UPDATED FOR 2016!
I’ve just returned from Cape Town, and wanted to share with you my favourite places to eat and drink. Cape Town has many, many excellent places to dine. And for visitors, it can be refreshingly affordable, too. It’s a bit like being in New York or Melbourne, except your wallet isn’t screaming blue murder.
This post is a hand-picked selection of some of my favourite haunts in one of my favourite cities. They’re a mixture of everyday kinds of places, as well as more upmarket spots, should you wish to push the boat out (and what a great place to do it). Obviously there’s loads more great hangouts, but I’ll save those for you to discover for yourselves, hehe. Capetonians, you lucky, lucky things, you…
A spacious brasserie, smack bang on the V&A Waterfront, at the end of the Albert Mall, Mondiall has epic views of Table Mountain and Signal Hill. If you can get a window seat, do, or better still, book a table outside (weather depending). The food is excellent, without being too fussy. The menu includes mains such as Norwegian salmon with mixed greens, butternut risotto, steak tartare and grilled lobster hollandaise. Sides include truffle parmesan fries and olive oil cauliflower mash (which I highly recommend). The wine list is justifiably comprehensive, and represents some of the best in South African viticulture. We spent a very happy (and long) lunchtime there.
Alfred Mall, V&A Waterfront, Tel: +27 21 418-3002, www.mondiall.co.za
Cape Grace Signal restaurant and Bascule bar
The five-star Cape Grace Hotel sits on the V&A Waterfront like a ship pulled in to shore. Its decor is maritime luxe, and the service is exemplary. Downstairs is the Bascule bar, which has something of an old-world feel, with open fire, teak furnishings and more than 500 whiskeys stored in the cellar. It’s a great place for an evening cocktail, come rain or shine (the small outdoor space overlooks the harbour and Table Mountain). If you’re not staying here, I thoroughly recommend a visit, especially for the tasting menu at the hotel’s Signal restaurant. Each month, chef Malika van Reenan concocts a series of dishes that trace Cape Town’s many cultural influences – Malay, French, British, African, Dutch – all of which come paired with wines from one of South Africa’s many award-winning vineyards. When I visited, the wines hailed from just up the road at Eagles’ Nest in Constantia. There are always two menus – one for meat-eaters and one for veggies – so noone feels left out.
Cape Grace, V&A Waterfront, http://www.capegrace.com
Twelve Apostles Hotel & Spa
A short drive along the Atlantic coast, beyond Camps Bay, is the Twelve Apostles Hotel & Spa – a wonderful spot for a cocktail as its Leopard bar terrace overlooks the crashing waves and setting sun, and there’s really not much else around to spoil the view. The Azure restaurant hosts regular wine-pairing nights, where local winemakers bring their best vintages for chef Christo Pretorius to create matching a menu to. Both these experiences come highly recommended, and are very popular, so get there early or book ahead. Also worth mentioning is the fabulous “Tea by the Sea” – a high-tea buffet that happens every day between 10am and 4pm, and costs 245 rands. Sandwiched between the national park and the ocean, the Twelve Apostles is a dramatic location for any occasion, and worth splashing out on, even for just the weekend.
Twelve Apostles, Tel: +27 (0)21 437 9029, www.12apostleshotel.com
This deli-cafe became my go-to salad and sandwich joint whenever I was in Woodstock, but even if you’re not in that neck of the woods, I urge you to make the trip, if only to sample one of the amazing salad plates or the French toast or the feta and aubergine sandwich or the… Ah, I still dream of the food here. It’s fresh, home-made and no-nonsense. Karen Dudley, who runs the place, runs a catering company and writes her own cookbooks, which you can buy here or at the Watershed. The decor is a bit like being at your eccentric grandmother’s house (in a good way), and diners eat at long communal tables against the wall or window, so you might meet interesting folk too. Lunchtime is always very busy, so prepare to queue, though the salads don’t start appearing until around midday. Check out the “salad cam” on the website – you can see exactly what’s fresh out of the kitchen before you make the journey! Genius.
111 Sir Lowry Road, Woodstock, www.lovethekitchen.co.za. Closes at 3.30pm
Skinny Legs & All
A chilled-out “luxury cafe” and haven from Long Street madness. The food here is prepared in a little open kitchen behind the counter for all to see. Breakfast might be stacked French toast with blueberry compote, or a silky cardamom lassi with a piece of homemade pistachio biscotti. Lunch might be panzanella with country-style bread, goat’s milk feta, mint and basil. Or perhaps the “gruel of the day” – a hearty soup served in a big old-fashioned bowl. In fact, everything here is served in rustic crockery – except the coffee, which comes in glass cups – a nice l’il touch.
Mid-afternoon you might pop in for a date scone with jam and anise creme fraîche, a glass of cloudy mint, ginger and lemon juice that could kick a donkey from ten paces, or a slice of dense raw chocolate cake – “your solace for a lonely grey day”. I mean, really you could just move in and never stop eating. That would be the thing to do. I just wish their opening hours (and my legs) were a bit longer. Sigh.
70 Loop St, www.skinnylegsandall.co.za
A favourite with moustachioed hipsters and suits alike, Jason’s is famed for its sandwiches, pastries, pies (mac and cheese, anyone?) and homemade bread. It also does good coffee. Grab a bite to go, or sit curb-side at one of the barrels and watch the locals roll by. A sunny day sweet spot.
185 Bree St, www.jasonbakery.com
Situated bang on the Main Rd in Greenpoint, El Burro is a solid choice for Mexican food in the Mother City, and a great place to hang out on a sunny afternoon, thanks to their upstairs terrace and sea-facing view. Mean frozen margaritas, too.
81 Main Road, Greenpoint, elburro.co.za
What started out as a small organic market in 2006 has now grown into a bohemoth on the Cape Town food scene. Each Saturday, between 9 and 2, the Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock is filled with around 100 traders, farm vendors and artisan merchants selling their locally made and freshly prepared produce to a hungry, trendy crowd. Everyone eats together at long tables dotted with jars of wild flowers, so it’s very sociable, and it’s a great place to make new friends. All the food is top quality, and you can find anything from Lebanese wraps and mind-blowing potato rostis to jars of raw honey and bars of organic sugar-free chocolate. I recommend getting here as early as you can as it gets mighty busy. Oh, and come with an empty stomach. You’ll want to cram in as much as poss.
373 Albert Rd, Woodstock, www.neighbourgoodsmarket.co.za
Chefs’ Warehouse and Canteen
I stumbled upon this happy little haven by pure chance one evening when I was meandering around Bree St and fancied a cup of tea. It’s a little difficult to tell what it is from the outside (probably why I walked past it a few times and didn’t venture in) but one section of the building is a shop selling high-end kitchenware and gadgetry; the other is a small, Asian-style eatery, with long communal tables flanked by shelves of unusual ingredients and cookery books.
The Warehouse – run by celebrated chef Liam Tomlin and his wife – is famed for its ‘tapas for two’, which can be a combination of meat, fish and vegetarian, whichever you fancy. And, boy is it excellent, especially the seared tuna in sesame seeds. But there’s also good deli dishes and a selection of local wines to try.
After lunch, I ordered the lemon posset, as recommended by the lady sitting opposite to me, who told me it was one of those desserts that would have me grinning from ear to ear. She wasn’t wrong. Word of warning: it gets busy, so note the opening hours and get here early. In summer, you can sit outside.
92 Bree St, http://www.chefswarehouse.co.za. Lunch 12pm to 3pm; tapas from 4pm to 8pm (12pm to 2.30pm on Saturdays).
In a creative quarter on Waterkant St, Hemelhuijs blends restaurant and homeware shop. Seasonal produce is whipped up into colourful, tasty dishes, such as salt and sichuan pepper calamari with citrus and ginger mesclun, coriander roasted lamb ribs with plum sauce, and seared tuna tempura rolls with sweet soy, fresh ginger and coriander – all served on unique tableware that’s also for sale on the shelves. The fig tart was light-as-air lovely, and the fresh juices and drinks – ohmeohmy, so darned good! I loved the organic vanilla rum with scooped grenadilla, the fresh naartjie juice, and the freshly pressed ruby grapefruit with vodka. Um – did someone turn me into a loyal, and possibly very tipsy, customer?
71 Waterkant St, http://www.hemelhuijs.co.za
Belmond Mount Nelson
You can’t leave the Mother City without having high tea at the candy-pink Mount Nelson hotel. You just can’t. I know to some that might seem like a strange thing to do, and you might be tempted to dress up and get your little finger all pointy-ready, like what you do in London, but remember this is Africa, so it’s a very relaxed affair. You could probably walk in wearing board shorts and jandals and nobody would flinch.
So once in, you take a table on the terrace, place your tea order with the server (the tea selection is worth coming for alone), then you help yourself from the dazzling array of finger sandwiches, cakes, pastries, quiches and fresh fruit from the buffet. Rinse and repeat.
And it’s a steal at R235 per person, which might seem like a lot when you’re spending rands, but I got my little calculator out and worked out that’s nearly a quarter of the price of afternoon tea at Claridge’s or the Ritz in London. And you get sunshine and palm trees. And a view of Table Mountain. Take that, Knightsbridge.
76 Orange St, www.mountnelson.co.za. Seating times are 1.30 to 3.30pm and 3.30 to 5.30pm. Reservation is advised (though not essential).
Run by the same guys behind the Neighbourgoods Market, Superette is housed in the funky Woodstock Exchange, so you can eat then shop for one-of-a-kind Capetonian nicknacks whilst you’re there. Superette does craft beers on tap, salads and sandwiches, Deluxe and Rosetta coffee, and the best French toast this side of the equator. I love how they close early on Saturdays “so we can all climb back into bed or get to the beach”. That’s Cape Town for ya, right there.
66 Albert Road, Woodstock, www.superette.co.za
A diner and bar, Clarke’s is right up there on the Cape Town hipster scene. It does winning burgers, bargain breakfast specials, fresh oysters, and a mac’n’cheese made with smoked mozzarella. Add to that, Darling beer, highballs and cocktails, and Deluxe coffee, and you’re all set. The outside is another Bree St evening sun trap, which ties in nicely with happy hour. Regular live bands and DJs.
133 Bree Street, www.clarkesdining.co.za
Bombay Bicycle Club
Part of the Madame Zingara group, Bombay Bicycle Club is on an incongruously quiet street in a residential neighbourhood, but inside it’s a riot of fabulousness. And I love it so much it hurts. Hats are placed on the tables for guests to wear, there are swing seats to dine from, 80s tunes pumping from the stereo, random theatrical furniture, and lots of feathers and frippery. I felt like I was at a festival. “Cape Town’s wonderfully wacky bohemian love den” is how it describes itself, and that, I would say, is pretty darned accurate.
158 Kloof St, www.thebombay.co.za
Part cafe, part upmarket clothes shop, part Aesop beauty product outlet, Loading Bay is a trendy little stop-in. I love their fresh juices, which are colour-coded (green, red, gold, orange), and their sweet potato fries. Yum. Just yum.
30 Hudson St, www.loadingbay.co.za
This little place catches the morning sun, does a great breakfast, and is the perfect spot for an afternoon glass of wine. Inspired by his grandmother’s kitchen on a farm in the Eastern Free State, owner Theo van Niekerk has created a small, simple and stylish food shop and eatery. Sit at the open window or, if there’s space, in the little outdoor terrace and enjoy Deluxe coffee, croissants, cheese boards, cured meats and great local vino. And if the open road is calling, order one of their picnic baskets to go, and take your hot lover for a scenic drive out to Chapman’s Peak or up the Lion’s Head to watch the sunset.
3 De Lorentz Street, http://www.tamboerswinkel.co.za
The Test Kitchen
If you’re lucky enough to get a table (they were booked out two months in advance when I was in town), star chef Luke Dale-Roberts’ innovative menu will have you in rapture. I’m told.
Unit 104A, Old Biscuit Mill, 375 Albert road, Woodstock
The Pot Luck Club
Another outpost for the enormously successful chef, Luke Dale-Roberts. On the top floor of the Old Biscuit Mill (take the lift by the ATM queue), the Pot Luck Club has top-notch tapas with a top-notch view. The industrial decor and open-plan eating space makes it particularly good for groups. Singles and couples might enjoy sitting at the counter and watching the chefs. I love how the menu is divided into tastes – bitter, salty, sour, umami, sweet and sweet ending. It makes my mouth water just thinking about it. Everything here is good, but the fish tacos are numero uno.
Top floor, The Silo Building, The Old Biscuit Mill, 375 Albert Road, Woodstock. thepotluckclub.co.za
Giovanni’s is something of an institution in Cape Town – anyone living in Green Point will make a regular stop here. Italian owned and run, it’s a deli-cum-grocery store-cum-florist-cum-coffee bar. I love so many things about this place. The super-efficient and friendly Italian staff (which somehow feels like a treat), the unpretentious atmosphere, the amazing produce they sell in the store, the way the locals breeze in after their morning jog for cappuccinos and pastries or to hang out at the bar with their little dogs while watching a game (there’s always a game on). I love the way you can go up to the deli and order a plate full of whatever you fancy – all fresh and delicious – then sit and chat to whoever is next to you at the counter-top eating area. I love that they don’t serve alcohol (unheard of in SA). But mostly I love it because it reminds me of being in New York, without all the shouting. I warn you now – Giovanni’s is not cheap – but it’s worth it, and I’m very jealous of anyone who lives within jogging distance. So there.
103 Main Road, Green Point. Open every day 7.30 to 9pm.
I tried many, many coffee shops in Cape Town, and while some of them made a perfectly reasonable cappuccino, none did a flat white quite like the boys at Deluxe. Big ups, you boys! They have a small cafe here on Church St or you can find them inside the Dog’s Bollocks in Gardens.
25 Church St, www.deluxecoffeeworks.co.za
The writer flew with South African Airways from London to Johannesburg. For details and pricing, follow flysaa.com