Dainty pastries and delectable breads that could be a meal all by themselves. From fancy Parisian-style offerings to wholesome countryside flavours, we round up the best French restaurants in Johannesburg.
64 Wrenrose Avenue, Birdhaven, arbourcafe.co.za
Hidden Paris courtyards inspired Arbour Café and Courtyard, a wonderfully delicate eatery that offers innovative French food. The whimsical menu includes buckwheat galettes (savoury pancakes), smoked salmon baguettes and decadent crepes.
Located in Birdhaven, this is the perfect spot for some day champagne drinking, seasonal ingredients and gourmet breakfast, lunch and supper offerings. If you want an intimate and relaxed dining experience to create memories, it does not get more French than this. Try their artichoke hearts with Mozzarella, basil and pine nuts for a take on authentic cooking, while the chicken salad is simply sublime.
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7 Mackay Avenue, Blairgowrie, believeeatery.co.za
Formerly Bistro Vine and located in Parkhurst, Believe Eatery boasts an expansive space with outside and inside seating. Its reminiscent of Paris side-walk cafes and restaurants. Staples such as duck liver pate served with cranberry jelly and Bouillabaisse (seafood soup) are just of the many finger-licking highlights.
Do not be fooled by the casual atmosphere and laid-back staff. They mean business when it comes to using taste to transport you to rustic and rural France. The caramelised pear, blue cheese and pecan nut salad is probably the restaurant’s piece de resistance, followed in second by the delicate Duck confit.
Unit 1, Oxford Manor, 196 Oxford Road, Illovo, bellagiorestaurant.co.za
When it comes to French restaurants in Johannesburg, this is a classic pick. Classically trained in French and Italian cuisine, chef and owner Louise Castle is all about making you catch Mediterranean feelings. He uses only seasonal produce and the freshest ingredients. With it he creates dishes such as his scrumptious seafood risotto, zucchini fritters, and a tantalising mille-feuille (classic French pastry, similar to a custard slice) with berries and pistachios.
What would a French-inspired eatery be without tuna tartare, beef carpaccio and souffle? Probably a place where people with a taste for life avoid. Treat your palate with a myriad of sweet, savoury and everything else in between. You're sure to get a taste of France and the Mediterranean in every bite.
66 Tyrone Ave, Parkview, bespokery.co.za
Fussy foodies after French delicacies congregate at Bespokery, a restaurant conceptualised to offer flavoursome food and wine experiences. A wide array of dietary preferences are catered for, ranging from Keto, low-carb, vegetarian, plant-based and carnivores.
A French touch is added to every dish, resulting in elevated dishes such as the Porcini Arancini, a favourite among vegetarians. For really particular diners, the Riceless Falklands Calamari Risotto and Bunless Burger will tick all the right boxes, French style. Luckily, none of it is flavourless.
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Old Ducky French Café
Pineslopes Shopping Centre, Fourways, oldducky.com
If you ever wondered what would happen if Parys ever met Paris, then wonder no more. Old Ducky is a playful mash-up of France and South Africa, thanks to diverse dishes such as milktart, crepe Suzette and French onion soup.
Joburg culinary legend and chef Freda Appelbaum owns Old Ducky. Appelbaum has been in the business of running eateries for close to 40 years. Its a haven for those looking for traditional uppity French food (such as boozy duck breast and steak tartare) as well as relatively modern takes on crème brulee and a comprehensive French and South African wine list.
The Elm Tree
The Syrene Hotel, 28 Wessel Road, Rivonia thesyrene.co.za.the-elm-tree-restaurant
The French are known for their romance, and there's no better place to feel it than The Elm Tree. Set under an old Elm tree, this canopy is the perfect location to sample chef and host Tony Finney’s breakfast and lunch feasts. Here you can eat from a selection of menus including a la carte, set, cocktail, pancakes, tea and for the uncouth, buffet.
Love is not only in the air, but in the airy pancakes and perfectly matured rump steak. The garlic snails are a must, while the camembert dessert is known for guaranteeing pregnancies. This is an authentic of a French way of life, from the setting to the Champagne and even some of the staff. Put this one on your list when it comes to French restaurants in Johannesburg.
Patisserie de Paris
9 Mackay Avenue, Randburg, patisseriedeparis.co.za
Simple food, simply cooked. This petit patisserie offers incredible breakfast, elevated to French levels thanks to secret recipe French Toast and Marscapone crème. This French bakery serves wholesome breads, pastries to widen your figure and baguettes good enough for Emmanuel Macron himself.
In addition, it has a fromagerie (cheese and dairy shop) with an extensive cheese selection for sale. Think Roquefort (made from ewe’s milk), Brie, Buche de chevre (goat’s cheese) and Bleu d’Auverge (blue cheese). Patrons rate Patisserie de Paris's croissants as the best in Joburg - comparing them to those made in Paris cafes.
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Corner The High Street & Crescent Drive, Melrose Arch, follow them on Facebook
Hurry along to this fine establishment for an authentic Parisian-style experience already enjoyed by everyone in Europe, Asia, America and The Middle East with over 670 outlets. The aroma of PAUL's wide range of artisan and elaborate breads is enough to evoke sheer happiness from anyone.
The PAUL brand is built on a legacy of passion for excellence, exemplified by traditional artisan production methods passed down over five generations. Established in 1889 in Croix, Northern France, their commitment to excellence ensures you're served food made with carefully selected fresh ingredients, polished presentation and unsurpassed quality.
Lanser's on Main
Lanser's On Main is the kind of place you'd expect to see in a black and white movie starring Humphrey Bogart and Mary Astor. In the far corner there's a couple deep in conversation, at the bigger table to the left there's a family celebrating accomplishments, and on the balcony there are two guys sharing a Cohiba; contemplating the next big tech thing. It's the type of place where the lights are dim, the champagne is always cold and the kitchen's saloon doors are constantly swinging. It's safe to assume that more than a few couples have gotten engaged here. The restaurant tables are dressed up in all-white and the crockery finishes in the same colour.
The main menu sings of honey garlic chicken, venison steak, tilapia fillets and other quality dining items. Whenever possible, keep an eye on the specials menu. If there's any mention of risotto then be sure to order that. We have, on two occasions, ordered risotto from Lanser's On Main and both have been astounding. The springbok risotto served at Lanser's at the time of writing was birthed out of a blend of coincidence and necessity. When a load of springbok fillets fell into the kitchen's lap they decided to medallion the cut of meat and serve it up with creamy rice. This lead to something that sealed the deal for us - the Coup de grâce that knocked Lanser's On Main to the top of the food chain in Bryanston.
Wild Card: The French Tacos
East Rand Mall, North Rand Road, Boksburg
No theatrics. No smoke and mirrors. Just French tacos. After all, this is the East Rand, so you have to expect a twist of some sort.
This takeaway joint might be going through an identity crisis, but its French tacos are a certain hit. Stuffing includes fries, saucy steak, crispy chicken, spicy mince or, for real East Randers, Viennas.
What it lacks in class and finesse, it more than makes up in mouth-watering flavours. Expect satisfyingly discombobulating flavours that don't make sense on paper, but prove to be worth every bite.
Written by Sbu Mkwanazi.
Know of any French restaurants in Johannesburg that aren't on our list? Let us know below.
This article is part of our World In Joburg series - a guide to cuisine from all over the world, right here in Jozi.