(Image by Thali)
Situated in a beautiful historical Cape-Dutch building, Kitima draws inspiration on the culture and cuisines surrounding the Dutch East India trading company, that operated through the Cape of Good Hope. There is a particular focus on Thai cuisine with hints of China and Japan. The oldness of the building interior creates an experience like no other, and offers a taste of what luxurious dining was like in the 17th century. The restaurant is separated into different rooms providing for an intimate dinner date.
Chic yet relaxed: Il Leone
Classic Italian dining, consistency and a natural understated elegance is what makes up il Leone. The space boasts a stylish interior with crisp white table clothes, old oak wooden floors and large chunky framed paintings hanging on the walls. The ambience is always warm and inviting, with service that makes you feel at ease, and food that is impossible not to love.
Romantic: Bistrot Bizera
Crank up the romance at Bizerca with it’s Parisian-like quartyard and sophisticated fine bistro cuisine. The menu features classic bistro dishes but there’s also a daily changing blackboard with seasonal creations by Laurent, the chef and co-owner. Inside, the restaurant is chic in white and exposed historical brick walls, but if the weather is favourable, the outside section is unbeatable, for lunch or dinner.
First Date: Thali
Thali offers an intimate setting, and although the creativity and execution of the cuisine is rather fancy, the atmosphere is totally relaxed, combining sensational food and a warm, casual setting. The brainchild of esteemed Cape Town chef, Liam Tomlin, Thali features Indian tapas served in the traditional thali way. The tapas for two set menu, offers an ice-breaker of sorts, with dishes being shared and at times involves eating with your hands. The modern and unique take on Indian cuisine, is totally sensational and will no doubt impress whoever you invite. They don’t take bookings, so try get there for 6 or 6:30pm, or try your luck after the dinner rush.
Inexpensive/low key: Taqueria
Taqueria offers single servings of flavourful tacos at reasonable prices, so you can get away only spending about R150 per head and completely satisfied. The restaurant formula is precise with preparation and cooking executed with military precision, making sure the taco you like, tastes and looks the exact same every time. It’s always bustling so whether its one of the first dates or the hundredth, the vibe will naturally compliment any situation. They don’t take bookings, so get in early, or put your name on the waiting list and enjoy a drink next door.
Splurge: Flamingo Room at Tashas
This is what date dreams are made of with dusty pink hues and shiny brass accents. The space takes inspiration from the luxuries and richness of African aesthetic, the interior embodies an old-world feel with distinctive art deco design. Order from the matching menu with dishes like salmon ceviche, truffle beef carpaccio and the flamingo prawn roll and chips.
Chic yet relaxed: Marble
Marble is also quite a splurge, but it’s a very relaxed, stylish restaurant that embraces modern fine-dining. Considering it is still the it restaurant in Joburg, it’s a very appropriate place for a date night. David Higgs has empowered the South African traditions of cooking over fire, by elevating it with a contemporary, on-trend approach. The dishes are intricate featuring a multitude of flavours and much locally sourced meat and seafood.
Glenda’s is simply gorgeous, and it embodies romance like no other restaurant in Joburg. The restaurant is always cheerful with flowers, colourful wall art and cute white domed awnings outside. The food focuses on seasonal produce, with striking dishes that match the stylish deco-inspired interior. Glenda’s is ideal for date, day or night or even a cocktail at their lovely bar.
First Date: EB Social Kitchen
The name says it all, this is a spot for socialising over shared food, in a contemporary space that boasts innovative design. The combination of the book store and restaurant make for a homey and relaxing atmosphere, that feels like a scene from a Hollywood rom com. Highly acclaimed Chef Russel Armstrong has worked at various lauded restaurants around the world, including a stint at a 3-Michelin starred restaurant in France. He brings his ingenuity to the Social Kitchen, with delicate, flavourful tapas and small plates.
Inexpensive/low-key: The Brian Lara Rum Eatery
A new and original venture in Linden, this place will take you to tropical heaven. Palms and other greenery are scattered around the space with fringed 20s lamp shades, pastel pink cushioned chairs and a beautiful blue mosaic tiled bar. Light dishes draw inspiration from the Caribbean like fish cakes, ribs, grilled chicken and corn fritters. The whole vibe is laid-back and easy. Don’t forget to grab a cool rum cocktail.
Splurge: The Chefs Table
One of Durban’s newer gastronomical pleasures, the Chefs Table brings seasonal, conscious dining to Umhlanga. The space has been beautifully decked out with cushioned velvety seating and grand lighting, they’ve mixed old-world glamour and industrial aesthetic to create a modern restaurant that matches their modern approach to cooking. The menu changes daily, and booking is essential.
Chic yet relaxed: Café 1999
A well-established restaurant, and much more than the ‘café’ it’s name suggests, Café 1999, has been open for nearly 20 years, serving customers, imaginative and vibrant dishes that really stand-out in Durban’s culinary scene. The space is simple and tastefully styled with white chairs and tables and geometric wood wall paneling surrounding the restaurant. The subtle, natural interior complements the delicate dishes perfectly.
Romantic: Ile Maurice
Without a doubt one of the most romantic, cosy restaurants in the area, Ile Maurice is set in an old house overlooking the sea, with a distinctive Mauritian feel. The restaurant opened in 1976, and the years have gifted the space much character and authenticity. The food focuses on traditional Mauritian cuisine with a strong French influence – expect much fresh fish. On a nice day or evening, book a table on the veranda.
First date: The Glenwood Restaurant
This lovely spot set in an old Edwardian house, is the sibling restaurant to the well-known Glenwood Bakery. The philosophy behind the Italian-style food, is to constantly improve on the classics that we know and love. The co-owner and chef, Adam, strives to reestablish classic dishes by reviving and reinventing them with his own unique and modern twists. Pasta is the main focus, with many other dishes drawing inspiration from the season and a multitude of cuisines from French to Asian. Enjoy dishes like Potato gnocchi with oyster mushrooms, parsley and garlic and Vietnamese style pork belly salad with cashew nuts.
Inexpensive/low-key: Mali’s Indian Restaurant
A good night doesn’t have to cost a fortune, but the food should always make sure the night is a memorable experience. Mali’s makes sure of this entirely. Their food is good value for money with generous portions of creative and authentic Indian cuisine. Durbanites will confirm that Mali’s is one of the best in town, and the unpretentious setting makes for an easy, laid- back lunch or dinner date.
Splurge: Restaurant Mosaic
Situated at the spectacular Orient Private hotel, Restaurant Mosaic is the place to go when you’re looking for an experience to remember. When entering the restaurant you’ll feel as if you’ve been teleported to the romantic early 1900s in Paris with art nouveau design being the predominant theme. The restaurant only seats 40 people so you’re guaranteed to have an intimate experience and it also boasts cosy booth-type seats and two private dining rooms. To compliment the elegant, luxurious feel of the restaurant is the star of the show – the food prepared by Chef Chantel Dartnall. Fine dining at its best, the seasonal menu changes quarterly and is centred on contemporary-classic cuisine which draws inspiration from Europe.
Chic yet relaxed: Kream
Modern and stylishly designed, Kream has a trendy, upscale look with a casual feel. The table settings are simple with comfy sofa-type, cushiony chairs while the overall space is elaborately adorned with modern paintings and sculptures, lights dangling from the high ceiling and a grand staircase that meets you as you enter. The menu is extensive and you’ll find anything from the likes of gourmet sushi to rump steaks, Cape Malay curry, duck and more.
Romantic: De Kloof
De Kloof offers a 5 and 7 course tasting menu as well as an a la carte menu with suggested wine pairings. Baked crayfish tail, steak tartare and rhubarb and plum tarte tartin are but a few of the dishes on the menu. The restaurant is minimally designed with candle-lit, bare, dark wood tables and charming chandeliers dancing on the ceiling. The large open windows allow for an opportunity to watch sunset while sipping a glass of wine.
Inexpensive/low key: Lucky Rodrigo
Lucky Rodrigo is a quirky eatery with a fun, chilled vibe. The trendy space is decorated to match the atmosphere with lush hanging pot plants, a distinctive fish tank and green painted exposed brick walls. The menu is simple and features casual light meals, burgers, salads, finger food baskets and desserts, not forgetting the wine, craft beer and cocktails. This place is ideal for a casual lunch date or drinks on a Summer’s evening at affordable prices
First date: Prue Leith
Fine dining at Prue Leith for a first date will aid you in making a lasting first impression. During the hot Summer months, dine alfresco under the stars in their fairy-like garden and in Winter, their fire place will keep you warm and cosy inside. This restaurant is part of a chefs training academy so your food will be prepared by students but rest assured, they’re out to impress.
Splurge: Kipling’s Brasserie
Certainly one of PE’s finest establishments, situated at the 5-star luxury hotel, The Boardwalk. Kipling‘s reminisces over old-world grandeur, a place that emanates class and elegance. The restaurant is huge, yet palms, wicker chairs and large rich red Persian rugs, warm up the entire room. The menu draws inspiration from around the world and includes authentic Indian curries, quality steaks and a tasting menu.
Chic yet relaxed: Tabu at The Radisson Blu
Tabu is one of the most stylish restaurants in PE’s coastal restaurant scene. It sets itself apart with an expansive, sleek design and lovely ocean views. The upmarket dining experience offers a large menu that features seasonal ingredients inspired by local cuisine using French technique. Enjoy things like ostrich fillet, rump café de Paris, and prawn bisque risotto.
Ginger is a well-loved PE establishment with a loyal customer base. One of its main attractions is that it sits right by the sea and has a huge veranda, ideal for cocktails. The food offers classic fine-dining with an elegant approach to everything they cook. You’ll find dishes that combine flavours from multiple cuisines like linguini scampi, Norwegian salmon, the fillet a la Ginger and other signature dishes.
First date: Mellas Sim Sum and Noodle Bar
Mellas is ideal for a first date as it’s a small intimate space with an unpretentious setting that provides the backdrop for an easy evening. The dim sum is also excellent with so much to choose from like wontons, pot stickers and steamed buns with consistency and authenticity being their strong-suit. The space is simple with a relaxed atmosphere that spills out into a cute outside section as well.
Inexpensive/low key: Two Olives
Two Olives combines casual and sophisticated dining, with a focus on tapas and great wine. Simple, seasonal ingredients are used to create Spanish and Mediterranean inspired dishes that display quality and refined flavours. The setting is cosy and quaint, with a warm atmosphere and good food, you cannot go wrong.