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There are days when all you want is to head out to your favourite eatery to grab coffee and croissants or to dive into a plate of messy ribs and chips. But then there are days when you want to celebrate with a multiple-course meal and some incredible wine. These 12 restaurants will be sure to make your evening special – whether it’s a birthday, an anniversary, or just a celebration of people who love food. Here are our critics picks for fancy food, in alphabetical order.

AtholPlace Restaurant (Atholl)

Dinner here is the main event: the set menu changes seasonally and is dependent on what’s fresh and available. Think squid with kimchi and mirin gel or dry-aged beef with paprika and cocoa. If you don’t want to spring for the tasting menu, they also offer fancy breakfasts including a refined Continental buffet with a selection of pastries, breads, glorious homemade granola, yoghurts and fruit platters. The hot breakfasts take it to the next level, too, so don’t skip these if you’re going all out. Lunches are affordable and casual, but the setting and the service add an air of sophistication and elegance. The lunch menu is small and bistro-like, with burgers, pan-fried line fish, vibrant tagliatelle pastas, wraps and sandwiches. It’s simple but very good.

DW Eleven-13 (Dunkeld West)

Marthinus Ferreira’s frequently awarded establishment dazzles the palate with every bite and tantalises the imagination with wondrous creations. Tasting plates change seasonally. Previous highlights have included chicken liver mille-feuille bites; truffle-infused sous-vide hen’s egg; seared tuna sashimi with oyster coulis, citrus and fennel; and bresaola and pickled veg, slaphakskeentjies and dukkah. Desserts are fabulous, too.

Kream Mall of Africa (Midrand)

Modern items here will appeal to a broad clientele, ranging from carpaccio to delicious smoked pork belly croquettes. Other stand-outs include char-grilled fillet with green Bordelaise sauce, and specials of kudu fillet with grilled leeks and potato fondant or angelfish with lemon-butter sauce. End on perfectly executed crème brûlée or rainbow cheesecake with bubblegum ice cream, candy floss, rock candy, popcorn and G&T jelly.

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Farro (Illovo)

Alex and Eloise Windebank’s casual fine dining restaurant serves up incredibey quality food in a space that somehow manages to feel cosy – despite being inside a mall! For mains, the crispy lamb shoulder is an unexpected treat. It’s served off the bone and packed into a crumbed parcel, resting on a bed of pearl barley and a pesto-like sauce on the side. The pork belly is also full of textural surprises, served with long shards of pork crackling, the softest pockets of gnocchi and a slightly sweet and crunchy apple relish. The winelist is focused on small batch wines – and there are also some stellar cocktails.

Grei (Sandhurst)

Candice Philip has taken over the reigns of the sophisticated 32-seater space formerly occupied by Luke Dale Roberst at The Saxon Hotel. The restaurant, which opened up in April, also features an open kitchen (so you can watch the chefs at work) and a private dining room for those really special nights. Get ready for a six-course tasting menu made with ingredients from the on-site garden. Think duck with apricot, thyme and rooibos; or an impossibly pretty dessert of guava, beetroot and hibiscus.

Level Four (Rosebank)

Each dish at Level Four is carefully crafted, in taste and presentation. Highlights have included a lobster bisque starter with mussels, clams, prawns and steamed fish; sea bass in a delicate broth with heirloom tomatoes and snow peas; and roasted red pepper risotto with a burnt balsamic gel and goat’s cheese. The clever combinations of flavour and texture will keep you coming back for more.

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Marble (Rosebank)

This grillhouse boasts incredibly modern and eccentric twists, and all the bells and whistles that chef David Higgs brings to the table. Local, seasonal ingredients appear in well-balanced dishes with subtle smoky notes. The menu is a journey, with flavours from Mediterranean to Thai and Argentinian. Much thought goes into each texture, colour and scent. Consider wood-fired asparagus with seaweed butter; prawn tails with wasabi and prawn crackers; or, for the more adventurous, octopus hot off the coals, with anchovy and a quail egg. The pork main is also sublime. The dessert menu is small, but clever and enticing. Try the passion fruit crème brûlée with lime meringue drops and macerated berries. The view here, is reason alone to visit.

NCW (Melville)

Expect exquisite and breathtaking cuisine here. Each course has a deceptively simple title: ‘Tomato’ is a soup of roasted and reduced tomato with a basil ice cream quenelle and balsamic gel studs. Dishes might include the likes of venison with parsnip and onion; tuna with ras el hanout spice; and a tangy dessert made up of granadilla, crème fraîche, lavender and white chocolate.

Qunu (Sandhurst)

Prepare for a culinary adventure in beautifully plated food. Think roasted quail with corn purée, quail egg and crispy nest; springbok with king oyster mushroom; and duck egg with smoked potato, artichoke and truffled brioche. It’s difficult to choose mains; you might opt for crisp sea bass and calamari, or the juicy and generous beef fillet and braised short rib. Sweet highlights are mango, blood orange and peach sorbet or the Saxon torte with Valrhona Manjari 64% chocolate.

View Restaurant at Four Seasons (Westcliff)

The carefully orchestrated five- or seven-course tasting menus here deliver rapture. The bread is superlative, followed by dishes like 62-degree hen’s egg and salmon trout with furikaki and fish crackling. Mains might include seabass with calamari and preserved lemon; and wagyu sirloin with sweetbreads and shiitake mushrooms. End with coffee and small pastries.

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Winehouse at Ten Bompas (Dunkeld West)

The tasting menu here is a showcase of superbly executed gastronomy, with an emphasis on flavourful broths, buttery sauces and sumptuous reductions. Dishes might include quail with blood orange, medjool dates and radicchio; barramundi with broccoli and seaweed butter; and Karoo lamb with cauliflower and macadamia nuts. Desserts are always a triumph.

Wombles (Bryanston)

With its old-world grace and a touch of colonial style, this restaurant embraces the safari lodge look, complete with outdoor fires and lounges, trophy heads, ferns and other such memorabilia. The menu appeals to old fans with the famous beef stroganoff, table-side hand-made steak tartare, and gorgeous duck confit. Opt for the roasted springbok shanks served in a savoury green peppercorn sauce with stewed fruit. Finish your memorable meal with appropriately old-school lemon meringue ice cream and the crêpe Suzettes, simmered in fresh orange and Cointreau.

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