A Hedonist's Guide to Johannesburg: Best Restaurants

By Andrew Ludwig
Food at Ghazal restaurant, Johannesburg
CURRY FLAVOR: Dishes at the Ghazal Indian restaurant, Johannesburg

1) Roots (French Fusion)
Found a 40-minute drive north of Jo'burg, Roots is part of the Forum Homini Boutique Hotel and is set in the Cradle of Humankind (an UNESCO site). The restaurant itself has been winning awards ever since chef Philippe Wagenfuhrer took over the reins with a host of accolades under its ever-expanding belt. The menu uses rich, visceral ingredients reminiscent of the history that surrounds the area—marrowbone, game, roots, plants and fruit—and then gives them a neat 21st-century twist. Wagenfuhrer believes in pairing his cooking with suitable wines and has developed an interesting set of rules to play by. Although quite a slog out of town, Roots is well worth the visit but we recommend you stay the night to take full advantage of the wine list.
Food 9, Service 8, Atmosphere 9

2) Mosaic (International)
Having recently been awarded the accolade of the best restaurant in South Africa, Mosaic is definitely worth a visit. Set in the spectacular Orient Hotel 40 minutes out of Sandton the décor and gastronomy can only be described as sensational. Working from a basic international palate the cooking has been influenced from India, Morocco, Turkey and the Middle East drawing in subtle fusions while making most of the fresh and organic locally-sourced ingredients. The décor picks up the look and feel of the hotel and the food, drawing inspiration from the Silk Route, North Africa and the sub-continent, and pays attention to all the right details. The food is based around degustation tasting menus—ranging from five courses to the seven-course Grande Degustation with or without wine pairings. The food certainly isn't cheap, with the entry level two-course a la carte coming in at R245, but definitely worth it.
Food 9, Service 9, Atmosphere 9

3) Thomas Maxwell (Eclectic)
Thomas Maxwell's 'New York-style' bistro is one of our favourite restaurants in town. Based in Parkmore in Sandton, the eclectic menu—which ranges from mussels and chips to warthog carpaccio—rarely changes thanks to a local loyal following. What used to be the best-kept secret in Jo'burg has now found wider appeal with diners flocking in their droves, but don't let them put you off. Don't let the fairly unassuming entrance deter you, either—once you get inside you'll be greeted with chic exposed brick walls and vintage furniture. Thomas, the owner and chef, is passionate about food and cites Brit offal aficionado Fergus Henderson among his influences. His love of wine also shines through and is reflected in the extensive and international wine list. The food is so damn good that you might find it a little tricky to squeeze in their amazing complimentary cupcakes at the end of the meal.
Food 9, Service 9, Atmosphere 9

4) The Saxon
Found within the beautiful boutique hotel of the same name, The Saxon restaurant really redefines the meaning of fine dining. Set in super-stylish surroundings, the interiors are minimal, modern and understated—leaving the focus on the food, as indeed it should be. Crisp white-clothed tables set the scene for the mouthwatering menu, with head chef Rudi Liebenberg using only the freshest local ingredients to concoct a fabulous fusion of African and Mediterranean-inspired dishes. The breakfast buffet is the restaurant's signature, however, with a showstopping spread of fruit, season berries, homemade compotes and coulis laid out for wide eyes and big bellies. For those wanting a little extra intimacy then they should book into the enchanting wine cellar where they can really get to grips with the wine list.
Food 9, Service 9, Atmosphere 9

5) Ghazal – Bryanston (North Indian)
Ghazal—deriving from the art of ancient Indian love poetry—is located in the quiet shopping centre of Peter Place in the middle of Sandton, and is quite possibly the best Indian restaurant in all of Jo'burg. The menu focuses on classic dishes from Northern India, and will impress even the most discerning curry fiend with fabulous favourites that range from hot to bloody scorching. The interior is unlike any other curry house you will have come across, with huge windows looking out over the suburbs, paved stone floors and large industrial lights hanging from the ceiling. This is more New York than New Delhi. For those unable to get a table, or simply too lazy to leave the hotel, they do offer a take-away service, delivered direct to your room.
Food 9, Service 7, Atmosphere 7

To discover more of Johannesburg’s hottest hotels, restaurants, clubs, and bars, order your copy of A Hedonist’s Guide to… Johannesburg here.

Published: 12 May 2010 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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