A lot happened this year, so let’s recap…
The rise of the elegant eatery
This year saw many ultra-on-trend and sophisticated restaurants open their doors. These restaurants redefined the SA dining scene, offering a more relaxed experience but still offering that level of style and finesse that we associate with fine-dining.
Food became more approachable and simplified featuring fewer ingredients, while still holding bold flavours with inspired pairings and creative flair. Basically it’s like fine-dining with a lot less fuss, and in many cases a bit more soul that often feels lost on a plate of finicky elements. Restaurants that executed this well and deserve a mention are Mulberry & Prince, Mink and Trout and La Tête in Cape Town.
Tapas ain’t over yet!
If you thought tapas was a fad waiting to get swept off the table and replaced by a more youthful version of meals, well think again. If 2016 proved anything in the restaurant scene, it’s that tapas are not going anywhere, they are stuck to the table like glue - so best you accept the fact that you will be sharing your food with your respective partner or friend for the foreseeable future.
In the realm of tapas, a new friend came to the party in the form of ‘small plates’. This became the term used for that awkward meal that wasn’t quite a tapa but wasn’t quite a main, a confused meal that wanted to be shared but could also be eaten on its own as a main, but then again could also be eaten as a starter.
There are some exceptional tapas places to try now, including Foxcroft, Four & Twenty (for dinner) and Thali.
Restaurants glamming things up
Décor also showed some serious restaurant trends with the use of white/grey marble. I felt like I saw this everywhere but somehow never got sick of it. Those round marble tables made it possible for every incapable instagrammer to take a decent photo. It’s the simplest formula in the world. Provide beautiful surfaces and the food will be spotlighting itself all over social media. Restaurants who did this well: Ash and Marble, of course. These two consequently both looked to fire to guide their cuisine, with Ash being inspired by charcoal and Marble serving food cooked over an open fire.
There was also a reigniting of the round booth this year, which was welcomed by sore backs everywhere. These booths were upholstered with lush velvet, stained leather and allowed you to sink in comfortably and focus on the food, a good example being the plush blue booths at The Chefs Table.
There was a general increase of cushioning for customers as a theme of modern glamour took centre stage and restaurants began littering their spaces with brass, copper and rich fabrics. The grandeur and luxury, along with a crisp white tablecloth made the entire restaurant experience feel more exclusive. Notable mentions go to the Shortmarket Club and The Stack who both take a step back in time in service and décor, and celebrate the style of a high-end members bar.
Restaurant news that changed the course of next year
One giant shift that happened a couple of months ago was Margot Janse’s resignation from her long standing post at La Quartier Français. The restaurant’s unfailing reputation made sure that Scot Kirton got scooped up to fulfil a new venture at The Leeu Collection’s signature restaurant. We look forward to seeing what Margot will eventually unveil for her own career.
Ivor Jones, previously of The Test Kitchen, also turned the spotlight on himself when he announced he would be leaving the LDR kitchen and moving to Beau Constantia to work with Liam Tomlin at the new winelands Chefs Warehouse. Chef’s Warehouse is now open and taking bookings for the season.
David Higgs also announced his new restaurant Marble, shortly after leaving the Saxon, which Luke Dale Roberts then collaborated with. Marble was by far the most highly anticipated restaurant to open in Joburg this year which sees Higgs play with fire and serve tasty scorched food. The space is exquisite and is an absolute must-visit.
There’s also the soon-to-open Jamie’s Italian that has Joburgers chomping at the bit. Who doesn’t love The Naked Chef?!
The year literally exploded with food. Restaurants seemed to open every week, keeping us on our toes and eating out far more than usual.
One thing’s for sure, the restaurant scene seems to be growing faster than the economy, which isn’t hard. May it only go onwards and upwards – here’s to 2017!
- Ceili McGeever