Last Update 17 January 2018
Every country needs a Cape Town. With its glorious mountain-scapes plunging into the frothing ocean, a beach around every corner and more shopping opportunities than will fit in your suitcase, what more could you need? Well restaurants. And boy does the Mother City have the best of them. In the name of research, Timbuktu has been feasting through the city and declared the following absolute must-eats in this guide to the best restaurants in Cape Town …
Chef’s Warehouse at Beau Constantia, Constantia
If the thought of a set menu reduces you to tears, you haven’t been to Liam Tomlin’s Chef’s Warehouse. The eight-course tapas menu for two is a gastronomic, mouth-poppingly good journey through modern South African cuisine, with a few international twists thrown in too. The original restaurant on Bree Street is laidback and sociable, but the new one, in a glass-walled box high above Beau Constantia’s neatly-trimmed vines, is exceptional. And one last word – save room for the signature lavender and wild honey crème.
Hallelujah, Kloof Nek Road, Tamboerskloof
Fluorescent, flamingo-clad wallpaper and surfboards on the ceiling might not be quite what you’d expect from an Asian street-food eatery but Hallelujah isn’t exactly normal – and it’s totally fabulous. There are only 10 dishes on the menu, and every single one is magic on a plate. Choose from sweet, juicy, coriander-drenched king prawns, spicy pork belly on tantalisingly soft buns, and heavenly lobster rolls. And you can wash it down with a glass of MCC, for the bubbles list is the best this side of the mountain.
Jarryd’s Espresso Bar & Eatery, Main Road, Sea Point
Enter Jarryd’s, and wave goodbye to everything you thought you knew about breakfast. The uber-popular Sea Point cafe has no less than four pages of breakfast, brunch and lunch munchies, and there’s something for everyone (and his wife). On a health kick? Try the rooibos-spiced yoghurt with apple compote. Can’t live without eggs? It’s got to be the chilli, feta and coriander scramble. And if you can’t decide, there’s an entire page dedicated to the build your own breakfast. Oh, and the coffee’s pretty good too.
Thali, Park Road, Gardens
This Indian gem is definitely one of the best restaurants in Cape Town. If you’re looking for a chicken korma and a peshwari naan, then Thali might not be the place to come. But if spiced pork belly samosas with pomegranate raita, or Tandoori cauliflower, coconut and cashew curry tickle your taste buds, then head straight for the Park Road eatery. In true Liam Tomlin-style, everything is served tapas-style for two, and the portions are just right, and the exotic flavours, even better.
SHIO Japanese, Napier Street, De Waterkant
Take a wander through the winding, cobbled streets of De Waterkant, a place that instantly makes you feel like a know-it-all-local, and you’ll find SHIO. The food is urban and elegant Japanese, served tapas-style, and the décor is achingly funky, with aubergine walls, geisha murals, and plenty of tucked-away tables to enjoy your sake at. And the Timbuktu top tip? Order the firecracker crayfish, but leave room for the black sesame ice cream and double thick peanut shake for pud. Top marks.
The Black Sheep, Kloof Street, Gardens (L&D)
Capetonians like to eat out, but they’re very rarely faithful to one restaurant – unless it’s the Black Sheep, a cosy, bistro-style affair on Kloof. Part of the reason might be the ever-changing blackboard menu, with new dishes thought up every day depending on what the chef has is in his kitchen, or the excellent wine list. You never know what you might get, but if the seared tuna makes an appearance, order it now. Afterwards, head upstairs to the chilled-out attic area and sit soft with a digestif.
Lunch & dinner – www.blacksheeprestaurant.co.za, 021 426 2661
Jason’s Bakery, Bree St (B&L)
For some serious waistband-loosening goodies, head to Jason’s Bakery on Bree Street. Doors open at 8am and there’s usually a queue of locals around the corner (always a good sign) but don’t let that put you off – the signature croissant with scrambled eggs and avo is alarmingly good, as are the lunch sandwiches. Sweet treats include the lip-smackingly good ‘doughssant’, somewhere between a croissant and a doughnut, and stuffed with anything from watermelon mousse to mocha cream. If that’s not worth queuing for…
Breakfast & lunch – www.jasonbakery.com, 021 424 5644
Pot Luck Club, Old Biscuit Mill, Woodstock (L&D)
Number two in the Luke Dale-Roberts gastronomic empire (alongside the original Test Kitchen and newer Shortmarket Club), Pot Luck Club heads the ranks as one the best restaurants in Cape Town. Dale-Roberts is a food artist and here, his signature style is on show in the contemporary tapas bites (fish tacos, Chalmar beef and Korean cauliflower to name a few), all served up from the open kitchen. Each one is as good as the last so don’t be shy – order them all and enjoy every mouthful, accompanied by the spangly views of the city from the lofty location at the top of the Old Biscuit Mill.
Lunch & dinner – www.thepotluckclub.co.za, 021 447 0804
Willoughby & Co., V&A Waterfront
Another of Cape Town’s best restaurants, Willoughby’s, has divided the population since the invention of sushi. Serving Japanese-style dishes with a hint of South African-ness, there’s no argument that the sushi is some of the best you’ll ever have (really), especially if you order the 4×4 roll and the chilli-seared tuna. So why the division? It’s in a shopping centre. If you still can’t face your food whilst gazing through the doors of Woolies, try Harbour House outside for the freshest-of-fresh fish, marina views and a little bit of sushi too.
Lunch & dinner – www.willoughbyandco.co.za, 021 418 6115
The Roundhouse, Camps Bay (L&D)
You’ve got two choices here. Don your glad rags in the fine-dining restaurant, housed in the original watch-lodge for Table Mountain and feast on everything from seared trout to ostrich fillet (and wines to match) in the spectacular eight-course tasting menu. Otherwise, settle down at a picnic table on the Rumbullion Lawns and grab a pizza and a bottle of wine as the sun goes down. Either way, the views over glittering Camps Bay and the Twelve Apostles are insanely good and you won’t believe you’re only a few minutes away from the city.
Lunch & dinner – www.theroundhouserestaurant.com, 021 436 4347
Chalk and Cork, Kloof Street, Gardens (L&D)
In a very unassuming building at the bottom of Cape Town’s buzziest street, Kloof Street, Chalk and Cork somehow manages to seamlessly combine authentic Spanish tapas and the best wood-fired pizzas in the city. If in doubt, order both and enjoy them in the outside garden, watching the world go by. The addition of a craft beer or one of the carefully selected South African wines make it even better.
Lunch & dinner – www.chalkandcork.co.za, 021 422 5822
The Stack, 7 Weltevreden, Gardens (L&D)
Undeniably sexy, The Stack is all velvet sofas, offbeat furnishings and quiet, candlelit corners. The menu’s also pretty sexy too with a definite French-bistro touch – think moules mariniere, steak frites and crème brulee served in copper pans – and served with a dollop of good humour. Come early for an elderflower G&T and perch on a stool in the swanky downstairs bar or luxuriate on the outside veranda. Totally unpretentious yet super-luxe and super-chic, this place is always a winner when searching for Cape Town’s best restaurants.
Lunch & dinner – www.thestack.co.za, 021 286 0187
Manna Epicure, Kloof Street, Gardens (B,L&D)
If you’ve worked your way through our list of best restaurants in Cape Town, you might be in need of something a little more chilled. Neighbourhood favourite Manna is just that, hitting the nail on the head with it’s sleek, airy interiors and simple, fresh fare. Open for smashed avo and coconut bread in the mornings, right through to grilled calamari and an ice-cold chenin in the evenings, squeeze this one into your day and you won’t regret it.
Breakfast, lunch & dinner – www.mannaepicure.com, 021 426 2413
Mulberry and Prince, Pepper Street, CBD (D)
Newbies on the Cape Town dining scene have got to try pretty hard to make their presence known and Mulberry & Prince have got it nailed, only a few months after opening. Bringing a taste of New York to a quiet street in the CBD, the interiors are Cape Town through and through with everything from the dusky-pink art on the walls to the hunk-of-slate bar top locally sourced. Food-wise, just go with the flow – ricotta dumplings, stracciatella and octopus tentacles will become your new favourite thing.
Dinner only – www.mulberryandprince.co.za, 021 422 3301
La Colombe, Silvermine Estate, Constantia (L&D)
In a sea of fine-dining restaurants, La Colombe still manages to stand out, not least because of its new accolade as one of the world’s (yes world’s!) Top 100 restaurants. Spectacular with a capital S, it’s all about the tasting menu here and that would be a full 12 courses of French-Asian inspired food-sorcery, including miso-seared scallops and lamb loin with smoked garlic. And to top it all off, the view of the manicured Constantia vineyards and pretty, winding roads makes it feature as one of Cape Town’s best restaurants.
Lunch & dinner – www.lacolombe.co.za, 021 795 0125