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Posted on: Wednesday, 20 July 2011

When in Joburg: great spots at which to eat

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Where shall we dine?

Where shall we dine?

I feel the need to qualify right away that I am not a resident of Jozi. I used to be. Joburg was where I met and lived with my now husband. Those were the initial heady days of our relationship, and I loved the vibey, fast-paced, hectic, bright and overly focused environment that was the major city of South Africa. Its hustle and sharp-edged tone suited us.

Each time we return it is something of a culture shock for me. Cape Town, where I now live, may as well be another country the two cities are so dissimilar. Johannesburg surges on a tide, where Cape Town gently melts into your psyche; Jo’burg jars, constantly moves in a sea of activity and when you don’t know the city, appears aggressive, whereas Cape Town lies in the shadow of a mountain that seems constantly there, no matter where you are, its beautiful gardens and contented lifestyle almost soothing by comparison.

Besides having the rather cumbersome drive of 2000 odd kilometres between them, give or take a couple of miles, there is also the obvious rich/poor divide that, whilst obvious in both cities, is far more so in Cape Town where the way things were has only marginally changed for those who live there in a ‘contented bubble’.

Fresh Ingredients

Fresh Ingredients

There will be those who argue, but it is my one niggle with Cape Town. I feel, despite the obvious beauty that I would not trade for anything (except perhaps the rain), that Capetonians appear to live in a protectorate of sorts where ‘us’ and ‘them’ is still very much present, even if there is a lot of PC lip service. And I miss Jo’burg for this reason only; it feels closer to the Africa in which we live.

This was supposed to be about food; enough warbling about which city is a closer representation of Africa – each has its own merits. I am  not a foodie, or a food critic so this is not a list of the ‘best’ restaurants, or ‘top’ restaurants in the city. It is simply a handful of the restaurants, some of which I’ve enjoyed food at when in Joburg. You are welcome to add your favourites in the comments below.

Fresh Earth in Emmarentia

Delicous Fresh Bread

Delicous Fresh Bread

Fresh Earth calls itself a food store. Which it is. It is far more than a restaurant. It has a bakery out back where it produces some of the breads it serves in its restaurant and sells in its shop, whilst the food it serves has an emphasis on vegetarian, organic, local and healthy food. So you will be able to get wheat-free bread served with your breakfast, soya milk with your coffee, and a rich assortment of vegetarian and vegan foods. It’s an all-round healthy place to eat.

The food is also incredibly nummy and devoid of all the nasties like colourants and preservatives. Eat there on a Saturday and you’ll be subject to their ‘Table of Abundance’, an all-you-can-eat buffet that looked fairly incredible, made only with natural and organic ingredients. The shop is very well stocked with health supplements, whole foods and organic, alternative body and household products. I could spend hours there.

You’ll find them at:
Location: 13 Komatie Road, Emmarentia
Contact: +27 (0)11 646-4404
Opening Times: Open most days from 8am to 5pm, closed on Sundays
See: accommodation in and near Emmarentia

Plaka in Cresta

Plaka in Cresta

Plaka in Cresta

Plaka serves good old Greek food in a thoroughly modern way, without the dancing or plate throwing. The restaurant in Cresta is big and was already pretty busy early during the week when we went to sample their food. They describe their menu as ‘unpretentious food and meze’ served in a ‘contemporary setting’. The layout is all white – white tables and chairs, white menus and serviettes, waitrons all in white – you get the idea. Not sure that I’d agree with the unpretentiousness of the restaurant, and the service was overly solicitous, but the food was excellent.

Their meze platter for two came with a whole array of dips and other meze at a reasonable cost, and a couple of pitas to dip with (they didn’t charge for extra pitas either). Their wine by the glass was good, and their desserts a wonderful representation of Greek-style specialties, like baklava and halva. It’s real Mediterranean eating. Would definitely go again.

You’ll find them at:
Locations: Cresta Centre near the Pick n Pay
Contact: +27 (0)11 478-0392
See: Cresta Accommodation if you need a bed for the night

Moyo at Zoo Lake

Moyo at Zoo Lake

Moyo at Zoo Lake

Moyo at Spier is one of the best-known restaurants in Stellenbosch, and I believe the one at Melrose Arch in Johannesburg is similar. The Moyo at Zoo Lake appealed because our original intention – rowing on zoo lake – soon lost its ring of adventure due to the icy winds in the city during July. Moyo is all about its African theme – and it’s beautiful to look at. The one at Zoo Lake overlooks the lake and, certainly at lunch times over weekends, the focus is on children. It’s also pet friendly.

They run a series of workshops over weekends and school holidays where children learn anything from gumboot dancing to drumming and cooking, theatre games and drama. There is a focus on live entertainment and unless you are prepared to eat a lot, order from the menu, as it’s hard to do justice to the buffet, particularly children. The combination of food and atmosphere is unbeatable.

You’ll find them at:
Location: 1 Prince of Whales Drive, Parkview
Contact: +27 (0)11 646-0058
Opening Times: Monday to Sunday for breakfast, lunch and dinner
See: Parkview Accommodation for a place to rest your head

Fournos Bakery in Dunkeld

Fournos Bakery

Fournos Bakery

I can’t resist Fournos. We used to go to the one at Hyde Park, the only one that stayed open at night, if I remember correctly. There is now even a branch at OR Tambo Airport, which should make waiting for the plane that never comes a more than pleasant experience. The great things about Fournos include being able to order your dinner and collect it on the way home – this is often a great way to feed the friends you invited for supper last minute; that it opens at 7am, which makes it perfect for breakfast meetings, and that their pastries are the best.

Their deli is where it’s really at, with an incredible selection of cheeses, meats, olives, pickles etc. just waiting to be piled on to your choice of roll, bread or croissant. They also do a selection of salads and meze. Can’t go wrong with this venue, breakfast, tea or lunch.

You’ll find them at:
Location: Dunkeld West Shopping Centre, cnr Jan Smuts Ave and Bompas Road
Contact: +27 (0)11 325-2110
See: Dunkeld West Accommodation for overnight options

Wandies Place, Soweto

Try the Chakalaka

Try the Chakalaka

This is a real tourist haven, where you eat traditional meals in the Dube area of Soweto. It used to be an illegal shebeen 15 years ago in what was a four-roomed house. Only in the 1990s was it allowed to begin trading legally and it grew into the trendy and very well-known restaurant that it is today – celebs and visitors to the city hang out here. Expect to eat traditional local food like umngqusho (stamped corn and bean stew, a traditional Xhosa dish), morogo and chakalaka, all served buffet-style.

You’ll find them at:
Location: 618 Makhalemele Street, Soweto
Contact: +27 (0)11 982-2796
See: Soweto Accommodation if you’re looking for somewhere to stay nearby

Johannesburg Links:

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Wanda Coustas


Wanda Coustas has written in one form or another for 10 years, seven of them as a copyblogger. She has travelled the Western Cape extensively and the rest of the country in protracted road trips that have given her both joy and an ongoing relish for experiencing what she writes about first-hand. She is a trained opera singer, poet, eurythmy dancer, philosopher, and bee whisperer.

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1 comment about When in Joburg: great spots at which to eat
  1. July 23rd, 2011 at 18:40
    Naomi Estment says:

    Thanks for sharing this, Christine. As a Capetonian living in Jo’burg since marrying 16 years ago, it’s great to read your take on the two :-) Perhaps we’ll return one of these days… I also have to admit to not having eaten at most of these restaurants, so will give them a go!