Cape Town Food. That was my first goal when arriving in the city. But I didn’t care for just any food, I wanted to find authentic African cuisine (I never had any before that). That was harder than I thought because Cape Town food is just as multicultural as is the city itself.
Therefore, it comes as no surprise that it has a great mix of all kinds of ethnic food but not so much its own specific cuisine. Never mind, if fusion and foreign dishes were on the menu, who was I to complain? Now, making a decision of where to start was the first obstacle.
I would like to thank the Restaurant of Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel again for having me as a guest. The conversation was just as delectable as was the cake selection! And my opinion is as always my own. I would also like to send out my thanks to the Harbour House for having me and looking after me so with such
While I was pondering the map and pestering the hostel staff with my many questions, I recharged my energy for the day with a traditional porridge. The funny thing was that porridge was actually something I had hoped to find after leaving Japan. Over there even cereals proved a challenge. And here it was a typical thing to consume daily! Yay to met expectations! Having dreamt of porridge, however, didn’t make it special porridge. It was just a normal plain meal. Dang.
Central Eats – Coffee Shops and Havens of Quirk
Now, Bo Kaap so I was told, was a place that would be friendly to my travel budget and most likely offering ‘true’ Cape Town food, or at least African meals. All I could find, however, was a Malay restaurant that looked kinda closed. There wasalso a cafe that was actually closed and several corner stores. Not the best first lunch impression. And after being distracted by all the colourful splendour around me, my hungry stomach pulled me back to the main street.
Along Buitengracht Street there are mostly hotels, some fast food chains and car shops. But just one street down on Bree Street a world of coffee shops and small restaurants opened up to me. And before long I was drawn in by a hipster vibe of simple wooden furniture, small bouquets of summer flowers and pretty wall tattoos. I’m a sucker for those. A little bit further ahead around Greenmarket Square you can find typical South African staple dishes Boerewors, pap and samp. Must tries!
My first order came in a worrying green colour in a long cocktail class and nuts sprinkled on top. It was an apple, parsley and celery concoction that intrigued through its random and healthy appeal. It didn’t disappoint. Next up was a cauliflower nut soup and my tummy was filled as it had not been for a long time. (You should know that the only thing that really disappoints with Japanese food is that it never leaves you full. Ever. Maybe that is why I had to eat so much. Or because it was so good and I had to try it all.) all.)
Cape Town Food in the Bar and Youth Scene
If you are less a coffee person than a bar hopper there is a street just a two minute walk down. Its name is Kloof and Long Street (it changes names halfway). Here you can find colourful pubs, laid back bars, eateries and all kinds of fashion and style shops. But Cape Town food and drink is what we are looking for and those we can find here plenty. Milkshakes are very popular and I gave the peanut butter shake a go and absolutely loved it! Too bad it was on my last day otherwise I would have had many more.
Where there are bars and pubs, the scene is crawling with party people and “youngsters”. In fact, you won’t be surprised to find out that here most of the backpackers are situated and conveniently so as everything is super close and just a short walk away. So if you want a good night out and mingle with fellow travellers and local Capetonians, this is a good bet.
The further you walk towards the harbour front the less the density of restaurants, so walk the other way and enjoy a selection of self-made burgers, (a staple dish here) Italian and Portuguese cuisine. Funnily enough I had a Mozambique curry in a Portuguese restaurant. Cape Town and its history is truly a cultural blend. And if you feel like cooking for yourself or getting super cheap sweets, check out the Checkers supermarket. My personal favourites are the choc merengue and choc cake slice.
Tea Ceremony Extraordinaire – Hotel Dining with History
My resolution was cemented when on another day I found myself entering a pretty pink Colonial Hotel that simply oozed charm and if that wasn’t enough, the display of cakes, sweets and fruits was the best invitation there could be. The Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel was just behind were I stayed but worlds apart! No need to mention the white wicker chairs and orchids next to the generous tables. Oh, and the garden view with a fountain!
Seeing the tiered stand with teeny tiny finger sandwiches, little local treats and crisp savoury pastry, I knew I would stay for a while. A long while. And then the tea came. I had several rounds of local African roiboos, different roobois mixes and just pure awesomeness. My waiter knew all about the right teas going best with the different desserts and I completely put my foodie fate in his hands.
But that was not it. Chocolate cake pops, coconut ice, pecan slices, herzoggies, creamy pies… and the best thing was I didn’t have to choose! I just decked my plates, slowly devoured it all and came back. And back again. While my tastebuds were having a party, my stomach was having an internal struggle. Bravely, I tasted on, managed to stick around a while before I could no longer cover up that I was headed towards a serious food coma. Miraculously, I made it back to my bed and passed out in happy foodie bliss. I regret nothing.
Fine Dining with an Ocean View
The Cape Town food that is most popular, apart from Cape Malay food, is sea food. Freshly caught and deliciously cooked up, you can feast on prawns, crayfish and yellowtail, among many others. And so I felt it my duty to single out one amazing restaurant that serves up these treats. There are may different locations to choose from, such as the V&A Harbourfront, Camps Bay or Kalk Bay, to name just the top three. Did you know that the Harbourfront is the most visited tourist place in Africa?
If you want to dine out in the finest restaurants with a spectacular view of the harbour and a big plate of local seafood in front of you, then reserve a seat at the Harbour House, which you can find in both the V&A and Kalk Bay. It is seriously fancy with a crackling fireplace, pretty white tables and chairs and a waiting staff that takes great care of its customers.
But if that might put you off a little, remember that you are in Cape Town, which means no one (at least not the Capetonians) dresses up in an overly posh way. Come as you are and enjoy as you please. And if you settle for a nice fish, I can definitely recommend the yellowtail (which was a day special) and came in a creamy sauce with cube veggies and a grapefruit slice on the side. I thought this combination was odd but it fit perfectly. To make your restaurant visit complete, have a seafood salad as an entrée and the chocolate cake as a dessert.
Cape Town Food at V&A Markets and Restaurants
Not one to just sit back and relax with a tummy full of Cape Town food, I walked all the way down to the harbour. Where I chose the wrong path. Twice. Fortunately for me both paths ended up in the right places but were incredibly boring and scented with the metallic odour of car fumes. Yum. (My tip is to choose the middle path at the roundabout, consult your map and/or follow the signs.)
At least at the V&A waterfront, the air was all fresh and breezy with the occasional whiff of fish, which is just what a harbour ought to have. But it being more of an upper style site in Cape Town, the most prominent smells were that of freshly baked bread, delicious pasta and other palate-hugging foods. Strolling along restaurants and cafes, I was torn as I had already lunched.
And when I entered the V&A food market, all was over. And my mental list of things to eat rolled out imaginarily along the floor as seen in Alice in Wonderland films. Jep, I had to come back. And so I did and immediately jumped at the skewers with ostrich, crocodile, eland and zebra meat. I liked ostrich the best, the other meats weren’t much my thing.
Market Time is Happy Tummy Time
I have already told you about the V&A market but that is just the tip of the ice berg for Cape Town food. Cape Town is blessed with many fresh dishes and delicatessen markets all around the area! You can attend some of them on weekdays, such as the Old Biscuit Mill but the foodie stalls you will find on the weekends and that is exactly when you want to be here. The place itself is amazing, an old factory turned into a stage for locally made goods and fashion and these are best to be discovered with one of the many dishes that are being served. From souvlakis over paninis and crepes to salads, vegetarians and meat lovers alike will rejoice.
Another market which I like even more but is further away is the Hout Bay Market. You need to visit it on weekends as well. Otherwise, you will only find souvenir stalls along the water front (and these are the same goods you find everywhere else). The market here is similar to the V&A Craft Market but so much more edgy and cooler. You can get big oil paintings, soaps, souvenirs and so much more! Just a stroll through here is worth you time but when you get to the eating parlour you will know it has been worth it. Try the cheese stick and tarts as well!
But maybe you are more of a veggie and self-cook kinda type. No worries, the fresh food market has got all the local produce you need when it comes to Cape Town food. Just check the location as it recently has wandered from the Gardens to the Harbour front but might change its location yet again. To be honest, I have not made it to this market but it has received high praises and therefore I have included it. Let me know If you go and check it out how you liked it!
Good to know
And that is the basic overview of where you will find the most delectable Cape Town food. There are so many awesome places and I highly recommend downloading the Tripadvisor app. With ite you can see all the restaurants listed and can even access it offline! Just know that the location displayed is often far from accurate.
Tell me: Did you expect Cape Town to be such a foodie haven?
This article on Cape Town food has also appeared on Traveldudes.