It’s a common misconception that living away from the coast means that Joburgers are disadvantaged when it comes to great seafood. However, there are a handful of restaurants in Jozi that can be trusted to ensure freshness and quality, and if you visit one of them, you’ll almost forget the closest ocean is hundreds of miles away.
At some of these restaurants, seafood is flown in daily, so what you’re eating may have been caught that very morning. Here are five of the best seafood restaurants in Johannesburg.
La Marina Foods
La Marina Foods has been around since 2003, when it sold only oysters, salmon, and trout. Today, it houses a huge fridge area, a pantry and deli shop as well as a restaurant, stocking approximately 3,000 items, and is the one-stop shop for shopping for unique ingredients for everyone from renowned hotel chefs to a home cook wanting to whip up an impressive meal for friends.
Some of the items on offer in the (gigantic) fridge include Irish scallops, Alaskan crab legs, organic black tiger prawns and every cheese under the sun, while the deli stocks a wide range of pastas, cold meats, preserves and condiments, as well as various kitchen accessories. What’s great is that every item that is available on a large scale to hotels and restaurants, is also available in small quantities to the individual.
When you’re done browsing (warning, it could take a while), sit down at the restaurant (which also does outside catering) and take your pick of anything from salmon rolls to veg maki off the tantalising sushi menu. I opted to order off the regular menu, and devoured a platter of six black tiger prawns and chips, R110, which came with a tangy lemon butter sauce. The prawns came off the shell in an instant – the most obvious sign of freshness. Also a hit: the seared salmon and chips (R128). The dessert menu is limited to one item, which is acceptable because that item is Haagen Dazs ice cream, available in an assortment of flavours.
The restaurant is situated in an industrial block of warehouses, so it’s probably not a good choice if you’re looking for ambiance. However, if it’s a quick midday snack you’re after and you’re in the mood for seafood, then this is a great pick.
Open Mon-Fri 8am-4.30pm, Sat 8am-12pm. Closed Sun. 7 Platinum Drive, Longmeadow North Business Park, Modderfontein. Tel: 011 608 3277.
Portuguese cuisine is best known for piri-piri chicken and prawns. In Jozi, there aren’t that many authentic Portuguese restaurants, but the few that do exist are fantastic.
Parreirinha, fondly known by locals as “Para”, has been open since the 1970s, and is a renovated police station–some of the cell doors have still been preserved. It is located in the South of Johannesburg in a relatively quiet, run-down area. In fact, you may think you’re lost when driving to the restaurant, as the streets are completely isolated, except for the one Parreirinha is situated on, where you’ll struggle to find parking.
Despite the out-of-the-way location, Joburgers and diners from as far north as Pretoria fill the tiny eatery daily. The décor is quirky, with thousands of ties hanging from the ceiling, left by loyal patrons as momentos. On the menu, you’ll find traditional Portuguese dishes, like bacalhau na braza (cod on the braai), or bacalhau a braz (strips of cod with finely chopped onion and thin fried chips in an egg mix), as well as my favourite, the queen prawn and chicken combo. Portions are huge, and each dish comes with your choice of garlic, piri piri or lemon butter sauce.
Open Mon-Sat for lunch and dinner. 9 Sixth Street, La Rochelle. Tel: 011 435 3809.
If you have your eye on something a little more upmarket, Pigalle is a reliable choice for top-notch service and food. The restaurant exudes class and opulence, from the L’Occitane toiletries in the bathroom, to the Moët proudly displayed at the bar. It’s not cheap by any means, but this isn’t the type of place you’d go to for a drink and a bite to eat after work–it’s fine dining at its best, perfect for special occasions.
All the branches are equally glamourous, with similar menus. To start, try the prawn tandoori (R70), which consists of prawns dusted in tandoori spice, then shallow-fried and mounted on warm julienne vegetables, accompanied with a papino and coriander salsa. For mains, choose from queen, king or tiger prawns. If the budget allows, the langoustines, which are the sweetest of all shellfish, will not disappoint.
If someone in your party is not so keen on seafood, Pigalle also offers a wide selection of meat dishes, including lamb shank and slow roasted duck. Desserts are less exciting– but I’d recommend indulging on starters and mains and giving dessert a miss, unless you’re prepared to order from a stock standard selection, which includes crème brulee, malva pudding and pavlova.
A hidden gem in the truest sense of the word, I’m really surprised that the deliciousness of Vasili’s has not caught on to wider Joburg yet. The restaurant remains relatively quiet, even on weekends. The owner, Vasili Vacratsas, has created a truly Mediterranean atmosphere, from the blue and white tables and chairs, to the music (often live) filtering through the restaurant.
The problem with the restaurant is that the menu is a bit hit-and-miss — if you make a bad menu choice you may be put off. That said, the dishes that are good are more than just that — they’re fabulous. Starters are uninspiring, so skip straight to mains. My recommendation is the prawn pediterranean (R90): prawns pan-fried in bay leaves, garlic, cream and spices, with a hint of beer. The sauce is flavourful without being too rich.
If you want a non-seafood dish, try the piri piri chicken — it is probably the best I’ve ever tasted, and is also great value for R109. The flavour soaks all the way through the perfectly cooked chicken, which isn’t dry at all. Again, desserts are average so I wouldn’t recommend these.
Open Mon- Sun lunch and dinner. Address: 255 Rivonia Road, Sandton. Tel: 011 234 6926.
Adega do Monge
Located in an old house in Kensington, this restaurant has been around for over 15 years and promises an authentic Portuguese experience (the menu is actually in Portuguese, with an English translation alongside). You’d be forgiven for confusing it with the Adega chain of restaurants, but it is actually independent and not part of the franchise. The restaurant has maintained the original feel of the house, complete with blue velvet curtains and bronze chandeliers.
Here, you’ll find seafood done the old-fashioned way–Adega do Monge is famous for its Mozambican prawns, as well as its range of Portuguese dishes like feljoada, bean stew with pork and beef, and arroz de marisco, a saucy seafood dish.
Presentation is simple and portions are large. Platters are particularly good value, go for the chicken, prawns and calamari combo which comes with a sauce of your choice, plus chips and salad.
Open Mon-Sun for lunch and dinner. 32 Roberts Avenue, Kensington. Tel: 011 614 3041.