Top 5 dinner dates in Joburg

A must-read column if you are planning a date of any description.

17 Apr 2013

What is it about trying to impress a potential mate that makes boys and girls around the world feel obliged to do stupid shit like row boats, watch jazz and go Tango dancing?

In the quest to woo, court and go steady, seemingly normal people suddenly find themselves doing out-of-the-ordinary things like filling a picnic basket with cold meat, cheddar cheese and Salticrax, before heading into battle with bumhole-seeking creepy crawlies and park-bound beggars, while seated on a dirty blanket for half-an-hour of subtle boasting, arm flexing and sneaky boob looks.

(And just to be clear… I’m not talking about me here… obviously… because… where do you get a picnic basket anyway?)

There was a time, before woman’s magazines and bunji, when peeps were happy to date the old-fashioned way: the humble ‘dinner and a movie’. You know when you only had to talk for half of the date and the other half you spent trying to ‘accidentally’ bump hands in the popcorn box.

A little rom-com followed by a shared bowl of spaghetti and meatballs? It’s as timeless as the ol’ ‘yawn into arm over the shoulders’ manoeuvre.

Dinner and a movie got people laid. So what ever happened to this dating classic?

I’ll tell you what happened. In this digital age of consumerism and excess – there are just too many movies to watch and too many places to eat.

You’re overwhelmed with choice! And it’s not your fault.

But don’t you worry prospective dating massive based in Jozi City, I’m here to help.

Move over pairing wine with your main course, move over pairing your weird cousin with your socially retarded classmate…

For the first time on the internet, ladies and gentlemen...

Prepare yourself for Son’s Top 5 Dinner Date Spots In Jozi, PAIRED with the ideal movie to complement your dating style.

Tortellino D’Oro

An intimate and authentic family-run Italian eatery that is just great for that traditional first date vibe. It’s expensive enough to make it look like you’ve put in a bit of effort but doesn’t blow the bank and it’s fancy enough to feel like a special occasion without being so larny that you don’t know which fork to use.

Plus: Italian food is a pretty safe bet for even the fussiest eaters, unless he or she is gluten intolerant, kosher or… has any other eating disorder.

Minus: Pasta can be messy to eat. Don’t decorate your new collared-shirt with spots of Napoletana.

My favourite dating dish:

Tortellino’s lasagne is a popular choice but I jump for anything with figs and Parma ham.
Paired with:

Fanie Fourie’s Lobola

It’s a South African romantic comedy that doesn’t make you cringe in your seat. White guy Fanie, falls in love with black chick Dinky. Hilarity ensues. It’s not a new idea but it’s well executed and if you’re going for this kind of date, you want a safe bet (plus my friend Eduan van Jaarsveldt, who is massive and from the South plays the socially inept title character, so I have to punt it for fear of my beautifully aquiline nose becoming not so beautifully aquiline). With a killer proudly SA soundtrack and a story that isn’t as cheesy as you think it’s going to be, Fanie Fourie is a great traditional date movie – with laughter and romance by the bucket load – and an opportunity to suss out exactly where your co-dater sits on the left/right axis of political temperament. You sneaky liberal.
The Griffin

The Griffin is a gastro-pub and craft beer hangout where all the cool kids go to smash some expensive brew in their corporate faces. Because it gets so packed with after-work punters (especially on Thursdays and Fridays) it’s a great spot to klap some good hearty pub grub without having to make too much conversation. This is partly because it’s too loud inside to hear anything besides the general hubbub of lager louts getting beasted and partly because your mates will probably rock up at nine relieving you from the small talk and letting your date experience you in context – with Dazza, Bazza, Gazza and Bear – as you relive High School flings and Who Was The Most Pissed stories.

Food-wise, The Griffin does an excellent burger (although a little inconsistent) and has a menu with something tasty for anyone – except fruitarians probably but what the hell are you doing dating a fruitarian?

The beers are plentiful and with a decent wine list and craft whiskey, you can pretend you’re sophisticated if that’s what you need to close the deal.

This is the perfect spot for an unromantic date with someone you’re only exploring as a short-term option, giving you some scope for a quick, tasty bite followed by a monstrous piss up.

The food is good, the beer is plentiful and if things don’t work out, there’s bound to be a drunken rebound within arm’s reach.

It is loud and gets full. This could also be a plus?

My favourite dating dish:

The burger. It’s casual, but gourmet, pretty much how I see myself.

Paired with:

Warm Bodies

Eat your heart out date night! A post-apocalyptic zombie romantic comedy. ‘Nuff said.

PS. How clever was my little pun back there? With the eating of hearts? Right?! It’s funny because zombies eat hearts and hearts are relevant to dates. Whoo, shit I’m awesome.


The Leopard

I’ve raved about The Leopard before but it has since relocated to Melville and nothing has been lost in relocation. If anything, the quirk and character of the eatery has been amplified by its surroundings – the artistic flair of Melville sits around her like a comfy thrift shop jacket – and the food has remained as delicious as ever.

It’s not your typical dating hotspot but if you’re up for a smattering of whatever delicious shit comes out of Andrea Burgener’s nutty brain (and you should be) then book (because you now can) a quaint table for two at my personal Jozi date night favourite.

Paired with:
Silver Linings Playbook

A movie about two crazy people and a love triangle. Great Oscar nominated performances from Bradley Cooper and Bobby de Niro with Jennifer Lawrence winning Best Actress. Quirky, a little sad but romantic as all hell, in an unconventional, bipolar sort of way. I’m man enough to admit that I shed a few tears in the happy bits, but I cry in musical finales so, no real surprise there.


Thomas Maxwell

Thomas Maxwell is one of the few upmarket bistros in Jo’burg (Eatery JHB just around the corner is another favourite) and delivers on all counts – great food, great service and great ambience.

Wear something nice, get a table in the corner and stare into each other’s eyes over a bottle of the good stuff. The food is delicious but the kitchen don’t skimp on butter or cream so be prepared to eat like the French – who incidentally are renowned for being excellent (but smelly) lovers – coincidence? I think not.

Upmarket vibe with great food – he/she will feel like you put in some effort.

Your wallet will take a beating. Take it like a man though – this is date night son, not break time at the tuck shop.

My favourite dating dish:

Hands down the mussels – in tomato or garlic cream. Both are delicious. And the crayfish linguine is a BEAST. Just writing about it gives me mouth sweat.
Paired with:
Les Miserables

A movie based on a musical? That my friend is real class. Show your sophistication, your knowledge of French history (“That Storming of The Bastille business was a real horror show don’t you think?”) and your tolerance of people singing for NO APPARENT REASON in ENGLISH in the middle of 19th CENTURY FRANCE. I myself am intolerant of all of the above. But I don’t need to impress my date any longer. You do.


The Good Luck Club

The Good Luck Club is a killer spot for tasty Asian takeaways (you can sit down if you want) and is a personal favourite on those homebound date nights. From the same brains as Wolves: skinny malink and Desmond & The Tutus frontman Shane Durrant and his wife, sort-of Greek and awesome blogger Angie Batis, Good Luck Club brings quirk and a bit of hipster-style to Asian cuisine – serving up (my favourites) a killer Twice Fried Beef and Chilli Orange Pork Stir-fry.

Call ahead, have a look at their online menu and order away. All the cool kids are doing it.


Convenient, fun and you get to eat out of a box like in the movies.

Shit if you have something against Asian food I suppose.

My favourite dating dish:

The twice-fried beef is delish. And if you share it, your chopsticks might touch. Yeah.
Paired with:

Rent a DVD

Get whatever the mood dictates, from Police Academy 6 to renowned panty dropper The Notebook. The rented DVD is a perfect way to show off your brazen lack of commitment (to really drive the point home, rent the DVD player as well). If your date isn’t into that sort of thing, picking a DVD together also insinuates adaptability, flexibility and a relaxed, kind of casual vibe. It’s a bonding exercise; an opportunity to check out how lame your date really is (WIN if she/he picks Die Hard LOSE if they pick anything with Sean Penn) and keeps things within arm’s reach of the bedroom (depending on the size of your house). Don’t go this route if you still live at home and probably shouldn’t.

That is all. It’s a pleasure.


Follow @bryanvanniekerk and @food24 on twitter.


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