Best of… global restaurants in Joburg

Sometimes the best-kept secrets are found in the strangest places. This weekend, be fearless and try something new. We’ve hunted down the most authentic, hole-in-the-wall global restaurants all over South Africa (don’t miss our Cape Town round-up and the best of Durban). Today, we bring you Joburg’s finest – including the best of the East, best Italian, best tapas and best Portuguese. Know of any eateries serving drool-worthy global cuisine in your city? Let us know in the comment section below and we’ll be sure to check it out…

BEST OF… THE EAST

Chao Thai
This is certainly a hole-in-the-wall kind of place, but don’t let the shiny floor, glass tables or the fact that it opens out onto busy Jan Smuts Road put you off. Chao Thai is run by a family and the food is delicious – try the Pad Thai or Thai Green Curry. And the Corn Cakes are a must as a starter! Cnr Jan Smuts and Westminster Drive, Craighall Park. 011 325 6296

Saigon Pho
As if Stanley Avenue in Milpark wasn’t cool enough, along came Saigon Pho with their authentic Vietnamese cuisine, bringing some international flavour to the complex. The resident Vietnamese chef knows what he’s doing. Try the Pho (a staple in Vietnam). We also love the wooden benches and high industrial ceiling. 44 Stanley Avenue, Milpark. 071 511 3858

Mantra
Straight from Mumbai, the chef at Mantra cooks up authentic North Indian dishes. The waiters are friendly and helpfully suggest which dishes to order from the menu. We liked the Chicken Rogan Josh, Palek Paneer (Indian Spinach) and Dhal Tadka (Yellow Lentils). Be sure to book, especially on weekends. 4th Avenue, Parktown North. 011 023 0632

Fong Mei
Derrik Avenue in Cyrildene, aka China Town, can be a bit daunting but it’s certainly worth exploring. A friend recommended Fong Mei and we have never looked back. Tucked away slightly off the main road people, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to the East – seeing Chinese writing and hearing the language in the background almost makes you forget the grotty chairs! Derrik Avenue, Cyrildene. 011 615 1384

BEST OF… ITALIAN

Francos
Franocs is a perfect example of a family-owned Italian restaurant and has been around for years. Everyone in Joburg probably has a story about Francos, that’s what we love about it. The vibe is nothing less of a busy Italian bistro, red and white tablecloths, a pizza oven in the corner and family run… what more could you want? Order anything Italian – their pizzas are simply the best. 54 Tyrone Avenue, Parkview. 011 646 5449

La Bella Figura
La Bella Figura means ‘the beautiful figure’ – a way of life, according to the Italians, that emphasises beauty, style and aesthetics. This restaurant is a great way to warm up a cold night; the open kitchen means you can see your meal before it is even put down in front of you. No Italian restaurant would be complete with old pictures on the wall and flags flying. Order Garganelli alla Coda di Vaccinara (pasta with oxtail sauce). 3 Corlett Drive, Illovo. 011 447 0399

Giovanni Pane Vina
This intimate Italian restaurant packs it’s customers in, which in this case is not a bad thing, as it only adds to the atmosphere of a buzzing Joburg institution. The Linguine con Vongole Veraci and Fettuccine Melanzane Rigatoni, served in giant frying pans, are amazing. Sandurst Centre, 60 Rivonia Road. 011 883 3849

Il Giardino Degli Ulivi
Back at Stanley Avenue, this time for some Italian, Il Giardino does the trick. Spilling out into the courtyard, with a crackling fireplace to keep customers warm, the atmosphere is cosy and welcoming. On Sundays live music adds a festive atmosphere. Inside chandeliers hang against a blue wall, and old chairs are perfect to dine on. 44 Stanley Avenue. 011 482 4978

BEST OF… TAPAS

Olivia
This recently opened Mediterranean restaurant is a welcome addition to the Illovo strip. Zane Beer, known from his days at Fino, has a passion for Spanish culture that is evident in this cosy bar that spills out onto the busy pavement. A concrete water feature and open kitchen allows you to relax and enjoy a long, leisurely lunch – just like the Spanish intended! All the tapas are great, pick a few, then a few more and enjoy. 178 Oxford Road (cnr Corlett Drive), Illovo. 011 025 5225

Parea
We love a Greek restaurant; throw in some plate throwing, belly dancing and the experience just got that much better. This blue and white restaurant transports you to Greece, where the food is as delicious as the atmosphere around you. The mezze platters are great, allowing you to sample many different tastes and flavours. 3 Corlett Drive, Illovo. 011 788 8777

BEST OF… PORTUGUESE

The Troyeville Hotel
The Troyeville Hotel is an institution in Joburg, bringing a bit of Portugal and Mozambique to the hear of Jozi. Lunch time is buzzing with people from afar and Friday nights is jazz night. The style may not be on-trend, but the pink flamingo mural and bright orange exterior shouts character and old-school charm. The prawns, peri-peri chicken and Prego roll are all delicious. 25 Bezuidenhout Street, Troyeville. 011 402 7709

Cescos
This Portuguese joint in the mechanic heartland of Joburg certainly has character. Portuguese flags fly proudly. The people are friendly, they act as if they have known you for years and the food is as delicious as the service. Corner CR Swart and Tungsten Ave, Strijdompark. 011 792 7495

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  • I was wondering when you would get to Jozi! Always looking for a list of great haunts worth missioning for – nice one. I’m trying a Camaroonian restaurant in Braamies this weekend – I’ll report back if it’s any good.

  • Lady I Restaurant on Smit Street in Braamfontein…hidden at the back of the Majestic pool bar (where you go to find night life at any time of the day), the bare Walls, plastic chars and burglar-barred kitchen tell the optimistic visitor that people must come here for the food. What my Camaroonian host forgot to mention in his effusive praise of his local cuisine, listing the myriad spices that are delicately combined in each signature dish, is that all that culinary artistry is then painted over with a big roller-brush of dried fish! Camaroonians and Nigerians are apparently addicted to the powerful pungency of what in their countries is a ubiquitous staple in the same way that Indians are to chillies. It’s added to everything, whether vegetable stew or mutton gravy…even if you had no sense of taste, it would put you off, as you crunch on a pokey fishbone in the middle of what you thought was a vegetable curry!
    In short, if you want an authentic bare-fare African experience and have a staunch tummy and blocked nose, Lady Irene’s broad smile and narrow menu will happily welcome you in!

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