011 447 7705
Open seven days a week for lunch and dinner.

Cilantro
24 Fourth Avenue
011 327 4558
Open for lunch and dinner Tuesdays to Saturdays and for lunch only on Sundays.

Ruby's
24 Fourth Avenue
011 880 3673
Open seven days a week for lunch and dinner.

The Attic
24 Fourth Avenue
011 880 6102
Open Tuesdays to Sundays for lunch and dinner, and for dinner only on Mondays.

Nice
37 Fourth Avenue
011 788 6286
Open Tuesdays to Sundays for breakfast and lunch, and for dinner on Thursdays and Fridays.

Parktown North

Moemas
Parktown Quarter (opposite the parking lot)
011 788 7725
Open seven days a week for breakfast and lunch.

Guru
Parktown Quarter
Third Avenue
011 447 5044
Open seven days a week for breakfast and lunch.

Turn 'n Tender
Parktown Quarter
011 788 7933
Open seven days a week for lunch and dinner.

Sugo
Parktown Quarter
011 442 0540
Open Tuesdays to Sundays for lunch and dinner.

Local Grill
Corner Third Street and Seventh Avenue
011 880 1946
Lunch and dinner Tuesday to Saturday. Lunch only on Sunday.

Wombles
17 Third Avenue
011 880 2470
Lunch and dinner Monday to Friday. Dinner only on Saturday.

La Cucino de Ciro
43 Seventh Avenue
011 442 5187
Open Tuesdays to Saturdays for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Breakfast and lunch only on Sundays.

Fino
Corner Fourth and Seventh Avenues
011 447 4608
Open Tuesdays to Saturdays for lunch and dinner. Lunch only on Sundays and dinner only on Mondays.

Rosebank

Sophia's
Rosebank Mall
011 880 7356
Lunch and dinner Mondays to Saturdays. Lunch only on Sundays.

Nino's
Mutual Square
Cradock Avenue
011 339 2559
Open for breakfast and lunch Mondays to Fridays.

The Grillhouse
The Firs
Cradock Avenue
011 880 3945
Open for lunch and dinner Sundays to Fridays. Dinner only on Saturdays.

Doppio Zero
The Firs
Cradock Avenue
011 447 9538
Open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Metzuyan
Baker Square West
011 880 4153
Open for lunch Sundays to Fridays and for dinner Saturdays to Thursdays.

Norwood

Piccolo Prima Donna
38 Grant Avenue
011 483 0089
Open seven days a week for lunch and dinner.

Shahi Khana
80 Grant Avenue
011 728 8157
Open seven days a week for lunch and dinner.

Barrio
80 Grant Avenue
011 728 4950
Open for lunch Sundays to Fridays and for dinner Saturdays to Thursdays.

Faff
44 Grant Avenue
011 728 2434
Open for lunch and dinner Sundays to Thursdays, and dinner only on Saturdays.

Kensington

Abysinia
Langermann Drive, just off Queen Street
072 918 8824
Open seven days a week for lunch and dinner

Bell Pepper
176 Queen Street
011 615 7531
Open for lunch and dinner Tuesdays to Fridays, dinner only on Saturdays, and lunch only on Sundays.

Cumin and Coriander
153 Queen Street
011 616 7734
Open Tuesdays to Saturdays for lunch and dinner and on Sundays for lunch only.

Cyrildene

Fisherman's Plate
18 Derrick Avenue
011 622 0480
Open for lunch and dinner Tuesdays to Sundays.

 

DESPITE the volatility of the restaurant business, with eateries opening and closing within months, some areas are holding their own. Sandton is paved edge-to-edge with top class hotels featuring very good restaurants. Parkhurst has been a strong restaurant mecca for years, and Greenside is attracting new establishments as the old guard moves out to the Western Cape or to Sandton.

Melrose Arch has a selection of restaurants set out close to one another in a cobblestoned quarter. Parktown North has fulfilled its earlier promise and offers several good places to eat. And Fordsburg is one of those neighbourhoods where you can't go wrong.
 

 




Melville

 

The oldest restaurant haven in Johannesburg, it has fallen on hard times, with many good businesses pushed out by an invading bar culture. There are, however, some gems on Seventh Street.

Lucky Bean has been purveying fine food for years. Light meals run from the very South African boerewors and umngqusho – beans and samp – to the very Thai wrap with satay sauce. For more serious eating, such excellent dishes as prawn and chorizo risotto, seared tuna with udon noodles and wasabi butter, or an ostrich burger with bobotie stuffing, mushroom and bacon sauce. Lucky Bean also offers a range of good dishes for vegetarians – the red bean and mushroom burger is justly famous.

The Loft is another good restaurant along Seventh Street, offering, inter alia, sirloin and rump steaks with green pepper sauce as well as beef fillet with a bone marrow and red wine reduction. Its best-known dish is springbok loin, wrapped in bacon. Pastas tend towards the exotic – bacon and vodka, for example – and there are a few dishes for vegetarians.

The Ant Café styles itself as "old Melville" – small, dark, and so quirky its menu states "no cards accepted" and "please do not ask us to change the music". Its offerings run to soup, sandwiches and pizza and its platters are first-rate – either an array of salad-ish ingredients like tomato, cucumber and avocado plus cheeses, marinated mushrooms and three kinds of pesto, or the same again with roast beef, salami and chicken added.

Bambanani, just round the corner from Seventh Street, attracts families with small children because there is a supervised play area in the back, but you don't have to have a child with you in order to eat there. In the front are fireplaces for winter and a section on the street for summertime. The extensive menu runs the gamut from beef burgers to slow-cooked lamb shank and teriyaki salmon, with a good tapas menu – prawns, quesadillas, crostini and everything else one might want.  

At the far end of Melville, at Rustenburg Road and Ninth Street, is the Service Station, a surprising success story for a rough, tough town like Johannesburg. It offers salads and quiches which patrons heap on to their plates and then pay for by weight, but one can also order a generous cheese platter or any number of large interesting sandwiches, from turkey to roast vegetables and haloumi cheese. It opens early for breakfast but closes in the late afternoon, and despite queues of people on Fridays, particularly, and great crowds on Sunday mornings, the restaurant has neither added tables – widely spaced for privacy – nor begun taking reservations.

 



Greenside
The traffic circle at the confluence of Greenway and Gleneagles roads has been attracting foodies for years. The latest resident is Spiceburg, offering a huge range of south and north Indian cuisine, from tandori chicken, vegetables, lamb, kingklip, or prawns to karala fish masala and on to mutton biriyani. The restaurant also offers mini-thalis, a full course meal served in a banana leaf.

Spiceburg joins older residents in the suburb purveying food from the east. Karma's food is described as Indian fusion; under its founder it was turning out fabulous curries, and turning away an overflow crowd. It has changed hands but is still very good. The small but elegantly decorated Bite features Chinese and Japanese food.

Around the corner, down Gleneagles, are two unusual restaurants. Trieste is a lunchtime only spot featuring pasta and some of the best ice cream in Johannesburg. And the Greenside Café, a vegetarian restaurant, is popular with omnivores as well. Its English style breakfast features refried beans, haloumi and scrambled curried tofu. The menu includes soups, salads, nori wraps, smoothies and freshly-squeezed juices, the pizzas are made with a free-form sourdough base and the coffee is excellent Ethiopian. There is usually one raw food dish on the menu – on weekends, it's lasagna, with courgette ribbons standing in for pasta and cashew cream for cheese.

Doppio Zero – which has other branches, but this is the original – not only has excellent food, described as Mediterranean, and a good bakery, but also that most sought-after attribute in Greenside, a parking lot.
 




Parkhurst
Parkhurst is probably the trendiest of restaurant neighbourhoods. Walk along Fourth Avenue and it looks like a sea of sidewalk cafes, with only the odd antique, hardware or flower shop adding a bit of variety.

Best known is George's on Fourth, which gives the crowds that flock there delicious designer portions of fusion food and stacked vegetables. Small and super-popular Cilantro styles itself as MediterrAsian. That means dishes like moules et frites, but Cilantro's mussels are flavoured with Eastern spices; or an Asian prawn and avocado fan. The Parkhurst version of Europa – there are branches elsewhere, including in Sandton, Norwood and Oaklands – is good for deli sandwiches, really good coffee and excellent pasta. And the sushi at Ruby's is as good as ever.

The Attic offers gourmet dishes designed by chef/patron Tom Hughes, including the very popular crab fettuccini with coriander, chilli and lime, roast free-range chicken with sage and onion stuffing, or pork belly with sauerkraut, lardoons, potato dumplings and beetroot puree, and for dessert: a three-way crème brulee – naartjie, cranberry and camomile. It's worth the hassle of finding parking in Parkhurst.

Nice is more than just nice for breakfast. Very popular is a poached egg in a toast basket with bacon, spicy tomato relish and a bit of parmesan. For a light lunch there are sandwiches, pies, quichs, salads. Desserts are extremely good. The restaurant is split into two; at the corner is Nice's bookshop with tables down the centre, a very civilised way to lunch. Dinner on Thursday and Friday is a five-course set menu, reservations only.

 

Parkhurst is just the place for a gourmet Chinese takeaway, and Lucky Moo, at the busy corner of Fourth Avenue and Sixth Street, fills the bill nicely. It’s a branch of the takeaway started in the CBD’s Gandhi Square by well known restaurateur Jaco Welgemoed and bears his stamp: superb Chinese food with extra touches, like cinnamon in the mushroom chicken and the lightest, crispest pastry wrapped round the spring rolls. The Parkhurst branch also offers sushi.

Parkhurst is just the place for a gourmet Chinese takeaway, and Lucky Moo, at the busy corner of Fourth Avenue and Sixth Street, fills the bill nicely. It's a branch of the takeaway started in the CBD's Gandhi Square by well known restaurateur Jaco Welgemoed and bears his stamp: superb Chinese food with extra touches, like cinnamon in the mushroom chicken and the lightest, crispest pastry wrapped round the spring rolls. The Parkhurst branch also offers sushi.

 



Parktown North
The owners of Northpark Centre in Parktown North have converted a hodge-podge of neighbourhood shops into Restaurant Row.

They've renamed the stretch along Third Street and Seventh Avenue Parktown Quarter, expanded the parking lot, invited in Woolworths, and made space for restaurants that, by and large, are excellent.

The star of the Quarter is Moemas. Part-patisserie, part tiny restaurant, its instant success surprised owners Danielle Postma and Mike Caudle, who expected "a slow, gentle opening". It is arguably the best patisserie in Gauteng, offering brilliant versions of brioche and fruit tartlets (apricot, pear, cherry), flourless chocolate bundt cakes and brownies, lemon meringue, superb Belgian chocolate tartlets, carrot cake ...
Breakfast is the usual range, plus their own granola; lunch is a choice of anything from rare roast beef fillet to lamb curry or a savoury tartlet, and/or a choice of inventive salads. Postma worked in top-end bakeries in London for a decade and, with Caudle, ran a catering company in Johannesburg before opening the shop in May.

Guru could be billed as a fast-food shop, but it's different from most: plenty of tables, including a strip of seating perched a metre or so above the pavement; an arrangement of comfortable couches in the corner; and food, although packaged in plastic pots, made on the premises. The waiters are caring and so is the management: there are bowls of water for thirsty dogs just outside the entrance.

The menu is largely salads and sandwiches – popular are egg mayo, chicken mayo and chicken and bacon on rye, but there are also wraps, bagels and croissants, a daily soup and quiche, a range of frozen drinks called frostis – coffee mocha, coco mocha, chai tea or fruit salad, whizzed with ice ­– and the coffee is very good.

The menu runs to such items as chicken Caesar salad and club sandwiches; there are interesting soups – like spinach and feta – and a wide range of smoothies, and the coffee is very good. It's the third Lulu this year; a shop opened in Melrose Arch in March and another in the East Rand's new Greenstone Shopping Centre. On the drawing board is a Lulu in Cape Town and another in Sydney, Australia.

Johannesburgers might remember the Turn 'n Tender steakhouses, a feature of the gourmet dining landscape in the 1970s. It's back: Brian Aaron, one of the four brothers who ran the original restaurants, has opened a steakhouse in the Parktown Quarter. The menu runs to marinated beef spareribs, hamburgers and steaks with a range of toppings and marinades – for example, fillet rolled in olive oil and dipped in paprika, coarse salt and black pepper.

Sugo is run by a couple of guys with a hotel school background. It's a small trattoria featuring pizza, pasta and paninis. All the usual versions are there, as well as other, more interesting ones: pasta with coriander and lime, for example, or walnut, rocket and parmesan; and pizzas like the Zola, topped with mozzarella, gorgonzola, pear and sesame seeds.

Across the road, the Local Grill – another steak house – has opened a branch on the corner, featuring spice-rubbed steaks and gourmet hamburgers, served with shoestring chips or potato wedges.

Parktown Quarter has a coffee shop, of course – Vida e Caffe. Nando's and Yo Sushi, established before the renovation, have survived; and halfway down Third Street is still another steak house, the relatively venerable Wombles.

For fine dining, head to Seventh Avenue. Only half a block away from restaurant row are the new premises of La Cucina de Ciro, a wonderful old house with a large veranda in front, a series of rooms inside and plenty of parking. Ciro Molinaro, formerly of The Ritz, creates Italian fare, freshly cooked and delicious, and some of the best breakfasts one can find anywhere. It's a bakery as well, and the bread and croissants are first-rate. Molinaro changes the menu rather often, depending on what's in season.

On Fourth Street, there's the elegant Fino. In addition to a range o cold and hot tapas, there are such main dishes as arroz con seca, a Spanish version of mushroom risotto, and the popular chicken with orange and mint, an Andalusian speciality.

 



Rosebank
There are some mainstays in this shopping bazaar. Sophia's in the Rosebank Mall and Nino's opposite both do Italian, although Sophia's does it with linen tablecloths. Tsunami upstairs in the Mall offers fish and other Japanese food, including sushi. Cranks, downstairs from the Mall, does wonderful Thai food, and the décor is so bizarre it's worth a visit on its own. In the Firs, there's the Grillhouse, a highly successful steakhouse.

Two newcomers add to the possibilities. Still in the Firs, but just outside, is a new Doppio Zero (see the original under Greenside). Among its delicious offerings are breakfast and pizza, including a vegan version with crisp vegetables atop a crisp base.

And a couple of blocks away, in an arcade off the still-being-renovated Baker Square opposite the Mall, is Metzuyan, a kosher (meat) restaurant, very well designed, offering steaks of all sorts, pasta, salads, sushi, and light meals like burgers and wraps.
 




Norwood
Norwood's Grant Avenue was once a gourmet strip. Then the fast-food chains moved in, and the celebrity chefs moved out, but one or two good restaurants are holding on, and seem likely to last for a good few years to come. At one end of the avenue is the excellent Piccolo Prima Donna, a small restaurant which has been serving first-rate Italian food to a justly devoted clientele for years. Moving north, one comes to Shahi Khana, which has survived for many years on excellent Indian fare. Although most of the rest of the eateries are, largely, neighbourhood restaurants featuring the food of various foreign countries (Chinese, Thai, Italian, Portuguese, and Japanese), there are two kosher (meat) restaurants – Barrio, around the corner from Shahi Khana, and at the far north of the avenue, the fancier Faff.

The far east of Johannesburg is often overlooked, but there are some seriously good restaurants there.




Kensington
Tucked away amid the antique shops on Queen Street in Kensington are two good establishments, The Bell Pepper and Cumin and Coriander.

The Bell Pepper has been around for close to a decade, serving gourmet food, some of it invented by the original owner. Cumin and Coriander isn't quite that venerable, but has been in business for quite a while – same excellent Pakistani chefs, but changing management. The service can be slow, but the dishes are worth waiting for.

Just off Queen Street, upstairs in a small shopping centre on Langermann Drive, is Abysinia, an Ethiopian restaurant run by Dereje and Ansale Debele, who had a similar, but smaller, establishment in “Little Ethiopia” in the CBD.  On offer are a range of stews – both meat and vegetarian – served with injera, a slightly sour pancake used to scoop up the stew. Some Ethiopian restaurants serve injera as an edible tablecloth; at Abysinia, it’s rolled up, not unlike a roti. Films of Ethiopian music and dances play in the background.
 



Cyrildene

Derrick Avenue in Cyrildene is lined with small Chinese restaurants, the city's new Chinatown. Among the best is the Fisherman's Plate. The speciality is crab in many guises, but the chefs also do wonderful deep fried fish as well as sticky spare ribs.

Almost every neighbourhood has at least one good place to eat but you have to look for it. Often a prize restaurant can be found amid greasy takeaways serving industrial food. It's worth persevering – a diligent search can bring delicious rewards.

 


 

 

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