You may have noticed dutchgrub’s silence. We recently spent 10 days in Cape Town – a fantastic city with great sights, warm weather, unbelievably intense colors and a wealth of food options! While I’ll leave the sights for you to discover elsewhere, here is some food advice.
In this first part I’ll write about restaurants in and around Cape Town. Later I’ll add an article about the vineyards around Franschhoek, Paarl and Stellenbosch.
There are many, many restaurants in and around Cape Town and we relied on a combination of research on Chowhound, the TimeOut guide and suggestions by friends who used to live in Cape Town. Making the right choice is not easy – the selection is large and constantly changing with restaurants opening and closing at a dramatic clip.
We were slightly disappointed initially. Two restaurants that were highly recommended – Riboville on Chowhound and Beluga by friends – did not live up to their potential. Both are large, offer an endless but also aimless menu including seafood, sushi, steak, pasta and other dishes, and are very marketing driven with happy hours, 99 rand kilos of prawns and glossy menus and all.
We went to Beluga on our first night. It has great location in an old factory between the Waterfront and de Waterkant. It has a large bar with inventive cocktails and a hip crowd. There was some function and service was atrociously slow – it took more than an hour for us to order. The starters were good – very tender salt-fried calamari and prawns with a fresh lemon, coriander and ginger butter. We had some maki rolls for mains and were disappointed – all had too much rice, little flavor and generally were rather dry. One was even made with fried tuna!
Riboville was similarly disappointing. It’s located on Long Street in the city center in a former bank vault. The building is impressive and the dining room very large. Like Beluga, the menu is a mix different styles – seafood, fusion and also sushi. And service was overly present and unprofessional.
We did enjoy Fork and Shoga, two small and much more food-oriented restaurants in the center of Cape Town. Fork is a tapas restaurant on Long Street. It’s located on the first floor and has a small terrace with a great view over Long Street. It’s quite stylish with bare brick walls and fluffy kitchen towels as napkins. The service at Fork was by far the best of the trip – knowledgeable, attentive and friendly. And we loved the tapas – highly inventive and beautifully presented concoctions such as crispy asparagus and Parmesan rolls or seared salmon with Asian greens and wasabi mayonnaise.
Shoga also has a rugged brick wall look and is located in a somewhat desolate area between Long Street and Bo-Kaap. It’s actually part of a two restaurant setup – with fine dining Ginja on the ground floor. Shoga has a fusion menu from which you order several small dishes to share. We loved their prawn skewers served standing up in a long shot glass filled with a sweet chili and lime dressing. The salt crusted calamari and the springbok cubes were also great.
We had great lunches in the city and in the coastal towns around the bay. Willoughby’s, located smack in the middle of the enormous Waterfront shopping mall has simple but fresh seafood and sushi and draws a mix of shoppers and business types. Quay 4 a little further down by the water is a great place to hang out and watch the crowd while having prawns and white wine. The Royale Eatery on Long Street has a fun 60s decoration and generous burgers. And the Origin Cafe in de Waterkant has good coffee but few snacks.
The best food of the trip was the Olympia Cafe in Kalk Bay – another Chowhound suggestion. Kalk Bay is a small coastal town full of antique shops and art galleries. The Olympia Cafe is located on a corner by the fisherman’s harbor. The cafe started in the 90s as a simple fish and chips joint. Today it has somewhat of a hippie feel and sucks you in with its friendly atmosphere and great smell of fresh food!
There is frantic cooking going on in the open kitchen and there is an incredible smell of fresh cookies and pastry from the associated bakery. We had grilled yellow-tail that literally fell off the bone and pumpkin risotto. The menu was written on a blackboard and everything looked super fresh and well prepared – mussels, line fish, seafood linguine and much more.
Mariner’s Wharf in Hout Bay is another great lunch location in a small fisherman’s town. There is a restaurant upstairs and a fish and chips place downstairs. You pick up your own food in the snack bar style kitchen and sit on one of the wooden benches. It looks like a tourist trap but the food is incredible! Super tender calamari and crispy fries.
As an area for food, drink and fun we liked De Waterkant a lot. It’s a small neighborhood between the Waterfront and Bo-Kaap where a lot of creative types live as well as a large gay community. It’s safe so you can walk around which is not the case everywhere. Andiamo has decent Italian food and a good terrace. The Nose wine bar is just across and we enjoyed a few good glasses on a warm night when the staff did not mind us staying after hours. And Cafe Manhattan is where everybody hangs out for a few beers – loud music, a mostly gay crowd, and cool beers. There are a few more interesting places in the Cape Quarter.
I hope to get around to writing about the fabulous food at Reuben’s, an extensive wine tasting at Fairview and more food and wine around Franschhoek, Paarl and Stellenbosch.