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Cape Town for Foodies: Where to Eat in Cape Town
In Cape Town there are couriers that deliver lunchtime oysters to your house or office. This is how seriously Capetonians take their food. The city is surrounded by Winelands and is home to an eclectic mix of people, with each group adding something to the fusion of tastes that is Cape Town. Food culture here is a potion with ingredients including African staples such as bobotie and bunny chow, Cape Malay dishes from the city’s Asian heritage, and a healthy mix of seafood and Mediterranean tapas. Complimenting such flavors is an amazing drinks scene. Alongside the institution that is South African wine, craft beer and gin are taking over the city. Oh, and the coffee is as strong and delicious as anywhere.
It should come as no surprise that Cape Town was chosen as Conde Nast’s best city for food in 2016, nor that it has grown exponentially as a tourist destination in recent years. The Cape is certainly a great place to book a table and tuck in.
The best food scene is found in the City Bowl, often centered around the hip Bree Street and busy Long Street. Like any good day, those in the Mother City always begin with a good cup of coffee. Kamili on the corner of Long Street and Shortmarket is perfect for strong coffee to go, while Bree Street is full of breakfast hangouts, often centered around bacon, cheese, pastries and artisanal bread; Capetonian bakeries take huge pride in their sourdough, and rightly so – it’s delicious.
Jason Bakery, 185 Bree Street
Perennially buzzing, Jason is the place to go for breakfast, brunch, and lunch, serving croissants and artisanal bread stuffed with fillings from Parma ham and buffalo mozzarella to pulled pork shoulder. Bread is also available to takeaway and food to go can be ordered from the serving hatch. Look out for daily specials such as slow roasted short rib, caramelized red onion, and gorgonzola sausage rolls.
Culture Club Cheese and Bacon on Bree, 215 and 217 Bree Street
Under the same ownership, these neighbors are passionate about organic, well-sourced, and tasty food. Self-styled ‘baconporium’, Bacon on Bree, unsurprisingly centers much of its menu around bacon. Combining it with everything from chorizo and Mexican beans to halloumi to salmon trout creates a unique and varied breakfast and sandwich menu.
In addition to a plethora of grilled cheese options, Culture Club Cheese whips up a diverse breakfast menu, including granola, avocado on toast, and the indulgent French toast with bacon, banana, berry reduction, and maple syrup.
Clarke’s Bar and Dining Room, 133 Bree Street
A relaxed open-all-day kind of joint, Clarke’s is home of the 15 Rand (just over $1) oyster; order as few or as many as you desire. Clarke’s starts the day with a very Capetonian menu of granola, croissants, and cooked breakfasts. Moving through a lunchtime of salads and sandwiches, it reaches a small but tasty dinner menu including four cheese mac and cheese and the best burger in town, cooked to taste, my personal choice. The drinks list comprises a comprehensive selection of South African wine and local craft beers.
Chef’s Warehouse and Canteen, 92 Bree Street
If there’s one place to go in Cape Town, it’s Chef’s Warehouse. Dinner here is not just about the food, but the experience. Chef’s Warehouse is only open between Noon – 2:30 pm and 4:30 – 8 pm, is closed on Saturday evenings and Sundays, and doesn’t do reservations. But bear with me. The menu is a set eight-course tapas extravaganza for two; the menu changes daily, meaning that customers arrive not knowing what they’ll be treated to. As such, I can only comment on the menu from my visit. It encompassed a wide variety of influences, from Mediterranean to Vietnamese to British, and I found dishes that I wouldn’t usually order, mind-blowing. Particularly good were the brisket and saffron risotto, the tuna tartare and the deep fried squid. It is, however, the combination of flavors, the ingenuity and the overall experience that makes Chef’s Warehouse sublime.
Biesmiellah, 2 Wale Street and Pentz Street
Located in colorful Bo Kaap, Biesmiellah offers excellent Cape Malay cuisine, an Asian-infused part of Cape Town’s culinary heritage. Enjoy samosas, tandoori kebabs, and curries with views of Table Mountain towering above the area’s famous pastel-painted houses.
Masala Dosa, 167 Long Street
Another Asian side of Cape Town’s food culture, delicious and authentic south Indian food is to be found at Masala Dosa on lively Long Street. This curry house specializes in dosas, large, crispy folded pancake-type creations, combined with a selection of curries and chutneys. Check the specials board outside and look out for paneer dishes.
Neighbourgoods Market, Woodstock
The Neighbourgoods Market is located in the old biscuit mill in newly hip Woodstock, a previously rundown but now bohemian area. Particularly busy on Saturdays, many Capetonians head to the market to pick from gourmet burgers, flatbread pizzas, steak rolls and a host of other delights. Browse the stalls before taking a seat on the long rows of benches or outside on the faux-grass lawns. The craft beer flows and crisp white wines go down easily in the sunshine.
Market on the Wharf, V&A Waterfront
Alright, so the waterfront is touristy. It’s where the ferry to Robben Island departs from and it sees its share of street performers, but it also has the Market on the Wharf, a warehouse filled with stands packing a variety of wares. Some are outposts of restaurants from around the city, while others are smaller vendors; the food ranges from Tunisian flatbreads to biltong (air-dried meat, a South African staple) and there’s plenty to graze from.
Mother’s Ruin, 219 Bree Street
Although not an eatery, Mother’s Ruin Gin Bar gets an honorable mention for presenting such a vast, diverse and incredible array of gins. Located on Bree Street, alongside Culture Club Cheese and Bacon on Bree, Mother’s Ruin is the pinnacle of gin bars. Its menu comprises over 140 kinds of gin from around the globe, including numerous craft gins produced in Cape Town. Despite working at a frenzied pace, the barmen espouse cocktail knowledge and flawless recommendations and can match your gin choice with the perfect tonic and garnish.
Best of the ‘Burbs
Although much of the best fare is found in the city bowl, the suburbs and surrounding areas have plenty to offer, from fish and chips overlooking the ocean to steak and pinotage in the Winelands.
If you’re heading down to False Bay, in Cape Town’s southern suburbs, fish and chips by Kalk Bay harbor should definitely be on the agenda.
Kalky’s, Kalk Bay Harbour
Kalky’s is a legendary spit-and-sawdust chippy. Hake is the staple fish, but others such as kingklip and calamari are also available and food can be eaten outside overlooking rows of colorful fishing boats. Watch out for the pesky seagulls, who enjoy the chips as much as the customers.
Lucky Fish and Chips, 157 Main Road, Kalk Bay
Lucky have three branches around the Cape Peninsula and serve perfect seaside chippy food, including excellent fried calamari, served in large and affordable portions. For more upmarket options, including sushi, try Live Bait next door.
The Fat Butcher, 1 Van Riebeeck Street, Stellenbosch
With all the red wine flowing, it goes without saying that a decent steak is a must whilst in Stellenbosch. The Fat Butcher offers a variety of cuts, including some huge hunks of meat, complimented by sides such as the fantastic Parmesan mash. Although the wine list is extensive the restaurant, like many others in South Africa, allows customers to bring their own and doesn’t charge corkage.
Brampton Wine Studio, 11 Church Street, Stellenbosch
A cellar door outlet on central Church Street, the wine at Brampton’s is both tasty and cheap. Really cheap. The food menu comprises easy going flatbreads and wraps and the atmosphere is fun and casual, making this an ideal place to eat and drink away an afternoon.
Franschhoek Wine Tram
Around Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, there are dozens of wineries to choose from. The best offer great wine and food in beautiful surroundings. To browse what’s available and get suitably merry, board the Franschhoek Wine Tram, which allows riders to hop on and off at a series of vineyards around the town of Franschhoek for wine tastings and food. With so much delicious wine flowing, it’s really best not to be driving.
Whatever your palette and budget, Cape Town is a place of pilgrimage for foodies, with a diverse concoction of delights available around every corner. There is so much to do around town, it’s possible to spend a long time in the Mother City, enjoying everything it has to offer. Just make sure to bring an appetite.