Dining Out, Leratos Corner

An honest review … Swallows Inn

May 3, 2019, Author: Hello Joburg

Very few restaurants in the world – let alone Joburg – can boast about being around for almost 70 years. I’ve travelled all over the world and am a great lover of Chinese food, so I recently decided to visit Joburg’s oldest Chinese restaurant, Swallows Inn, to see if their delicious food has stood the test of time.

The first thing you should know about Swallows Inn is that it’s deep in Ferreirasdorp in Joburg CBD in the old China Town district, so Uber is your best bet to get there. The second thing you should know is that while the exterior of this hole-in-the-wall joint looks downtrodden and neglected, you should not let this deter you.


When you get inside, try and get a table upstairs, as the downstairs area is rather claustrophobic. The interior of the restaurant is very dated too, but bear in mind that this super-old spot hasn’t been refurbished for a reason – the old-school traditional ‘décor’ and borderline tacky plastic tablecloths will remind you of downtown Jozi in the 60s and 70s. It might even make you feel like you’ve just entered a 1920s opium den, to be completely honest.

The one-page menu is divided into prawns, pork, king klip, chicken, beef, duck, vegetarian and extras, and offers everything from chow mein and chop suey to foo yong and sweet and sour dishes. My dinner companion and I started with shrimp chips and vegetable spring rolls with some coconut milk to drink (the restaurant doesn’t serve alcohol) followed by prawn chow mein and oyster sauce chicken to share.


While our lovely Chinese waitress couldn’t speak much English, the service ran like clockwork and before we knew it, we were tucking into our mains. The portions were huge and the quality of everything was out of this world. I’ll be honest – I was a bit sceptical about ordering a seafood dish at what looks like such a run-down place, but the prawns were fresh, juicy and downright delicious. The meal was so moreish that we also decided to order the bok choy and garlic, which was a delight.

We ended the meal with bowties that were fried to perfection with a lightly doughy inside and a generous glaze of melted sugar syrup. We were surprised to see that the restaurant has card facilities when paying the bill. On our way out we noticed that the main entrance is locked in the evening, so if you go for dinner, you might need to ring the doorbell or knock on the door. We left feeling satisfied and absolutely stunned about our new foodie discovery. Swallows Inn gets full marks from me for both authentic Chinese food and an ambience to match!


6 Commissioner Street, Ferreirasdorp

011 838 2946





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comments (2)

  • avatar image
    Next time you need to try their “garlic beef” it is sweet sticky fried pieces of beef smothered in the most delicious sauce. Their fried chicken is also unique to Swallows, served with salt & pepper and a squeeze of lemon, you have never had such lightly crisped chicken before! If you don’t want to enjoy the restaurants ambience then phone and order a take away to collect. That way you bring the deliciousness to the comfort of your own home and support a local established restaurant with years of heritage attached to it. Ps. The building it’s situated in actually has an amazing architectural background and was designed by Pabst who was only recognized as a successful architect when he was homeless living in Jobert Park and found by students studying at WITS. The heritage building was even used by the ANC as a hideout ironically across the road from the John Vorster Police Station!


    May 16, 2019 Reply
    • avatar image
      Wow, I didn't know that about the building - how interesting! Wonderful feedback on Jozi's beloved Swallows - it really is an absolute gem. Let's hope it stays around for many more years to come!

      Candice May

      May 27, 2019 Reply