I’ve had the privilege of eating at a lot of nice Joburg restaurants over the years, especially around Melville and the northern suburbs. For some reason, I’ve found that the best restaurants tend to be the ones that are trickiest to find. The best restaurants also tend to put little focus on publicizing themselves (or simply don’t know how to), and hence not many people know about them.

For the past few weeks I’ve had a list of romantic, hidden Jozi restaurants bumping around in my head. Here are my top five favorites. (I like to present my lists in fives.)

UPDATE (OCTOBER 2017)

I wrote this post two-and-a-half years ago and as anyone in Joburg knows, the restaurant scene changes fast in this town. I need to do a complete overhaul but in the meantime, as an alternative to some of the places that have closed, I’d like to recommend Urbanologi.

Inside Mad GiantUrbanologi’s stunning interior.

Urbanologi opened in 2016 and has fast become my favorite fine-dining spot in Joburg. You can read a brief review in this post.

As you were. The original list appears below.

1) Eatery JHB
Corner 11th Street and Victoria Avenue, Sandton

UPDATE (OCTOBER 2017): I recently learned that Eatery JHB has closed. I’m so sad about this.

I’ve written about Eatery JHB before, but I’d like to reiterate that this is one of the best restaurants in Sandton and way better than anything you can find at Nelson Mandela Square, which is only five minutes away.

Eatery JHB is hard to find because it’s around the corner from the other restaurants on 11th Street, in a rather dark spot on Victoria Avenue. If you don’t see it right away, just walk a few steps further. You won’t be disappointed. I love the unpretentious atmosphere as much as I love the food.

Eatery JHB outside

The glass entrance to Eatery JHB.

Eatery JHB meal

My first-ever meal at Eatery JHB: a mussels and calamari dish. The menu changes regularly.

2) La Luna of Melville
9 7th Street, Melville

UPDATE (JULY 2017): Sadly, La Luna was forced to close suddenly last month due to a sudden hike in rent. Let’s hope this excellent restaurant is able to re-open soon in another location.

La Luna is the least physically hidden of all the restaurants listed here; it’s actually in quite a prominent spot in the middle of Melville’s main drag. But La Luna gets lost amidst all the more boisterous bars and restaurants surrounding it. I’ve been meaning to write about it for ages but somehow never have until now.

La Luna was founded by the former chefs of the Westcliff Hotel, after the Westcliff closed a couple of years ago to become a new Four Seasons Hotel. Chefs Klaus Beckmann and Lindy Pretorius, besides being great cooks, are friendly and hilarious people who bring an interesting energy to the restaurant.

The menu is mainly Italian but also diverse and eclectic. Like all the restaurants on this list, La Luna is the perfect place to go to impress a date.

La Luna steak small

I recently attended a lunch at La Luna after an exhibition at the new Mzansi Gallery across the street. I couldn’t believe how delicious and fun our meal was. This grilled steak dish was the main course.

3) The Great Eastern Food Bar
Bamboo Centre, 53 Rustenberg Road, Melville

While I’m on the subject of romantic restaurants in Melville (I’m biased toward Melville because I live here), the Great Eastern Food Bar is another one of my favorites. I wrote about it last year when it first opened but I’ve had several romantic meals there since. Ray and I go whenever we can afford it.

The Great Eastern Food Bar — or GE for short — is easy to miss because it’s on the top level of the Bamboo Centre, at the back. Just park in the lot behind Bamboo and walk across the footbridge to the top left corner of the centre.

GE serves an ever-changing Asian fusion menu and the open-air balcony looks right out over the Melville Koppies. My only complaint about GE is that I think the portion sizes are too small for the prices. That won’t stop me from going back again and again.

Great Eastern Food Bar view

The view from GE.

Phat Thai

I love GE’s noodle dishes.

4) La Vie En Rose
Killarney Country Club, 60 5th Street [NEW ADDRESS AS OF 1 JUNE 2016]

As with several of these restaurants, I first discovered La Vie En Rose while doing research for SandtonPlaces. La Vie En Rose is homey and charming and the owners, Yanky and Rony, add to the charm. The restaurant’s seating is mostly outdoors in a pretty garden — perfect for summer. The food is tasty and creative; I particularly love the iced tea menu.

I had a great lunch at La Vie En Rose last year, and Ray and I went again last month for dinner with a group called Come Wine With Us. We’re planning to go back as soon as we can for dinner by ourselves.

La Vie En Rose meal

A wine and steak dinner at La Vie En Rose. This particular meal was more raucous than romantic but I still loved it.

5) The Winehouse
10 Bompas Road, Dunkeld West 

The Winehouse is the most secret of all these secret spots. Located at the Ten Bompas boutique hotel in Dunkeld West, there is no way to know that there is a public restaurant inside. (Again, no sign.) I suspect that the owners are intentionally trying to keep the place a secret for some reason, but I’m going to foil their intent. The Winehouse is one of my favorite high-end restaurants in Joburg and I think the world should know about it.

The Winehouse is named for an arresting painting of Amy Winehouse, which presides over the entire restaurant, that the owners bought a few years ago in Paris. The restaurant also has a lovely terrace that overlooks the hotel’s gardens and pool.

But atmosphere aside, the food and service are the best things about the Winehouse. I just ate there a few nights ago with my friend Erin (we were both celebrating something) and we had such a good time with Abby, our waiter. The food and wine were great too, and comparatively affordable.

Winehouse Abby

Abby presents our wine.

Winehouse interior

The Winehouse namesake.

These are only five of a countless number of hidden romantic spots in Joburg. There are many more so keep your eyes peeled. Just like every other city, Joburg’s best places are its hidden places.

Dinner at these restaurants will cost R200-R300 per person, possibly more. Looking for something more affordable? Check out my cheap eats post.

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