South Africa may not yet rival France and Italy for world’s greatest gourmet treats, but it does have some stunningly good restaurants. With such magnificent scenery, you are also spoiled for choice when it comes to choosing somewhere for a romantic night out. I have only picked a couple of the fabulously romantic restaurants in country house hotels, on the coast and in game lodges for this list – there are many many more. Enjoy exploringSouth Africa’s finest culinary offerings..
1. La Colombe, Cape Town
Executive chef Luke Dale-Roberts, has been soaring high, winning national and international accolades. In 2010, La Colombe was listed as 12th in the San Pellegrino 50 Best Restaurants of the World. Set within one of the region’s most famous vineyards, overlooking a fountain courtyard, the food is based on classic French cuisine with an Asian twist.
2. Salt, Cape Town
Book ahead to ensure you get one of the tables by the floor to ceiling picture windows with their breathtaking views and get there for early evening tapas and fizz while you watch the sun set across the Atlantic Ocean while the waves crash on the rocks beneath. Modern, sleek and very sexy with a South African/French inspire menu, Salt has all the ingredients for seduction.
3. Buitenverwachting Restaurant, Cape Town
A stunning historic winery with a Cape-Dutch mansion, rolling parklands and shady oaks, a gourmet chef who loves to experiment and create magical combinations such as quail saltimbocca with green asparus, truffle vinaigrette and carbonara parfait or pan-fried crayfish with a minted ricotta ravioli and lemongrass-ginger foam. Although romantic at night, this is one of few places where it may be better to come for lunch – or come on a Sunday when there is a brunch buffet.
4. Firefly Eating House, Knysna, Garden Route
It’s quirky and shabby chic, housed in an old tin mining house with red walls and draped in fairy lights. This entertaining little Garden Route restaurant has bucketloads of individual personality provided by mother and daughter team, Dell and Sanchia Hadlow. They love spice, drawing their inspiration from any cuisine that uses it Indian, Malay, Thai and African cuisine. Even the occasional Mexican dish makes the menu. Everything is graded from 1–10 in order of hotness so you can choose exactly what you like or can cope with. There’s a great selection of interesting cocktails, teas and coffees, but be warned, it’s cash only.
5. Zinzi’s, Plettenberg Bay, Garden Route
Part of the Tsala Treetop Lodge, set amidst lush coastal forest, partway between Knysna and Plettenberg Bay on the Garden Route, Zinzi’s typifies the best of African chic, with its opulent use of organic earthy tones, lush textures – suede and leather, velvet and metal – while the food takes simple favourites such as the hamburger to gourmet heights. It has more than earned its coveted Relais & Chateaux badge. Comfortable, plush and sophisticated, all the senses are in for a treat.
6. Roma Revolving Restaurant, Durban
The only revolving restaurant in the southern hemisphere, the Roma sits on the 32nd floor of John Ross House, 105m up in the air, with breathtaking panoramic views across the city and harbour of Durban. Under Italian ownership, the food is classic Italian, with both seafood and game on the menu. They also pride themselves on having one of the finest dessert trolleys in the Durban area with some real show-off spectaculars, such as Baked Alaska and Crêpes Suzette alongside Italian favourites like cassata.
7. Ile Maurice, Umhlanga
This well-established local landmark is a family affair, run by brothers Robert and Jean Dauvis while mother Elsie reigns supreme in the kitchen. They have been creating magnificent classic French food, with touches of Creole and Mauritian sunshine for nearly 20 years. However it is more recently that they moved out of Durban to this restored mansion with an outdoor terrace for a perfect seaview. Advance booking advised, particularly if you want to sit outside.
8. Roots, near Johannesburg
Roots, near Johannesburg
Set in a private game park, about 40 mins drive from Sandton, near the Cradle of Humankind, Roots has become a true destination restaurant for Gauteng foodies. Regularly listed as one of the top 10 restaurants in the country, prepare for gourmet four-course lunch or six-course dinner with serene views across the African bush. Head chef Allistair Lawrence uses French, African and Asian influences. You also have the option of carefully selected wine teasers to match each dish. If you want a drink, spend a night in the sumptuous Forum Homini boutique hotel, and try the three course breakfast or Saturday brunch.
About 30 mins drive from Johannesburg, chef Errol Gobey presides over something closely resembling a South African stately home. The beautiful old mansion is decorated in magnificent style with gilded statues, stone urns on the terrace, and fresh flowers on the tables. It’s all very lavish and oh so slightly camp. The food is not particularly innovative but is delicious from the butternut soup and seafood crêpe to the duck and black cherry pie. Like the tables, the plates come covered in flowers.
10. Ritrovo, Pretoria (Tshwane)
Owned by father and son team, Giovanni and Fortunato Mazzone, Ritrovo offers all the homely warmth of an old-fashioned Italian trattoria (a very upmarket one, of course). You have several choices of where to eat, from the more formal main dining room to the laid-back brasserie can even dine privately amidst the 20,000 bottles of the wine cellar. It also offers mouthwatering Italian food with a touch of international inspiration and a lavish array of daily specials. The ingredients are fresh, seasonal and beautifully prepared and presented.