12 Hidden gems to check out in your city

Restaurants a little off the beaten track in Cape Town, Joburg and Durban.

by: Ceili McGeever | 10 Feb 2017

Cape Town

Osteria Tarantino, De Waterkant

The world could never have enough Italian restaurants, and when this hidden gem joined the ranks last year, naturally we were delighted. This cute, tucked away eatery fits nicely into the quaint, narrow streets of De Waterkant, offering diners a chic space for lunch and dinner. The blackboards, homemade quality of the pasta, and rich flavourful sauces, show off the restaurants authenticity. It's Italian through and through. Try the 4 P's pasta or ravioli, you will not be sorry. Make a booking as they are small and get booked up, and also bring your own wine as they currently don't have a liquor license.

(Image by Ceili McGeever)

Shio, De Waterkant
The food here will have you exclaiming with every mouthful, as dishes embody multiple bold flavours, making for a sensational dining experience. Cheyne's style has always been striking, mixing and matching the different elements of a variety of Asian cusines. Fresh tuna and salmon in tacos might steal the show, or perhaps the black rice risotto, or even the creamy shiitake mushrooms - you cannot go wrong with anything here. Inside the dark space is lit up by a red neon sign, met by minimal Japanese-style elegance. Outside the veranda overlooks Napier street, ideal for still evenings.

(Image by Ceili McGeever)

Vintage India, Gardens
Vintage India is rather vintage indeed, being open for around 10 years now, and emanating an old school feel that takes you straight to India. They are well know for their curry buffet and their abundance of orange cushioned iron chairs that allow space for big groups. The service is always warm and helpful and the curries are consistently good, and in a huge variety. All curries can be served in a meat of your choice, or vegetarian with paneer, and can be had as a take-away.

Hokey Poke, CBD
Hokey Poke is a a brand new hidden gem in the utmost literal sense of the words. You might not notice the seemingly small restaurant's exterior, with a facade of sand coloured breeze blocks that blends into the buildings around it. A curved neon pink light, however, gives you a clue to the poke fun that lies ahead. Co-owner Max collaborated with Hoick and interior designer Christine Joubert to develop the restaurants cheeky edge, and heavily considered design. The space is somewhat clinical and orderly, but this is broken down by playful, suggestive imagery like the neon pink palm tree which might have you humming the Miami Vice theme. And the poke... it is as good as it gets! There is so much choice with ingredients, and the fish tastes as fresh as can be. This is a much needed addition to Cape Town.

(Image by Ceili McGeever)

Cucina Labia Restaurant at Casa Labia, Muizenberg
Casa Labia is an iconic feature along the Muizenberg coast. The old building stands proudly embodying the grandeur of 18th century Venetian design. Many know this location as a place for weddings and art exhibitions but the restaurant, overlooking the ocean is totally breath taking, serving breakfast, lunch and high tea. The food is constantly changing, as the Dish Food and Social team reinvent the menu to keep things alive.


Ottimo, Kensington
There are a a lot of reviews of Ottimo that read 'best pizza', and for good reason. This family friendly little pizzeria, serve up proper wood-fried pizzas and authentic pasta in which you match your pasta with a sauce of your choice. The eccentric interior welcomes your into a cozy, unpretentious setting inside with a good amount of Ferrari memorabilia covering the walls. Ottimo is ideal for take-away or sit-down and although pizzas focus on traditional Italian toppings, they do serve the SA favorite of bacon and avo. 

Istanbul, Fordsburg
Ok so it's not exactly hidden but it is slightly off the beaten track in terms of Joburg's restaurant scene, let's call it an underground gem. First off this is a Turkish spot, so vegetarians won't find much in the way of main meals unfortunately, however, the flatbreads and dips are superb! The large outdoor space is situated in Fordsburg's Central Flea Market beneath a canopy, which emanates some aspects of the city it's named after. The food features mainly kababs and various salads and sauces which can be ordered in a platter for sharing. This is as close to the real thing as it can get. 

Lucio's Pizzeria, Blackheath
Lucio's welcomes patrons with it's warmth and it's not just the effective ambience that does this, but also the restaurant's love and passion for it's customers, many of whom have been dining there for years. They've been open since 1987 and boast a heavily eclectic and colourful decor that tells of the vibrant spirit of the restaurant. Ornate, multi-coloured tiles frame the windows and fire place, where burgundy walls wear chunky hanging picture frames. No surface is left bare, and no tummy is left unhappy. They also have a lovely courtyard outside, centered around a striking fountain, offering a European-esque dining experience. 

Troyeville Hotel, Troyeville
The Troyeville Hotel, along with the restaurant has reached icon status over the years, dating back to 1939, today serving a very loyal customer base from different walks of life. The hotel kind of lost it's charm along the way, but was recommissioned over a decade ago, and restored to its former understated glory, and with a brand new menu. The unassuming face brick exterior bodes no clue to the irresistible Portuguese fare that lies behind it's walls, but insiders will tell you that it's the best in town.

(Image by Troyeville Hotel)


Heidi's Café, The Bluff
Heidi's Café is warm, homey and filled with charm sitting right near the beach surrounded by Durban's quintessentially lush greenery. The outside deck feels like you're far out of the city as you sit enjoying the palm trees and sunshine. Locals know how good Heidi's is especially when it comes to cakes and other baked goods. The cakes are insane, and can be ordered for special occasions. They also make a mean breakfast that is always good value for money, and they serve local coffee from The Bluff.

heidi's Cafe, durban
(Image by Heidi's Café)

Ciao Bella Café, The Point
Situated in the revived The Point area of Durban, where modern high-rise apartment blocks have become the norm, Ciao Bella offers some old world charm in a 2 story Victorian building and cute white awnings. In fact the street hold beautiful Edwardian and Victorian buildings that offer some architectural sites after a visit to the café. The café is classic relaxed Italian fare with crispy pizzas, open gourmet sandwiches and cheese and meat boards. Be sure to check out their hidden courtyard which hosts various events.

The Chairman, The Point
Another gem in The Point, that fits comfortably into the historical richness of the area. For some this spot might not be so hidden, however The Chairman is like an underground jazz or members club you'd expect to find in a place like New Orleans. Music is the essence of this sophisticated and old-world bar. The Edwardian building is filled with character, boasting a worn exterior, and inside exposed brick walls and leather Chesterfield set the mood. For food and drink, it would be rude not to have one of their designer cocktails, and also try their rustic oblong pizzas and bar snacks.

(Image by The Chairman)

- Ceili McGeever


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