By Amy Hopkins; pic cred: Bernard Bravenboer
Have you been? And, more importantly, what did you eat?
I love cooking as much as I love eating out – and eating out does not have to be unhealthy or something anyone should feel guilty about. I despise the term ‘cheat meal’ for it implies guilt. Let’s agree to change the concept to ‘treat meal’ instead.
Inspired by all the food awards going around at the moment, I was asked to put together a list of my fave Women’s Healthy restaurants. Not necessarily fine-dining and finicky, but the kind of eatery where a Women’s Health gal would like to go. A restaurant that doesn’t condemn you because you’re allergic to wheat. A restaurant where cream and cheese aren’t slathered or drizzled onto every item. An eatery with more options than a ‘tomato pasta’ for vegans. A restaurant that celebrates the quality of ingredients.
So here’s my list:
Best For Birthday Treats: Foliage
I want to call Foliage a ‘fine-dining’ bistro, even though chef Chris Erasmus would probably not approve. This Franschhoek gem has been a favourite of mine since it opened a couple of years ago. Usually when you enter an upmarket establishment, bread gets placed on the table. I’m used to staring longingly at the way my fellow diners spread gourmet butters on to their spongy goods that I can’t eat. But here, my wheat allergy earns me a gorgeous bouquet of fresh vegetables and leaves with an aubergine pâté or hummus.
When I eat at Foliage I feel spoilt. I feel looked after. Just like you should on a birthday. This is my fave treat restaurant. The portions are also generous, so you feel like you’ve had a really fulfilling experience – and I don’t mind leaving with a little food baby.
Chris once took me foraging. I ran the 6km from my hotel to the eatery and sweaty me jumped in his car and he took me to their local mushroom hunting ground. This was not a planned media event. This came about at dinner the previous night when I (after a few glasses of wine) expressed my appreciation for his work. His passion and dedication to his craft impresses me no end. #TakeMeBack
Best For Big Groups: Jackson’s Real Food Market
Whether it’s family or friends, book a big table at this Bryanston gold mine. Think giant cafe complete with insanely amazing grocery inside – you can eat to your heart’s content and shop for more afterwards. I ate lunch there a couple of weeks ago after a Joburg friend of mine suggested we try this “new healthy restaurant”.
What I love about a place like Jackson’s is that you don’t feel like you’re walking into a my-raw-charcoal-smoothie-is-better-than-yours pretentious cafe. I mean, they do have a raw juice bar, but this is a cafe for everyone: from your mother with IBS to your uncle who eats an extra round of fries. They have burgers and kombucha. And if you want a gluten-free bun with sugar-free tomato sauce, they have that too. Plus: pretty leafy views that remind you of how many trees Joburg really has.
Best For Date Night: Chef’s Warehouse & Canteen
Liam Tomlin is a legend! His Chef’s Warehouse brand has extended to Maison in Franschhoek and he has the very posh Chef’s at Beau Constantia too, but his Bree Street eatery will always remain a favourite. It’s also very special for me because my partner and I had our first date there. I’d been telling him about it for ages (when we were just friends) and eventually we went there together as.
You can’t book, but go early to make sure you get the ‘window seat’, you’ll know what I mean when you see it. It’s a spot for two where you’re based inside looking out, seated next to each other so you can get all cosy. The order of the day is ‘tapas for 2’ that consists of eight dishes meant to be shared. Do order oysters the second you sit down – I promise, they’re so worth it.
Best For Food Porn: Old Town Italy
I visited both the Umhlanga establishment and the newer Old Town Italy in Pretoria earlier this year. I fell in love the second I walked into the Menlyn Maine cafe. The sheer variety of delicatessen foods, outstanding quality free-range and organic meat, as well as the array of vegetables, preserves and treats, all made we want to just hand over my salary to have it all. I sat back and enjoyed a smorgasbord of charcuterie and olives, sipped on Prosecco and finished it all off with one of the dairy-free ice creams available at the gelato stand.
I was as impressed when I went to the Umhlanga branch for brunch. It has a similar feel – the artisan everything-made-from-scratch bakery is to-die for. Like I said, treat, not cheat! I had a spicy shakshouka for breakfast and – as is expected with any good Italian establishment – good, strong coffee.
Best For Quickies: Olami
Probably the best takeaway lunch spot in Cape Town, Olami (ex-Sababa) offers up an abundance of Mediterranean platters from which you can choose a mix of salads, meats, dips and other extras like dolmades and date balls.
Food is weighed and packed in biodegradable packaging, or you can pick one of the sunny seats on the pavement outside (there’s also a tiny secret courtyard inside which only regulars know about). They’re also your best friends when it comes to catering, so keep them in mind this festive season.
Best For Dessert: Unframed Ice Cream Artistry
Although I’m not a big sweet tooth, every now and then the craving for something indulgent hits me. My go-to spot: Unframed. Because they have vegan ice cream! Creamy, smooth, packed with flavour vegan ice cream. And they’re launching new flavours all the time.
My favourites are coconut and raspberry, turmeric and the chocolate. They also have regular milk ice cream for all your dairy-eating friends and a cool mix of toppings. Want to try a whole lot of flavours all at once? You can order a Tasting Flight and get five slightly smaller scoops for R75. They have stores in Gardens, at the V&A Waterfront and now in Camps Bay too.