Whether you’re eager to make a lasting impression with a Tinder date, or are sneaking away from the kids for a little one-on-one time with your partner, mixing things up is important. It’s not always necessary to book the hottest seat in town (that usually come with a hefty price tag) – there are plenty of restaurants that have a twist that makes memories, creates a talking point to break the ice or are simply too delicious to not put on your date night to-do list. Here are some of our favourite finds:
Pronounced “pokee”, poké is basically a fish salad. That doesn’t sound particularly appetising, but this traditional Hawaiian genre of food has got people talking for the right reasons. Think of it as a dish somewhere between Carpaccio and sushi, but with a riot of flavours. Cape Town’s Hokey Poke has nailed the poké trend with its casual eatery. Food bowls include the classic Hawaiian-style poké with raw tuna; shredded kombu and sticky rice, but there are edgier options too. Think dressed salmon with salmon crackling, pomegranate and ponzu; salmon with toasted almonds and sweet onions; and even hot tuna with jalapeños, pineapple and nacho dust.
1 Church Street, Cape Town
The Gringo Café is a great spot if you’re wanting to keep things casual and fun. The food is spicy, quirky Mexican food with South African twists. Love a boerie roll? Gringo’s version of the classic boerie roll is bursting with chilli, topped with guacamole, cream cheese and sour cream. Want to put out the heat? The Gringo Café is known for its cocktails. Corner a mixologist and get them to create some magic for you. End the night off with a selfie (Mexican hat required) against the fun pink “selfie wall”. They’ve thought of everything…
Craftmen's Ship, 262 Main Street, Maboneng
Every Durbanite has their favourite dive that serves Bunny Chow, but you can now enjoy a Bunny in a relaxed setting. The Bunny Bar may not have all the bells and whistles of a classic date-night restaurant but you can’t beat the authentic Durban curry – and that’s really what counts, doesn’t it? Plus there’s nothing like digging into a Bunny Chow with your hands to break the ice and to get to know someone without their airs and graces on show.
59 Gordon Rd, Windermere, Berea
You like burgers, but she’s currently banting. Trying to find a restaurant that suits both your cravings can be a jam. Sea Point’s new Mojo Food Market is a food destination rather than a restaurant, but with IYO Burgers, The Mussel Monger, Earthfire Pizza, an oyster bar, delish raclette and a range of other pop-up restaurants on offer you’ll both be satisfied – and with plenty to explore there’ll needn’t be any first date silences.
30 Regent Road (between Church and Clarens Roads), Sea Point, Cape Town
Can you picture finishing off your meal with a burlesque dancer entertaining you while you dine on your dessert? The aptly named Gentlemen’s Arthouse is all about extravagance. The food is fun too: think lamb turned into a lollipop with greens or truffled popcorn and poppadums. Inspired by Victoriana, the tables are over the top (it is housed in a restored Edwardian Gentlemen's Washrooms, dating back to 1911). Check out the weekly “By Invitation Only” dinners where it’s all about decadent dining, wild cocktails and lavish entertainment from Cuban cigar rollers to trapeze artists. The recipe for a memorable date.
100 Carr Street, Newtown, Johannesburg