American Express announces Top 2020 Dining Award winners, with a Johannesburg bias!


It was a multi-Award day on Monday this week, with both American Express (for the Western and Southern Cape), as well as the Gourmet Guide (National) announcing their 2020 Restaurant Award winners. A week earlier American Express had announced its Gauteng, Free State, and KwaZulu-Natal Awards. There were many similarities in the winners, yet some strange winners in the American Express Dining  awards documented in this post.

From media reports the 2020 American Express Dining Awards had been reconceptualised earlier this year, and an all-Johannesburg judging panel of three was appointed. The judging panel was chaired by Johannesburg food blogger Steve Steinfeld of The Joburg Foodie. His two co-judges were Clive Aaron (credentials for this task unclear: ‘who was inspired to train as a chef…’! ), and Kaya FM head Greg Maloka. 

Not only was a list of top restaurants in each region announced, but the winners of a number of Award categories created for the first time were also announced, claimed to resemble the World Restaurant Awards. From their media statement: ‘The structure of the programme is now completely aligned with the very best awards programmes around the world’, a total nonsense claim! 

Top restaurants missing in these Awards may be due to them not accepting American Express credit cards, skewing the results. The merchant fee for the Amex card is higher than that of Mastercard and VISA, so many merchants do not accept Amex cards. 


The 2020:American Express Dining Awards top restaurant list is the following: 

Babel at Babylonstoren, Klapmuts, Western Cape

Camphors at Vergelegen in Somerset West

Cavalli Estate Restaurant in Stellenbosch 

Eike by Bertus Basson in Stellenbosch

Foliage in Franschhoek

FYN in Cape Town

Greenhouse in Constantia in Cape Town

Hacklewood in Port Elizabeth

Jardine in Stellenbosch

Jordan in Stellenbosch

La Colombe in Cape Town  

La Tête in Cape Town

Le Coin Français in Franschhoek 

La Petite Colombe in Franschhoek

Overture in Stellenbosch 

Protégé in Franschhoek 

Rust en Vrede in Stellenbosch 

Salsify in Camps Bay, Cape Town

The Pot Luck Club in Woodstock, Cape Town 

The Restaurant at Waterkloof in Somerset West 

The Shortmarket Club in Cape Town 

The Test Kitchen in Woodstock, Cape Town

The Werf Restaurant at Boschendal 

Zinzi in Plettenberg Bay. 

Abingdon, Midlands, KwaZulu-Natal

Culinary Table Restaurant in Johannesburg

Epicure in Johannesburg 

Grei at The Saxon in Johannesburg

Marble in Johannesburg 

NCW in Johannesburg 

Qunu at The Saxon 

Restaurant Mosaic at The Orient, Pretoria. 

Saint in Johannesburg 

Silver Orange in Johannesburg

The Chef’s Table in Umhlanga

De Oude Kraal in Bloemfontein 


Over and above not having heard of four of the Gauteng/Bloemfontein restaurants, and the exclusion of such top restaurants as Wolfgat in Paternoster, Fermier in Pretoria, and Indochine at Delaire Graff in Stellenbosch, the ten restaurant category winners were equally divided between West and East, despite the Western/Southern Cape having a longer list of awarded restaurants, making the Award results questionable. Not one of these, other than the Restaurant of the Year Award, are similar to those of the World Restaurant Awards, as claimed! : 

Style Award : FYN in Cape Town

Young Talent Award: Chef Ryan Cole of Salsify at The Roundhouse in Camps Bay, Cape Town

Best Newcomer Award : Eike by Bertus Basson

Service Award: The Test Kitchen 

Restaurant of the Year: The Test Kitchen (‘A multi-sensorial dinner that delivers a dining experience of the most extraordinary proportions. From dark through to light, the diner is taken on a gastronomic journey like no other.’) – Main Photograph 

American Express Member’s Choice: Saint in Sandton, Johannesburg 

Wine Award: Restaurant Mosaic at the Orient 

Best-kept Secret Award: Abingdon Wine Estate in the Midlands in KwaZulu-Natal

Pure SA: Marble (‘Conceptualised by the idea of gathering around the fire, sharing stories/conversing and making sure all who enter are warmly welcomed and celebrated, Marble is a world-class restaurant which at its core is so quintessentially tailored to be enjoyed by South Africans’  – phew, what an overhype! ) 

Pioneer Chef: Chef David Higgs of Marble, awarded to ‘recognise a visionary chef who has introduced creative and groundbreaking innovation. David Higgs has redefined what it means to be a Johannesburg Restaurant.’

With all three judges being from Johannesburg, and three out of ten restaurant category awards going to the restaurants belonging to co-owner Chef David Higgs, the Johannesburg bias is evident, not doing much for the credibility of the 2020 American Express Awards!


Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein Instagram: @Chrissy_Ulmenstein


Please follow and like us:
Tweet 27k

WhaleTales Blog


We don’t spam!

Read our privacy policy for more info.