“It’s not very hot”, I lie, as I bite into a whole chilli, one of the starters we’ve ordered at Addis in Cape. My small, blonde friend gamely bites into one. “No, it’s not that bad,” she says, to my amazement, munching the whole thing down without flinching, while her boyfriend chokes back tears after a tiny nibble.
We’re eating off giant injera pancakes at the Mother City Ethiopian restaurant and while the chilli starters still have my tongue smarting, the lamb and chickpea dishes we’re scooping up in our big floppy pancakes are delicious. I’m inspired to explore a little more.
African cuisine is diverse as the continent that created it. From Ethiopian curries to Moroccan tagines, steaming samp and beans, pap and vleis cooked over an open fire, to umngqusho and exotic meats such as crocodile and kudu, there’s something for almost every palate.
Finding an authentic African restaurant that serves traditional food can be tricky, though. We’ve put together a list of restaurants serving everything from traditional African fare to exotic game meats so that you can get a taste of Africa, whether you’re visiting the continent for the first time, or a seasoned local in search of something a little different.
Abyssinia is casual but authentic. It's kitted out with Ethiopian flags, images and crafts, the space has warmth and charm.
African specialities: Berbere spiced stews, Kitfko steak tartare.
Entertainment: Coffee ceremonies
With its African décor, music and ambience, it’ll take you on an unusual cultural and culinary journey.
African specialities: West African venison neck cous-cous: venison neck and West African vegetables slowly cooked, garnished with chick peas, coriander and pine nut chutney, accompanied by a harrissa sauce.
Or: Lamb frikkadels
Entertainment: Zulu dancers, fire dancers and face-painters
There are always a minimum of 15 different types of meat, plus five or more game meats.
African specialities: Pap and chakalaka sauce and venison meatballs or sausage.
Price: Comes as part of a three-course menu
Entertainment: Waiters circulate wielding Masai spears skewered with meat ranging from beef, chicken, boerewors and lamb, to ostrich, kudu and crocodile, all charcoal-grilled and expertly carved directly onto your hot cast-iron plate. You eat as much as you wish and when you have had your fill, you 'surrender' by lowering the flag on your lazy Susan.
Nice and calm during the day until the sun sets and the jazz and rhythms start.
African specialities: Lamb stew, samp, tripe.
Encompassing the true South African Style of food and eating, Gramadoelas has every bit of South African culture etched into its atmosphere, its food and its people.
African specialities: Umngqusho – braised beef shin, beans and maize.
Lekgotla, which means 'meeting place' in Tswana, is a melting pot of cuisines from the four corners of Africa.
African specialities: The Ethiopian Coffee Steak – grilled rump, marinated in coffee served with a splash of Kahlua.
Or: Springbok medallions served with morogo and mustard barley and red wine sauce.
Moyo (Melrose Arch)
Moyo offers an eclectic range of African-inspired cuisine from around the continent.
African specialities: Fillet Khuzwayo: marrow bones topped with beef fillet, mushrooms and a gratinated béarnaise sauce.
Or: Oxtail Amos – oxtail braised with butterbeans in red wine and beef stock jus.
Entertainment: Live African music performances
Moyo (Zoo Lake)
Moyo offers a relaxed, family-friendly atmosphere, cocktails on the deck and fabulous live music.
African specialities: Impi platter– a platter of the finest South African grilled meat including boerewors, lamb rib bobotie, samoosas, izinkuku and Karoo lamb chops served with chakalaka.
Sophiatown Bar and Lounge
Musical, loud, vibey and multicultural.
African specialities: Wors li papa, made the traditional way with veggies of the day.
Or: Mogodu lim’Mnqusho – tripe served the traditional way with umngqusho (a traditional Xhosa dish made from samp and beans)
Nambitha is unpretentious and proudly embraces its Soweto heritage.
African specialities: Chicken served the traditional African way, served with samp, vegetables, dumplings and rice or pap.
Or: Mogodu – tripe, served with samp and vegetables.
Wandie’s is a cool respite from the busy streets, serving classy Soweto-style festive spreads.
African specialities: The buffet includes traditional dishes such as samp and beans, tripe and trotters and a range of meats.
Entertainment: A live two-man band that plays traditional African music.
Baobab Café and Grill
Honest, African deco vibe.
African specialities: Lamb curry or oxtail potjies.
Price: Both R115
A brightly-coloured, comfy home that covers cuisine from Egypt to Morocco.
African specialities: Lephalele springbok shank – Hanepoot-braised springbok shank served with an apricot and butter almond chutney.
Entertainment: Traditional instruments and shaker performances and South African musical trio.
The Blue Crane
A tranquil setting surrounded by a park.
African specialities: Kudu served with bacon, red wine and mushroom sauce and vegetables.
Entertainment: The Soweto Youth Choir will be performing on 9 August, 24 September and 16 December
Moyo (uShaka Marine World)
African specialities: Oxtail Amos – oxtail braised with butterbeans in red wine and beef stock jus.
Entertainment: Hand-washing, face-painting, Zulu dancers.
Addis in Cape
A traditionally Ethiopian space with low couches and chairs. Food is served on an injera pancake that is shared among diners.
African specialities: Doro wot – a chicken gravy stew.
Or: Yibed Alicha wot – a traditional lamb stew.
Price: R90 Or, for vegetarians: red lentil misir wot, or yellow chickpea kekklicha wot.
Price: Both R85
Entertainment: For the month of July, there is a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony which takes place from 9–10 pm on a Saturday.
This colourful and brightly decorated restaurant mimics the beautiful decorated traditional pottery the food is served in.
African specialities: The food is a buffet but served at your table and includes Tanzanian mango chicken, cassava bread baked tapioca, cheese and yoghurt flatbread and amagwinya (vetkoek) and Botswana seswaa masala, a spicy beef stew. Xhosa samp and bean staple, umngqusho, is also available.
Price: R245 including dessert.
Entertainment: Face-painting and at the end of the evening the staff sing traditional Sothu, Zulu and Xhosa songs for their guests.
Set high on the hill in Durbanville, the restaurant has spectacular views of Table Mountain and Cape Town. Less African than some, the interior has the look and feel of a Medieval hall.
African specialities: The meal is a buffet that includes South African favourites such as bobotie, Cape Malay lamb and potato curry, tomato bredie, oxtail stew and curried tripe.
Price: R228.50 per person
Set in an old Cape-Dutch building but colourfully decorated inside, the waiters adorned with colourful Ndebele beading serve food in traditionally decorated pottery in reed baskets.
African specialities: A set menu to the table, including Namibian springbok pie and West African peanut chicken.
Price: R250 Entertainment: Puppets of Mali, a traditional Malian performance art that is accompanied by local dancers and singers.
With a reed grass ceiling and murals on the walls, this restaurant evokes the feeling of an African feast.
African specialities: Mixed grill of kudu, springbok, ostrich and crocodile.
Or: Moroccan lamb served with couscous, almonds and stewed fruit.
Entertainment: Live marimba band entertainment.
Marco’s African Place
Leopard-print tablecloths and traditional woven wall hangings allcontribute to the African feel of this restaurant in the Bo-Kaap.
African specialities: Zwelethu, chicken cooked with onions and green pepper and ulwimi – steamed ox tongue with mustard sauce.
Or: Umleqwa – chicken traditionally prepared
Entertainment: Traditional music every evening from 7:30pm.
This restaurant/butchery is an informal set-up of tables and chairs.
African specialities: Choose your meat from the butchery and then hand it to the braai masters who will cook it for you using their secret sauce.
Price: Beef is R49,99/kg; chicken is R32,99/kg; lamb is R76/kg and pork is R52,99/kg.
Entertainment: The authentic township ambience is all the entertainment you need. Bring your own rolls, salad and drinks – no alcohol is sold on the premises.
Brightly painted chairs and tables decorated with motifs from the township.
African specialities: The Khoro platter – wors, chop, chicken, pap, chakalaka, and pumpkin fritters.
Or: Pap, wors and chakalaka.
Entertainment: Traditional Xhosa dance group Apaqondisi perform on Sundays from 12pm onwards when a buffet lunch of beef and chicken stews, vetkoek, pap and other traditional South African treats are served. R135 including dessert.
Situated on the Spier wine estate, the restaurant consists of several structures, two permanent marquees and extends outside to allow guests to sit under an old oak tree house, gazebo or Bedouin tent. In winter guests are provided with heaters and blankets and in summer fans are set up in the tents.
African specialities: A buffet including venison bobotie, oxtail Amos – oxtail braised with butterbeans in red wine and beef stock jus, Saldanha mussels zamalek – fresh Saldanha black mussels steamed in beer finished with herbs, garlic mussels and venison kebabs.
Price: R195 per person.
Entertainment: Face-painting and hand-washing with rose water is offered to each guest. Live entertainment including dancing, drumming or a marimba band.
By Katharine Jacobs
Research by Kelly Pluke and Monique Broumels