Where to eat in Cape Town
I’m fortunate to be able to spend time in beautiful Cape Town every year. There I take up the challenge of keeping up with the ever-growing and changing restaurant scene. There’s a lot of good food to be had in the Mother City and for someone from London it’s mainly amazing value.
A good starting point for the somewhat mind-boggling task of choosing where to eat is to resort to a list. One of the most well-known is the Eat Out Mercedes-Benz Restaurant Awards – and this is a list bound to cause plenty of discussion (like any ratings list). I strongly disagree with two of the restaurants listed in their top-10. I’ve eaten at both and absolutely wouldn’t go back. My feeling is one shouldn’t be there at all and the other should be ranked lower. But hey, food is an incredibly subjective thing and everyone’s looking for something different.
I couldn’t resist coming up with my own list…which I’m calling My favourite restaurants in Cape Town. And it’s based on my experiences of eating there in 2018. The restaurants are certainly not all gourmet, exclusive or expensive, but are places I find myself returning to regularly and enjoying fabulous dishes every time. They’re in no particular order as where I’d go also depends on my mood and what sort of food I feel like…I’m saying is these are all good, so try them all – if you can.
Chef’s Warehouse at Beau Constantia
Chef’s Warehouse is the brainchild of genius chef Liam Tomlin, his original eatery sits on Cape Town’s buzzy Bree Street. Set at the top of the Constantia Valley with stunning views over vineyards and forests to the sea, this fabulous addition to the city’s restaurantland offers a range of amazing dishes in their Tapas for Two.
There are no difficult menu decisions to make here – you get everything to share. Eight dishes altogether which are served in groups of two or three in three batches – so kind of like three courses.
The menu changes regularly dependent on ingredients available and every dish is incredible, well, every mouthful is incredible. The great local ingredients are used to prepare truly international dishes. And everything looks so beautiful too. The kind of restaurant I dream about going back to as often as possible.
The cold seared tuna was served on Moroccan-spiced aubergine with fresh milk curd and toasted cashews.
The fabulous seared tuna with Moroccan flavours
The risottos at Beau Constantia are possibly the best I’ve ever had. This vibrant green creation is parsley risotto made with smoked bone marrow, salted lemon and pecan nut salsa and a red wine reduction. So good you’re seriously tempted to lick the dish.
Vibrant parsley risotto with great depth of flavour
The Vietnamese BBQ beef came with herbs, toasted rice and a zesty Vietnamese dressing. Having recently visited Vietnam I can tell you the flavours of the country were captured perfectly in this dish. See what I mean about the international creations!
Vietnamese BBQ beef with the freshest of flavours
And this could be the pork belly dish of the year…it’s a staple on most Cape Town menus..today’s offering stood out as some spectacular belly! Slow roasted and served with an apricot and miso tart, cashew nut milk and garlic and thyme oil. Wow! Chef’s Warehouse at Beau Constantia rocks!
The incredible pork belly with a taste of Asia
Chef’s Warehouse at Beau Constantia is at 1043 Constantia Main Road, Glen Alpine, Constantia.
Liam Tomlin is also behind Thali. In fact these two new restaurants opened within two days of each other. No pressure, then.
Thali operates on the same Tapas for Two principle – but this time the flavours are all Indian. As Indian food is one of our favourites, we were always going to like Thali…but we really loved it! Platters of exotic concoctions arrive one after the other and tantalise your taste buds. There’s a good hit of spice, lots of lovely condiments (I do love a condiment) and so many cleverly conceived dishes.
The delicious tandoori cauliflower was served with cumin cauliflower puree (yum, yum), and a cashew and coconut salad. The tray also came with creamy dhal, soft fresh bread and a range of condiments.
The tastiest of cauliflower dishes a variety of sauces
The Mappa duck curry with spiced mango chutney was nothing short of sublime. Melt-in-the-mouth duck (do you know how difficult that is to create) and the silkiest of spicy sauce.
The luscious duck curry in a silkily rich sauce
The attention to detail makes for a superb combination of flavours and textures and there are plenty of bowls of delight, including this fabulous spiced tomato salsa.
Deliciously spicy salsa adds zest to the dishes
Thali is at 3 Park Road, Gardens.
From India to Spain on Bree Street (there are now three La Parada’s but this is the one where my heart lies!). La Parada is probably my favourite lunchtime spot in Cape Town. Plates of tapas and a bottle of chilled rose on the pavement is my idea of heaven. I adore Spanish food, and it’s very authentic here.
Their patatas bravas, which is dusted with paprika to add a touch of spice, may be our favourite in the world. May have to try out a few more plates before I write that in stone, though.
Crispy and soft patatas bravas dusted with paprika
The chef has captured the perfection of Spanish dishes, using great ingredients to create simple plates of food that are mouthwateringly yum. Like this one – garlic mushrooms, poached egg, truffle oil, parmesan and toasted bread – pretty standard fare but when put together you can’t believe the deliciousness. I can’t stop myself from ordering this every time I go to La Parada. Their croquetas are also amazing.
Earthy mushrooms and perfectly soft egg
La Parada is at 107 Bree Street.
Back into the winelands to Steenberg Golf Estate and Vineyards and Bistro Sixteen82 where chef Kerry Kilpin has been serving up tasty bistro-style dishes and tapas using fresh, seasonal ingredients. Kerry has a passion for Asian food which is reflected in many of the menu’s offerings.
Like this fabulous bowl of West Coast mussels in their spiced, aromatic broth.
Plump and juicy mussels Asian style
Tapas is served from 5pm to 8pm, perfect for an early light dinner. I loved the pickled fish tacos – crispy with lovely Malay flavours, a great fusion of South Africa and Mexico.
Delightfully crisp, spiced fish tacos
Bistro Sixteen82 is at Steenberg Vineyards, Steenberg Road
Aubergine is a true doyen of Cape Town’s restaurantland (can a restaurant be a doyen?? Anyway you get my meaning). It’s owned by German chef Harald Bresselschmidt and opened in 1996. Set in a beautiful, historic building with plenty of nooks and crannies, there’s a cosy courtyard with views of majestic Table Mountain and always an incredibly warm welcome. The menu is extensive and the dishes are very creative with a strong South African influence.
The pretty-as-a-picture blesbok medallions came with tortellini, walnut foam and black trumpet dust. A blesbok is a type of antelope so you get the classic richness and depths of flavour of a venison dish combined with the freshness of the accompaniments.
An exotic plate of beautiful blesbok
As well as the standard menu there’s always a special three-course one, too, you have to be on top decision-making form. I chose from this one on my last visit and had this spectacular pork dish – pork in three textures combining belly, pickled loin, black pudding and fried polenta.
A dish that’s heaven for pork lovers
Aubergine is at 39 Barnet Street, Gardens.
A Tavola is on the other side of the mountain in Cape Town’s southern suburbs. It’s in a somewhat underwhelming setting opposite a hospital alongside an office block and library, but don’t let that put you off. Consistently serving up fabulous Italian dishes, the establishment is loved by locals who keep it constantly busy.
The specials menu changes regularly which often causes disappointment if your favourite isn’t on there, though of course it does motivate you to try something different. There’s tasty antipasti, a marvellous pasta selection, great seafood, steaks and so much more.
I’m always delighted when the veal tonnata is on the menu. One of my all-time favourite dishes, it’s a weird-sounding combination of thinly sliced rare veal served with a tuna sauce topped with capers. Doesn’t sound great but I really can’t tell you how splendid it tastes.
Creamy vitello tonata, one of my all-time favourites
The Tuscan veal stew, served with fresh tagliatelle, is another specials favourite. The rich aromas reach your nose before the dish – which is the ultimate in satisfying Italian cuisine. And their zucchini fritti are quite simply heavenly.
Tuscan veal stew to dream about
A Tavola is at Library Square, Wilderness Road, Claremont.
The Food Barn
This chilled out, friendly restaurant with extraordinary food has been here ever since I started visiting the fairest Cape of them all. Chef Franck Dangereux has created a little piece of heaven in sleepy Noordhoek where you can have a wonderful fine dining experience without any formality or pomposity. His food is always delightful, indeed the whole day is delightful, as we start by taking the road over magnificent Chapman’s Peak to get there. There aren’t many drives like this in the world and arriving is just as exciting as you know you’re in for a feast.
Great local ingredients are again brought to the fore like in this beautifully rich bouillabaisse packed with mussels and line fish.
The tastiest of bouillabaisse packed with fresh seafood
Frank is also famous for his beautiful prawn dish, lovely local fish, innovative salads and perfectly cooked rack of lamb.
Perfectly pink rack of lamb
The Foodbarn is at Noordhoek Farm Village, Corner Village Lane and Noordhoek Main Road, Noordhoek.
Now we’re heading to the Atlantic Seaboard, where I spend a lot of time in the buzz that is Sea Point. There’s a great vibe in this cosmopolitan part of the city and plenty of places to soak it up. Just down the road from our apartment is Sundoo. A fabulous Indian tapas bar where you can absorb the action in one of Sea Point’s main roads and get your spice fix. It’s the baby of renowned chef Seelan Sundoo whose roots are in Kerala – known as “The Land of Spices”. (Note: I am heading to Kerala later this year! How exciting is that?)
Every time it’s a trio of lamb rotis to start us off. Delightful buttery mini breads are topped with a wonderfully tender and tasty lamb curry that creates what’s like a party on your palate.
Little bundles of spice and deliciousness
There are a range of small dishes to share which are all wonderful. And there’s also a selection of curries which you can choose in small (starter size) or large (main course size) portions. Now that’s a good idea. We love the Pondicherry kingklip which is served in a fresh tomato, garlic, spring onion, coriander and tamarind sauce. Kingklip is a local white fish with a beautiful sweetness and the perfect texture for a curry concoction.
Sweet tasty fish in a richly rounded sauce
Sundoo is at 77 Regent Road, Sea Point.
South China Dim Sum Bar
I love a dim sum or two and this unpretentious (well, basic) little restaurant in Long Street in the heart of the City Bowl serves up some of the best I’ve ever had. You sit on crates and eat off paper plates and it’s one of the nicest lunches you’ll have. All dim sum are freshly made and they are amazing value.
Delightful lamb potstickers served with spicy yogurt
Chicken wontons with spicy szechuan
So there you have it, my favourite eating places with some mouth-watering pictures.
And finally, here’s some more…
La Perla – a Sea Point legend overlooking the promenade and the sea that serves great pasta dishes, amazing veal and carpaccio. A great place to people watch and inhale that wonderful Sea Point feeling.
Osteria Tarantino – tiny family-fun Italian on the slopes of the De Waterkant. Amazing fresh pasta dishes and the friendliest of welcomes.
Duchess of Wisbeach – you can’t beat the Duchess for a fun night among Sea Point’s glitterati. Try their truffled macaroni cheese or deconstructed prawn cocktail and party on until late.
The Greenhouse – fabulous fine dining under the guidance of Peter Tempelhoff in a stunning setting at the Cellars-Hohenort Hotel in Constantia.
Harbour House, Kalk Bay – designed in stunning beach-house style of blues and whites it’s right on the ocean and serves the tastiest of seafood and fish.
Reuben’s in The One and Only – an elegant, special-occasion sort of place in a fabulous hotel with friendly service and creative dishes with distinct South African flavours.
Bihari – another Indian favourite, this time in the Southern Suburbs offering a range of great traditional dishes and the freshest of buttery naan.
Tao Yuang – this Chinese restaurant on Beach Road in Sea Point does the most amazing sizzling kingklip and fabulous special fried rice. It’s perfect for an early dinner in their little garden.
Do you have a favourite restaurant in Cape Town that I’ve missed? I’d love to hear about it (and try it, naturally!) so do get in touch and let me know. Or do you strongly disagree with some of my choices…I’m up for a discussion any time!