Istanbul to Cape Town: six must-visit restaurants in the Middle East and Africa

Laura Price - 01/03/2017

Header images: Social dog and inside Marina Social; the view and Katmer and Tirit at Neolokal (images: Seren Dal); Franschhoek River Trout ceviche with avocado mousse at Foliage

This month's edition of our Diners Club 50 Best Discovery Series takes in six restaurants across the Middle East and Africa that received votes in the last round of voting for The World's 50 Best Restaurants. Journey all the way from Istanbul to Cape Town in a series of colourful plates.

1. Neolokal – Istanbul, Turkey

SALT Galata, Bankalar Avenue, Karaköy 34420, İstanbul
+90 212 244 00 16


Olive oil pan-poached artichoke, coriander, powdered carrot cream, fresh coriander pea cream, yoghurt and artichoke at Neolokal (image: Seren Dal)

In a sentence: As the name suggests, Maksut Aşkar's smart museum restaurant showcases local and seasonal ingredients in dishes that explore and redefine traditional Anatolian cuisine. 

What to order: There's plenty to choose from with both à la carte and tasting menus on offer. Try lamb mutancana – slow-cooked leg of lamb with dried fruits, frikah wheat, za’tar, and grilled lettuce – or octopus scented with lavender and served with lemony potato cream, lemon zest and orange powder. And don't miss Aşkar's offal dishes, which are a speciality, including pan-fried liver with pickled plums, sumac and onion salad and oven-baked garlic cream.

Discover more about Neolokal

2. La Grande Table Marocaine – Marrakech, Morocco

Rue Abou Abbas el sebti، Marrakesh 40000
+212 (0) 5 29 80 82 82


Sh’hiwates, Moroccan salad delights at La Grand Table

Why go? Heavyweight French chef Yannick Alléno oversees this luxurious restaurant at the Royal Mansour hotel in Marrakesh, which elevates traditional Moroccan cuisine to new heights of fine dining.

Typical dishes: The menu features reinterpreted Moroccan classics, including pastillas, briouats, tagines and couscous. Start with a selection of salads, such as spinach with orange blossom foam, followed by poached spiny lobster with a beetroot and citrus fruit vinaigrette or shoulder of lamb tagine with parsley, olives and preserved lemon.

Discover more about La Grande Table Marocaine

3. Argan – Doha, Qatar

Souq Waqif, P.O. Box 3496 Doha
+974 4433 6666


Jawhara at Argan

Chief reason to visit: Doha's bustling and historic Souq Waqif, which is filled with spice stalls and shisha lounges, is a fitting location for Argan – an evocative Moroccan restaurant that combines aromatic flavours, vibrant colours and traditional music.

On the menu: Start with hot Moroccan bread with harissa and argan oil dips, before a cavalcade of fragrantly spiced mezze and mains are ferried to the table by fez-wearing waiters. Think lamb briouat or lamb and chickpea harira soup, followed by a filo pastilla stuffed with chicken and almonds or 'royale' couscous made with vegetables, chicken, lamb shoulder confit and beef merguez sausages.

Discover more about Argan

4. Marina Social – Dubai, UAE

Bay Central Dubai Marina Al Sufouh Road P.O BOX 393080, Dubai
+ 971 04446 6664 


Rhubarb and custard souffle at Marina Social

Why visit: British chef Jason Atherton's Social restaurants specialise in 'deformalised dining' – a relaxed, convivial experience that fits perfectly with the sun-drenched vibe of Dubai's buzzy marina. 

What to order: There's something for everyone on the wide-ranging modern British-Mediterranean menu. Highlights include Italian beef tomato and burrata with 25 year-aged balsamic and tomato salt or the Social Dog – a duck and foie gras sausage served with brioche and caramelised onions. Finish with rhubarb and custard soufflé.

Discover more about Marina Social

5. Foliage – Franschhoek, South Africa

Franschhoek, 7690
+27 21 876 2328


Smoked cheesecake, spiced tomato vinaigrette, sunflower, garden shoot salad at Foliage

What makes it special?
The countryside of Franschhoek in South Africa's Western Cape provides both the inspiration and working materials for Foliage's menu, which is rooted in wild ingredients foraged each day by chef Chris Erasmus.

On the menu: The open kitchen is a hotbed of creativity, sending out a changing line-up of innovative dishes to the homely dining room. Honey-glazed smoked pork belly could be partnered with fermented millet, mango atjar (pickle) and berry crackling, while Erasmus' love of nose-to-tail eating is referenced in black pudding and sweetbreads with porcini, plus a granadilla and hazelnut salad. Passionfruit parfait with lactic berries, rose petals and kombucha makes for an fragrant finish.

Discover more about Foliage

6. Chefs Warehouse and Canteen – Cape Town, South Africa

92 Bree St, Cape Town City Centre, Cape Town, 8000
+27 21 422 0128


Inside Chefs Warehouse

At a glance:
Liam Tomlin brings his globe-trotting experiences together at this eclectic tapas-style restaurant, where diners perch at communal wooden tables surrounded by shelves filled with spices, condiments and cookware. 

What to eat: The menu of eight dishes for two people is decided daily but expect Asian, Middle Eastern and Indian flavours, plus influences from Tomlin's native Ireland and his time in Australia. Cured salmon partnered with fennel and grapefruit could be followed lamb kofta with marinated aubergine or roasted bone marrow.

Discover more about Chefs Warehouse

Now discover more restaurants in the Middle East and Africa from our Diners Discovery Series.