Cape Town – a food destination!
As if South Africa wasn’t raking in enough awards for best beaches, most adventure, fabulous climate, best safaris, friendliest people, and a host of other accolades that come directly from travellers’ reports, Conde Nast Travel nominated Cape Town the third best city in the world for food. Wow! We are beaten only by San Sebastián in Spain and Paris in France – we can live with that.
As nice as it is to see this affirmation in print, I’ve known for a long time that Cape Town offers food on par with the best in the world, because all my clients tell me so. I have never heard a complaint from any client, either when eating out with me or at any of the restaurants I recommend. Many of my clients are French so they should know.
Some of our top restaurants are incredibly difficult to book a table at the last minute. Waiting lists are long and prices are sometimes high for the locals but you can still find a good meal at affordable prices, service has greatly improved; fine dining is now the norm and standards are high.
There’s a personal aspect to this for me. When I arrived in South Africa in the 1960s as a young child with my family, my father’s intention was to ‘revolutionise’ cuisine in South Africa. Sadly, Chef Pierre, as my late father was called, didn’t have huge success. He did have a loyal following but it was a small one as the majority of taste buds were parochial, to say the least. The ‘meat and three veg’ habit, still much-loved by some, was the preferred meal of most people. Delicate sauces, herbs and subtle flavours were only appreciated by those who had travelled abroad, and there weren’t many of those.
In those days, South Africans were so isolated from the world that very few had even heard of items such as Chateaubriand or coq au vin. A quiche was not considered proper food and salads were not always served with a dressing. Drinking wine with a meal was not as common as you might imagine in a country with many vineyards, and many of my father’s customers preferred to drink whisky and brandy with their food, much to his horror. The small tasty portions he served were often too little for people accustomed to a plate brimming with meat and vegetables, the latter being served boiled, much salt needed to flavour them!
In those days the handful of good (usually Italian or French) restaurants that were not steakhouses all served the same dishes – the only variance being some minor ingredients and the method of cooking. Menus simply listed names of dishes without any explanation because everyone knew what the dishes were. Today, my father would be astounded at the sight of the wide range of dishes that are sometimes so new and unusual that they require a lengthy explanation and details of each and every ingredient.
And something a chef from the Perigord would simply not believe .. we even have black truffles in the Cape !
So, without further ado, enjoy dining out with our handy list of suggested restaurants in Cape Town and the Winelands. It’s just the tip of the iceberg but it’s enough to keep you happy for a while!
CENTRAL & CITY BOWL
Fork, Loop Street, City Centre – This tapas bar is a firm favourite for lunch on our walking tours, with local venison meat options. We love how they will adapt according to the number of people at the table.
Company’s Garden Restaurant, Company’s Garden – in the heart of the first settlers vegetable garden. Light lunches under the trees, squirrels running around, in the heart of the historic district. Do try the Cape Malay platter – perfect for sharing!
95 Keerom, City Centre – one of the best Italian restaurants in town.
Chef’s Warehouse, Heritage Square, City Centre – Small plates and tapas by Liam Tomlin. No bookings possible.
Africa Café, Heritage Square, City Centre – A taste of Africa in every course. Over a dozen small portions of foods from various African countries. Quirky old house beautifully decorated with recycled objects; music and dancing by the staff.
Macau Asian Tavern, Hout Street, City Centre – Excellent Asian cuisine, atmosphere and service.
Food Lovers’ Warehouse, St Georges Mall/Burg Street, City Centre – where the locals grab lunch. Perfect when walking the city, all tastes catered for, choose what you want and share large tables. Excellent sushi bar at Mall entrance.
Thali, Park Street, Gardens – Liam Tomlin’s Indian inspired tapas and small plates. No bookings possible.
Nelson’s Eye, Hof Street, Gardens – Rated as one of the best places for steak in town.
ATLANTIC SEABOARD & WATERFRONT
Upper Bloem, Green Point – number one spot for fine dining in a relaxed atmosphere that does not break the bank and showcases Cape cuisine at its very best.
La Mouette, Sea Point – big sister to Upper Bloem. Chef Henri creates wonderful innovative cuisine in an old historic home.
Baia, V&A Waterfront – the best seafood restaurant in the Waterfront.
Karibu, V&A Waterfront – perfect venue to taste local venison. There’s an option for a variety of meats in one dish, allowing you to sample several at once.
Food Wharf, V&A Waterfront – when strolling through the Waterfront this is ideal for street food concept, market style. All tastes catered for, large communal tales. Craft beer on tap!
Beluga, Prestwich Street – trendy spot for quality fish, seafood and sushi; only a few minutes’ walk from the V&A Waterfront.
La Colombe, Constantia Nek/Hout Bay – Rated the best rated restaurant in Cape Town. Spoil yourselves with this one but you must book ahead!
Chef’s Warehouse, Beau Constantia Wine Estate – same concept and same chef as the city version but bookings possible. Highly recommended.
Jonkershuis, Groot Constantia Estate – Ideal spot for lunch after a wine tasting; sample local Cape cuisine in historic farmhouse.
Skotnes, Norval Foundation – Perfect for lunch after a museum and sculpture garden visit. Eat on the terrace overlooking the gardens and the mountains.
Tryn, Steenberg Estate – Reincarnation of an old fine-dining favourite. Be sure to learn the story of Tryn herself.
The Foodbarn, Noordhoek – Chef-owner Franck Dangereux’s fabulous fine-dining restaurant in the laid-back ‘village’ of Noordhoek.
La Petite Colombe, Franschhoek – little sister of the Cape Town Colombe; fine dining for refined palates. Prepare to spend a few hours; ideal when overnighting in town.
Protégé, Franschhoek – Tapas and small plates, excellent quality, one of our favourites.
Foliage, Franschhoek – Another firm favourite, innovative, fusion foods.
Spek & Bone, Stellenbosch – Small plates of utter deliciousness! Our favourite lunch spot in the centre of Stellenbosch, also ideal on a warm evening. Owned by Bertus Basson, highest rated winelands chef.
Terroir, Kleine Zalze Wine Estate, Stellenbosch – fine dining with excellent wine selection; a risotto to end all rissottos.
Fat Butcher, Stellenbosch Central – Best steakhouse in town.