As South Africa‘s home of haute cuisine, Cape Town offers no shortage of enticing dining options. As a proud local I share five of my favourites – from the finest of dining to the casual and convivial cool – to help you plan your Mother City gourmet adventures.
Pier, V&A Waterfront
The famed La Colombe family has now firmly carved out its space in Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront, offering dining experiences at Waterside (chic casual dining) and Pier (multi-course fine dining). PIER is also fresh off the awards podium, having been awarded 3 Stars in the Eat Out Awards and Chef John winning the coveted Chef of the Year (voted by peers). Expect enthralling tableside entertainment (with at least two different trolleys), culinary theatrics, and then one of the best wine pairings I’ve had: guests are offering either a classic tasting or the iconic tasting with a string of impressive vintages from some of the country’s highest regarded estates.
With Pier’s oceanside location, a large focus is placed on seafood and Chef John Norris-Rogers does not disappoint. If time allows opt for the Chef’s Experience with its tantalizing 13 elements. The oyster, MCC and apple course was exceptionally memorable, and the petit poussin, sweetbread, turnip and truffle mains left us licking out plates. Don’t forget to look out for the annual winter specials available the La Colombe group.
Chef Luke Dale Roberts’ career has certainly been an exciting one – after all, not many chefs can claim to have been at the helm of South Africa’s number-one rated restaurant (for several years in a row) including having been listed on the prestigious World’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards. His newest offering Salon now takes in these valuable years of experience in various countries and in an intimate Gatsbyesque setting offers an unforgettable fine-dining journey around the globe.
Arriving, guests are presented with a map giving a hint of the ensuing culinary odyssey. The choice is then the nine-course Journey or five-course Explorer. Kudos of course to Dale’s Head Development Chef, Carla Schulze who is the tour de force in Salon’s kitchen. And for those wanting a sneak teaser, the Singaporean chilli twist and Beef “Kalbi” from Korea were tantalising treats from the East, and the South African-inspired finale was a wonderfully creamy and caffeinated affair.
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Housed upstairs in an exclusive section of the Hyatt Regency, awaits the chic new restaurant Urchin. The colours of the adjacent Bo Kaap houses are reflected in the vibrancy of Chef Gerard’s van Staden’s dishes. Adding to the intimacy of our visit, was the sultry guitar skills of a local performer – Urchin does offer themed evenings in addition to their a la carte and chef’s menu.
Chef Gerard’s fascination with seafood is evident throughout the menu. And his time in the East is evident with subtle Eastern flavours emerging. While my foodie friend tucked keenly into his seafood plates – the hero dish for me was the signature duck plate with bock choy, soya toffee, and grilled watermelon with crispy rice crackers. Fellow chocolate lovers will also salivate at the flourless chocolate tart with praline, caramelized hazelnuts, berry leather, and cardamon ice cream.
If you were to ask me about some of my most memorable nights out in Cape Town, several of these would include outings to Harrington. From the expertly curated cocktails to hours spent on the dance floor. It’s distinctly paired down, and very local. Of late I’ve relished in the Wednesday evening wine extravaganzas – some of the other local wine estate pairs with the kitchen for a palate-pleasing pairings.
On my most recent visit, the wine offering was courtesy of three young producers that rally together under the title of The Burning Vine Society. Subsequent courses were accompanied by their wines and the stories directly from the winemakers themselves. What’s more these evenings come at the amazingly modest cost of R275pp. Be sure to book in advance since understandably, places disappear quickly – and these are just some of the themed evenings at Harringtons.
Mantra Café, Camps Bay
Along the postcard-perfect stretch of Camps Bay, there is no shortage of glitz and glam. You’ll find a string of chain eateries and trendy model hangouts, but, for something more sincerely homely, Mantra Café is a family-owned restaurant worth visiting.
The space is dripping in luxuriant foliage, hanging from the roof and adorning various tables, giving you the feel that this is a chic restaurant cum horticultural experience. Be sure to book ahead and ask for one of the sunset tables along the balcony (if in doubt simply ask for one of Jared’s favourites). This has been my restaurant of choice with visiting family – and perhaps even a date or two – especially when the pork ribs and chocolate mousse is on offer.