South Africa’s magnificent scenery is known for being served with world-class food. But usually it’s the local wines, fresh-off-the-boat seafood, boboties, sosaties and biltong that get all the attention. With so much good stuff to torment your taste buds, dessert somehow gets lost in the mix. South African chefs are producing some of the world’s best desserts and you should save room for them.
We’re shining the spotlight on possibly the most underrated of all South African dining-out delights — dessert. Here are some great places to have your cake and eat it too in South Africa.
The Winston Hotel in Rosebank, Johannesburg, is no ordinary hotel and The Restaurant at the Winston helps explain why. The dessert menu was compelling and diverse: Mississippi mud pie, tiramisu and sticky toffee pudding were a few I struggled with before eliminating them in favor of marula mamba.
People can taste the rejuvenation of one of Johannesburg’s oldest neighborhoods at Market On Main, a gourmet food market in the Maboneng Precinct, a far cry from the malls of Sandton.
Cultures fuse at the Sunday food market with its upbeat vibe. For dessert, I had a delectable honeycomb baked cheesecake.
It’s not unusual to see children pressing their noses up against the glass display cases where the cakes and desserts are kept at Doppio Zero Bakery and restaurant. I ate at the Greenside location, the first of at least seven locations in Johannesburg, and 11 in Africa. Dessert was tough considering the choices that included liquorice black velvet cake and lemon meringue. “Our gingerbread people go quickly,” the manager told me. I tried a chocolate coconut log but the chocolate florentine had to be one of the best confections I ever tasted.
Our waitress at Turn ‘n Tender brought us melktert shooters, an alcoholic beverage inspired by the famous South African dessert, melktert or milk tart. They’re made with vodka, condensed milk and cinnamon, and they’re strong. But that was just a prelude to my unforgettable dessert.
This family-run restaurant has six branches, all in Johannesburg.
For dessert I got a marula custard pie that came with chocolate-dipped strawberries. Heaven! Marula is a tree indigenous to South Africa with fruit that elephants adore. It is only recently that South Africans have begun taking a cue from the elephants. Now you’ll find marulu in gourmet desserts and alcoholic beverages all over South Africa.
If you’ve ever seen a photo of Table Mountain, chances are it was shot from Blaubergstrand (translation: blue mountain beach), a suburb along the shores of Table Bay about 25 kilometers from Cape Town city center.
On The Rocks is one of the area’s fine dining restaurants. The dessert I chose was visually spectacular. On the Rocks vodka delight was a vodka-infused dessert trio including mini brûlée embellished with caramelized spun sugar; cheesecake; and caramel vodka sorbet.
The bill arrived on a plate with chocolates. Everything tastes better with chocolate.
Miko is one of two restaurants at Richard Branson’s recently refurbished Mont Rochelle hotel, spa and vineyard in Franschhoek.
The restaurant was named for Rwandan-born billionaire Miko Rwayitare, the previous owner of Mont Rochelle and the first black African to own a South African winery.
For dessert at Miko I chose the epic Valrhona chocolate extravaganza. Valrhona is a high-grade luxury chocolate made in Hermitage, a wine-growing district of France.
When you arrive at La Petite Ferme restaurant in Franschhoek, you arrive with expectations. In a region famous for its food, this restaurant ranked No. 1 out of 61 restaurants in Franschhoek in an online ranking.
We didn’t want to rush our meal at La Petite Ferme. Instead, we enjoyed a glass of wine grown right where we were sitting, and checked out the dessert menu which included a coffee-and-nutmeg biscuit with black cherries in a merlot sauce.
My best advice: make reservations.
The Rivendell wine estate has so much going for it: the cool Walker Bay climate, the views of the Kogelberg mountains, and it’s on the Whale Route, close to the sea and to the Bot River lagoon near Hermanus.
The restaurant name means elven outpost, as in Tolkein’s “Lord of the Rings.”
You can eat breakfast lunch and dinner there. I saw a lot of online reviews in praise of breakfast, but those diners would not have been able to try the amazing dessert medley.
The medley was a sample platter of crème brûlée, mousse, berry coulis, a variety of sorbets made fresh from scratch, and dark chocolate fondant.
Nobu Restaurant has at least 22 locations worldwide, but the one inside the One&Only Cape Town hotel is Africa’s one and only Nobu.
Hands down, the desserts were the most memorable part of my meal there.
Three of us each ordered a different dessert and we shared. For me, the
winner was Nobu chocolate tart with vanilla ice cream and hot chocolate sauce. Part of the appeal was the spectacle: the waitress poured hot chocolate over what
appeared to be a hard chocolate ball, melting it to expose a molten interior that
overflowed and melted the ice cream.
The next fabulous dessert was passion fruit brulee with sake jelly, coconut sorbet and tuile (pictured above) — a thin, crispy wafer. Another sensational treat, it offered up new flavors and textures I’d never experienced in a dessert.
For our third dessert, everyone told me to try the chocolate bento box and I did. It included a chocolate fondant with green tea ice cream. While I love the name of this dessert, the other two beat it out for sheer surprise value.