A burst of confetti at Cape Town’s GrandWest Grand Arena on Sunday 19 November concluded the much-anticipated 2023 Eat Out Woolworths Restaurant Awards ceremony, where over 800 guests gathered to celebrate South Africa’s culinary excellence.
Embracing the star-rating system introduced in 2022, South Africa’s top restaurants were awarded with 3, 2 or 1 stars following a meticulous judging process led by chief judge Abigail Donnelly. The criteria spanned the entire spectrum of the dining experience – from decor and ambience to service, the wine list and the quality of the ingredients – with restaurants needing to score between 70 and 79 out of 100 to win 1 star, between 80 and 89 to win 2 stars, and over 90 to win 3 stars.
“This year’s winners have demonstrated a seamless combination of consistency and quality, coupled with a commitment to progression and experimentation,” says Donnelly. “We have seen the young and upcoming shine and the established legends generously imparting their wisdom, fostering a wonderful spirit of mentorship within the community.”
These are some of our favourite restaurants that took home their stars, plus some special awards:
Acid Food & Wine Bar, Johannesburg
Acid Food & Wine Bar is a particularly special winner as a 1-star restaurant at the 2023 Eat Out Awards. In Johannesburg’s leafy suburbs of Parktown North sits Acid Wine & Food Bar, one of the city’s hidden gems. On any given evening, you will find a mix of Johannesburg’s cool kids, epicureans, and wine enthusiasts dining on chef Jes Devoten’s Thai-inspired creations, while sipping on some of sommelier Jemma Steyer’s latest wine picks.
Ouzeri, City Bowl, Cape Town)
A traditional Greek-Cypriot destination, Ouzeri is the social heart of its community, a place where people go to unwind, to eat, and to raise a glass of ouzo. This was chef Nic Charalambous’s primary aim with new Cape Town eatery, Ouzeri – to champion that tradition by spotlighting Greek-Cypriot cuisine. Ouzeri’s dedication to supporting the right sort of farming – local, seasonal and sustainable – extends through the kitchen and to the wine selection, with a keen focus on natural and low-intervention wines.
Fifty one restaurants were in that elite group of starred restaurants this year, an increase from last year’s 42 and testament to our restaurant industry continuing to evolve and ascend to new heights. The judging panel in 2024, led by Donnelly, included Joseph Dhafana, Marisa Munroe, Mokgadi Itsweng, Herman Lensing and Karen Dudley. Together they have awarded restaurants their stars as the best of the best and pushing the industry forward.
ëlgr (City Bowl, Cape Town)
ëlgr is the brainchild of Jesper Nilsson: a modern, casual and multi-cultural dining experience neatly perched on Cape Town’s social hub of Kloof Street. With pizzas, hearty meats, and salads on offer paired with delicious wines, ëlgr is definitely one of our favourite 2-Star restaurants. Trust us when we say everything on the menu is delightfully moreish.
The Pot Luck Club Cape Town, Woodstock, Cape Town
The Pot Luck Club remains an institution on Cape Town’s luxury food scene, (and Johannesburg) as their newest menu is sure to tickle your taste buds, no wonder they took home a Two-Star Restaurant award. While the change of seasons brings a shift in ingredients, there are also shifts within the the Pot Luck Club’s kitchen. Award-winning chef and restaurateur Luke Dale Roberts says he has loosened the reigns at his world-famous restaurant, for Executive Chef Jason Kosmas to bring his own unique approach to the restaurant’s menu.
The celebrated establishments at the Eat Out Awards have fearlessly articulated their visions, captivating guests with exciting ingredients, unique spaces, exquisite service and a sincere love of their craft.
FYN, City Bowl, Cape Town
Since securing the 37th spot in the 2022 list of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, Cape Town’s FYN continued to dazzle in 2023, awarding them a 3-Star restaurant award at the Eat Out Awards. In another culinary first for Africa, FYN restaurant has been selected to join Relais & Châteaux, the prestigious global association of 5-star hotels and two- or three-star Michelin restaurants recognised for their exceptional cuisine and hospitality and their honouring of local heritage and the environment.
In addition to the starred restaurants, 14 special awards were handed out to individual restaurants, chefs and food personalities.
"The restaurant industry delivers a significant contribution across several economic touchpoints – including formal and informal employment, marketing, supplier procurement, and property rental. Many people rely on it for their livelihoods. Which is why these awards matter,’’ says Roy Bagattini, Woolworths Holdings’ Group Chief Executive Officer. “When a restaurant or chef or sommelier wins, the industry wins too – and that, in turn, delivers a boost to the food and beverages supply chain as a whole.”
La Colombe in Constantia was awarded Eat Out Woolworths Restaurant of the Year, having attained the highest score of any restaurant in the country. The judges said: “La Colombe is an institution on South Africa’s fine-dining scene. It has been a consistent award winner, both locally and internationally, offering a menu that is executed with impeccable precision and attention to detail.”
Executive chef James Gaag says: “I am so proud of my entire team. We worked incredibly hard for this and all the effort and time they put into it is rewarded. I might be receiving this Award on behalf of the restaurant, but it goes to all of them.”
The Eat Out Woolworths Financial Services Chef of the Year award went to Ryan Cole, the head chef and co-owner of Salsify at The Roundhouse in Camps Bay. The judges said: “Ryan demonstrates a high degree of creativity and displays a passion for driving the local food scene forward. This is a chef at the height of his powers.”
"I am humbled and honoured and overjoyed. I think that winning Chef of the Year award is like a dream come true, you can’t plan for that,’’ says Cole. Being seen by my peers and my colleagues and Eat Out as somebody that is paving the way for future generations is a massive compliment. I also think it’s a feather in Eat Out’s cap as it shows that they are on trend and in line with what Industry is saying and feeling.”
The Eat Out Valpré Rising Star Award went to Anwar Abdullatief of The Happy Uncles in Salt River. The judges said: “Here we award a young chef doing amazing things in the restaurant industry. It’s recognising someone with a future-forward approach, someone who is innovative, breaking down barriers and exploring new ways of working with food.”
Abdullatief says: “I’ve had to make a lot of sacrifices for my business, from working without a salary for months to cutting down on my family time. So being and acknowledged by a reputable platform such as the Eat Out Woolworths Restaurant Awards is a validating experience. This will undoubtably open many doors for my business and transform it to the next level.”