Burrata, Cape Town, South Africa
Neil Grant takes his pizza very seriously. The man behind Burrata, a brightly modern restaurant within Cape Town's Old Biscuit Mill development, went to quite amazing lengths to create the perfect crust, importing an oven from Naples that is able to reach 480℃ and cook a pizza in less than 90 seconds. Throw imported flour and tomatoes into the mix and you have what is beyond doubt the best pizza in Cape Town and likely the best in the entire country (possibly the continent), with a puffy flame-blackened crust and light crispness.
While pizza is the focus, the supporting dishes don't fall by the wayside thanks to the considerable talents of head chef Annemaire Steenkamp who spent five years at Le Quartier Francais in Franschhoek Valley, a venue regularly acknowledged as the Best Restaurant in Africa and the Middle East on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. She brings accuracy and a degree of refinement to Burrata’s rustic dishes and has developed some plates - including sweetcorn ravioli with pork rib and bacon vinaigrette - that innovate while staying true to the Italian-theme.
The interior takes its design cues from the trendy restaurants of New York City’s Meatpacking District with the wine cellar and the kitchen both in full view. The clear centrepiece is the aforementioned wood-burning oven which also fills the space with a delicate smoky smell. Grant, the current chairman of the South African Sommeliers Association, maintains the regularly changing wine list which (sparklers aside) is exclusively South African. No descriptions are given to encourage customers to tap into his staff’s encyclopedic knowledge of the country's regions. Italy-inspired cocktails round off this highly appealing package.
Ristorante Armani, Dubai, UAE
As one might expect, Armani's eponymous restaurant at the Burj Khalifa looks the business, but thankfully the kitchen's approach is not one of style over substance. Although a fine dining restaurant at heart, Ristorante Armani understands when things need to be allowed to speak for themselves, a policy demonstrated by the venue's excellent but comparatively simple pasta dishes all made fresh daily on site. Most of Italy’s regions are represented on the menu but there is a clear bias toward other dishes from Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna, the birthplace of the restaurant's namesake.
Carne, Cape Town, SA
Sister to celebrated Cape Town restaurant 95 Keerom, Carne is best described as owner Giorgio Nava's answer to the US steak house. As well as sourcing the best game - including ostrich, kudu and black wildebeest - in the country, the Milan-born chef and entrepreneur operates a farm specialising in top-end grass-fed beef just outside the city. Much of the produce is cooked simply on a wood-fired grill and served with seasonal vegetables and fried potatoes. As the name suggests, Carne is pitched at the serious meat eater but the menu also includes a greatest hits selection of Nava's Milanese dishes.