Travelife gets it right for South Africa’s Top 10 Restaurants 2012 List

We were in South Africa for a nice holiday for two weeks last month
We sat right next to the open kitchen at Test Kitchen in Cape Town,
and had the 11-course dinner.
Test Kitchen was just chosen as South Africa’s best restaurant.

The list of 10 best restaurants in South Africa just came out, and we’re happy to note that Travelife Magazine got every restaurant right, at least for the destinations we visited.

We went to four out of the 10 restaurants, and most of the others were in places we didn’t go to.

The food at Test Kitchen in Cape Town,
recently chosen South Africa’s best restaurant,
was innovative, experimental and enjoyable.

We had an 11-course dinner here.

We also visited 2 very new restaurants that we are so sure will make it to the Top 10 Restaurants of South Africa for 2013 if they keep on cooking in the way we experienced last month, living a TRAVELIFE in South Africa.

The Boss and I are big foodies so restaurants were a top priority for our South Africa trip. And at the same time, I’m big on luxury and we’re keen on best-of-breed experiences, so we basically did the very best of South Africa in two weeks.


The action at Test Kitchen in Cape Town on the night we dined there.
Test Kitchen was judged South Africa’s best restaurant.

For restaurants, our top picks in the places we visited in South Africa were:

1) Test Kitchen in Cape Town (2012 Restaurant of the Year)
2) Le Quartier Francais in Franschhoek (2012 Chef of the Year)
3) La Colombe in Constantia
4) Rust en Vrede in Stellenbosch (2012 Service Award of the Year)

The Boss picked #1 while I picked #2,3 and 4 although I think he would have picked at least #2 as well. I like fancier more traditional restaurants while he likes modern cutting-edge establishments so between us we have a nice mix for a trip.

Remains of dinner and wine
at Le Quartier Francais in Franschhoek.
LQF was chosen South Africa’s #2 best restaurant,
and Chef Margot Jansen was chosen South Africa’s best chef.

In the above restaurants list, #2 to #4 are considered among the best in Africa and the Middle East, and this is why we made sure to eat here during our trip. Fantastic food and truly enjoyable meals.

Meanwhile, Test Kitchen (#1 on the Travelife list and in the Top 10 list) is relatively new although it has a famous owner chef. It didn’t receive any major accolades yet because of its newness, but we decided to book dinner here on one of our two evenings in Cape Town. We certainly got that one right.

The food at La Colombe in Constantia.
La Colombe has long been recognized
as one of the best restaurants in the world.

Margot Jansen of Le Quartier Francais in Franschhoek
is South Africa’s chef of the year for 2012

In addition, Chef Margot Janssen of Le Quartier Francais was chosen South Africa’s Chef of the Year for 2012. We really enjoyed her food, and dinner here was on par with Test Kitchen for us, although in a different way.

But I’ll let someone else explain the details of these wonderful meals in an upcoming issue of Travelife Magazine.

Table with a view at Le Quartier Francais.
South Africa’s #2 best restaurant also has beautiful accommodations,
so you can dine, drink and sleep. And not have to drive.

No one travels like us. Or eats like us. Or writes like us.

When we booked these restaurants for our South Africa trip last month, the Top 10 Restaurants in South Africa list had not yet been released.

So we’re quite happy to note that we called things right. We do seriously like food, after all.

We really liked La Colombe in Constantia as well.
My meal here coincides with one of my favorite days on the trip.

We’re also pretty sure that two restaurants we additionally picked will make it to the 2013 list. They didn’t make it this year only because they’re too new to do so.

Our top contenders for newbies on the 2013 list are Five Hundred at the Saxon Hotel in Johannesburg and Camphors at Vergelegen in Somerset West, very near Stellenbosch and Cape Town.


On our 2nd night in South Africa, we visited Chef David Higgs of Five Hundred,
Johannesburg’s newest fine dining restaurant, in his kitchen.
Afterwards we had an amazing meal.
We’re so sure he’ll make the list in 2013.

We actually visited internationally famous chef David Higgs of Five Hundred in his kitchen, when Five Hundred was still filled with boxes. This was my pick, by the way, and I remember we were incredibly tired from a very long day by the time we got here — but the food certainly perked us up.

We’d come for dinner at the Saxon Hotel exactly ten days before Five Hundred was going to formally open; but we’d wanted to try his food so much so David Higgs instead created a wonderful tasting menu just for us and served it in a temporary but very beautiful venue in the hotel.

David Higgs explains our tasting menu to us

It was an excellent meal and we were both in raptures. If this is a sign of things to come — Five Hundred is now officially open in Johannesburg, by the way — then Five Hundred will definitely be in the Top 10 list for 2013.

Incidentally, David Higgs used to be the chef for Rust en Vrede, long considered one of South Africa’s best restaurants, and also one of the best restaurants in the world according to the S. Pellegrino.

So we’re glad to see Rust en Vrede still in the Top 10 list as well, even with a different chef at the helm. We very much enjoyed our meal here — this was where I first had a Chalmers steak — and we also liked Rust en Vrede’s boutique wines.


I hope Camphors at Vergelegen in Somerset West
will make it to the list next year.

My second choice for a top new restaurant for 2013 is Camphors at Vergelegen, which is the fine dining restaurant of the beautiful Vergelegen Winery. We had a wonderful meal here, accompanied by their equally memorable wines.

This is the restaurant proper of Camphors at Vergelegen.
As it was such a fine day when we visited,
we had a three-hour+ lunch on the patio instead.

This time, Camphors at Vergelegen had just been open for two weeks; so it was still undergoing birth pains and finalizing lots of things, and we were among its first customers. But what we had on that day was definitely impressive.

I’m sure this will soon be one of the Cape’s top dining venues.

The chef at Camphors at Vergelegen


So there you have it. We’re so happy we got our restaurant selections in South Africa right. And if we had had more dinner slots to fill, in our never-ending TRAVELIFE, here’s what I would have added to our South Africa trip: the Greenhouse at The Cellars-Hohenhort, which is also another place I wanted to stay in, and Jordan in Stellenbosch. Just have to save these for next time.

I don’t want to sound repetetive here but I just can’t help it.

No one travels like us. Or eats like us. Or writes like us. And that’s why we’re #1.