Peninsular touring and seafood at Live Bait

Cape Town is frequently ranked one of the most beautiful cities in the world in those never-ending Best of… lists that pop up everywhere. I’ve spent a lot of time here – I know, lucky me – and it’s pretty much impossible to beat, there’s so much going for it. .

It’s scenically stunning and diverse with myriad beautiful beaches, the ever-present majesty of Table Mountain, forests, mountain trails and gardens and some of the most stunning drives you’ll ever experience. It has a warmth to its soul, a great energy and welcoming people. There are hundreds of fabulous restaurants which are great value – and of course there’s all that wine that has to be sampled.

I was recently reminded that African penguins live here (I didn’t mention the wildlife yet, did I?) so the purpose of today’s outing was to say hi them at Boulder’s Beach in Simon’s Town. I think I’ve been suffering from penguin withdrawal!

Our journey took us from Sea Point to the other side of the peninsular. It’s a magnificent drive through Camp’s Bay, past Llandudno and over Chapman’s Peak. The road clings precariously to the mountainside –  an amazing feat of engineering – and the sea shimmers down below.

Live Bait: Chapman's Peak Drive

Chapman’s Peak Drive, one of the most stunning drives ever

Once you start your descent Noordhoek Beach appears on your right. It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve seen it, and even though I know it’s coming, the view elicits an involuntary gasp. And I always wonder who lives in that house! What a view they must have.

Once you’ve crossed over the peninsular it’s a slow meander through sleepy seaside towns to penguin-land on Boulder Beach. Hello little penguins! I felt instantly happier on seeing them.

Live Bait: Penguins

African penguins lap up the warmth of the sun

Penguin fix sorted we headed back towards Cape Town Central following the coast road until we got to Muizenberg. Famous for its beautiful beach and warm Indian Ocean (the other side of the peninsular sits on the Atlantic and is decidedly chilly), Muizenberg is considered the birthplace of surfing in South Africa. There’s a big surfing community here all centred around Surfer’s Corner. Which is where we’re headed – for a spot of beach-side lunch at Live Bait.

Live Bait is right in the middle of all the action with a long glass front looking out over the sea. It’s a beautifully blue view and there’s plenty of surf-related action to observe. Inside it has a rustic beach house feel which so perfectly matches the surrounding seaside vibe. There’s a lot of fish on the menu and a great selection of sushi which is freshly made in front of you.

Our delectable light lunch today started with a portion of Thai fish cakes to share. Shaped more like fish balls, they were lovely and light with well-balanced Thai flavours and a nice crunch.

Live Bait: Fish cakes

Soft and flavourful fish cakes with Asian flavours

For mains we shared a portion of tempura prawns – and a very generous one it was, too. Served with crispy fries, the prawns were perfectly cooked in the light batter and served with a dipping mayo. We asked for some chilli and mixed it into the mayo, making for a delightful spicy hit.

Live Bait: tempura prawns

The large pan of juicy tempura prawns

Live Bait: Prawn tempura

Close up on the delicious prawn crunch

There’s a relaxed vibe at Live Bait, it’s the sort of place I could see myself spending many an hour drinking wine, feeling fine and absorbing some of that Muizenberg chilled-out surfing attitude.

Live Bait: Interior

Beautiful blues and whites inside and out

Live Bait: Beach house

There’s a beach house feel throughout

This is your sea view. Which goes on  much further on both the left and right of this picture.

Live Bait: Muizenberg beach

Looking out at beautiful Muizenberg beach

While Muizenberg is great for swimming and surfing, it’s also home to Great White Sharks (more wildlife)! The area is well monitored though with shark spotters on high and at the beach who seem to know where the sharks are. I’ve been on the beach when the shark siren goes and it is a bit of a scary experience if any of your party happen to be in the sea. That Jaws music creeps into your subconscious! There are experts on hand to tell you about these powerful creatures and there’s plenty of shark-related advice posted all over the place (in several languages). Like how to be shark smart – do remember not to swim at night or if bleeding! The presence of the Great Whites certainly adds to the Muizenberg adventure.

Live Bait: Sharks

Beware of the sharks!

Oh and before I go, here I am with my latest penguin friends.

I can’t imagine there’s another journey more filled with beautiful views, lovely food and exotic wildlife. What joy – Cape Town I love you!

Live Bait: Boulders Beach

Me visiting the African penguins on Boulders Beach

Today’s price point

Starters range from R45-R85 (£2.70-£5.10)

Main courses range from R99 to R225 (£6.00-£13.60)

White wine starts from R125 (£7.50) a bottle and red wine from R130 (£7.85)

All conversions are at the today’s exchange rate.

Live Bait is at 70 Beach Road, Muizenberg

Chef’s Warehouse in Beau Constantia

Tapas for 2 at Chef’s Warehouse, Beau Constantia 

I’m back! Finally! Apologies for deserting Eating Covent Garden for so long – I have been travelling the world, like really travelling the world! Since my last post in December I have spent time on four continents (two for the first time) and I have so much to share with you all. So watch this space.

I’m starting with my latest restaurant discovery in the stunning Constantia winelands in Cape Town. Yes, I’m back in Cape Town, hooray, and straight into one of the country’s top restaurants.

Chef’s Warehouse at Beau Constantia opened a couple of years back and was voted the fourth best restaurant in South Africa in the Eat Out Mercedes Benz Restaurant Awards 2017. There are myriad great restaurants in this foodie country so that’s quite an accolade for such a youngster.

It sits at the top of the Constantia Valley with views over vines and forests towards the ocean. This makes the parking lot seem a little perilous, particularly for the vertiginous – make sure you’re steady on those heels if you’re thinking of wearing them. The restaurant is a modern, glass-sided construction which certainly makes the most of the views.

What’s on the menu

As soon as we were seated with a glass of their lovely Pas De Nom MCC bubbles (the perfect way to start any lunch), my dreaded menu indecision loomed large! Until I spotted the magic words Tapas for 2. No choices to be made here, it’s eight dishes to share. Makes life easy.

Dishes arrive in groups of two or three in three batches – I guess you could call it three courses. We started with a triple-plate sensation. The coal-seared tuna came with warm black bean and walnut salsa and a fresh apple and ginger relish, on a plate with a visually confusing foam design. There is no foam with this dish – it’s the plate!

Beau Constantia: tuna

Coal-seared tuna served with crunchy black bean and walnut salsa

My favourite of the first trio was the line fish sashimi. A beautiful curry-based concoction with the freshest of yellowtail, Cape Malay pickle, bbq garlic emulsion and fried batter. Seems like the perfect mix of flavours and textures.

Beau Constantia: sashimi

Fresh line fish sashimi with spicy flavours

The Vietnamese BBQ beef came with herbs, toasted rice and a zesty Vietnamese dressing. Love those fresh, clean flavours and the herby crunch.

Beau Constantia: Vietnamese beef

Rare, herby Vietnamese-style beef

After a short break the next duo was delivered. Described as Beau tomato bruschetta, smoked, pickled and grilled, a bowl of tomatoes done three different ways was topped with garlicky, thin slices of toasted bruschetta. I love a tomato – pretty much any tomato – and these were in a league of their own.

Beau Constantia: tomato

A tomato extravaganza in a cup

And then the ultimately indulgent dish. Parmesan and smoked butter risotto with red onion bordelais and fried Swiss chard, all topped with a delicately creamy, cleverly crafted gouda flower. I love the creaminess and softness of a good risotto but always balk at eating a full portion – it’s just a bit rich and filling for me. What joy to share a small portion of this deliciousness between two. And never has gouda tasted so good. Needless to say we both wished for a bigger portion once we’d cleaned the pan. Probably the nicest risotto I’ve ever tasted.

Beau Constantia: risotto

Luscious parmesan and smoked butter risotto

The final tasty trio

So how could it get any better? Well, there were still another trio of masterpieces to come. The slow roasted pork belly was served with  an apricot and miso tart, cashew nut milk and garlic and thyme oil. The tastiest of pork that fell apart at the touch of a fork and was topped with the crispiest of crackling matched wonderfully with the creamy cashew nut milk (there’s a first for me). And the light and crumbly miso tart, topped with firm, tart cooked apricots was the ideal accompaniment.

Beau Constantia: Pork belly

Delightful pork belly with flavours of apricots, miso and cashew

Firm, flaky hake came with a delicate yet intense parmesan and anchovy puree and was topped with paprika and lemon cream. The dainty fried polenta cubes, salty capers and crunchy spring onion completed another masterful dish.

Beau Constantia: Hake

Lemony hake teamed with parmesan, polenta, paprika and anchovy puree

And finally it was time for some lovely lamb. The adobo rubbed, slow-cooked rib came with red onion, heirloom tomato pickle, burnt butter and mixed pepper jus. Tender richness to savour.

Beau Constantia: lamb

Adobo rubbed slow-cooked lamb rib

I’ve fallen in love with Beau Constantia. How can you not with a view like this? And all that great food – light, fresh and cleverly balanced – and all looking so beautiful – like the greens and blues of the outlook across the valley.

Today’s price point

Tapas for 2 comes in at R700 (about £41 at today’s exchange rate).

That’s for both of you, not each.

A bottle of their delicious Rose was R180 (just over £10 at today’s exchange rate).

Find out more at beauconstantia.com

South China Dim Sum Bar – Cape Town’s dumpling heaven

How I love a dim sum feast. Consequently I was totally delighted when friends recommended the South China Dim Sum Bar. It’s right at the top of Cape Town’s Long Street (close to the Mountain).

Long Street is a mix of bars, coffee bars, souvenir shops and random other shops, youth hostels and book shops. As a result it’s a busy, interesting road, also known for its attractive Victorian buildings with their wrought iron balconies.

First of all we popped in at The Dubliner for a quick pint (they serve Kilkenny Irish ale on tap). My Irish roots appreciate that it seems like there’s an Irish welcome in a bar everywhere in the world.  A refreshing beer and time to head for some much needed Dim Sum treats.

South China Dim Sum Bar is an understated sort of establishment. It’s a long, narrow room and you sit at small tables on crates or stools – not unlike a lot of the places we experienced recently in Vietnam. The place was buzzing with activity when we arrived and we got the last available table.

There’s a good selection of dim sum as well as a soup and salad option. Must go back to try out their Thai papaya salad – one of my all-time favourites. Today we decided to go for a sampling of the dim sum – gotta get the full picture after all.

Dumplings are served up on paper plates (there’s no frills here), piping hot and obviously freshly made. The chicken wontons came with a spicy Szechuan dressing. And you’re also given a little bowl of soya, hoisin and chilli sauces for extra dipping.

South China Dim Sum Bar

Chicken wonton with spicy Szechaun sauce

My favourites of our order were the beef and lamb potstickers. I love their crunchy outside and they were packed with flavoursome meat.

South China Dim Sum Bar

Beef potstickers with black vinegar

The Har Gow were beautifully soft and packed with fresh prawns, while the Sui Mai offered a delightfully rich combination of pork and shiitake mushroom.

South China Dim Sum Bar

Delightful prawn and pork parcels

South China Dim Sum Bar

The trio of dipping sauces

South China Dim Sum Bar

Lamb potstickers with spicy yogurt

Service is friendly and quick and there’s a great atmosphere as people demolish large quantities of some of the best dim sum I’ve ever experienced. In addition, it’s all really great value.

I spotted the cocktail list too late – they all sounded very enticing therefore I will have to have one on my next visit.

Because I’m telling you there will definitely be another time. And soon.

South China Dim Sum Bar

Enjoy an exotic cocktail with your dim sum

South China Dim Sum Bar

The entrance to dumpling heaven

South China Dim Sum Bar

The menu is chalked up on the blackboard

South China Dim Sum Bar

You can watch the activity in the open kitchen

South China Dum Sum Bar

The lovely blue view opposite the restaurant

Today’s price point

And finally…lunch for two (five dim sum dishes and a bottle of wine) cost us R289 which is £18 at today’s exchange rate.

South China Dim Sum Bar is at 289 Long Street, Cape Town