With such a culturally diverse population as is found in the rainbow nation – a place with eleven official languages – you can only imagine that the city might boast a culinary landscape to match; local and wider African cuisine, Cape Malay flavors, and Cape Dutch influence – all that and more combine to form the wealth of our local gastronomy. Take that and add to it the influx of global cosmopolitan trends and you have yourself a food scene rivaled by none. With such an abundance of top-class eateries and mixology bars opening up, it’s sometimes hard to pinpoint the best places to eat and drink in Cape Town. Fortunately, in my golden years of retirement, I love nothing more than showing guests around my fantastic city, and one of the best ways to do that is through the vibrant bars and must eat places in Cape Town! In this colorful and diverse Cape Town food guide I’ve shared just a few of my favourites, including a little something for everyone.
Dinner theatre at Gold Restaurant
There are many places to eat in Cape Town that offer a side of entertainment with your meal, but not like this! Taking dinner and entertainment to exceptional new standards, Gold Restaurant offers an immersive dining experience with beautiful, theatrical storytelling and food that can be considered an “edible map of Africa”, full with all the flavours, spices and culinary heritage of the continent – more specifically the southern tip. Dinner starts at 6:30, kicking off with a 40 minute session of lighthearted, rhythmic drumming where everyone gets involved. This fun and energetic activity is followed by a traditional hand washing ceremony, followed by traditional face painting. After that it’s on to a delicious 14 course meal, rounding off a fantastically vibrant experience. If you enjoy Gold and want more of this, you are sure to enjoy the Rockwell Theatre dinner theatre, in particular a performance called Kaapse Stories, which gives a colorful and lively retelling of the history of the Bo-Kaap and District six, complemented by a traditional SA buffet including locals specialties like waterblommetjie bredie, fragrant curries, snoek and koeksisters.
Taste of Africa
You don’t have to travel across the continent to get a taste of Africa, with so many people from our fellow African countries calling South Africa, and Cape Town in particular, their home. At Addis in Africa you can expect all the richness and colour of Ethiopia's Addis Ababa; a place where the sun shines eternally, resulting in a population with warm smiles and food that is aromatic and tasty. Prepared with all the traditional spices, the freshest ingredients and Ethiopian methods, and of course teff (a staple in Ethiopian food and one of the world's oldest grains) the food here is authentic and delicious. Not far away down Long Street is another excellent institution for Ethiopian cuisine – the exotic Madam Taitou. Full to the rafters with fascinating curios, African artifacts and tropical plants, the restaurant only has eight tables, but when dining in this elaborate tropical setting you will feel like you have the entire place to your party; a cosy, intimate setting great for sharing with friends – which is ideal, because most of the food here is meant to be shared!
Test kitchen + Pot Luck Club
Pot Luck Club is probably the most affordable of chef Luke Dale Roberts culinary offerings, not to say that it’s any less spectacular! The location – high above the gritty Woodstock streets and situated in the trendy setting of the Biscuit Mill – feels straight out of a high-pressure foodie-flick set in New York, but with all the local flavor. For something glitzy and lux, try Shortmarket Club. Brought to you by the same chef, the decor throws a chic new spin on 1920s art deco, with a trendy menu that promises to satisfy a sophisticated palette.
Bombay Bicycle Club
Set in the hilly Tamboerskloof corner of the city, where just about every angle provides a pretty view – be it of the distant ocean and harbour, city lights or the slopes of the pass over to Camps Bay – Bombay Bicycle Club is not your average restaurant. A weird and wonderful indulgence of whimsy, the self professed “bohemian love den at the top of the hill” is the place to go for a night of enchantment. By the same makers of the incredibly popular Madame Zingara, The Bombay Bicycle Club is a colourful, playful portrayal of our history, putting an expressive twist on our eclectic past. It’s not the place to pop in for a quick meal on the go, but rather the sort of venue you settle into for the night, let your hair down and – as the owners warn – certainly plan to miss your bedtime. The menu is a perfect reflection of the restaurant's playful nature – whimsy made edible. Expect to eat the unexpected; strange (but classic) combos like fillet steak with chocolate sauce; a collection of favourites mixed in with ever-changing specials sure to delight.
Willoughby & Co
If you’re looking for where to eat in Cape Town for the best sushi and seafood, look no further. It might be set in the ever-popular V&A waterfront, but walking by this unassuming spot, situated between clothing boutiques and stores, you would never guess that this Irish-pub lookalike is in fact one of the best restaurants in Cape Town, and perhaps even more bizarrely it was voted number one spot in the city for sushi. Willoughby & Co might not look like all that much, but once you settle down to a plate of soft shell crab, or – going all in – a sushi platter, you’ll forget what the word decor even means. Open since 1996, Willoughby & Co has never failed to surprise – unfailingly offering a high standard of food and an authentic Japanese culinary experience.
Not only a place to get some of the most authentic Cape Malay food in the country, but also an interesting way to get a colourful look into local life, head to Bo-Kaap and get walking! Head up (by way of an Uber to save yourself the steep hike) into the pastel painted Bo-Kaap to either kick-off a city stroll down Wale Street, stop to pose for a few snaps by the beautiful little houses, or stay a while and indulge in the local cuisine. There are two exceptionally good places to do those, both nestled in the candy-coloured, cobbled streets; Bismiellah – a fragrant, spicy restaurant – at the top of Wale street and Bo-Kaap Kombuis. Both offer (as most of the neighborhood does) a majestic view of Table Mountain, while thrilling you with a dive into culture, dialect and cuisine as colourful as the ice-cream-hued streets. Bo-Kaap Biesmiellah and Bo-Kaap Kombuis serve up local Cape Malay specialties such as a variety of fragrant curries, bobotie, and interesting sweets like malva and potato pudding.
Whether you go by Constantia Nek, stopping in at the gorgeous, not-to-be-missed wine farms (which you absolutely have to do while in this part of the country) or via the magnificent Chapman’s Peak Drive with views of the peninsula stretched out before you, False Bay is a part of the coastline that offers a plethora of wonderful restaurants and bars. Kalk Bay, in particular, has a lot going for it, and not just where food is concerned. Small boutiques, galleries, and antique stores in a quaint and picturesque coastal village setting, Kalk Bay offers enough to keep visitors busy for hours. And if it’s food or drinks you’re looking for, the little town continues to deliver with an almost disproportionate number of cozy cafeś, novelty eateries (including one set in an old train), and a number of restaurants. The Brass Bell is an old pub and local favorite. In bad weather, you can watch the waves crashing against the nearby tide pool, with sea spray splattering the windows as you munch on delicious seafood. In better weather, and best with a group of friends, Cape to Cuba makes for a vibey hangout, with great cocktails, a laid-back beach bar ambiance, and exquisite Cuban decor. For no-frills, classic fish and chips straight from the sea head to the harbourside Kalky's.
For truly authentic west coast fare and possibly some of the best food in Cape Town for a reasonable price, book a table at the ever-popular (amongst those who know where to find it) Strandloper. Best experienced in a group, this culinary adventure is more than sitting down to order; it’s a food experience that will take you on a food journey several courses long. Set on a pebbled, shell-covered beach in Langebaan, you will sit with your feet in the sand and devour course after rustic course – cooked over the fire or in rough cement ovens right beside you – using a shell as your only utensil. Bring your own cooler of drinks or buy from the beach bar and get ready for the food adventure of a lifetime; from fresh-baked and warm farm bread slathered in butter and jam, to a giant mussel potjie, grilled snoek and lastly moerkoffie (coffee enjoyed in an enamel cup, spiked with a hit of condensed milk) and koeksisters – not to be confused with the coconut covered counterpart koesisters! Between courses you can take walks down the beach, admiring the collection of gorgeous shells littered along the way while making space for the next dish. As far as where to eat in Cape Town goes, it doesn’t get more local and authentic than this, and the drive up the West Coast makes the experience even more special.
Chosen by the UK Telegraph as the world’s best coffee shop, Truth delivers the best there is in coffee with a steampunk twist. Top-hat clad servers and an interior of exposed brass and copper, giant cogs and machine parts, you might even be tempted to dress the part. Stop in for a delicious cuppa on the go, or sit down to savour brews such as Resurrection or Deep, Dark and Twisted. Perhaps plan ahead and indulge in a high tea that is rich and decadent, or head over after 6pm for Truth after dark, as the lavish end to a day of eating in the Mother City – one that promises good company, fine conversation and rich confectionary. Near to some of the best bars in Cape Town, this is the best stop for dessert.
Cape Town CBD is a mixed bag of nightlife, with all sorts of hip lounges, tapas bars and cosmopolitan gastronomy, and as far as drinks go, you have your pick of the best. For upmarket drinks head to the Gin Bar – a trendy gin spot set in magical courtyard, tucked away behind a chocolate shop, offering local gin in anatomically themed cocktails that feature locally foraged botanicals added for flavour. The top floor of Tjing Tjing offers a hip, neon-lit atmosphere and drinks with Asian origins, and if you come hungry you have the pick of the first two floors for sustenance – the first offers out of this world, authentic Japanese food, while the second floor is a swankier, fine-dining affair with top-notch decor and a luxurious feel. For an old-world sport club feel, with lux finishings and yummy drinks, try the Athletic Social Club and when you’re done practising your best upper-class behaviour head to Harringtons Cocktail Lounge to dance the night away!
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