Spring and summer have seen a bloom of new restaurants opening across the country, with almost 40 brand new restaurants joining the Dineplan platform since November. While these restaurants are diverse in terms of their food offerings, a few clear trends stand out.
1. Restaurant groups are on the rise
The restaurant industry is a notoriously risky business: the costs are high, the competition fierce and diners fickle. A successful formula can significantly lower these risks, and restaurateurs know it.
The clearest trend we are seeing at the moment is that already successful restaurants are opening second, third or fourth outposts across the country to bring their tried and tested formulas to new diners. The ever-popular Tiger’s Milk and Hussar Grill franchises have each expanded to two new locations in the last few months. Swanky Sandton-based Asian fusion restaurant TANG has found a second home at the V&A Waterfront. In fact, the V&A, which reported record footfalls in January, is also home to new branches of patisserie favourite Coco Safar and the Mythos restaurant group who serve traditional Greek fare.
The freshest news regarding restaurant openings echoes the same theme: the Luke Dale Roberts group, Chefs Warehouse group and Marble have all announced new venues in Cape Town in the coming months. All of these are high-end offerings, and suggest that diners are willing to spend money on restaurant experiences again, despite a tricky economic climate. It also speaks to high hopes for tourism in the coming seasons.
2. Wineries and destination dining are booming
Despite the flourishing food scene in both Johannesburg and Durban, the Western Cape is still proving to be South Africa’s foodie hub, with by far the most newcomers putting down roots within the Mother City and its surrounds. In particular, the Cape Winelands has seen an explosion of new restaurants this season. With tourism at a high, our wineries are hustling to offer destination dining options to capture the market.
La Motte in Franschhoek is currently hosting a seasonal pop-up of Restaurant JAN (another restaurant group offering), and just last week opened an exciting new woodfired Bakery and Cafe under the guidance of Markus Farbinger of Île de Païn fame. Chorus by Bertus Basson, located at Waterkloof, PLTFRM at Plaisir, and the Bistro at Brookdale are just a few examples of new destinations to check out on your next weekend getaway. For those who can’t make the trip, Quoin Rock is bringing the Winelands into town by opening two locations of Qbar – one in Stellenbosch and another in Johannesburg.
3. Small plates are the new normal
The modern tapas trend, as first popularised in South Africa by Liam Tomlin and the Chefs Warehouse group, looks like it’s here to stay. Ordering a generous selection of smaller plates for the table is a great way to sample as many dishes as possible and makes for a relaxed and social dining experience.
New restaurants such as Upper Union and Silk Asian Fusion offer almost no traditional “main” courses, opting instead for a multitude of highly tempting dishes to share. In addition, Liam Tomlin has just opened his newest Chefs Warehouse tapas restaurant on the ground floor of The Bailey on Bree Street, downstairs from the already popular Brasserie on the first floor – it seems that their now classic formula is a winner, and proves that diners prefer a shared experience to a traditional 3-course meal.
And what about the outliers?
Despite these trends, creativity abounds on plates, and it is clear that our chefs and restaurateurs are working tirelessly to bring innovative offerings to the table.
From a celebration of African cuisine at Edge, to sustainable seafood tasting at Galjoen, and interactive collaborations between food, art and music at Artistry in Joburg, there are some wonderfully unique concepts popping up. It is safe to say that South Africa remains a very exciting place to eat.