Gùsto! How • What • Where Locals Eat (& Drink) In Cape Town
The best tables near Table Mountain!
Penguins on the beaches, a flat-topped mountain, a place where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet: Cape Town, or as others call it, the “Mother City," is a place where eating and drinking is truly a worldly and unique experience.
Known as the “Rainbow Nation,” South Africa is a diverse country and it shows in the country's cuisine. It involves combinations of ingredients, flavors and methods from Malaysia, Indonesia, India, the Netherlands, indigenous Southern African cultures, Germany, Portugal, France and even the UK. Needless to say, South African food is a truly global mix.
Here are some must-visit Cape Town spots.
Start your day off with breakfast at Sonny and Irene
Many say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and South Africans do not doubt that at all. Sonny and Irene founded a gorgeous restaurant that specializes in unique egg dishes.
South Africa's Inside Guidepraises the restaurant for their tasty dishes, furnishings, vibe and even say that it's "certainly one of the prettiest spots in the neighbourhood".
Here, you choose your style of eggs and then your breakfast. Sonny and Irene have three unique dishes for each style of egg that they make: truffle cream fried eggs, scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and kale, green pea pancakes topped with poached eggs – the list goes on.
If you fancy a sweeter breakfast, fear not! The menu also features French toast, pancakes, pastries, muffins, oatmeal, granola bowls and more.
Eat and drink on the beach at Grand Africa Cafe & Beach
Set on the white sandy beach, the cafe hosts five bars and restaurants, including a Tanqueray gin bar and a sushi restaurant a few feet from the sea – all offering great varieties of food and beverages.
Restaurants.co.za even calls it, "Cape Town’s favourite destination restaurant and venue.".
The bars have a wide range of cocktails, from well-known recipes to local gin creations. The sushi restaurant has an array of customizable platters including vegetarian options. The other dining establishments serve steaks, salads, pizzas, pastas, mussel pots and more. There is truly something for everybody.
Traditional Cape-Malay food at Bo-Kaap Kombuis
Once you’ve seen the gorgeous colorful houses of Bo-Kaap, you might find yourself interested in the culture behind them.
Founded by Bo-Kaap locals Yusuf and Nazli, Bo-Kaap Kombuis is a restaurant serving traditional Cape-Malay cuisine with a view of the iconic Table Mountain. Local favorites include the bobotie (Cape-Malay spiced mince meat dish), Cape-Malay curries and sosaties (traditional Cape-Malay skewers).
The flavors of the dishes are unique to Cape-Malay culture – so much so that Michelin chefs from around the world have visited the restaurant and learned recipes from the chefs.
Dine with the penguins at Boulders Beach Hotel Cafe & Curio
Penguins outside the cafe
Cape Town’s Boulders Beach is a unique, special place, largely because of its large penguin population.
In 1982, penguins formed their first colony in the African continent, and since then, Boulders Beach has become the home to more than 2,000 of them. Boulders Beach Hotel Cafe & Curio is just a few steps away from the iconic beach.
You can enjoy a soft serve ice cream on a sunny day, or choose from a coffee, a flatbread, a bagel and many other snacks and drinks.
The place is highly recommended by South African news website News 24, but they do also recommend that you do not feed the penguins, despite how "cute and cuddly" they look.
Sushi with a view of the mountains at SushiBox Constantia
There is no denying that South Africans love seafood, especially sushi – and where better to enjoy fresh sushi than the coastal city of Cape Town?
There are a few SushiBox locations scattered around Cape Town, yet the one in Constantia has amazing views of Table Mountain and the forests surrounding it. The restaurant is actually situated in a small wine estate villa.
The restaurant allows you to choose from various sushi platters, starting with a 54-piece platter, up to a 400-piece one. There are traditional Japanese sushi items, as well as some with a South African twist, such as their loaded rainbow rolls and bam bam rolls. SushiBox prides itself for only using the most fresh and sustainable ingredients.
Wine tasting at Vergelegen
Wine tasting and pairing with biltong at Vergelegen
Founded in 1700, the classic vineyard and wine estate boasts 263 acres comprising Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Shiraz, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Sémillon. Situated a few miles outside of Cape Town, this vineyard is iconic, and offers dozens of wine tasting and wine pairing options, vineyard tours, picnics, stables, gardens and more.
Vergelegen is one of the largest wine estates in South Africa, and it is also home to Africa’s only Camellia Garden of Excellence, for which it has received numerous awards. You can spend hours wandering the dozens of flower gardens, tour the vineyards, visit the stables – and finally taste some quality wine.
Vergelegen offers a variety of wine tasting and wine pairing experiences. You can find yourself tasting some of South Africa’s best wines, while pairing it with traditional South African cheeses, fruits and biltong (a traditional dried meat).
A remedy cocktail at The Gin Bar
A gin and tonic – or G&T – is probably South Africa’s favorite cocktail. In fact, South Africa is producing more and more gin brands every day. The Gin Bar is a speakeasy located behind a chocolate cafe in a Mediterranean courtyard. During its early years in 2014, you needed a password to enter the bar; now, luckily anyone can enter.
They have over 100 gins on the menu, with over 80 of them from South Africa. Iconic cocktails on their menu include their home remedies, one being “The Heart” remedy cocktail, which they claim cures heartache and helps with all matters of love. The cocktail is made with Inverroche Amber Gin, tonic, rosemary, strawberry, orange and cloves. Other remedies include “The Head,” “The Soul” and more.
If gin is not your top pick for a cocktail, there are numerous wine, beer and sparkling wine options – they have recently created a “Bubbly Bar” section on the menu.
Spotlight dish: Braai
One cannot go to South Africa and not have a braai. One of South Africa’s most iconic dishes and experiences, so much so that the country's national Heritage Day was unofficially renamed Braai Day. A South African braai is not like any other barbecue – it is full of cultural traditions that make it unique and special.
Braais are often planned with groups of friends or family and can take place on the beach or at someone’s home. You need a wood or charcoal fire, a grill, meat – South Africans typically use game meat, lamb, chicken, beef, ostrich, vegan meat and many others – and side dishes, including salads (can be garden, potato, corn and more), garlic bread, pap, grilled corn and sauces.
What makes a braai so special is the food and the company. The smokey wood gives food a distinct flavor as it cooks, and the traditional South African salads and side dishes pair well with each other and the meat. South Africans will refuse to put hot dogs or burger patties on their braai, and would rather cook less-processed meat such as steaks, chops and boerewors.
Braais often take up a whole afternoon or evening, as the meat is cooked slowly, the sides are finished and South Africans share drinks and chat for hours. If you go to a beach in Cape Town, there is a high chance you will see a group of people having a beach braai. People bring their own dishes and drinks to share and enjoy being together for hours.
The Polokwane Observer found that many in South Africa have made a living out of creating braai innovations and parts.
Must-have experience: Safari at Aquila Game Reserve
South Africa is famous for having the “Big Five": the lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant and buffalo – Africa’s largest and most famous animal species. To see these animals, you can enjoy a safari in one of South Africa’s game reserves. Aquila Game Reserve is the closest to Cape Town.
Offering both half- and full-day tours of the park, you can have the chance to see Africa’s beautiful natural landscape and its animals. South African game drives are always memorable. The driver will navigate the reserve without a GPS, and will be able to identify nearly every plant and animal, often just from an animal’s footprints or droppings.
During a game drive you will learn about South Africa’s wildlife, nature and history. You will see many different animals and plants and also enjoy snacks and drinks.
Aquila also has a hotel and lodge in the reserve, if you’d like to live closer to the animals. Yet whether you’re there for half a day, a full day or even a few days, you will come out of the reserve relaxed and with much more knowledge on South Africa’s wildlife and nature.
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