Restaurant Rule Breakers.
New restaurants popping up in Cape Town and Joburg are taking a break from the conventional and offering something a little different. We’ve put together a list of some out-of-the-ordinary eateries to try.
Expect lots of beautiful, smoky, fiery flavours from this self-titled restaurant by chef Ash Heeger, who was mentored by Luke-Dale Roberts at The Test Kitchen, and later worked at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal in London. ASH Restaurant is a charcoal concept eatery inspired by Heeger’s South African roots, but enhanced by her international training. Located in a Church Street basement previously occupied by Publik Wine Bar and Frankie Fenner Meat Merchants, the mid-century modern décor and open kitchen herald a new original on the scene.
Peroxided and tattooed, Heeger is the picture of ungovernable and likes to think of her dishes as whimsical. She hones crazy ideas into firm favourites, serving seasonal menus that feature free-range, grass-fed meat, complemented by vegetables sourced from the Abalimi Bezekhaya in Gugulethu. Book a table for a taste of something different.
If you’re looking for a delicious vegan restaurant in Cape Town, look no further than Lekker Vegan in the CBD. This new spot is not your typical plant-based restaurant. While it still aims to provide customers with wholesome vegan dishes, the eatery’s real talent lies in its ability to produce familiar and delicious junk-food favourites without the use of animal products.
Owner James Knaap wanted to introduce South Africans to vegan cuisine beyond tofu and celery sticks by offering packed gatsbies, gourmet burgers and even soft serve ice cream on his menu. Lekker Vegan is open until 10pm on most days, but extends its hours to 3am on Fridays and Saturdays for when you just can’t do without your meat-free midnight munchies.
It lives up to the promise of that hybrid description: a brilliant and unusual mix of Asian-inspired fare, with private karaoke rooms upstairs that can be rented by the hour.
The Marabi Club
In the basement of Maboneng’s Hallmark House, designed by perhaps the world’s most famous African architect David Adjaye, is a jazz club called Marabi. Named after an early 20th century style of urban African jazz, The Marabi Club is home to a changing pop-up restaurant. When it opened last year, it ran for three months as the Pop Luck Club, a cheeky incarnation of Luke Dale-Roberts’ more casual Cape Town offering.
Now, its latest installation is run by Australian chef Russell Armstrong, who launched the EB Social Kitchen in Hyde Park. Expect to dine on gourmet plates inspired by shebeen comfort food, surrounded by a uniquely South African atmosphere. Be sure to order the KFQ – deep-fried quail leg, served with charred corn and miso mayo.
A small slice of Cuba now animates the former home of Warm & Glad, one of Craighalls’ old favourite spots. The Royale is a hugely popular addition to the dining-and-cocktails scene that seems to be infecting the city. Unsurprisingly, the rum cocktails are something of a speciality here, and the combination of high ceiling, arches and courtyard make it a pocket of urban exotica with a buzz that’s a tonic for the jaded city slicker.
Their small menu is the first clue to its clarity, quality and confidence, and features contemporary Cuban comfort food like sloppy Joe empanadas, Cuban sandwiches, mojo-rubbed pork belly and fried ice cream for dessert. And don’t forget your phone at home, this venue was made for your Instagram feed.
The corner of Bolton Road and Jan Smuts Avenue has exploded as the epicenter of all that’s new and exciting in Rosebank in what used to be a pretty derelict corner of town. This is where Asian BBQ and rock ’n’ roll bar Saigon Suzy has sprung up. And it lives up to the promise of that hybrid description: a brilliant and unusual mix of Asian-inspired fare, with private karaoke rooms upstairs that can be rented by the hour.
The menu is packed with dumplings, baos, stir-fries, curries and rice bowls from every part of Asia, as well as an extensive drinks menu that includes a selection of cocktails, wines and even Japanese sake. Inverted paper parasols hang from the ceiling and giant murals adorn the raw brick walls. Saigon Suzy doesn’t currently take bookings, so arrive early – and hungry.