You’ll know Sandton Central by its gleaming towers and the profusion of construction cranes towering above the central suburb as it remakes itself into a global business capital. Just 50 years ago Sandton's Central Business District was little more than rolling farmland dotted with tea houses and a polo club. Nowadays however it is the economic hub of South Africa and the location for the headquarters of many of Africa’s biggest companies who are steadily transforming the Joburg skyline with ever taller and grander skyscrapers.
Most tourists flock to Nelson Mandela Square for a selfie with the impossibly tall bronze sculpture that pays homage to South Africa’s greatest leader and statesman. While prices on the square reflect the higher than average number of tourists, there are good options with decent service and consistently good food. The best picks on the square include Tashas, a local chain of elegant bistro-cafés that also has branches in Dubai and the stylish sushi and seafood restaurant The Big Mouth. If you are using the Gautrain the elegant contemporary bar and restaurant The Course is an ideal stop, located directly opposite the Sandton Gautrain station around the corner.
A few blocks down the hill at the corner of West Street and Alice Lane the impressive new Alice Lane Precinct is setting a new standard for pedestrianised spaces in Sandton with a green, open and airy feel that comes with some of the best, uninterrupted sunset views this side of the city. If you have a large budget try Sandton's largest steakhouse with a view The Grillhouse or for something more casual and budget-friendly Nikos Coalgrill Greek.
Meanwhile a few blocks away on the corner of Rivonia Road and Maude Street yet another massive lifestyle and retail development The Marc opened in August with celebrity chef David Higgs’ Italian restaurant Saint Pazzo Italiano a major draw. Also on Maude Street, is The Bull Run steakhouse, a buzzy lunch destination, particularly on Fridays when Sandton's office crowd lingers at the bar, and the cheerful Ribs and Burgers, a tasty spot for wholesome 'fast food' at prices not usually seen in Sandton.
THE NORTHERN SUBURBSA five-minute drive or tuk-tuk ride from Sandton Central’s glitzy skyscrapers, the neighbourhing suburb of Parkmore presents a world of tastes along a scruffy low-rise strip of independent restaurants lined up along 11th Street facing the Benmore Gardens shopping mall. Favourites include the authentic family-run Korean restaurant Banchan. On the other side of the vast mall is the quiet suburb of Morningside, largely defined by its sprawling gated complexes and upscale shopping malls. In Morningside look out for Belgian-Burundian chef Coco Reinarhz's glamorous Epicure known for its contemporary African flavours.
From here the immense northern suburbs of the city such as Rivonia, Bryanston and Fourways, (which confusingly are all broadly referred to as Sandton), spread northwards for several kilometres. You’ll know this part of the city by its abundance of faux-Tuscan security suburbs, outdoor-lifestyle centres, plant nurseries, gated communities, golfing estates and the huge Montecasino entertainment complex. Hidden away among the many strip malls and chain restaurants that punctuate the suburban sprawl you can find some real gems. Particularly notable is the renowned steakhouse Wombles, trendy Gemelli restaurant and bar, and celebrated young South African fine dining chef Wandile Mabaso’s SA Culinary Club.