Restaurant Review; Insights Restaurant at Sanctuary Mandela

Mandela’s former home is now a boutique hotel and restaurant. Weather you’re a local, looking for a great date night spot, or if you’re hosting international guests, this may just be the perfect hotel and restaurant to consider. Not only is this space rich in South African history, it’s also a space that speaks to reflection, peace and freedom – three values that were close to Tata’s heart.

Located on 13th Avenue in Houghton, Johannesburg. Mandela’s former home has been transformed into a magnificent boutique hotel, called Sanctuary Mandela. The hotel sports nine bedrooms and offers a restaurant called Insights. This is a first-class experience from when you enter the gates, to when you exit them again. Upon entering the premises, you’re welcomed by words crafted in steel that read ‘reflection’, ‘peace’ and ‘freedom’, you’re then welcomed by a professional looking host, with a big friendly smile who warmly says ‘welcome home’ as you enter the premises.

The restaurant:

If you’ve ever dreamed of enjoying one of Madiba’s favourite dishes, prepared by the same chef (Xoliswa Ndoyiya) who used to cook for him and his family for 22 years, then your wish may have just come true. The menu is served in the form of a letter, with a wax stamp to illustrate Mandela’s love for the art of writing. The dining experience boasts some of his favourite meals, which can only be described as hearty, and nutritious. The wait staff let us know that Mandela was not a fan of fat and didn’t like to see any fat on the meat he was eating. Expect to taste dishes such as oxtail, which was cooked for Mandela 3x a week, mfino, seared salmon, and malva pudding 

This is what we tasted: 


Ethiopian kitfo (R145): which is spiced beef tartare, herbed bone marrow, cracker bread and smoked paprika aioli. This dish is a discovery made by Madiba and Joe Matthews whilst in Ethiopia. 10/10 full of flavour, delicious and served hot. I could eat this every night for dinner.


Salmon graviax (R165): cured Norwegian salmon, citrus apple, pickled mustard seeds, confeit beetroot, crispy onion and ponzu mayo. This dish was fresh and full of flavour and certainly very moreish. The perfect Spring starter.


Other starters that you can expect to experience are:

  • Butternut Ravioli (R125): Creamy feta, basil pesto and crispy sage served with a spicy Arrabiata sauce
  • Roasted Aubergine Salad (R185): Roasted pepper, sun-dried tomatoes, butternut shavings, coriander, and citrus dressing




– Umsila Wenkomo (R345): slow roasted oxtail served with roast garlic mash, baby carrots, and green beans. Magnificent- I can see why Madiba had this 3x a week with close friends and family. It’s the perfect mix of hearty, filling and delicious. While rich, it’s not as rich as some oxtails which are cooked in a red wine sauce. I could easily eat this once a week without any complaints.


Purdon Wagu Beef (R550): this was a 250g succulent beef rump, with biltong and pap fondant, smoked cauliflower puree, seasoned veggies and chakalaka. While the beef was succulent and buttery and the accompanying veggies were delicious, this steak wasn’t any better or worse than other wagu beef steaks we’ve tried before. It was delicious, but for the price tag, I would maybe opt for something a little more affordable, that’s just as flavoursome and delicious. For some reason, at that price, I expected this dish to be life changing. It was very good, but it didn’t change my life.


They also had.


  • Mama Xoliswa’s Prawn Curry (R245): Which is served with coconut infused basmati rice, tomato salsa and papadum. This dish was inspired by Tata’s love for Indian Cuisine.


  • Kingklip Chowder (R255): This is a pan fried kingklip, pea and grilled corn chowder, with spring onions, sun-dried tomatoes, and pickled baby marrow ribbons. I saw this dish being served and it smelled out of this world. I’m ordering this next time we are out.


  • Peri-Peri Chicken (R235): This is a grilled chicken breast, with grilled artichokes, black lentils stew and fried new potatoes. This menu offers something for everyone. Personally, I’m not a fan of ordering Peri-Peri Chicken from a restaurant, as my hubby makes a killer per-peri chicken but given how good everything else on the menu was, I may just break my rules and give this a try one evening.


  • Baked Vegetable Cannelloni (R185): If you’re a lover of a good napolitana sauce, then this dish may be calling your name. It’s topped with fresh basil leaves and loads of parmesan cheese. 



We then got a side order of mfino for R45 and a mushroom and samp ‘risotto’ for R65. Both were superb, although I added a little salt to the samp. That’s a personal preference though, as my hubby found that his didn’t need additional seasoning at all.


Other sides you can order are.

  • Baby marrow fries (R35) or regular fries (R45)



While not on the main menu, the restaurant does offer a delicious dessert selection. Including malva pudding, caramelised banana slices with vanilla ice cream, caramel toffee, and crushed biscuits, as well as a chocolate fondant with ice cream, crushed biscuits, and a warm Amarula sauce. 

The restaurant boasts a wide selection of local wines and spirits, all produced locally and made by entrepreneurs. In the spirit of empowering small businesses. Overall, this was a great fine-dining experience that I would gladly come back for, any time. 

The staff are well trained, welcoming, and respectful. They’re knowledgeable about the menu, and make great recommendations, they’re knowledgeable about the art in the hotel and point out subtle elements in each piece and they give great insights into the themes of each hotel room.

The hotel:


The hotel turns one year old this heritage month and it certainly pays homage to Madiba’s depth of character and fighting spirit, Sanctuary Mandela is surrounded by blue crystal-clear pools, lush green gardens, and artistic exhibits that pay tribute to the Human Rights activist, Nobel peace prize winner, former president and global icon, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. Every corner of the hotel is carefully curated to tell a story. 

You can’t help but leave the premises, feeling inspired and motivated.  You’ll also leave reflecting on a few key points mentioned throughout the tour. This refurbished boutique hotel boasts nine bedrooms, including a presidential suite, which was Mandela’s old bedroom, two meeting rooms, a restaurant, bar, swimming pool and a lovely garden. The bar and restaurant are open to the public and jazz evenings are hosted on a Sunday afternoon. The former president stayed at the premises between 1992 – 1998. Esteemed guests were hosted on the property, such as British supermodel Naomi Campbell, fellow Rivonia Trialist Ahmed Kathrada, and human rights lawyer George Bizos. 


Make a reservation here, you won’t regret it:

Phone: +27 (0)10 035 0368



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