Gauteng is a great destination for dedicated food and restaurant fans. In multicultural Johannesburg you can try a wide array of cuisines from across Africa; in Soweto you can find some of the best township cuisine; and there’s also farm-fresh food to enjoy in the Gauteng countryside.
Gauteng is also home to some of South Africa’s leading chefs, and there are a number of excellent fine-dining restaurants to choose from. If you have just three days to spend in the province, here’s how to get the best out of a food-focused trip.
Start your day with breakfast in the bohemian Johannesburg suburb of Melville, a quirky neighbourhood that is popular with students and creative types. A good breakfast spot is Pablo Eggs Go Bar, a café-bar on Melville’s main road, 7th Street, specialising in dishes made with eggs. Try one of its famous Middle Eastern shakshukas, served with rich Yemini-style flatbread. After breakfast drive over to 44 Stanley, a converted 1930s industrial complex filled with courtyard cafés, design shops and fashion boutiques. Here you’ll find Bean There, South Africa’s first roaster of certified Fairtrade coffee. A few bags of its freshly roasted beans are a must-have souvenir for any coffee aficionado.
From 44 Stanley take the M1 South highway and make your way to Soweto for a cycling tour with Lebo’s Soweto Backpackers and Bicycle Tours. You’ll experience much more of Soweto by travelling around on two wheels, and it’s also a good way to work up an appetite. Stops include all the major heritage landmarks, as well as everyday places such as street markets and shebeens where you can try local specialities like home-made beer and fried chicken feet. Tours end at Lebo’s Soweto Backpackers in Orlando West with delicious home-made stews and curries served in the quiet garden in front of the backpackers. Before leaving Soweto don’t miss out on a craft beer tasting and brewery tour at the Ubuntu Kraal Brewery, home of Soweto Gold beer, a five-minute drive from the backpackers.
Back in Johannesburg, get dressed up for dinner at one of the city’s most highly regarded fine-dining restaurants, Luke Dale-Roberts X Saxon. Luke Dale-Roberts's Cape Town restaurant, The Test Kitchen, frequently appears on the list of the world's best restaurants. You’ll need to book well in advance to get a table at this restaurant in the exclusive Saxon Hotel, Villas and Spa, where you’ll be treated to the most extravagant eight-course tasting menu paired with tea or wines.
For breakfast and some country air drive out to the Irene Dairy Farm in the quaint suburb of Irene just outside of Pretoria. Find a seat at The Barn Restaurant terrace under the shade of 100-year-old oak trees. There’s also a farm shop stocking locally cured biltong, home-made jams and pickles, and farmhouse cheeses. A short drive away is Doornkloof, the home of South African statesman and military leader General Jan Smuts (1870 to 1950), who lived here for 40 years. Now the Jan Smuts House Museum, the interiors of the old farmhouse have been carefully preserved and there are plenty of personal mementos on display.
Heading back in the direction of Johannesburg, make a stop at the Nizamiye Mosque in Midrand. This impressive building, with its soaring minarets and dazzling interiors, is modelled on the 16th-century Ottoman Selimiye Camii mosque in Edirne, Turkey. Within the mosque complex there’s a Turkish shop selling typical Turkish products, including delicious Turkish delight. From here continue on to the Palazzo Montecasino Hotel in northern Johannesburg for a leisurely afternoon tea (booking essential). Relax in the terraced gardens overlooking a glittering pool with a variety of cakes, petite quiches and assorted sandwiches, all beautifully displayed and served with fine teas.
For dinner and drinks with an excellent view over northern and western Johannesburg, make a reservation well in advance for dinner at top chef David Higgs’s “live fire” restaurant, Marble, on the top floor of the Trumpet building along the Keyes Art Mile in Rosebank. Everything, from meats and seafood to freshly baked bread, is cooked over flames in a busy open kitchen, and there’s a chic lounge and bar for enjoying cocktails or wine.
Begin your last day in Gauteng with a filling and rustic breakfast at the typical Afrikaans-style farm kitchen, Bergbron Plaaskombuis, which overlooks a quiet garden nursery in Northcliff. Wash down a hearty breakfast of boerewors, eggs and home-made bread with a mug of the demonically strong moerkoffie. Northcliff is an easy 15-minute drive from historic Sophiatown. In the 1940s and early 1950s, multicultural “swinging Sophiatown” was at the heart of the South African jazz scene and was a culturally rich neighbourhood that attracted writers, musicians and intellectuals. Tragically, old Sophiatown was completely demolished in 1955 by the apartheid government, which forcibly removed all non-white residents to distant townships. This history is now remembered in Sophiatown The Mix, a museum and community centre located in one of the few remaining buildings that were spared the apartheid bulldozers.
Spend your last hours in Gauteng in downtown Johannesburg. Start your explorations at the 1 Fox Precinct in historic Ferreirasdorp, the location of the city’s very first mining camps. The 1 Fox Precinct stretches across two city blocks filled with century-old warehouses that have been cleverly converted into bars, a food market, function venue and dining destination. For lunch stop at the Urbanologi restaurant, where chef Angelo Scirocco cooks up a tapas-style menu of what he likes to call “urban garde” food. The restaurant shares space with the Mad Giant craft brewery where you can enjoy a beer tasting, and there’s a spacious beer garden for soaking up the sun.
Join local tour company Dlala Nje on its African culinary adventure, The Taste of Yeoville tour (booking essential). The tour starts at 4.30pm at the iconic 54-storey Ponte apartment building (take a taxi there) on Yeoville ridge. After sundowners, the tour heads to pan-African Rockey Street in Yeoville to spend the evening exploring the many Congolese, Cameroonian and West African bars, cafes and street-food stands.