Thanks to its enviable location on the southern edge of Africa, Cape Town has become a global culinary hub. The city’s increasingly vibrant gourmet food culture artfully combines flavors and culinary traditions from around the world. For the traveler looking to taste their way through South Africa, there is no better place to start your trip than in Cape Town! The Mother City’s busy culinary scene means that new restaurants, bistros, and cafes open up all of the time, so it can be hard to keep up.
Exploring the Culinary Delights of Cape Town
Travelers looking for authentic African cuisine in Cape Town need to look no further than the Africa Café. This restaurant is the culinary manifestation of “Ubuntu”—guests get their hands washed in rose-scented water by attentive staff before eating and meals are shared with your party as communal feasts. Waiters and waitresses bring guests colorful bowls of hot food such as mango chicken, beef stews, and Xhosa pot bread—delicious flavors from all over Africa. The history of the Africa Café is as exciting as the food: founders Portia and Jason De Smidt opened the cafe’s doors under apartheid, where they faced many barriers in realizing their dream of serving traditional African food in South Africa. Decades later, the restaurant is thriving and is a living celebration of Africa’s diversity and rich history of tastes and aromas.
The Stack takes up the second floor of Cape Town’s Leinster Hall and offers delectable dishes in the French bistro tradition. Housed in an old mansion, the bistro features a plush interior and a cozy and comfortable atmosphere. But it is the hearty French food that keeps people coming back again and again. Staples of French cuisine such as French onion soup and oysters are local favorites, while delectable desserts, including the crème brûlée, offer the perfect end to your meal.
Named one of South Africa’s 500 best restaurants in 2015 and 2017 by EatOut Magazine, Il Leone Mastrantonio is one of Cape Town’s most renowned Italian restaurants. The restaurant is perfectly situated in Cape Town’s Green Point neighborhood, a short 15-minute walk from the iconic Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. Popular dishes at the restaurant include the carpaccio di pesce, made with market-fresh fish, and the pansotti, a delectable dish of artichoke and risotto. Il Leone also has an impressive walk-in wine cellar and a wide selection of South African wines.
The Short Market Club is the latest venture of Luke Dale-Roberts, the renowned executive chef of The Test Kitchen. Set in a beautiful heritage building in downtown Cape Town, The Short Market Club is a stunning and luxurious dining space. The tasteful interior decorating, featuring dark leather and wood, creates an inviting and comfortable atmosphere. The star of the show here, however, is the food. Executive chef Wesley Randles is Luke Dale-Roberts’ protégé, and it shows in the stylish re-interpretations of classic dishes. Try the Za’atar Charred Cauliflower with mashed goats cheese, mint, and lentil dressing. Simply impeccable! The Short Market Club is the perfect restaurant for those in search of the modern tastes of Cape Town.
Ideally situated in the heart of the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, Willoughby & Co. has rightfully earned a reputation for offering some of Cape Town’s best seafood. Sushi, tempura, soups, and salads are the fine dishes that come out of its stellar Japanese kitchen. The amount of variety offered on the sushi menu is impressive. Even the standard California rolls impress with their fresh ingredients and vibrant flavor. Other popular dishes include calamari, sole and fish, and chips. With seafood as fresh and delicious as this, it is little surprise that Willoughby & Co. is a popular stop for locals and tourists alike. Our advice is to arrive early to avoid the lines and to ensure fast service.
One of our favorite restaurants in the Franschhoek Valley is Café BonBon, located on the La Petite Dauphine farm and vineyard. La Petite Dauphine is situated on a historical working fruit farm two kilometers from the village of Franschhoek. The dramatic Franschhoek Mountains form a perfect backdrop to the café setting. The café has been skillfully converted from a 200-year-old wine cellar. Nestled under more majestic oak trees, the terrace offers a glimpse into refined country life with ponds, vineyards, and orchards. Inside Café BonBon terracotta tiles, earthen walls, and exposed wood rafters create a charming country feel. The menu features items such as their much-requested slow-roasted pork belly and delicious freshly-made ravioli. Seasonal changes are made to the offerings with ingredients that showcase the abundant regional produce. The wine list with local wines and a select few vineyards from further afield has been carefully considered.
The Cape Malay Cooking Experience
Learn about Cape Town's cultural diversity on this interactive guided walk through the historical heart of the Bo-Kaap with a mini-shopping safari. The focus is on the Cape Muslim people's heritage, culture, community, and food. The mini-shopping trip stops at a local spice shop and a halaal butcher, offering the opportunity to interact with locals and to discover typical ingredients. The shopkeeper himself, when available, or a knowledgeable guide, will take you behind the counter to taste, smell, and touch your way through typical ingredients. This is a true sensory delight! The highlight is to visit a local family's home and participate in a hands-on, fun-filled cooking session and demonstration before savoring a full traditional lunch! You’ll be involved in making your own meal with the assistance and guidance of the local host. This is the perfect occasion to gain insight into local culture and hear some real-life stories while having fun.