The Tastes of Cape Town
Featured destinations: South Africa
Published 30 March 2016
Having explored the endless offerings of Cape Town as a world-class tourist destination from an insider’s perspective, Dawn Jorgensen from The Incidental Tourist is here to look beyond the obvious attractions to the food and drinks scene, which is undeniably one of the city’s greatest draw.
The stars of the show
Unrivalled as best restaurant in the country since its opening and featured in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, The Test Kitchen under the guidance of Chef Luke Dale-Roberts is not to be missed. Here Luke brings a mix of techniques and influences from his time in London and extensive travels in Asia, blending them with carefully sourced local products. It’s popular, so book well in advance as you won’t forgive yourself missing out on this culinary indulgence that will blow your mind.
Luke’s second restaurant in the same area is the Pot Luck Club, situated on the top of transformed silos; the city views are as impressive as the food.
Chef’s Warehouse in Heritage Square has Chef Liam Tomlin producing quite literally the best tapas in town. Whether it’s a casual lunch or a lingering dinner of multi-layered delights, this is the place for it. Ask about their special for two, it gives plenty of good food at excellent value.
At the V&A Waterfront with views towards the resident private yachts and inviting waterways, is Mondiall Kitchen and Bar, open daily from breakfast through dinner. The New York style interior, outside dining, private mezzanine, long inviting bar and wine list are a great draw card and you can’t really beat the location. The food is beautifully prepared by internationally experienced Executive Chef Riaan Burger who is taking the cuisine to a new level, while remaining true to the successful formula of its signature brasserie-style experience and refined comfort food. You’d do well to match it with wine from the Mulderbsoch Estate.
Set in the Southern Suburbs, is Cellars Hohenort’s The Conservatory. Yes it is true that hotel’s The Greenhouse restaurant is better known for winning awards, but for a relaxed lunch and a walk in the large garden and enchanted forest as well as a visit to the aromatic herb garden, you can’t go wrong with this menu crafted to feature all the favourite dishes of the late doyen Liz McGrath.
For a night of traditional African cuisine, Djembe drums and dancing, you must get to Gold Africa. Don’t dismiss this option. The entire menu is served at the table allowing you to sample dishes that originate in Ghana, Ethiopia, Morocco and our very own Cape Malay kitchens, bringing whole new taste sensation.
Casual Eating in the Heart of the city
I have it on good authority that Weinhaus and Biergar on Bree, which some may have known as &Union, serves one of the best burgers in town. Match it with a craft beer or two whilst sitting outside listening to a local band. You’re also likely to strike-up interesting conversations with the regulars, for which this casual spot has become a second home.
On Darling Street there’s an arcade called The Eastern Food Bazaar where you have the best choice of Asian and Cape Malay cuisine, which is both Halaal and Vegetarian-friendly, although there are many meat dishes. Sit at one of the noisy tables and people watch, or opt for a takeaway. Whichever you prefer, emphasis is on the fresh quality of the dishes. It’s not glamorous, but the street food feel is very appealing.
New Hot spots
Cape Town ever evolves to feed the needs of the residents hungry for new things hip and cool. Just opened is The Village Idiot on Loop Street, with its welcoming fireplace, full size taxidermy ostrich on the bar counter and a collection of real food and every available craft beer. This is the current hot spot that bearded hipsters and their Vespa’s are being drawn to. You can’t go wrong, pop in even if it’s just for a drink.
Bringing even more charm and choice to Bree Street is Bacon on Bree, where well-known charcuterie artist Richard Bosman pays homage to pork, however and when ever you like it served. All is ethically sourced to match his feel good philosophy. You’ll spot the work of a few local Instagrammers on the walls.
Nearby The Culture Club, a cheese bar dedicated to appeasing the needs of cheese aficionados, whether it’s to enjoy there or to take home.
That Caffeine Fix
Where do the locals go? For a coffee, breakfast, some work or just a break? It’s Haas, House of Machines, Olympia Café in Kalk Bay and Jason’s Bakery that seem most popular. Add to that a personal favourite of mine, Tribe Coffee in Woodstock, and you can’t go wrong. Most offer free wifi.
Craft Beer and Cocktails
For a night out with craft beer and cocktails you can’t go wrong with Mother’s Ruin Gin Bar and The Orphanage who fly the flag for fine drinks and cocktails. For a bit more glitz and glamour just off the beach, Cafe Caprice in Camps Bay is the place.
Craft breweries Devil’s Peak brings you fine beer and what are said to be the best burgers in Cape Town.
Those Food Carts
There’s a food revolution underway – and it’s happening on the street! As wonderful as fine dining is, there’s something undeniably exciting and innovative about the food being served out of trailers, carts and vintage vans in and around the city.
Transforming takeaways into an art, street-food traders such as Limoncello, who have kitted out their van with an oven, specialise in Italian pizza, pasta and pastries can be found on Oudekraal Road on most days.
The Lotus Food Truck describe their offerings as fresh and zingy with the braised-beef short rib a hit. Also serving homemade iced tea and incredible Vietnamese coffee.
You may also find dotted around the city, bicycles serving fresh and healthy sandwiches, this is the work of The Baguette Bicycle who is servicing the hungry urbanites who just can’t leave their offices. The made-to-order hot dogs are served on real American-style pretzel rolls and the sausages are still hot when they arrive. If it’s a working trip you’re on and you find yourself hungry, well worth forming a relationship with these guys.
A day in the Winelands
For a day out, always good to go exploring in the Winelands, which offers excellent estates, large and boutique, with various cultivars to keep your taste buds satisfied.
A favourite of mine is definitely Babylonstoren in Franschhoek for wine, a natural garden, gorgeous tea house and beautiful homegrown food. Try the red salad at lunch, watermelon meets tomatoes and peppers and radish - it needs tasting! Excellent wines too.
The Spice Route in Paarl for a collaborative mix of Wine, Charcuterie, Cheese, artisan chocolate, restaurants and even glass blowing. There’s even a biltong bar.
Boschendal Wine Estate in Franschhoek, one of our oldest estates and once owned by Cecil John Rhodes, is now transformed into a welcoming option for wine, accommodation, picnics and traditional dining. But it’s the rich offerings in the deli that will hold your culinary attention.
Make a day of it, booking lunch at one of the restaurants and take time to walk around the village of your choice for some shopping. Franschhoek is probably the best for that …
Every Saturday morning, no matter the weather, you will find the Neighborgoods Market in Albert Road, Woodstock filled to capacity with traders, organic merchants, bakers, grocers, fish mongers, butchers, artisan producers and local chefs. Setting up their wares to trade for the day. There’s a wonderful sense of community about - and delicious things to eat. One of the stalls to look out for is Biltong from the Sea, who serves up tuna biltong. Also find Ma Mére Homemade Confections and stock up on their sweet treats.
Yet more reason to visit Cape Town and for long enough to make it through much of this list.