My favourite restaurants in Cape Town in 2018

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.

Beau Constantia: tuna

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.

Beau Constantia: parsley risotto

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!

Beau Constantia: Beef

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!

Beau Constantia: pork belly

The incredible pork belly with a taste of Asia

Chef’s Warehouse at Beau Constantia is at 1043 Constantia Main Road, Glen Alpine, Constantia. 

Thali

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.

Thali: cauliflower

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.

Thali: duck curry

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.

Thali: salsa

Deliciously spicy salsa adds zest to the dishes

Thali is at 3 Park Road, Gardens.

La Parada

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.

La Parada: patatas bravas

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.

La Parada: mushrooms

Earthy mushrooms and perfectly soft egg

La Parada  is at 107 Bree Street. 

Bistro Sixteen82

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.

Sixteen82: mussels

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.

Sixteen82: fish tacos

Delightfully crisp, spiced fish tacos

Bistro Sixteen82 is at Steenberg Vineyards, Steenberg Road

Aubergine

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.

Aubergine: blesbok

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.

Aubergine: Pork

A dish that’s heaven for pork lovers

Aubergine is at 39 Barnet Street, Gardens.

A Tavola

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.

A Tavola: vitello tonata

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.

A Tavola: Tuscan veal stew

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.

Food Barn: Bouillabaisse

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.

Food Barn: lamb

Perfectly pink rack of lamb

The Foodbarn is at Noordhoek Farm Village, Corner Village Lane and Noordhoek Main Road, Noordhoek.

Sundoo

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.

Sundoo: trio of roti

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.

Sundoo: kingklip

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.

Dim Sum

Delightful lamb potstickers served with spicy yogurt

Dim Sum

Chicken wontons with spicy szechuan

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

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!

Our return to Thali: we couldn’t resist

I don’t often blog twice about the same restaurant in the same year and this is the second time I’ve done it this year – we’re heading back to Thali. And it’s no coincidence that it’s two restaurants from the same group.

Chef Liam Tomlin is behind both Thali and the Chef’s Warehouse in Beau Constantia (my other double blog). You can read about my previous lunches at Thali and Beau Constantia times two!

As well as great food, it’s a great concept. A set menu of dishes to share that are served as four courses for a set price. No menu indecision to cope with and no food envy, just loads of delicious flavours to savour.

And I find the food of Thali so inspiring that I think I produced some of my best food pics ever. Enjoy the extravaganza.

What’s on the menu

This crispy spinach bhaji came topped with two spicy sauces. Spinach has never tasted this good (and I love spinach).

Thali: Spinach bhaji

Deep fried spinach bhaji, mint and coriander dressing, date and tamarind

The next course was a delightful mix of vegetarian offerings served with the softest of paratha. The extravaganza of cauliflower was incredible – tandoori cauliflower served with cumin cauliflower puree and cashew and coconut salad. Who knew you should tandoor cauliflower? You really should!

Thali: Dhal, Paratha and cauliflower

The platter also included the wonderfully creamy and satisfying smoked tadka dhal, perfect for a bit of paratha dipping.

Thali: tadka dhal

Close up on the smoked tadka dhal

Thali: Cauliflower

What a delicious cauliflower collection

Tandoori chicken skewers were served with tomato chill jam and cucumber coriander raita. Triple yum. I do love the individual mini tandoor ovens that are delivered to your table.

Thali: Tandoori chicken

Tandoori chicken skewers served in your own mini tandoor oven

Next course was the two fishy plates. The fried fish tacos added a lovely fresh, crispy element and some beautifully zest flavours

Thali: fish tacos

Zesty fried fish tacos

Fresh line fish was served with delectable Cape Malay dressing, a coriander emulsion and saffron pickled onion. Such a fabulous combination of tastes and textures, I could so easily demolish a whole main course of this all by myself.

Thali: Line fish

Delicate line fish with Cape Malay flavors

The final course – and it’s curry time. Mappa duck curry with spiced mango chutney, Phatch Shoran seafood curry, warm buttery naan, perfectly cooked rice and a fragrant tomato salsa.

Thali: Curries

Two of the most delicious curries ever

I tend to avoid duck curries most of the time as it can be a somewhat chewy experience. Tonight’s dish gets my award for best duck curry ever. The flavours were so incredible and I can’t remember ever eating such tender duck.

Thali: duck

The tenderest of duck in a gorgeous sauce

The seafood curry was deliciously creamy with just the right hit of spice. A mix of mussels, prawns and line fish – heaven in a bowl.

Thali: Seafood curry

The delightfully delicious seafood curry

Thali: Rice

Even the rice is delectable at Thali

Thali: chilli jam

The glistening chilli jam

Thali: Raita

A bowl of cooling raita

Thali: salsa

A bowl of vibrant, zesty salsa

Thali is at 3 Park Road, Gardens, Cape Town.

Today’s price point

Tapas for two at Thali is R700 (41 pounds at today’s exchange rate). For two, not each. Really great value as the portions are ample and you won’t get a better Indian meal around here. Seriously.

Tasty Indian cuisine tapas-style at Thali

Thali for two

Today we’re heading up bustling Kloof Street to an exciting new Indian restaurant. It’s the brainchild of Chef Liam Tomlin – who runs the successful Chef’s Warehouse in Bree Street (where I still haven’t been – must remedy that soon) and also recently took over the kitchen at Beau Constantia.

Thali has the same menu concept of Tomlin’s other two restaurants – a set menu of dishes to share that come up in groups, making for four tasty courses. Thali literally means “a set meal at an Indian restaurant” which for me means the joy of no menu indecision and a chance to taste everything the chef wants to offer. The food comes served in small dishes arranged on large round copper platters which look stunning but do make photography tricky (food blogger problems!). However, I’ve done my best to give you a good flavour of what’s in store.

What’s on the menu

So first up we received the Aloo Tikki, a beautifully soft and spicy potato cake served topped with yogurt and a touch of tamarind paste. I love potatoes and I could definitely consume this version of my favourite starch on a regular basis. It’s served with curry salt and spices which you keep on your table for the duration of your meal.

Thali: Aloo tikki

Starting off with a delightful potato dish

Thali: aloo tikki

Close up on the delicately spiced morsels

Our next course consisted of three dishes (dhal, cauliflower and tandoori chicken), a buttery paratha, two dipping sauces and an onion mix.

Thali: second course

Never have vegetables looked so vibrant and tasty

The cauliflower plate was a veggie revelation with Tandoori cauliflower and cumin cauliflower puree served with a cashew and coconut sauce. A genius way to showcase the humble cauli, producing a dish with incredible depths of flavours and a wonderful range of textures.

Thali: cauliflower

Close up on the spiced-up cauliflower

Beautifully flavourful and creamy smoked tadka dhal was served with the softest of buttery paratha. Dipping heaven.

Thali: dhal

A beautiful bowl of glistening dhal

And the tandoori chicken skewers arrived in their own little tandoor, complete with burning coals. Great theatre and these little morsels were so perfectly cooked they melted in the mouth giving a pop of those tasty tandoori flavours. Another wonderful dish that was very difficult to photograph well, but you get the idea.

Thali: tandoori chicken

Happiness is…your own tandoori oven

Time for some fabulous fish

The fish course added a real freshness to the dinner. The fried fish tacos were packed with juicy cubes of kingklip, crunchy fresh veg and chilli.

Thali: fish tacos

Vibrant fishy tacos with a chilly bite

Unusually for an Indian restaurant, a ceviche-style bowl of raw line fish was served with a Cape Malay dressing, coriander emulsion, saffron and pickled onion. Even more fabulous flavours and textures to savour.

Thali: Linefish

Fresh fish with a Cape Malay dressing

Wonderful curries to finish with

Our final tray of delights brought the curry element to our table. Another incredible combo of dishes. Two curries, served with rice and naan – the perfect ending to our Indian extravaganza. The smokey lamb curry was packed with flavour with a silken sauce and wonderfully tender meat.

Thali: curries

A tray of curries to finish with

The Panch Phorand seafood curry was possibly my favourite dish of the night. Wonderful cubes of flaky fish, plump prawns and the freshest of mussels in a rich and spicy sauce. The mussels are so fabulous in Cape Town at the moment. So I’m eating them whenever I have the chance and boy were they great in this curry.

Thali: seafood curry

A masterpiece of spicy seafood

The rice was also spectacular – which I think is a sign of a really great chef. I battle with cooking good rice dishes – wonder if they’d be available to give me some lessons?

Thali: Rice

Rice doesn’t get better than this

Phew! What a great selection of dishes. Portions are substantial at Thali, and there’s quite a lot of heat in the sauces, dips and spices. You can taste the love and care that everything has been prepared with and you can feel the energy emanating from the busy kitchen.

Thali doesn’t take bookings (one of my pet hates) so we got there just before 6.30 to make sure we could nab a table for six. The restaurant was already about three-quarters full and soon filled up completely. While we were having dinner people queued up at the bar and some didn’t even stay, having been told they would have over an hour to wait. This is one popular place! Because of this service may be inconsistent.

The menu tells you to expect a selection of dishes to share which can take up to 90 minutes – it will probably take longer (as it did in our case). But what’s the rush? Arrive prepared to take your time and enjoy the courses as they come and I guarantee you’ll enjoy a wonderful Indian extravaganza.

Thali: kitchen

There’s plenty of activity in the open kitchen

Thali: kitchen

Making sure the platter looks perfect

Today’s price point

And finally, Thali for two is R700 (about £45 at today’s exchange rate).

Thali is at 3 Park Road, Gardens, Cape Town, just off Kloof Street