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
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.
Lunch & dinner – www.beauconstantia.com, 021 422 0128
Jarryd’s Espresso Bar & Eatery
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.
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.
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
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
Bree Street, CBD
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
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.
Willoughby & Co.
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 original watch-lodge for Table Mountain, the Roundhouse is a Cape Town institution and it’s just been given a new lease of life by another of the city’s institutions – chef Luke Dale-Roberts of Pot Luck Club and Test Kitchen fame. Expect a menu that pushes all the boundaries (lamb leg tartare with mulberry and hazelnut pesto, anyone?), insanely cool décor thanks to the talents of local street artists, and not a hint of snobbery. Oh, and did we mention the views? Think glittering vistas of Camps Bay at night, and the Twelve Apostles and Indian Ocean during the day – you’ll hardly believe you’re only a few minutes away from the city.
Lunch & dinner – www.salsify.co.za, 021 010 6444
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
Kloof Street, Gardens
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
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
Silvermine Estate, Constantia
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
Belly of the beast
Harrington Street, East Precinct
You know you’re in for a real treat when you arrive at a restaurant and are greeted personally by the chefs-cum-owners – and that’s exactly what happens at Cape Town’s first crowdfunded restaurant, the Belly of the Beast. Located in the trendier-than-thou Eastern Precinct, the space seats only 20 and the taster-style menu changes daily according to what Anouchka and Neil can beg, borrow, forage and steal (and probably buy) – think meltingly-soft lamb ravioli, crispy warthog, and South African Kabeljou with the creamiest of asparagus risottos. Dessert is worthy of a tight waistband the next morning and we’ve heard rumours that there’s usually a second ‘secret’ sweet treat in store, just when you think it’s all over.
Lunch & dinner – www.bellyofthebeast.co.za, 021 461 0335
From the chef behind the world-famous La Colombe restaurant (and now La Petite Colombe), Foxcroft is all dazzling dishes, gastronomic genius and quite simply, really, really good food. The set menu is two tapas dishes, a main course and a dessert, and whilst the choices for each are small, it’s damn hard to choose between them. Ingredients are fresh and hearty (artichoke, local cheeses, wild garlic – you get the gist) and the flavours are expertly balanced to match the seasons. As for the restaurant itself, it’s a delightfully laidback affair considering the pure excellence of the cooking so whether you’re in hiking attire, an evening dress, or simply jeans and a jumper, there’s no excuse not to visit.
Lunch and dinner – www.foxcroft.co.za, 021 202 3304