There’s absolutely nothing I love more in a restaurant than a new concept, and The National in Johannesburg’s Parktown North offers exactly that. The brainchild of James Diack, the same chef who opened Coobs in Parkhurst, it is a relaxed and playful eating experience.
The first thing that struck me about The National was how laid-back the atmosphere was here: an alfresco outdoor area overlooks the street, and large sliding doors give the whole restaurant a very open feel. Upcycled wooden cladding lines the walls and a central bar area grabbed my attention straight away.
I noticed quite a few similarities between The National and Coobs. Firstly, the wine list at The National features an incredible collection of boutique wines that have been curated to pair well with various dishes on the menu. Secondly, there is a similar service ethic to Chef James’ first restaurant. The staff is friendly, efficient and knowledgeable, which sadly is not the norm in Johannesburg, I find.
The Menu at The National changes regularly with the seasons, and has a similar food ethic to that of Coobs. A large amount of the produce used in The National’s dishes comes from the chef’s own farm just outside of Johannesburg, and it is all produced in a sustainable and organic manner. I can attest to how flavoursome the dishes are because of this simple treatment of the produce used at The National.
The menu is split into parts too, which made it easy for me to figure out whether to opt for a selection of tapas, or go for a more substantial main meal. Many of the dishes include some form of smoked pork or chicken and have an extremely unctuous, more-ish flavour, which reminded me of eating in America’s southern states.
My favourite dish in the menu is absolutely the buttermilk fried chicken. The starter portion also works as a light meal. The crisp on the chicken is crunchy, and the meat is beautifully tender.
I was not disappointed in The National, and I’ll be headed back soon if just for the impeccable wine list, but also to try out the smoked pork belly!