About Galjoen - The Restaurant

Galjoen is a South African sustainably-sourced seafood restaurant.
We serve a tasting menu where we showcase the beautiful seafood our country has on offer.

What makes us sustainable? Sustainability can mean different things to different people. Our approach is to serve only what is responsibly caught locally. If it’s not from South Africa, it’s not going on the menu.

We take cognisance of the SASSI list and work with local suppliers to support sustainable small-scale fishing communities.

We are also very conscious of waste. Because we serve a set tasting menu – and work on reservations only – we all but eliminate wastage. We know exactly how many portions of fish we will need on any given night.

What is the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of South African fish? The iconic KZN sardine run? Perhaps the much-sought-after Cape salmon (or geelbek)? Maybe our fast-swimming snoek and their sharp teeth? As it turns out, South Africa’s national fish is the humble galjoen.

We couldn’t help being drawn to the galjoen. They are adaptable, being able to change their colour to blend into their environment. They are tough, able to swim in rough seas and handle numerous collisions with the rocky shores. We cannot but admire these characteristics – and would not have made it through the pandemic without some degree of them ourselves.

Our philosophy is to keep it local, but we also feel that small scale is the way to go. We feel that by serving only a handful of guests we can really focus on every element on the plate and make it as tasty as possible. Having a set menu also means we can plan perfectly and serve our food as fresh as possible.

Galjoen is a semi-industrial space that might make you feel that you are sitting in a harbour. With just a hint of that 80s seafood restaurant décor that we grew up with.

About Galjoen – The Fish

Galjoen are a mid-sized fish, with oval-shaped, flattened bodies with symmetrical dorsal and anal fins.

Although usually a dark, near-black, they are able to change colour. Most are nearly-black, helping them to blend into the rocky coastlines , but they can change to pale bronze when around the coast.

galjoen need to be able to swim in rough seas and be able to handle scrapes against rocks to thrive

The suggestion to make the galjoen the national fish of South Africa was first put forward by Margaret Smith, the wife of legendary South African ichthyologist J.L.B. Smith

Margaret Smith wanted to find the marine equivalent of the springbok - a uniquely South African animal that was as iconic as it was special.

"Galjoen" is the Dutch word for "Galleon" a type of large sailboat that was designed to be a cargo ship, with lots of cannons for protection. During the 1600s, there were a number of naval wars between the Kingdom of England and the Dutch where civilian galleons were converted into massive warships by both sides - propelling galleons into the public eye.

European settlers in the Cape would have had galleons on their minds when they started fishing the waters of the Cape. When they first discovered the broad-sided coastal fishes in our shallow waters that could put up a serious fight, there was only one appropriate name they could think of - "galjoen".

There are actually two types of galjoen. The larger and more famous "galjoen" itself (Dichistius capensis) which is our national fish and is sometimes (incorrectly) called Coracinus capensis, and the smaller, but more prettily patterned banded galjoen (Dichistius multifasciatus).

Galjoen are a highly regarded sport fish for shore anglers, and were noted as a readily available food fish in early history. As recently as the 1980s, galjoen were the most common shore-caught fish in the Cape, and made up to 80% of the catch of some angling clubs in a given year. Unfortunately, galjoen are no longer this abundant.

The WWF South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI) lists both galjoen species as Red - i.e. as a consumer, you should not buy or consume either species of galjoen purchased in South Africa. Please be aware, that although it is legal for recreational anglers to catch limited numbers of galjoen at certain times of the year, it is illegal to buy or sell galjoen in South Africa.

Information for this page comes from the Two oceans aquarium website: