The North and East of Johannesburg both have a number of noteworthy fine-dining restaurants. We put two of them against each other and see which node comes up on top.
At face value, it seems as if there is not much that you can compare when it comes to the East and North of Johannesburg. The north is affluent, a playground for high-net-worth individuals and home to pointy-shoed tenderpreneurs. The East Rand is known for OR Tambo International Airport, low-
suspension VW Golfs and Charlize Theron’s hometown, Benoni.
Upon further inspection, it turns out that both the Northern and Eastern parts do have something in common: world-class restaurants. But which node boasts the best offering?
What do you get when two friends, Tumelo Maepa and Hlompho Chauke, start a restaurant in Sandton? A contemporary dining space that doubles up as a culinary experience.
The upmarket establishment is all about celebrating all things South African, but always with an intriguing twist added, just for good measure. This ranges from décor details that include aged brass wares, vintage mirrors, dried botanicals and timber wall cladding that reminds you that you are in Africa’s richest square mile.
The twist comes in the form of unexpected and elegant graffiti – a touch that you would not ordinarily associate with such a swanky restaurant and bar. The look is perfectly rounded off with art pieces by local artist African Ginger.
The dining area is made up of three distinct sections: a formal sit-down area, a trendy sushi bar and the Nest Lounge – a dimly lit nook where you can get up to mischief, like impressing a date with your knowledge of Cuban cigars.
Resident chef Ashley Murison-Johnson took the kitchen reins almost three months ago, and his straightforward but yet playful personality comes through in the recently revamped menu.
The idea to blatantly mix African tastes with European influences and plating is one that pays off in every dish. This is most evident in the Fish of the Day (R265) which happened to be a buttery and meaty Australian Barramundi, balanced with a broth, Bok choy and peas. Believe it or not, the best
part of this dish are the pickled edamame mushrooms.
This is the definition of distilled flavours. As part of the Spain-inspired tapas offering, the Prawn Kataifi (R140) topping is one that mixes
Europe and Africa more seamlessly than terminal A, at OR Tambo. The Bunny Chow tapa (R115) is constructed using slow-roasted lamb neck curry, mango atchaar, mojito yoghurt and dombolo, (better known as dumpling) is one you have to try.
Solo’s speciality dishes include a Pork Belly (R260) that is multi-dimensional: it is silky smooth, while the pork crackling is perfectly crispy, complemented by bright orange butternut bits, acidic apple slices, a sweet celery chutney jus, all topped with crunchy walnuts. It is like biting into the very best of every sensation there is.
For something to tingle your tastebuds, the Salmon and Tiger Prawns offering (R360), complete with morogo (wild spinach), raw garlic dressing and a lemon and mustard remoulade is for you. This is the type of soul-stirring cuisine that will make you wish you can have a bigger stomach, just so you can consume more.
You would think that Level Seven Restaurant and Sky Bar would be perched on the seventh floor of the OR Tambo Radisson Hotel. It is on the sixth floor, which happens to be the top floor, so the views are majestic.
Johannesburg restaurateur Desmond Mabuza – owner of the fine dining eatery Signature eatery in Morningside, Sandton – has transplanted the same class and opulence to the Bredell area, in Kempton Park.
As soon as you exit the lift, you are greeted by a philosophy that is described by the designer, Bilala Mabuza – as “design, art, flowers and butterflies meeting”. Photography pieces also welcome you into the airy space, ensuring that you forget you are in an area that is not synonymous with luxury.
With the exceptional level of culinary delights on offer, chef Loyiso Mnduzulwana has to be one of the finest cooks in Joburg, and not just the East Rand. His duck leg confit (R325) is simply unmatched, as is his Beetroot goat’s cheese and ostrich carpaccio (R165).
Mduzulwana is an artist whose medium happens to be edible. When he plates dishes such as the (R245) Grilled Sole - seasoned with sea salt, served with sauteed new potatoes, pea and red onion ragout and salsa verde - he entices your sense of smell, sight and smell. The delicately balanced taste pushes you over the edge, leaving you wondering if you have been short-changed your whole life when it comes to parties in your mouth.
The Coffee Rubbed Fillet (R325) - beef rubbed in coffee infused blend of spices, twice-baked potato, asparagus, fried exotic mushrooms and creamed mushroom sauce - showcases the creativity that is part of every meal.
Just when you thought the main courses were the piece de resistance, Level Seven has one of the most comprehensive dessert menus anywhere in the country, and when laid out, they resemble a layered art exhibition. From the trio of crème brulee (R115), mascarpone cheesecake (R120), and souffle (R135), to the semifreddo R135), panna cotta (R140) and chocolate spheres (R130), you crave more after each tasting.
It's a tight call, as you cannot go wrong with both of these establishments if you are looking for finesse, sophistication and elevated food, drinks and dessert in Johannesburg.
While Solo is a visual treat, especially the Instagram famous arched wine cellar and cool art on display, Level Seven Restaurant takes the honours by a hair’s length. The defined attention to the art of taste is simply unflawed. Every single taste receptor is treated like an individual, getting never-
ending TLC. Their comprehensive wine offering and their knowledgeable sommelier sealed the deal.
Level Seven Restaurant and Sky Bar is located on the corner of 3 rd and Sixth Roads, Bredell, Kempton Park. For reservations, go to levelsevenrestaurant.co.za or call 010-541-1300.
Written by Sbu Mkwanazi