Port Elizabeth has never been renowned for its restaurants. For a long time the most popular eateries in PE were steakhouses and fast food establishments, but that has changed.
Over the last 5 years a swathe of great restaurants have opened, and crucially, been well supported by locals. Most notably, Fushin opened on Stanley Street, introducing high quality sushi and Asian food to the city. Stanley Street has since become the epicentre of the food revolution in Port Elizabeth. Even the well-known national chain, Vovo Telo originated in PE, a few roads away from Stanley Street.
There seems to be no indication that the stream of trendy new eateries will abate. Below are 5 restaurants that have opened in the last year and are being well supported. Stanley Street may be the epicentre for the restaurant scene, but these 5 restaurants are located all around the city.
123 Villiers Road, Walmer
041 581 1414
One of the newest additions to the culinary scene in Port Elizabeth, Il Tricolore is an Italian restaurant with an authentic Italian at the helm. This restaurant opened on Villiers Road without much fanfare, but it didn’t take long for people to realise this is the real deal. Busy for lunches and dinners most days of the week, Il Tricolore may be a victim of its own success.
Our initial visits revealed a few cracks in an otherwise excellent offering. The Ceasar salad was so good on our first visit we went back just to have that. Unfortunately on the second visit the anchovies were missing without warning or compensation. The carpaccio also excelled on the first visit only to disappoint on a later visit.
We did enjoy some of the best pepper fillet we’ve had in a long time and the Tagliolini Al Brasato (fresh egg tagliolini with red wine braised beef, mushrooms, cream and parmesan cheese) was creamy and delicious.
An unspectacular wine list, but with reasonable prices. The service is keen, but can vary in availability depending which section you happened to be seated. Décor and lighting are unsophisticated but the restaurant is usually busy enough that the atmosphere compensates sufficiently.
This review may sound a bit negative but actually, if it can maintain its initial standards it is well worth a visit.
Fushin Champagne & Tapas Bar
Baywest Mall, Baywest Boulevard
041 492 0357
Those who have visited Willoughby’s in the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town will know that a restaurant positioned in the centre of a shopping centre concourse can still be top notch in every respect.
So it is with the latest addition to the Fushin empire, the Champagne and Tapas Bar in the shiny new Baywest Mall. While tipping the hat to the sushi heritage that has made the Fushin group famous, the Champagne and Tapas bar has branched out into new territory. The menu offers a diverse selection of small plates including dim sum, tempura, ceviche, soups, salads and tapas.
We opted for some items off the tapas menu. The smoked chorizo tapas with patatas bravas was delicious, but the smoked trout taco was next level. The North Atlantic Orange crab off the ‘Chef’s kitchen’ menu was good but super spicy.
If you’re planning on treating or spoiling someone, the Champagne and Tapas bar is the place to do that. The piano at the entrance is occupied several nights a week and bottles of French champagne lie in baths at the entrance, confirming the sense of opulence which is initiated on first sighting of this modern, flashy even, restaurant.
Opt for a table if you prefer an intimate evening, but sitting at the counter gives you a view of the food being prepared (there is no separate kitchen), which can be an exciting experience. The champagne list is extensive, with about 10 French options and 5 or 6 local MCCs. Four of the French champagnes are available by the glass, as are two local options.
There is a wine list that offers a well curated selection of wines, ask your waiter to recommend something to enjoy with the dishes you’ve ordered.
15 Bain Street, Richmond Hill
041 582 2736
This cosy dim sum & noodle bar is just off Stanley Street (on Bain Street). At capacity, Mellas can host less than 50 patrons, so it’s a good idea to book at this popular eatery.
The menu is focused on dim sum and noodle dishes, with a selection of starters such as soups, deep fried squid, Shanghai ribs and the very popular red pork. A standout was the deep fried tofu, probably the best tofu experience we have had. There is a selection of dim sum. Sui-mai, dumplings, pot stickers and boa, all filled with delicious combinations like prawn & coriander or chicken & ginger.
Noodle options include beef, chicken or vegetarian egg noodle, chilli chicken udon noodles and Malaysian curry chicken glass noodles.
We were impressed with the food overall. While we did have some favourites, nothing disappointed. Even the single dessert option of sukima & ice cream was delicious.
Mellas initially opened with no liquor licence but they are now fully licenced. There is only one chef in the tiny kitchen. Owners Dione and Camilla manage the pass and front of house respectively. So things can get a little frantic at times, but it’s all part of the vibe.
48 Kragga Kamma Road, Sunridge Park
041 360 1088
Buzz Factory is like an upmarket Primi Piatti. The menu is more sophisticated, as is the décor and nobody is wearing a bright orange jumpsuit. But it’s vibey, good value and they cater well for kids with a separate play area. For added value, be sure to take advantage of the daily specials like 2 burgers for R70 on Mondays and kids eat free on Tuesdays, etc. Check their Facebook page for the details. They also have a selection of craft beer.
As is characteristic of PE restaurants, the menu is broad, aiming to please everyone. Surprisingly no pizza or sushi though. We were very happy with our starters. Between us we shared a Ceasar salad and chicken livers. Both dishes were excellent and portion sizes appropriate. Those who like their chicken livers spicy will want to ask for extra chilli on the side.
Mains were unfortunately not at the same level. We ordered the pork neck steak which was recommended by the waiter, it sounded very interesting served with butternut puree, wilted spinach, wholegrain mustard, pommes puree, blueberry compote, sweet potato crisps, blueberry jellies, carrot & apple & rosemary foam and blueberry powder! Unfortunately, no amount of interesting additions could compensate for pork which was horribly overdone. The fillet steak with pepper sauce was also done way past specification. We sent that back and the replacement was very underdone.
The Thai beef salad with Asian noodles was overly saucy and quite insubstantial. But the noodle ‘rosti’ placed on top was very delicious.
For dessert we had to try the deep fried Ferrero Rocher parcels, served with Ferrero Rocher ice-cream. We also couldn’t resist the Lindt chocolate brownies with Amarula cream. Despite the tempting descriptions, both were quite disappointing.
Buzz Factory is great spot, good for kids and generally busy. I have no problem recommending it but I would stick to the safer options, give the more complicated dishes a skip. You probably can’t go wrong with a burger.
Service was keen. The wine list is quite short, with a few options of each varietal. There are quite a few entry level wines, but also some nicer options for the more discerning consumer.
Brookes on the Bay, Beach Road
041 584 0167
La Kouzina has some advantages. It is well positioned on the PE beachfront with fantastic sea views, and it is owned by the Castis family which also own The Coachman, a long standing popular PE restaurant.
Fully booked most nights of the week, La Kouzina looks set to become another PE institution. The menu is extensive with a focus on Greek food. The starters include options such as Dolmades, Keftedakia, Saganaki, Tiropita and a host of other Greek sounding options. We shared the calamari heads (grilled) and they were ridiculously delicious. I would recommend you order some bread to mop up the sauce or there will be tears.
The menu moves onto salads and soups and then a selection of Greek mains like Mousaka, Yiouvetsi, Yemista, etc. But then the Greek vibe ends. Next there is a selection of 15 pastas, 27 pizzas (or create your own if you like) and 9 burgers. Not to mention the sushi bar!
We thought we’d stick to the Greek theme (although, not sure the calamari counted?) and ordered Mousaka and Yiouvetsi (pasta rice with lamb). Both dishes were excellent and very generous portions so we couldn’t fit in a dessert but the baklava looked tempting.
The place is cheerful and vibey, although parking can be a problem. The service was friendly and adept. An enjoyable experience overall.
In the pipeline
Those are some of the restaurants that have opened in Port Elizabeth recently, but there are others and more in the pipeline.
Bocadillos, a busy spot on 6th Ave Walmer is opening a 2nd location on 1st Avenue.
Do you know of other new spots that have opened or are opening soon? Tell us in the comments below.
Dax Villanueva has been eating his whole life. Based in Cape Town and reporting on the world, he shares his experiences on his blog www.relax-with-dax.co.za. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for real-time updates.
Note: Angelo's has now opened their 3rd branch on vibey Stanley Street.
- Dax Villanueva