A lot of out-of-town friends ask me what I reckon they (or their visiting friends) should do during their short stay in Cape Town. So I thought I would publish my usual email I send out with restaurant, shopping and experiences recommendations. You’re welcome.
NOTE: This list will be updated and published monthly, as more establishments come to mind.
Hey, thanks for the email – good to hear from you.
Obviously my mate’s place Café Caprice in Camps Bay is a must for cocktails, fast cars and beautiful people. If you don’t have a fast car or if you’re not beautiful, it’s great for people watching. The burgers are awesome – try the ‘Dreamy Burger’ – it’s called that for a reason. Sunday night (yes, Sunday night) is easily the best fun you will ever have. I used to build pyramids of double-vodka-Red-Bulls on Sunday night in my 20s. Now I just settle for shots of Don Julio or the ‘2oceansvibe’ cocktail – which will knock your socks off anyway. Caprice breakfasts are also pretty awesome. Get there before 10am if you go on a weekend. Try the Madame Caprice breakfast.
Other restaurants – try Charango on Bree street for good quality chow. And my buddy’s restaurant Hallelujah in Tamboerskloof – it’s a killer for reassuringly expensive sliders and sophisticated colonial cocktails. You must have the crayfish roll (mental mental mental). It’s two doors down from his other place, The Power And The Glory – Cape Town’s premier hipster cafe restaurant and bar. But don’t feel threatened – it’s awesome. They serve a killer hot dog.
Try my friend’s establishment, Hudsons for burgers (there’s one on Kloof street and one in Green Point). You can’t book at the one on Kloof, but you can book at the Green Point one. If you like some kick, try the ‘Wise Guy’ burger.
Speaking of Green Point, Mano’s is an institution. Much like their website, the restaurant is minimalistic, with focus on an unchanging menu which serves healthy portions at solid prices. You can book for lunch, but not dinner. So get there early (say 7pm) for dinner or definitely book for lunch. Very much a who’s-who of Cape Town’s movers and shakers and biz players. I usually take table 21 at the top. Alon prefers the door.
For sightseeing – hmmm – I reckon get a chopper from the V&A Waterfront and do a 20-40 minute flip. Cape Town is nuts from the air. Use Sport Helicopters, they have trips over Robben Island and also the Atlantic Seaboard. Definitely do Atlantic Seaboard as a minimum – or you can tick off a few boxes by nailing Robben Island from the air, then Cape Point and back. Then you don’t have to go by foot to Robben Island. I know that means you’ll be missing out on the real deal, but all I’ve ever heard are bad reports about Robben Island visits. The experience, as well as the admin buying tickets and getting there and back by ferry.
The V&A Waterfront – Cape Town’s premier shopping mall – is getting better and better (they still don’t have a hardware store) with a new Hamleys toy store and H&M (2nd biggest in the world). They have millions of shops – I go there for Zara, Puma, Sunglass Hut, Nespresso (the only Nespresso in CT it seems (WTF?)), biltong (J&M biltong), Jo Malone.
Oh and also Willoughbys – best sushi in Cape Town. The manager has a severe top-knot. You can order the best fresh fish to take home from the back of the shop.
Definitely do Table Mountain (tickets online here) and then maybe also go to Kalk Bay (in the ‘Deep South) for antique shops and great seafood. Try Live Bait restaurant out there. Harbour House is also quite special.
Essential is a buffet breakfast in the Oasis bistro at the Mount Nelson. If you stay there, you’ll get loungers at the pool and I’d advise you order some club sandwiches and a bucket of beers or wine. The pool area is just the most epic place to chill with radical gardens all around – you feel like you’re in Europe. A Tanqueray and tonic works very nicely here. Also highly recommend ‘High Tea’ at the Mount Nelson. Book well in advance. Add ‘Lady’ or ‘Lord’ to your name to get a booking in the next few weeks.
If you’re looking for pies – say at 1 in the morning when you’re ravenous – nothing beats Corner Bakery pies – which can usually be found at Engen garages. The beauty of Engen garages (like the one in Gardens) is they’re open 24 hours a day. I must say I am partial to their cornish pasty. And there’s nothing liek a sausage roll when driving – you can eat that bad boy with one hand, easy!
There are so many coffee bars in Cape Town, I wouldn’t know where to start. vida e caffè is the original – which you will find dotted around town. Then my mate’s place ‘Hard Pressed Café‘ is quite cool – bottom of Bree Street. Vinyl records playing with a non-hipster crowd.
Saturday mornings at the Neighbourgoods Market in Woodstock at the Old Biscuit Mill is great. It’s like your farmers markets in the States, but also very much a social event. Craft beers, food etc. Go early or take a Vespa or an Uber – you’ll never find parking otherwise.
Also at the Old Biscuit Mill is my buddy Luke Dale-Roberts’ two famous restaurants – the Test Kitchen (book many months before – seriously) and Pot Luck Club (book a number of weeks before). They and Luke constantly win global awards and the Test Kitchen is in the top 20 restaurants in the world rankings. I dig the Pot Luck Club – it really is epic and set on the top of a silo with a glass lift. Very New York, with matching prices too! They do an incredible Sunday brunch there with make-your-own bloody marys. Hell yes! People moan about two things at Pot Luck Club – the prices and the ‘arrogant’ staff. These are people who just don’t get it – ignore them.
Another Atlantic Seaboard mainstay is La Perla in Sea Point. Good seafood if you get your timing right. Reporting on your experience at La Perla is a local sport. The who’s-who of Cape Town Jewish royalty/mafia will look upon you with disdain is you dare book ‘their’ table – but they will spend their lives swearing never to return after a bad experience (food comes out too slow or too fast or waiters don’t give a stuff etc.), but then they always go back to ‘test it’ now and then. One of Cape town’s only restaurants with ‘career’ waiters. All Indian and very often multiple generations of the same family. La Perla also has a great bar area – awesome for cigar smoking.
Shopping I don’t know where to start – look around Kloof Street and Loop Street I guess (or the V&A Waterfront). If you get ahead of yourself, this might be your moment to take home world famous Malawi Cane furniture. Those guys import chairs cheaply direct from Malawi. Their ‘Traditional Chair‘ sells for over $400 in New York. Get one for a LOT less!
If you or your friend is a girl, make sure you’re swanning around in this season’s most fabulous kaftans. Café du Cap will drop off wherever you’re staying and you can order online.
Quaglino’s in Mouille Point is awesome for sunset bar and restaurant vibes. The ‘Smokey Seth’ cocktail is bacon infused! The owners are friends of mine and are famous for their string of restaurant successes, including the recently closed (landlord issues) Caveau. The all new Quaglino’s restaurant is spearheading the ‘bar-dining’ trend. They also own Sotano down the road – epic chill spot with Mediterranean styled menu plus clear view of the Mouille Point Lighthouse and Atlantic beyond.
If you are keep on exploring the winelands, definitely head to Franchhoek – it’s too beautiful for words – you’ll think you’re in Provence. You should check out Babylonstoren – also on your way to Franchhoek. It’s owned by Karen Roos, the wife of SA’s biggest media mogul, Koos Bekker (business is Naspers – they own Media24, DSTV etc.). This place is a genuine sensory overload. The restaurant serves incredible ‘no fuss’ dishes with all the veggies grown themselves. The gardens will blow you away – they’re modeled on the original ‘Company Gardens’ in Cape Town. We often skip the restaurant and go to the tea room – a massive glass conservatory with amazing sandwiches and lemonades and tea etc. Look at their website for pics. Attention to detail is beyond. If you’re smart you’ll stay a night there. You’ll be in for a treat – book here.
For an Asian explosion, you can’t beat Haiku – near to Green Market Square. Best dim sum in town. As per their website, “The Haiku concept is exotic Asian cuisine. Chinese dim sum, wok and barbeque; Japanese robata grills and sushi, served tapas-style, are some of the dishes to be shared and enjoyed in a stylish setting.” Again, they’re not cheap – but there’s a reason for that.
On that note, if you want the best Indian in town, try Bukhara, above Haiku (same owners / group). Actually, they might not be the best, because Maharajah on Kloof Nek road (over the road from The Power and the Glory) is also pretty awesome. I’ve never gone there to eat, but always use them for takeaways. Great for entertaining at home. Just tell them how may people you want to feed and they will guide you – unless you know what you’re doing. Their website is buggered but here are their contact details.
For steak you need to do HQ – all they serve is steak – and it’s good. Very good and very well priced. The starter salad is delish and then the steak comes with fries. The fries are to die for – served with this insane sauce they make. I don’t know what’s in it but I want more. Then when you finish your chips they come around to give you more. And more sauce. It’s great. This place also has a bar and pumps on Friday nights.
If you have a night at home (maybe Monday after your night at Caprice) you gotta try Cape Town’s very own Butler’s pizza. Their website is their menu is their website is their menu. Try the Rotherham pizza – it comes on a thin base with half the normal cheese.
If you’re looking to do some business while in town, I’d recommend Cartel House – they’re South Africa’s premium shared workspace offering. Allowing you hot desk access, wi-fi, boardrooms, with a coffee bar and pool to boot! Check out their website here. oh, and it’s Persian carpets and Chesterfield carpets everywhere you look. You will feel very comfortable, I assure you..
Lastly I did try shark cage diving once and it’s quite radical. Worth a shot if you have time to get to Gansbaai – crazy once in a lifetime experience. Try these guys for shark cage diving and book a night or two in Hermanus – the best whale watching town in the world!
For any self-catering or boutique hotels or B&B bookings, use SafariNow.com – they’re great.
Ja I reckon that should be a good start. Hope that helps!
I’ll be checking out other places to possibly add to this.
If you reckon your spot should be mentioned, please contact email@example.com
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