The Restaurant at Waterkloof
The Restaurant at Waterkloof

After the thoughtful scrutiny and savouring of countless plates of food in South Africa’s finest and most beautiful restaurants, Eat Out’s panel of esteemed judges has made their decision and issued their verdict. On Sunday 18 November 2018, the winners were announced at the 2018 Eat Out Mercedes-Benz Restaurant Awards, a red-carpet gala event at GrandWest in Cape Town. While the top 10 restaurants’ proprietors, chefs, and staff are probably in the throes of their celebrations, the rest of us can officially start planning the coming year’s culinary bucket list. Here, in order of ranking, are the victors of Eat Out’s 2018 hunger games!

1. The Restaurant at Waterkloof, Somerset West

Last year’s position: # 3

Judge’s comments: “Simple combinations of flavours, perfectly cooked and exquisitely plated.”

A modern space featuring spectacular vistas, Waterkloof Wine Estate’s signature restaurant takes quality winelands dining to new heights. Gorgeously appointed in a glass promontory, the restaurant extends from the chic wine tasting lounge and gravitational cellar. Within its walls, Chef Gregory Czarnecki whets the appetite with contemporary classics, complemented by the estate’s elegant wines.

Location: Sir Lowry’s Pass Village Street, Somerset West

2. The Test Kitchen, Woodstock, Cape Town

Last year’s position: # 1

Judge’s comments: “The food, presentation and seamless, exciting service left me feeling like I’d had a Michelin-star dining experience.”

The Test Kitchen is no stranger to the Eat Out Mercedes-Benz Restaurant Awards, having landed the top spot for several consecutive years. The Test Kitchen opened its doors in November 2010 and has celebrated Chef Luke Dale-Roberts cooking at his most creative in a distinctive contemporary space. Since coming to Cape Town in 2006, Luke has consistently proven his world-class standing with a string of awards and accolades.

“What we do at The Test Kitchen is always a bit different; that is our constant,” says Luke. “I need to move forward. Everything in my life has to be about progress and quality.”

Location: The Old Biscuit Mill, 375 Albert Road, Woodstock

3. La Colombe, Constantia, Cape Town

Last year’s position: # 7

Judge’s comments: “Beautiful, quirky, clever. Sublime simple dishes; superb cooking.”

La Colombe is a Cape Town icon – the Mount Olympus of gastronomy – where one is treated to a truly epic food experience that lasts several hours and is unrelenting in its perfection. With its formidable and far-resounding reputation and having recently re-opened its doors after an extensive revamp, it is absolutely no wonder that La Colombe has received such acclaim from both local and international visitors. The food experience here is an epic adventure that is delivered by Chef Proprietor Scot Kirton and Executive Chef James Gaag with great mastery and tender love.

Location: Silvermist Wine Estate, Main Road, Constantia Nek

4. Wolfgat, Paternoster, West Coast

Last year’s position: New entry

Judge’s comments: “The menu is gutsy and bold, throwing people unfamiliar with the area into the deep end of the West Coast.”

Wolfgat is a new entry on the Eat Out Mercedes-Benz Restaurant Awards list and, according to the testimony of the judges “totally unique and driven by the vision of one man,” Chef Kobus van der Merwe who also landed the 2018 Eat Out S.Pellegrino & Acqua Panna Chef of the Year award. Mind-blowing food aside, the restaurant boasts an enchanting location. The building in which it is housed dates back some 130 years, while the nearby Wolfgat cave (its namesake) is a site of immense archaeological and geological significance.

Location: 10 Sampson Street, Paternoster

5. La Petite Colombe, Franschhoek

Last year’s position: New entry

Judge’s comments: “An absolutely delightful meal. I can remember each and every course, cooked with such delicacy.”

The award-winning sister restaurant to La Colombe makes its debut in the Top 10 under the leadership of Chef John Norris-Rogers. Located at Le quartier Francais in Franschhoek, visitors to this charming historical town can look forward to experiencing the same level of service excellence and exquisite and innovative cuisine that has put La Colombe (Constantia) on the map – with a fresh twist, of course.

Location: Le quartier Francais, Franschhoek

6. Greenhouse at Cellars-Hohenort, Constantia, Cape Town

Last year’s position: # 5

Judge’s comments: “Beautifully crafted food; simple but precise cooking.”

The Greenhouse at Cellars-Hohenhort offers diners a modern South African dining experience curated by Chefs Peter Tempelhoff and Farrel Hirsch. At the heart of their food philosophy lies the continuous exploration and re-imagination of the rich food history and heritage of South Africa; finding inspiration in the abundance and diversity of resources offered by the local landscape – ocean, garden, veld, and farmlands.

Location: 93 Brommersvlei Road, Constantia

7. Restaurant Mosaic at The Orient, Elandsfontein, Pretoria

Last year’s position: # 2

Judge’s comments: “A deeply joyful and rewarding dining experience. Whimsical presentation delivers revelatory flavour.”

Finally, a restaurant outside the Western Cape! This signature hotel restaurant offers artfully crafted gastronomy in an environment painted with elegant, art nouveau décor. When the restaurant is open, award-winning chef Chantel Dartnall is always in attendance to meet the diners, explain the menu, and answer questions. Her exquisite food “tells a tale through delicate yet playful plating and a journey of beautiful flavours.”

Location: Orient Boutique Hotel, Francolin Ave, Elandsfontein, Pretoria

8. Camphors at Vergelegen, Somerset West

Last year’s position: # 6

Judge’s comments: “Camphors is really keeping the standard high. It is evident that they are evolving and growing every year.”

With its immaculately manicured lawns, kaleidoscopic gardens, dramatic views of the Helderberg Mountains, and historic Cape Dutch manor houses, Vergelegen is a quintessential Cape wine farm. Over its sweeping 317-year history, Vergelegen has cultivated a well-deserved reputation for producing exceptional handcrafted wines, which go hand-in-hand with the exquisite cuisine served at its flagship restaurant, Camphors at Vergelegen; named after the towering ancient Camphor trees that were planted here by none other than Simon van der Stel.

Location: Lourensford Road, Golden Acre, Somerset West

9. Jardine Restaurant, Stellenbosch

Last year’s position: New entry

Judge’s comments: “Presentation is brilliantly simple and meant to give an air of unpretentiousness but remains modern and beautiful.”

In 2016, the celebrated chef of Jordan Restaurant, George Jardine, opened his dream fine-dining restaurant in a location on Andringa Street (Stellenbosch) he waited for six years to become available. The restaurant offers an ever-changing menu and simple yet delicious cuisine prepared in a similar style to Jordan Restaurant and with an emphasis on seasonal ingredients.

Location: 1 Andringa St, Stellenbosch Central, Stellenbosch

10. Chefs Warehouse at Beau Constantia, Constantia, Cape Town

Last year’s position: # 4

Judge’s comments: “Brilliant, interesting; very ahead of the curve. The playful presentation doesn’t take away from the honesty of the food.”

The partnership between chefs Ivor Jones and Liam Tomlin delivers a sensational flavour and texture-driven dining experience with clever, punchy tapas and stunning views. Situated at the top of the Constantia Valley, this restaurant (located at Beau Constantia winery) keeps things fresh and fun for both patrons and chefs with an ever-changing menu that showcases the best seasonal produce and ingredients.

Location: ERF1026 Constantia Main Rd, Glen Alpine, Cape Town

Restaurants # 11 to 20

Restaurants numbers 11 to 20 were so close they could practically smell victory; perhaps next year we’ll see a few of them elbow their way onto Eat Out’s top 10 list:

  1. Fermier Restaurant, Die Wilgers, Pretoria
  2. Jordan Restaurant, Stellenbosch
  3. Foliage, Franschhoek
  4. Le Coin Français, Franschhoek
  5. The Chefs’ Table, Umhlanga, Durban
  6. Chefs Warehouse at Maison, Franschhoek
  7. La Tête, City Bowl, Cape Town
  8. Overture, Stellenbosch
  9. The Shortmarket Club, City Bowl, Cape Town
  10. The Pot Luck Club, Woodstock, Cape Town

Special Eat Out Awards:

In addition to the announcement of South Africa’s best restaurants, certain individuals and eateries received special accolades for their incredible work in the culinary scene. Here are those awards:

Eat Out San Pellegrino & Acqua Panna Chef of the Year:
Kobus van der Merwe from Wolfgat, Paternoster

Eat Out Diners Club Award for Service Excellence:
The Test Kitchen, Woodstock, Cape Town

Eat Out Retail Capital New Restaurant of the Year:
Janse & Co, Gardens, Cape Town

Eat Out Graham Beck Chefs’ Chef Award:
Shared by Chris Erasmus from Foliage, Franschhoek, and Ivor Jones from Chefs Warehouse at Beau Constantia.

Eat Out Nederburg Rising Star:
Candice Philip from Grei, Sandhurst, Johannesburg

Eat Out Woolworths Sustainability Award:
The Werf Restaurant at Boschendal, Franschhoek

Eat Out VISI Style Award:
Saint Restaurant, Sandton, Johannesburg

Eat Out Wine Service Award:
Moses Magwaza, Restaurant Mosaic at The Orient, Elandsfontein, Pretoria