Johannesburg, Gauteng: The San Bar forms part of the restaurant, and is the perfect spot in Sandton for informal meetings, quality time spent with friends, or simply some relaxing after a day of exuberant activity and exploration. There is also a library lounge area, providing an informal seating space for people who want to meet in a more relaxed area over a cup of coffee or light meal. Many of the patrons also use the library lounge to catch up on work between meetings.
INSIDER’S TIP: QUALITO CRAFT DISTILLERY
Phalaborwa, Limpopo: Nestled in the charming town of Phalaborwa, in the South African province of Limpopo, is the renowned Qualito Craft Distillery. Here, wonderful varieties of gins, vodkas and whiskies are created by dedicated distillers – distellers who are passionate about the subtle nuances that make these spirits so intriguingly irresistible, and who are dedicated to guiding the distillation process from the grain to the glass to ensure that every step supports the world-class finish of the final product.
A tasting tour allows visitors to pair the spirits with a range of different food flavours; ranging from salmon and pork crackling to chocolate and nuts. This enhances the details of the ingredients used to craft such delectable spirits.
Qualito is not only reserved for whisky experts or gin pros. This distillery and the tours on offer open up a world of flavoursome possibilities to connoisseurs and novices alike. This is the perfect way to spend an afternoon with friends after experiencing the beauty of the Lowveld or the nearby Kruger National Park.
INSIDER’S TIP: GINGER RESTAURANT
Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape: Unstuffy fine dining with a sweeping view of the Indian Ocean. With great service, a visual and gastronomic feast, this is one of the best restaurants in Port Elizabeth with outside and inside seating options. Their cocktail menu is a mixologist’s dream. Don’t miss their gourmet food and wine pairing evenings. Ginger Restuarant uses a combination of fresh ingredients, new cuisine ideas and an award-winning wine list, to ensure they have something to please everyone! Boasting an incredible view of what PE has to offer, Ginger invites their diners to sip their drinks on the deck while relaxing to the sounds and sight of the sea. The wine list and menu is constantly renovated to keep up with the trends in South Africa while meeting the standards of international diners.
INSIDER’S TIP: MABONENG ON FOOT – FINDING THE ATTRACTION
Maboneng Precinct, Gauteng: Starting at Ghandi Square and the banking quarter along Fox Street, where almost every corner demands our attention – further to the Rand Club – the oldest private members’ club in Johannesburg after enjoying great coffee at Cramers Coffee shop – that was the start of our day tour through the city centre and then catching a taxi for our ride to Maboneng precinct. What an experience and we gladly had our guide Bongani with us as we had no clue what signs to make or when to tell the taxi driver to stop.
When one is first introduced to the idea of a walking tour through downtown Jozi, the reluctance is due to the predictable preconceptions regarding safety and the various other negative associations of the inner city that are always on the cards. Locals and foreigners to the inner city, domestic and international alike are given the opportunity to explore and discover what the eastern corner of the city has to offer. Maboneng, meaning ‘Place of Light’, is a work/ play urban space on the east side of the Jo’burg CBD. It is home to several retailers, restaurants and other hangout venues. But the neighbourhood is possibly best known for Arts on Main, its pioneer development. And it’s here that our guide kicks off the tour after a brief verbal orientation of the area and a summary of expansions planned for the near future. We get a taste of the artistic and creative energy that keeps visitors coming back for more each Sunday, and Thursday evening.
Around the corner from this masterpiece is another rare-find, The Collector’s Treasury. Housed in an unassuming building on Commissioner Street, this is a precious archive of great wonders and the largest second-hand bookstore in the southern hemisphere. Every surface is covered by LP records, sheet music, maps, porcelain and postcards, and an estimated 2 million books and counting when its co-owners last checked.
Eventually, our guide manages to drag us out of the Treasury – Time to hang out for lunch at AGOG Gallery and finally admit how little of the city we actually know and that perhaps the best way to stop being tourists in our own city starts with a will to rediscover it.
This week’s insider’s tip was written by Sabine Pfeiffer – Director Key Accounts Germany at GoVacation Africa
INSIDER’S TIP: MONTECASINO CHRISTMAS MARKET
Fourways, Gauteng: Yearly, Montecasino hosts a Christmas Market between the second and third weeks in December. This year, the Christmas village opened on 8 December, and will stay open until 20 December. The village at Montecasino is set up as a celebration of the festive season, with a wide array of eats, treats, champagne, craft beer, knick-knacks and little ornaments, arts and crafts! And there’s something for the kids too – handmade toys, gingerbread houses, and photo booths where kids can pose with Santa or an elf. All aspects of the Christmas Market have been carefully selected to reflect the spirit of the season and guarantee something for everyone in the family. It’s the place to shop for the perfect gift and Christmas décor, taste the best of Christmas fare, and soak up the enchanting sights, sounds, and atmosphere of the ever-popular Village.
INSIDER’S TIP: LA BOQUERIA IN PARKTOWN
Parktown, Gauteng: What a magnificent surprise to find the ideal place to have a long and comfortable dinner or a drawn-out Sunday lunch. Whether inside or outside it will always be perfect. The atmosphere inside is warm with wood and leather, with a long bar and an exquisite selection of wine from their cellar. The outside area has the feel of a European street café. La Boqueria gets inspiration from their favourite food markets around the world, and seamlessly blends traditional styles of cooking on live-fires and wood ovens, with the aim to bring patrons a real “food experiences”. I was surprised at the range of meals on offer and every single one of the Tapas style meals was delicious.
This week’s insider’s tip was written by Christiane Glanz – Director Key Accounts UK and Switzerland at GoVacation Africa
INSIDER’S TIP: NEWTOWN TOUR
Johannesburg, Gauteng: The ladies from GoVacation Africa experienced the streets of Newtown last Saturday… A place where old meets new, young meets old, world meets South Africa and they coexist happily together.
“We breezed through Workshop Newtown, a haven for some exquisite wearable art ladies and gentleman! I have a new found passion for African design expressed in beautiful fabrics, wool, leather, plastic and colour.
Every space in Newtown is dotted with some symbolic pieces, be it graffiti, statues or fashion. These streets are Joburg in art, design and song. We were wowed by some unplugged live performances… The fresh, hip and mesmerising sounds of Joburg!
Our guide, Bongani, was extremely passionate and very knowledgeable. All in all, a Saturday morning well spent… Seeing Joburg as how it should be seen! This popular tour of Joburg is powered by @tour2.0 and more of these gems are arranged via www.go-vacation.co.za”
This week’s insider’s tip was written by Rebecca Kambule – Senior Consultant at GoVacation Africa
INSIDER’S TIP: THE CHAIRMAN
Durban, KwaZulu Natal: If you’re looking for a stylish place to have a few drinks and listen to some superb live music, there is (literally) no place better in Durban than The Chairman. And they’re not shy about it, either. Touting themselves as “a sophisticated world-class jazz bar that stimulates the imagination and bends all rules and conventions,” The Chairman sets the bar high – and meets it. For starters, it is a beautiful space. Part indoor, part outdoor, with plush leather couches and quirky décor, The Chairman prides itself on being a work of art – from the architecture to the interior design to the gallery and the music. The food and drinks are top-class: an extensive wine and whiskey list, a delightfully creative menu of cocktails, some cigars and a simple food menu. The food is largely bar snacks and pizza (including a rare beast – the Shisanyama Pizza with homemade chakalaka, braaied beef steak and wors) but it’s the drinks that really bring people here.
INSIDER’S TIP: THE ROCKWELL DINNER THEATRE
Green Point, Western Cape: When you visit South Africa and have the opportunity to incorporate Cape Town “THE MOTHER CITY” please do yourself the favour and attend “The Rockwell Dinner Theatre, Kaapse Stories”.
This exciting dinner-and-show experience was launched in June 2012 and was formerly housed at Richard’s Supper Stage in Sea Point, Cape Town. The show has now moved to “The Rockwell Dinner Theatre” which is situated at the prestigious Rockwell All-Suite Hotel & Apartments in Prestwich Street, Green Point.
From the minute you walk into the venue, you will be transported into a world of dazzling entertainment, featuring ‘world-class’ local performers and even dance numbers – which you are more than welcome to join to feel the true spirit and history of Cape Town – The Mother City. Enjoy traditional South African cuisine such as “Pooitjiekos”, traditional Cape Malay Curry, Koeksisters and many more specialities.
This week’s insider’s tip was written by Brigitte Hoyle – Contracting Manager at GoVacation Africa
INSIDER’S TIP: PRON
Johannesburg, Gauteng: PRON, which stands for People’s Republic of Noodles, and they are working hard at educating us about food from Northern China. When I think of Chinese food I think of spring rolls and large tasty rice-based dishes. Apparently, this is only one part of the wonderful Chinese cuisine. PRON introduced their flat gluttonous noodles and Chinese hand break bread. Both these noodles and bread are made by hand at PRON every day which means you are getting authentic and fresh every single time. PRON has been described as the “coolest noodle bar in Jozi”! Fancy a little Northern Chinese cuisine during your travels in South Africa? The definitely check out PRON!
INSIDER’S TIP: FRANSCHOEK WINE TRAM
Franschoek, Western Cape: When girls do the Franschhoek Wine Tram, they do it in style…
“Our journey started in Franschhoek at 10 am sharp, where our scenic meander saw us going through a few wine estates, we elected to go into three of these starting with Grande Provence.
We tasted a few variations of wines and then ventured outside into their spectacular gardens home to a magnificent outdoor art display.
After a light lunch at Mont Rochelle, we visited La Bri for Chocolate and Wine Pairing, which was the highlight of our escapade! My favourite from our tasting was the unique marriage of the Cranberry Delight wrapped in the aromatic handcrafted Belgian dark chocolate sourced in the village, paired with the decadent Merlot, …” a match made in La Bri heaven” indeed.
The Wine Tram hop on and hop off excursion is bookable via GoVacation Africa: www.go-vacation.co.za
This week’s insider’s tip was written by Rebecca Kambule – Senior Consultant at GoVacation Africa
INSIDER’S TIP: HARTIES CABLEWAY
Hartebeespoortdam, North West: Having recently been awarded the 2017 TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence, the Harties Cableway is “certifiably” a must-do item, if you are in the area! The Cableway was first opened in 1973, and has been an attraction for local and international visitors for decades now. Enjoy superb dining experiences at either the top or base station of the cableway, as well as spectacular sights of the North West landscape.
INSIDER’S TIP: HERMANUS
Hermanus, Western Cape: Visiting Hermanus in winter has become our annual pilgrimage so to speak. It is the prettiest, most serene of places in South Africa, I still have to discover a place that invigorates such a “feel good” sensation in me with each visit. My first holiday in Hermanus was in the winter of 2014 and again 2015. I still would love to see the summers! It was during our stay at www.highseasonfarm.co.za last year that I read in a publication about the area, how it is known for its “Champagne Air”. I didn’t have to wonder why as one experienced it. The air is so clean! In the morning it tends to be moist, you can almost touch the bubbles in the air plus the gentle sun-rays kissing your face. Another highlight is the outdoor exhibition on Walker Bay beach, it is so well curated with every piece laid out perfectly, accompanied by the natural vegetation and scenery, the beautiful stones underneath the water. Where else in South Africa can your naked eye see into the water at the beach-front and with a clear view of what lies underneath…? I just love that village called Hermanus! Just a leisurely walk in these streets leave me with a sense of contentment. I cannot wait until my next visit!
This week’s insider’s tip was written by Rebecca Kambule – Senior Consultant at GoVacation Africa
INSIDER’S TIP: DW ELEVEN-13
Johannesburg, Gauteng: DW eleven-13 offers a unique experience through experimental cuisine and invites diners to explore the unknown as well as interesting twists on familiar dishes. It is a restaurant that prides itself in the creation of distinct flavours by embracing the full philosophy behind gastronomy. The chef only uses fresh and sustainable produce and the team prides themselves in knowing where all their produce comes from along with how it has been grown.
INSIDER’S TIP: THE RIVERDECK RESTAURANT
Knysna, Western Cape: A hidden gem situated alongside the banks of the picturesque Goukamma River. Sample a varied menu selection of traditional classics, Kuierkos at its best and sure to suit everyone’s palette:
From Bennie’s “baie lekker braai” and “smaaklike potjies” to Cynthia’s culinary delights – delicious Chicken RiverDeck Salad, old family recipe Bobotie, Mouthwatering Malva Puddings, not to mention the decadent confectionery selection. Try a farmhouse breakfast on the river’s edge set to the morning bird song; enjoy a lovely, lazy extended lunchtime; sip on long, lingering sundowners while gazing out over the deck soaking in the late afternoon setting sun, or simply stay for dinner and enjoy the tranquil night while savouring delicious dishes, lovingly prepared for you. Whether it’s a small, intimate family lounging around the fireplace or a large organized group seated at our famous ‘long-tables’, RiverDeck Restaurant is the perfect way to unwind and leave all those pressures behind.
INSIDER’S TIP: WISHBONE CAFE & BISTRO BAR
Johannesburg, Gauteng: A unique dinner works best with wine pairing! You can choose from a variety of styles, light and easy drinking, fresh and aromatic white wines or you could try intense and elegant red wines. Creative cuisine involves sophisticated wines. Wishbone’s food is complemented by an extensive and carefully curated wine list and two Sommeliers who will be happy to recommend a suitable wine pairing for your meal.
INSIDER’S TIP: BON VIVANT @ ATHOL PLACE RESTAURANT
Johannesburg, Gauteng: This was a food and wine pairing evening for the “bon vivant” in Joburg, in true Creation Wines form, hosted at Athol Place Restaurant. The service was impeccable and seamless. One felt like the staff knew what one wanted before one could even ask. Normally in such a setting, you will have a wine that you don’t love that much, but the selection for the evening had equal contenders – all rated top!
INSIDER’S TIP: MELISSA’S MANTRA CAFE
Camps Bay, Western Cape: Melissa’s Mantra Café recently opened in Camps Bay (Western Cape), and boasts magnificent views of the beachfront. They also have a daily sundowner special with 50% off all Mantra Café cocktails from 17h00 to 19h00 daily. Other specials to look out for are their Wednesday night Mantra Pizza Madness where you buy one wood-fired pizza and get-one free and their daily lunch special, with complimentary glass of wine or draft beer with every main meal from 12h00 to 16h00 daily (including weekends). They also host live music on Wednesdays from 18h00 to 21h00.
INSIDER’S TIP: WALKERSONS HOTEL
Dullstroom, Mpumalanga: Walkersons Hotel has a warm, understated opulent feel to it, expressed in the use of rich textures and colours, stone – which was a vision put in place by the original owners. The hotel is also dotted with fire-places, emphasizing the luxurious and comfortable feel. The food – masterfully prepared by Chef Adri van Wieringen – is described as a “tantalizing gastronomic experience” unlike many. A mere three hours (at the most), from Johannesburg.
INSIDER’S TIP: THE SHEBEEN EXPERIENCE
Soweto, Gauteng: The Shebeen Experience is a blending of excitement and energy in the heart of Soweto and its rich history of struggle and development with the beauty, heritage and a wine growing culture.
Soweto started out as a temporary transit camp for mine workers and their families who were relocated from Newtown in the centre of Johannesburg in 1904. From these humble beginnings in over a century, it has grown into a modern metropolis, housing over 5 million people. Along the way it developed into a centre of African political development, renowned for the leaders who lived there like Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Robert Sobukwe and Desmond Tutu as well as the student uprising of 1976.
A Shebeen was originally an illicit bar or club where excisable alcoholic beverages were sold without a license. The term has spread far from its origins in Ireland (The word derives from the Irish síbín, meaning ‘illicit whiskey’), to Scotland, Canada, the United States, England, Zimbabwe, the English-speaking Caribbean, Namibia and South Africa. In modern South Africa, many “Shebeens” are now fully legal.
You can sample traditional African brew at a Soweto Shebeen, and get down to some festive township partying while enjoying delicious township cuisine at a local restaurant. Pop into a vibrant tavern to enjoy a drink or a round of pool with some of the locals. This is much more than just a tour – it is a hands-on interactive experience.
INSIDER’S TIP: THE POTATO SHED
Johannesburg, Gauteng: The Potato Shed is a concept of potato dishes and some soulful food cooked the Southern way – if you’re looking for healthy, keep walking, I would say! The location of the restaurant (Newtown, Johannesburg) is a destination that draws you in, it is a glass structure with an industrial look and feel and 360 degree views of the Newtown Square, which has become a community with a character that is so Jozi Beat! Everywhere you look there is movement, canvas-drenched colour from people and the enriching surrounds, bringing out a certain vibrancy that is so tangible. The delicious food experience served at The Potato Shed is a food festival for the mouth! Warning, friends, do not rush through the meal, roll up your sleeves and indulge.
INSIDER’S TIP: CHE ARGENTINE GRILL
Johannesburg, Gauteng: The GoVacation Africa team recently set out to explore Che Argentine Grill, and say that they had the best wood-grilled steak they’ve ever had there! A true, authentic little Argentina situated in the heart of the Maboneng Precinct, with grills to tickle your taste buds and a cozy atmosphere that welcomes you. The outside courtyard has an open fire with benches and tables, perfect for those late evenings, chatting away with company.
INSIDER’S TIP: LENIN’S VODKA BAR
Johannesburg, Gauteng: Vodka fans will love the offerings at this Soviet-inspired bar in the artsy Maboneng Precinct
(Jeppestown, Johannesburg). Lenin’s Vodka Bar is a superb place to end off an exciting day of exploring the Maboneng Precint – the bar offers a cosy atmosphere, great music and funky décor. The drinks menu is truly inspired with drinks ranging from a “Gorky Park” and a “Siberian” to even quirkier drinks with names like “KGB” and Lenin’s “Moscow Mule”. There are vodkas on offer from every part of the world and who knew Switzerland had their own Vodka?