The Best Dining in South Africa

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The Western Cape’s reputation for wine is undiminished – but now its cooking has caught up, with young chefs savouring exotic homegrown ingredients and looking to their own traditions rather than to Europe.

img_7646When it comes to eating opportunities, you don’t get much hotter than Bree Street’s central reaches. It’s overtaken Camps Bay, Long Street and even Kloof Street as Cape Town’s coolest strip. Taking a walk along Bree St, now the hippest place to find restaurant talent, I’m excited to see that its packed, shoulder-to-shoulder with exciting new eateries – some gritty, others chic, most gregarious, a few refined, plus a few wild ones thrown into the mix.

  • No 14: I Love My Laundry is a unique concept offering laundry, dry cleaning, dyeing, alterations and ironing services, as well as serving JOGA JOGA Brazilian coffee and sweet treats.img_7661
  • Dapper Coffee Co. – Corner of Bree and Strand Street: Dapper Coffee Co opened alongside a luxury sports car showroom, Club9. Together they offer a space where classic car enthusiasts and city dwellers can roll in for coffee, enjoy a laid-back lunch, have their wheels polished and possibly even purchase a Porsche on their way out.
  • No 92: Chefs Warehouse has an exciting tapas menu and shelves groaning with food products, cooking paraphernalia and recipe books. The tapas of the day could be anything from tuna tataki with microgreens to superlative risotto or slow-braised beef short-rib.

img_7662No 103 (upstairs) Inside & You’re Out (IYO) is an award-winning burger joint. Their smoky cheese-stuffed patties, accompanied with Southern-style sauces and cheesecake often have the place buzzing. Their ice cream burgers are out of this world; no mere mortal could have created a thing of such beauty.

  • No 105: Burger & Lobster has a trendy, boutique-style upmarket vibe. Try their lobster roll – served on fresh warmly toasted New England style brioche, with firm, juicy crayfish tails and Japanese mayo. It comes with great skinny fries and a generous salad on the side
  • No 107: La Parada is always pumping. You can sneak in for a lunch but you might be hard-pressed to find a seat at sundown. Order tapas dishes like calamari and croquettes and sip your craft beer as you admire the décor and beautiful crowd.
  • img_7706No 114: Charango Grill & Bar is a definite foodie destination and is pulling the crowds with a tapas menu dedicated to Peruvian-Japanese fusion. The menu is designed for sharing and is served as finger food, in small piqueos dishes.
  • No 120: Easy Tiger is packed with attitude, Steve McQueen photos and country music. The small space with its wraparound counter doesn’t seem cramped and the communal seating inside is a nice touch. Their flamed-grilled burger patties, dark glossy brioche buns and melty yellow cheese gives other burger joint along this street a run for their money.
  • No 120: Max Bagels. This tiny New York-style bagel bar offers a handful of classic fillings like salt beef brisket, pickle and mustard. Everything comes with cream cheese as standard.

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No 127: Mink & Trout is an on-trend seasonal bistro serving a well-balanced menu. The Karoo lamb bredie is outstanding. The interiors are a luxurious blue-grey hue with olive green, the fabrics are soft, leather and raw-hide, the furniture retro design with mirror surfaces and custom-made chandeliers. The space oozes class and sophistication with rich textured upholstered seating and details of rose-gold. The Cape Dutch building stays true to its roots with old oak flooring and exposed and worn brick walls.

  • img_7697No 130: Issi – Stop by for a cup of special Isabella blend coffee, great breakfasts with free-range eggs, freshly made sandwiches and their popular salted butter caramel New York-style cheesecake – the absolute Viagra of cheesecake. They regularly host photo and art exhibitions.
  • 152: Arcade is inspired by the likes of Schillers Liquor Bar in New York and Dandelyan Bar in London and serves cafe-style food like chicken or steak pregos rolls, plus pizzas, burgers and salads.
  • No 160: Café Frank serves fresh, fuss-free food in a sleek canteen-style setting. Be sure to order a wedge of milktart – it’s so large it has its own gravitational pull.
  • No 185: Jason always has a small crowd outside the hatch waiting for their fix of coffee and pastry. King of decadence, Jason serves doughnuts filled with Nutella that oozes out from the side, peanut-butter-and-bacon croissants, and pies loaded with crayfish and mac ‘n cheese.
  • img_7666No 217: Bacon on Bree is a bar dedicated to all things pork by charcuterie king Richard Bosman who keeps the crowds happy with bacon-and-brie croissants; baguettes topped with roasted tomato and French toast BLTs with parmigiana and mustard mayo.
  • No 219:Mother’s Ruin Gin Bar has an impressive array of local and imported gins and tonic waters (there’s one with cinnamon!)

One thing all these eateries have in common is using ethical produce. All the focus is on local, ‘short-travelled’ food, community farming and rising early to harvest produce. The collective inventiveness and highly nutritious cuisine is created exclusively with locally cultivated ingredients, showing the world that eating and being ethical is easy and super tasty.

img_8072Bespoke coffee:

The first place to sample Cape Town’s bean scene is pioneering Truth Coffee, a glorious roaster and steampunk style café, with vintage machines, exposed pipework and quirkily-costumed staff. Coffee evangelist, David Donde, launched TRUTH Headquarters on 36 Buitenkant Street, which is great news for the many followers of the thriving coffee cult, and means that more uninitiated souls have an opportunity to experience the best coffee in Africa.

An Island Lunch:

img_7897Central to the Mother City’s buzzing entertainment is the One & Only Hotel, situated at the centre of Cape Town’s fashionable Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, with its wide array of shopping experiences. The main hotel block is centred on a huge atrium-like space that encompasses a plush lounge-bar with floor-to-ceiling glass to make the most of the Table Mountain views. Beyond the wall of glass and over a bridge is a lushly landscaped private island – and the beautifully secluded Isola Restaurant which is ideal for an elegant pool-side lunch of Saldanha Mussels and beef oxtail. An expert sommelier is on hand to help select the perfect wine.

Exclusive Accommodations:

img_7916Clifton, an exclusive residential area of Cape Town and home to some of the most expensive real estate on the continent, has a seaside hideaway that’s a closely guarded secret by those in the know – Cape View, a quiet, intimate property. It’s contemporary colonial styling is cocooned between the magnificent Twelve Apostle mountain and the south Atlantic Ocean. All five deluxe suites, and two fully equipped two- and three-bedroom family suites are spacious and sea-facing – each with a private balcony. They’re individually styled in soothing shades of white and pebble grey or soft teal and pistachio. Breakfast here is sumptuous and is a near family affair with a global mix of travelers enjoying the leisurely boutique guest-house vibe.

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About the author: Cindy-Lou Dale

Cindy-Lou Dale is a freelance writer who originates from a small farming community in Southern Africa, which possibly contributed to her adventurous spirit and led her to become an internationally acclaimed photojournalist. Her career has moved her around the world but currently she lives in a picture postcard village in England, surrounded by rolling green hills and ancient parish churches. Her work is featured in numerous international magazines, including TIME and National Geographic.

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