Next time you’re in Egoli, give one of these fabulous restaurants a try, you won't be disappointed.
Everyone knows about Johannesburg’s top restaurants: the award-winning establishments with celebrity chefs offering waist-widening degustation menus at eye-watering prices. But what of the local gems that combine charm and character with damn fine food, where you don’t need a second mortgage to cover the bill? Here’s our pick of the best:
Corner Café and Bistro, Craighall Park
As one of the oldest suburbs in Johannesburg, dating back to the early days of the 20th century, it’s perhaps fitting that Craighall Park has one of the city’s best neighbourhood eateries.
What began as a simple café has since mushroomed into a vibrant bistro space that bustles from morning till night, offering everything from eggs hollandaise the morning after the night before, to mussels with white wine and chorizo over a bottle of good Chardonnay.
A classic example of a relaxed neighbourhood bistro, the menu from owner-chef Greig Walker offers just the right mix of dependable favourites alongside daily specials that’ll tempt you away from them. Locals swear by the all-day sandwiches and the pizzas flying out of the wood- fired oven, while meatier options include the hearty steak roll or grilled rump with Dijon butter.
There’s a stylish industrial feel to the space, but it’s a look that is softened when buzzing with plenty of happy locals. On balmy Joburg evenings, there’s a courtyard for alfresco dining.
Taste for yourself: Corner Café and Bistro, cnr Buckingham and Rothesay avenues, Craighall Park, 011 880 2244, cnrcafe.co.za
District Six Eatery, Emmarentia
Emmerentia’s that place with the dam, right? Well, yes, but it’s also home to this colourful, quirky dining establishment that offers a taste of traditional Cape Malay cooking without all that flying-to-Cape-Town nonsense.
Despite a change in ownership a few years back, the ambience and menu offer the same dependable blend of Cape Malay favourites, with the likes of smoorsnoek, lamb bredie, bobotie and samosas taking your taste buds klop-klopping back to beneath Table Mountain. For dessert, it’s silky melktert and koeksisters with good, strong coffee.
Vintage photographs, family heirlooms and retro-kitsch furniture add playful familiarity to this neighbourhood favourite, where both locals and tourists always leave smiling.
Taste for yourself: District Six Eatery, 42B Greenhill Road, Emmarentia, 011 486 7226
The Leopard, Melville
Melville’s lustre may have faded in the past decade, but with chefs like Andrea Burgener setting up shop here, the suburb surely has a bright future ahead of it. Burgener is no stranger to Johannesburg’s restaurant scene, having previously run the much-loved Deluxe and Super Bon-Bon, and there’s plenty of the same playful influence on the globe-trotting bistro-café menu here.
This is a chef who likes to chop and change dishes frequently, so you’ll find few long-running signatures on offer, but the ‘sons of Caesar’ salad, spiced up here with a hit of chilli, is certainly one that regulars can’t get enough of. A platter of free- range Knysna salami, salad and aged Asiago is another excellent starter option.
Perhaps in keeping with Melville’s boho spirit, that thread of ethical eating runs throughout the menu: the poultry and pork are free-range, the seafood sustainable, and you’ll find only grass-fed beef in the excellent steak tartare made with chopped Greenlands rump, capers, parsley, Cognac and lemon. The wine list, like the menu, is compact but playful, with a selection of estates that is far from run- of-the-mill.
Throw in a colourful, airy space overflowing with character and it’s no surprise that bookings are all but essential. Melville, and Johannesburg, needs more places like this.
Taste for yourself: The Leopard, 63A 4th Avenue (cnr 5th Street), Melville, 011 482 9356, leopardfoodcompany.com