Port Elizabeth has a thriving dining scene, which flourishes mainly in the suburbs surrounding the city center. (The CBD itself doesn’t offer much except fast food chains.)
The Richmond Hill neighborhood, just to the northwest of downtown, is the epicenter of PE’s culinary scene. Wander down Stanley Street, between Glen and Mackay Streets, for half a dozen different restaurant choices – it’s billed as “Restaurant Row.” If you are in town for the first Wednesday of the month, a night market also sets up shop on this street.
Beyond Richmond Hill, you can find excellent eats in the Humewood and Summerstrand neighborhoods located south of the city center between Kings and Hobie Beaches. There are two shopping centers – Brooke’s on the Bay Pavilion and The Boardwalk Casino Complex – in this area that offer a mix of sit-down dining and fast food takeaways.
Here we give you a roundup of five restaurants that epitomize fine dining in Port Elizabeth, from the mouths of locals.
On Stanley Street’s Restaurant Row, Fushin is unexpected and refreshing — it offers excellent sushi and made-from-scratch Singapore-inspired noodle dishes created by the restaurant’s chef/owner. The sushi is very fresh and the rolls are more creative than what is usually found in South Africa. Beyond the typical Japanese dishes, Fushin also dishes out some truly unique entrées like the stuffed giant squid. If the weather is nice, eat on the patio and people watch, but if it’s cold or windy then try the contemporary dining room with a good design – you don’t feel crowded despite its relatively small size. The service here is also excellent. If you don’t want to wait for a table, book ahead at night.
Locals have been giving Cubata, which is located in a slightly dodgy neighborhood around the corner from the soccer stadium, the seal of approval since it opened. For good reason: the restaurant, set in a cavernous converted garage, does excellent Portuguese-style barbecue: choose from ribs, chicken or prawns either peri-peri, or regular with a side of thick cut fries and crispy rolls to soak up all the sauce. Dining is low key and messy (this is a lick-your-fingers kind of joint) with seating on wooden benches, and the ambiance is boisterous and usually loud – it’s great for kids, less so for a date. Soft drinks are available on an honesty-bar basis, but you’ll need to bring your own booze. Look for it at the corner of Arthur and Stebonheath Streets in the Sydenham neighborhood.
Coachman on the Bay
When you ask a local where to go for steak, they’ll send you to Coachman on the Bay in the Brookes on the Bay Pavillion (in the Summerstrand neighborhood.) Not only does it offer romantic ambiance — think twinkling lights strung from the ceiling, Roman style pillars and picture book windows fronting the Indian Ocean — amazing service and equally appealing ocean views, but it also serves delicious food. Steaks come in a variety of cuts as well as types of meat – everything from beef to ostrich – and are cooked perfectly to order. If you aren’t into steak, no worries, the restaurant also does an impressive selection of chicken, seafood and pasta dishes. The calamari is recommended. For wine drinkers, there is a good wine list of local and international selections. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner, and reservations are recommended, if not essential at dinner – especially if you want a table directly fronting the ocean facing windows.
Right at the edge of Restaurant Row, a block off Stanley at the corner of Raleigh and Irvine Streets, Vovo Telo is where PE residents head for breakfast or lunch. A South African cafe brand with outlets in four other cities, in Port Elizabeth it is most loved for its excellent coffee – both drip and espresso – as well as freshly baked bread and pastries. It also does some unique breakfast and brunch choices like Pain Perdu (French toast topped with egg and fresh fruit and homemade whipped cream) and frittata tartlets cooked with free-range eggs. Lunch choices are equally diverse and range from thin-crust pizza to local produce-packed salads – the café prides itself on using local and organic produce. Eat inside the chic dining room or on the wraparound porch out front.
Blue Waters Café
Located right on the main beach road (Marine Drive) in the Summerstrand neighborhood, Blue Waters Café doesn’t have the best food in town, but it is where to come for sundowner drinks or an après beach day meal. The second floor outdoor porch looks out over the sand and the Indian Ocean, and has a vibey atmosphere in late afternoon. Stick with the pub grub basics, and you won’t be disappointed — just don’t come with haute gourmet dining expectations, because Blue Waters is all about the location.