1. WEEKEND GETAWAY
Oaklands Country Manor (Van Reenen)

There are many reasons to pass through Van Reenen, halfway between Johannesburg and Durban, and there’s a very good reason to stop and spend a few days — Oaklands Country Manor. The manor — set among polo fields in the beautiful, rolling hills of KwaZulu-Natal that are perfect for spontaneous hikes — is a family affair, run by siblings Kathy, Caroline, Annie, and Simon Tully.

Chef Kathy Romer-Lee, the personal chef of Roald Dahl at one point, is passionate about “veld to table” food, sourced from their own garden and farms in the region. Fans come from all over the area on a Saturday night for the famous curry spread.

The farm was originally owned by Sir Hervey James Hugh Bruce-Clifton, a former Major in the British Army, and is now run by his wife, Lady Caroline. Oaklands, just 7km off the highway, offers more than just good fun in the country — the many activities include horse riding in the shadow of majestic mountains, paddling along or fishing in one of the two dams within viewing distance of the hotel patio, bird watching, walking and hiking, and, of course, eating. The daily chalkboard menu offers delicious, home-style food that is unfussy and big on flavour. The award-winning fare includes a soft-boiled egg, deep-fried in a crisp parmesan crust set on local asparagus; the famous Dargle Valley pork roast; and heirloom beetroot, avocado, and haloumi salad. - Andrea Nagel oaklands.co.za

Oaklands Country Manor
Oaklands Country Manor
Image: Supplied

2. DELICIOUS LITTLE SECRET
Chilo by San Julian (Cape Town)

If you are ever in need of a quick, sneaky bite we suggest you head over to this pequeño taqueria takeout spot. After reigning over Cape Town for eight years with the best fish taco in town, and at times the country, San Julian sadly shut its doors in Rose Street earlier this year. Now the aforementioned taco is being sold for R35 a pop out of a pink curbside concept shop 850m away from its original location. It is here that the young chef Ricardo Garcia will continue to create family traditions with his own twist, served in a freshly made tortilla. sanjulian.co.za

3. OFF-THE-GRID GOODNESS
Apartment restaurant trend

Enthusiastic foodies are taking their dinner-party skills to the next level, with the craze of turning one’s home into a restaurant. This fun (and illegal) practice has become a favourite pastime for curious epicureans, as the likes of Osterio Vincenzo in Killarney, Chez Fong in Houghton or La Petite Mort in the BoKaap set the scene and their dining tables. Guests are treated to finely crafted, themed set menus; they are served like old friends by their hosts, and they eat side by side with new ones. facebook.com/osteriavincenzo; facebook.com/Chezfong; lapetitemort.co.za

Apartment restaurant trend
Apartment restaurant trend
Image: Supplied

4. SO HOT RIGHT NOW
Things in bowls trend

You know a trend is getting serious if it is even being served at Wimpy — breakfast bowl, anyone? Bowls of every form are popping up on menus, and we are here for it. It would appear that bowls have become the preferred vessel for healthy eating. Our favourites are those with lashings of raw fish, crisp cut vegetables and black rice seen in the growing poke bowl craze at places such as Ono in Illovo, as well as rich bone broths full of flavour, derived from a 40-hour cooking time, found in the bowls of Marrow in Loop Street. onoeatery.co.za; marrowbroth.co.za

5. WEEKEND SPECIAL
Toad in the Hole by Mulberry & Prince (Cape Town)

Cornel Mostert and Cynthia Rivera, the spritely chefs behind this New York-inspired small-plate establishment have reached cult-like status in the local brunch scene with their exclusive, Sunday-only menu. Beyond the naartjie mimosas and heavenly baked cinnamon rolls, you will find a delectable eggie treasure in their reinterpretation of a toad in the hole. A soft egg, with its yolk waiting to explode across your plate, is nestled inside a slice of brioche and topped with Montagu cheese. The dish also includes broiled tomatoes and a side of your choice (we suggest springing for the house-made breakfast sausage patty). mulberryandprince.co.za

Mulberry & Prince
Mulberry & Prince
Image: Supplied

6. RIDICULOUS RIBEYE
The Local Grill (Joburg)

There are few things better for us carnivores than the perfectly pink plum centre of a medium-rare steak. Except perhaps, pairing that “wing rib” steak with a smooth béarnaise sauce and addictive sprinkled crumb salt. We have yet to experience a finer example than that made by the meat master himself, Steve Maresch of The Local Grill. It’s quite incredible that a simple slab of dry aged meat could taste so different, but this tiny, corner-side establishment manages to make meat magic. Can we also have a moment of silence for how amazing the marrow bones are? Thanks. localgrill.co.za

The Local Grill
The Local Grill
Image: Supplied

7. TAKE-OUT TREASURE
The Leopard Deli (Joburg)

We mourned the end of an era when The Leopard shut its doors in Melville, but little did we know we would be eating from there more often than ever. The ready-made meals, soups, salads, and even some freshly made fare — including some not-to-be-missed dark chocolate and white spotted brownies – makes The Leopard Deli the hottest take-out in town. The deluxe mac and cheese is a perfect toastie filling, and we even suggest putting some of the roasted aubergine in the shiitake broth. leopardfoodcompany.com

8. STANDOUT SOURDOUGH
Loaves on Long (Cape Town)

Carbs are making a comeback, no matter what your nutritionist might say. If you’re going to dance with the starch devil, make sure it’s one worth mentioning. That’s where Madame Baker, Ciska Rossouw, comes in. This little bakery-café-coffee-shop’s delicious wares are a byproduct of the art of natural yeast fermentation. The years-old starter nursed each day, results in a lush sourdough, springing with good crumb and flavour bursting from the slashed crust seams. loavesonlong.co.za

Loaves on Long
Loaves on Long
Image: Supplied

9. CALAMARI SAFARI
Five-spice calamari at Salvation Café (Joburg)

After a month-long search scouring the country, we can say that this is the best battered calamari in the business. Salvation Café’s calamari — incredibly tender with just the right amount of bite, and a batter that is as crispy as it is light — has won the hearts of many. And it is those many people who go on to say that it is the extra delight of their sesame dipping sauce that makes the dish. Last but not least, a shout out to the five-spice seasoning that is never overpowering, yet ever present, giving the dish that lasting note. salvationcafe.co.za

10. NEXT-LEVEL NO CARB
Melanzanne at Tortellino D’Oro (Joburg)

From the sublime to the ridiculous: we know that when eating Italian, gluten intolerance is a nightmare, but, thanks to this little Oaklands gem, this doesn’t have to be the case. As well as the selection of insalata and antipasto, the melanzanne is the best we’ve ever had. It’s a heavenly combination of crunchy crisp top, oozing cheese, perfectly cooked eggplant, and a sauce bar none in a never ending bowl of joy. It’s also available as a take-away from this incredible deli. Deliziosissima! tortellino.co.za

11. WE ALL SCREAM FOR
Unframed Ice Cream (Cape Town)

Everyone has their own personal favourite flavour, but the best thing about Unframed is that it has flavours you didn’t even know you could love. Like the vivid yellow turmeric latte, blue coconut, speculoos, matcha, and even the lesser spotted black sesame seed. And even vegans can be happy, as they can choose from a variety of sorbets including blackcurrant or pear, and coconut-based delights in vanilla, coconut raspberry, and even the elusive vegan chocolate. If you find it hard to decide, fret not: there is always the five-scoop plate. unframed.co.za

Unframed Ice Cream
Unframed Ice Cream
Image: Supplied

12. BUDGET BUSTER
Sunday Lunch at La Madeleine (Pretoria)

Not all of us have the money to eat at the Saxonwold Shebeen, but during the holidays there is nothing wrong with wanting an extra bit of bang for your buck. Enter chef-patron Daniel Leusch and his daughter Anne, of Pretoria’s long-loved, high-end bistro. Nothing beats Leusch rattling off the day’s selection right at your table, except for the lush crab soup. The R195 three-course lunch menu has been known to include fresh steak tartare, rich duck a l’orange, Moorish shank tajins, and a crème brûlée rich with floating black vanilla seeds. lamadeleine.co.za

13. MOST ORIGINAL
(Breakfast) gangster oysters

Our favourite aphrodisiacs are slinking back onto menus. Few expect these delicacies to be an appetising alternative to an eggs benedict, but you can get your fill at the six-course delight that is the Flames Brunch at The Westcliff, where our oceanic friends are the perfect pairing with the “build your own Bloody Mary” bar. A Cape Town standout is the deep-fried, breaded oysters with pickles, scrambled eggs, and toasted brioche Sunday brunch by Mulberry & Prince. fourseasons.co/johannesburg/dining/restaurants/flames

Oysters are making a comeback
Oysters are making a comeback
Image: Supplied

14. BEST NEW RESTAURANT
La Petite Colombe (Franschhoek)

With every ending comes a new beginning, and with Janse’s departure from The Tasting Room came the mini version of long-time reigning best restaurant in South Africa, and now 73rd-best restaurant in the world. La Petite Colombe is a continuation of the impeccable standards set by its older sibling in Constantia, and boasts herb crusted lamb loin that solidified its status as an instant classic. Its opening gambit of a four-course, week-day lunch special at R395, which sported a main of citrus glazed line fish, smoked parsnip, pancetta, buckwheat, and asparagus, didn’t hurt either. Well, that and the whipped pork fat “butter”. lapetitecolombe.com

15. HOT-STUFF HOTEL
Luke Dale-Roberts X The Saxon (Joburg)

The Saxon sets a high standard of what we should expect from five-star establishments. Firstly, thanks to the incredible work by Marble’s David Higgs and now — as anyone with an ounce of food appreciation will know — by Luke Dale-Roberts. South Africa’s culinary golden boy continues to wow, alongside the formidable talent of chef Candice Philip at the collaboration’s permanent home. The duo still finds new ways to delight, with delicate combos of smoked quail breast and poached langoustine; earthy pairings of impala with coffee and marigold; and who doesn’t love a Raspberry financier? May the standard continue to soar for the sake of all of our taste buds. lukedaleroberts.com/saxon

Luke Dale Roberts X Saxon
Luke Dale Roberts X Saxon
Image: Supplied

16. BEST MEAL OF THE YEAR
Four Hands Dinner with Chantel Dartnall and Gregory Czarnecki

It is not often that we use the word “sensational”, but we will use it here freely, as the delight that was this experience could only be described as such. It was a contrasting yet dynamic journey of styles, as the fresh, exuberant complexity of Chantel Dartnell, the now best female chef in the world, was matched by the clean simple elegance of Gregory Czarnecki, plate by plate in the most magical way. restaurantmosaic.com

17. ONE TO WATCH
Fermier in The Willow (Pretoria)

Fermier is taking self-sustainability to a whole new level. Every item on the menu is grown and reared on The Karoo Fish and Vegetables farm where the restaurant stands. fermierrestaurant.com

18. BIGGEST FOMO MOMENT
Margot Janse’s last dinner service at The Tasting Room (Franschoek)

A most magnificent era ended on April 29 this year as Janse’s 21-year-journey at Franschhoek’s Le Quartier Français came to a close. The Tasting Room played a massive role in establishing our budding fine-dining scene and will forever be a shining light in the history of our country’s culinary journey. We wish we had been there to celebrate those final moments of her food journey (and eagerly await her next one), and wish her well as she continues her amazing work with her charity, Isabelo.

BEST OF THE DRINK:

19. SPIRITED AWAY
Six Dogs Gin

Thanks to an antioxidant and aphrodisiac flower with a very dirty name (the Clitoria ternatea), this gin is able to perform a magic trick and change colour before your very eyes. Adding tonic changes the gin’s PH levels to transform your striking blue drink to a light pink G&T. Perhaps even use the new pink Fitch & Leedes tonic while you’re at it. Although other labels may also have caught our eye with such tricks, it must be said that Six Dogs was the first to market (and it tastes better, to boot). sixdogs.co.za

Six Dogs Gin
Six Dogs Gin
Image: Supplied

20. MIXOLOGY MAGIC
Sin + Tax (Joburg)

This tiny hole in the wall establishment is home to some of South Africa’s best mixologists, who mix it up every season with menus that push the boundaries of what cocktails can be. The most recent selection, Salvage, focuses on sustainably, squeezing every last usable morsel from their array of ingredients. Next up owner Julian Short, who was crowned South Africa’s 2017 Diageo World-Class Bartender of the Year, will be flexing his mixing prowess by creating a new original cocktail every day for the rest of the year. facebook.com/sinandtax

21. SUMMER SPARKLING
Cartizze Oro by Valdo Prosecco

With the local méthod cap classique game taking its rightful place in the bubbles connoisseur’s cellar, it’s fine if we show some disloyalty and shift our gaze to the singular joy of its sparkling Italian cousin. Valdo Prosecco is a welcome addition: a dry, fruity beast, best served cold anytime you damn please. Forget the title, we think that good sparkly is a year-long affair. It really won us over at Sanlam the Handmade Contemporary Fair, as we sipped it in the sunshine. It felt oh-so-fabulous, darling! proseccosa.co.za

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