A great family restaurant is the happy combination of a number of features: space or access to some diversionary activities for youthful exuberance; a menu that has options for kids to enjoy but also cooks food that you – the oft-unheralded person holding the wallet – can enjoy too; a kitchen that is reasonably fast; and, most importantly, a generally unfussy attitude that’s quick to forgive the casual but completely overwhelming mayhem that children are capable of conjuring in the blink of an eye.
It is a big ask, which is why there is actually a whole industry of franchise restaurants that solely cater for families. This list does not include any of these restaurants – the many chain eateries that populate the landscape of South Africa and are likely the cheapest family-friendly restaurants. Rather, this is a list of places that fit the general description above but are a step up in quality and offer good value in relation to the experience they offer. In other words, this list leans towards spaces that the whole family will enjoy, not places that have just been created for ‘the family’. Enjoy, and remember not to speak with your mouth full. And that fish fingers and Sauvignon Blanc are a great match.
This restaurant that abuts a nature reserve has space galore and it’s set aside a good chunk of it for gardens that offer ideal space for juniors: there’s even a play-park area with junglegym. What’s more, chef Simon loves cooking with organic ingredients that include free-range chickens – these happily range in their enclosure and visitors are welcome to step inside to meet them. If you are brave, you can even give your child an impromptu lesson in food production. The feel of the place is super-comfortable, rustic and countrified and the menu borrows from Mediterranean, Asian and North African cooking or café options like a pot pie of the day or ploughman’s platter. A dedicated menu for kids (bangers and mash, spaghetti) features a plate of crudités with home-made mayo – so this really is a wholesome option. The wine list prominently displays the star (local) south peninsula producer Cape Point as well as a broad and intelligent selection of other SA wines, in addition to an Italian, Argentinian and a Spanish red (Rioja, naturally). A vintage selection and wines by the carafe complete a most pleasing wine picture.
Solole Game Reserve, Main Road, Kommetjie; tel 021 785 5123
Rumbullion at The Roundhouse
First off, you need to tell your boys that this was a lord’s hunting lodge (think Of the Rings) and the girls that princesses have visited. Then send them off to explore under the old forest trees while you enjoy views of the Atlantic Ocean that are simply sublime. The Roundhouse by day is not the formal dining that you may have experienced upstairs. It’s a space they call Rumbullion – meaning ‘a riotous good time’, and the casual tables scattered on the lawns and under the trees are designed to be enjoyed by one and all. The concept is tapas to be mixed-and-matched: pots of foods and boards of bread, charcuterie, salads and cheeses; plus a few daily hot dishes. For the kids, the classics are on hand – fish and chips, burgers and macaroni cheese. When it comes to wine, this restaurant excels with range and interest, plus they offer many options by the glass. Some of my favourites from the list are Ataraxia Chardonnay, Lammershoek Roulette Blanc and Shannon Mount Bullet Merlot.
The Glen, Camp’s Bay; tel 021 438 4347
The Grand Café and Beach
Not the first place you may think of for the family – it’s managed to present itself as a pretty chic option for the jetset – but on the other hand it has a boho personality that really suits the dining ensemble… and it has The Beach. This casual restaurant is literally on the sand, with tables on the deck above or in it. Sand is always a pleasantly diverting substrate for the little ones, while the chill of the ocean here will deter any foolish interaction with the water itself. The menu features a choice of bistro classics like avocado ritz, calamari, Waldorf or Caesar salads, steak bearnaise, mussels and chips, prego rolls and couple of crayfish options – while the magic bullet for the children is the oversized pizzas that they make here – one is big enough to feed four. The wine list is not the biggest, but it’s well-selected to suit the cuisine. Plus the house wine is made by De Morgenzon and its super Rosé is also available. So if your kids like a little more sophistication, or celebrity-spotting, this is the place.
Alongside Granger Bay Yacht Marina; tel 021 425 0551
I reckon this restaurant is so popular simply because it is so unlike Joburg. It’s a serene country oasis just off Jan Smuts, one of the busiest roads in the northern suburbs. In peaceful white, the tables are adorned with flowers, while French doors swing open onto a big veranda-style patio – and for the restless youngsters, there’s an enclosed lawn area where they can play as you keep your beady eye on them while enjoying poached eggs for brunch or a steak sandwich for lunch. It’s the kind of place that immediately relaxes you, while the casual food is punchy with flavour and beautifully presented (coowner Jessica is a food stylist) with lots of greenery in a modern idiom. The roast chicken is a winner, as are the hand-cut chips. All this plenitude is somewhat let down by the tiny wine list, only four or so whites and a similar number of reds, but in compensation all are available by the glass. Hartenberg and Ken Forrester are favoured labels in both red and white.
6 Burnside Road, Craighall; tel 011 326 3970
A large, rambling and very relaxing Tuscan-style house plays host to this family-friendly option: for the children there’s a garden plus fountain, sandpit and junglegym – and weekends are sure to produce friends for your team of little ones to meet as it gets rather busy. Sit under the patio loggia or inside at the large tables to sample from the reasonably priced menu that sticks to the tried-and-tested Italian songbook, plus excellent wood-fi red pizza, with Sunday buffet options. This is the place for fegato alla Veneziana, calves liver sautéed with caramelised onion, white wine and sage, served with polenta or pollo grigliato, a grilled free-range deboned baby chicken, with a lemon and herb marinade or zesty peri-peri. Welcoming, chilled service too. There’s an underground wine cellar here that results in a lengthy wine list with a good price range and detailed descriptions, including a number of Italian wines.
103 Houghton Drive corner Lloys Ellis Avenue, Houghton; tel 011 728 2092
It has a lovely outdoors setting, this French-themed bakery and café – a Mediterranean ambience created with olive trees, shady patios and private garden tables. It’s also next to a big garden centre and plentiful lawns offer room to roam for the juniors. The chief attraction here is an in-house bakery that makes good patisserie, sandwiches, quiches and crêpes – as well as light lunches with many bread-based options, also platters like the farmer’s board with meats, cheeses and pâtés. A great family option is the picnic lunch that you can order to enjoy on the lawns. They are unlicensed, and you are welcome to bring your own for a corkage fee of only R15 per bottle. It’s a tranquil haven and the food is good – and though the service can be tardy, you won’t mind too much once everyone is imagining they’re in Provence, not Pretoria.
Greenlynn Village, 13th St Menlo Park, Pretoria; tel 012 346 7853
Down a romantic lane watched over by poplars to a rambling and incredibly rustic country farmhouse – what everyone dreams Tuscany looks like! Cypress trees surround this renovated milking farm in terracotta and brick: organic colours and earthen textures, creepers and tile. There’s space galore and woodlands all around. Under wood beams, the veranda is most welcoming and the interior is similarly charming, very cosy in wood, tile and natural textures – the spirit of Italy without the obvious paraphernalia. This is a big restaurant and it’s clearly a wonderland for families, since bumping into stuff is unlikely to be critical here. The service is super-attentive and ownerdriven. Pizza and salads are the only printed menu items, while the rest is all blackboard and du jour. The quality of the starters means that a selection of these is a great way to eat; and, of course, the kids will love the pizzas. When it comes to wine, the selection is ever-changing according to the manager’s fancy and always very well priced: from Steenberg Nebbiolo to Terra Del Capo Sangiovese; Constantia Saddle to the Black Rock Red. Tokara Director’s Reserve White is a must for white wine drinkers.
Farm Boschfontein, Balgowan, off R103, Midlands; tel 033 234 4225
The Upper Deck at uShaka
What could be better than a phantom ship as restaurant – for boys of all ages? The upper deck of this theme-park ship is purpose-built for the family, with outdoor deck tables amidst the rigging and masts, or simple wooden interior tables, and the feel is pretty realistic, even Jack Sparrow would approve. Buffet is the direction of the mainstream food offering and there really is something for everyone with an emphasis on seafood grilled, in curries and paellas. On Sunday there’s a carvery (including mint sauce for the beef) and then the prawns are ‘eat ‘til you can’t any more’. Children under three can eat for free, and for the older ones the prices remain discounted, so if you are managing a large family, this is a good option. The wine list is not quite as wide-ranging as the menu, with certain large producers (like Boschendal and Nederburg) in charge: with a setting like this I would opt for a few bottles of the Boschendal Le Grande Pavillion Brut Rosé.
uShaka Marine World, King Shaka Avenue, Durban; tel 031 328 8067
Mogg’s Country Kitchen
Up a rough country road, the twist of smoke from the fi replace inside this lowkey family-run cookhouse defi nes country charm in a very Hansel and Gretel kind of way. A couple of friendly dogs, a herb garden, outside garden seats, or inside with its curious pine-cone ceiling and vibrantly coloured walls cluttered with bold artworks. Children love the trees and space and a table in the shade is perfect for families. The Mogg mother and daughter, Jenny and Julia, run the show and have for the last 14 years. They have a ‘shebeen’ wine policy – bring your own or drink their couple of house wines, including the ideal-for-summer Raoul’s Rosé – and also take no credit cards. The blackboard menu is to the point; three or so starters and four mains, three desserts. The food is tastefully presented without pretense, packed with fl avour and freshness.
R320 between Hermanus and Caledon; tel 028 312 4321
East Head Café
Like a beach house with a fabulous position overlooking the Knysna Heads, the interior is bright and cheerful, with big windows to capitalise on one of the world’s finest locations. In white wood and stabs of colour, it’s comfortable and summery, plus there’s an outdoor space under the trees. The service is always friendly and the casual menu features allday breakfasts, sandwiches and lunches like gourmet burgers, fish and chips or daily specials. Very child-friendly, there’s a dedicated kids’ menu and also a kids’ corner with toys and blackboards to draw on. Pre- or post-lunch you can take them to the rock pools below. Owner Jerome loves his wine, as attested by a quirky, personalised wine list that foregrounds white wines due to the daytime nature of the restaurant: favourite Sauvignon Blancs are Jordan, Thelema and Southern Right; while Colmant and Beyerskloof Pinotage Rosé Brut are popular sparklers.
George Rex Drive, Knysna Heads; tel 044 384 0933
The Goatshed at Fairview
If there is a better distraction for a bored child than a goat, I’d be surprised. These creatures have a mesmeric quality, and Fairview’s Goatshed famously has a tower of them outside the restaurant. Aside from this attraction, the space is robust and incredibly well-suited to families, with a large patio under shade for those very warm Paarl afternoons. The menu prominently features platters of their great cheeses and house-baked bread, then there’s the large selection of salads (try the couscous and calamari) and bistro meals like lamb curry or pan-fried trout fillet. When it comes to feeding the juniors, a notice on the menu states that the restaurant does not believe in “so-called kiddies meals” like bangers and fries, therefore a number of the regular meals are available, just in smaller portions, even the Chalmar beef fillet. Wine-lovers have the whole of the Fairview, Goats do Roam and Spice Route range of wines to choose from, in bottle or glass portion – which may just be as mesmerising as the goats.
Suid Agter Paarl Rd, Paarl; tel 021 863 3609
The Groot Brak river lazily meanders into the sea while creating a playground for holiday-makers on the Garden Route. Transkaroo sits right on this river, a rustic, barn-like eatery in wood tones that features a great deck under old trees overlooking the river, with the train track on the other side. Inside, a high ceiling with rafters, heavy chandeliers, wicker chairs and crooners on the soundtrack sets a very comfy, countrified tone – cats loiter with intent. There’s a quirky personal wine selection on a counter display, though a big corporate also gets fantastic signage. The printed menu has a dedicated section for kids’ meals, and the deck is the place for a family to relax – with space to play safely. For the adults, the good stuff is on the blackboard: Asian fishcakes, skilpadjies (liver wrapped in caul fat) with onion marmalade, a duck, rocket and pear salad, or slow-roast pork belly, springbok pot pie, and the signature Transkaroo slow-braised lamb neck with mash and gravy. South African farm-style eating, with big and hearty portions, makes this an eccentric spot with chunky, real food at good prices.
1 Morrison Rd (to Glentana), Groot Brak; tel 044 620 4163.