Cape Town’s Bree Street has cemented its reputation as the culinary heart of the city. Long Street may be its hedonistic neighbour, and Kloof Street its closest rival, but Bree has comfortably established itself as one of the city’s coolest streets.
Although it’s a destination that’s built its reputation for its various restaurants – including Cape Town’s top bakery, along with award-winning and casual eateries – Bree Street also home to boutiques, stores and various bars, which keep the drinks flowing until the early hours, albeit with a more mature twist than nearby Long Street.
As an established marketer, prolific photographer, and passionate Capetonian, Emma Jude Jackson is well-placed to pick the best that Bree Street has to offer.
Although she lives to travel, she’s also an expert at looking at her hometown through her a discerning traveller’s lens – and anyone who’s going to spend some time on Bree Street should take her suggestions seriously.
Bakery, Dessert Shop, Contemporary, $$$
Jason Bakery, towards the top of Bree Street, is a Cape Town Central Business District institution. What started out as a hole in the wall selling a small selection of the very best breads pastries has since expanded to include a new branch in Green Point and has attracted a considerable number of adoring fans. But for first-time visitors, it’s always worth paying a visit to the original Bree Street branch.“There is no bakery in South Africa that makes croissants, pain au chocolat and other pastries with more love and skill than Jason Bakery,” says Jackson, “and I dare anyone to challenge me on that!”
Looks like it's closedHours or services may be impacted due to Covid-19
Another dining and general hangout institution in Cape Town is Clarke’s Bar & Dining Room. It’s a popular remote-working destination, but transforms as the day goes on to become an ideal casual dinner and drinks venue later in the evening. “Clarke’s is one of my favourite places in the city to work from and have breakfast with coffee in the morning,” says Jackson. “They also have a sensational burger which comes on their unique croissant-like burger bun. Must add fries!”
High-end street food doesn’t get better than what’s available at Chefs Warehouse. And in spite of its impeccable food, usually ordered as a tapas feast for two, the celebrated restaurant still represents amazing value for money. “Going to any Liam Tomlin restaurant is a real treat and Chefs Warehouse on Bree Street is no exception,” says Jackson. “I love a food experience that involves trying many different dishes and not having to settle on one. It’s an experience as opposed to just being a meal.” Unlike many of the city’s top restaurants, Chefs Warehouse on Bree Street operates on a first-come, first-served basis, with the option to wait for a table in its new wine bar until one becomes available, making it a great last-minute culinary treat to consider.
“Towards the top of Bree, there is a little strip of boutiques and my favourites are none other than Missibaba and Kirsten Goss,” says Jackson. “Everything in both these neighbouring boutiques is locally designed and handmade.” Alexandra Höjer Atelier is another beautiful Bree Street boutique Jackson recommends. “It’s located opposite Jason Bakery in a unique old building with arched architectural details. From the street it looks like an art gallery, but inside it’s about Swedish-designed limited pieces.”
Cape Town isn’t short of Italian restaurants – and there are more than one on Bree Street alone. But for a modern take on Italian café-style food, Jackson recommends Villa 47. The restaurant is a three-floor establishment that celebrates both Italian and broader Mediterranean cuisine. “It’s also a good option for dinners with friends as the atmosphere, acoustics and decent service suit a group dynamic.
Boutiques on Bree Street have come and gone, but those that have stuck around are always worth a look. One that Jackson rates highly for its locally produced fabrics and decor accessories is Skinny laMinx. “It’s stood the test of time, and is another nice one for browsing or buying when walking down Bree,” she says.
When looking for a nightcap on Bree Street, in a truly unique setting, there’s only one destination to head for – Hank’s Olde Irish. It’s a dimly lit bar located in the bowels of an actual church, and its original stone walls, labyrinthine layout and wide selection of whiskies and other high-end liquors make it the perfect destination for a late-night drink. “Hank’s helped me develop my love for Japanese Whisky, thanks to their always faithful supply of Nikka!” says Jackson.
I Love the Dough is a relatively new addition to the Bree Street culinary scene, but one that garnered almost immediate praise from those who have visited. “I’ve only been once, but the pizza was so good that it deserves to be on every Bree Street list!” says Jackson. Its popularity has turned it into equal parts eatery and party destination, which might be too much for some diners, but Jackson suggests getting there early if the focus is on the food. “The pizza is what the experience is all about and you can get out before all the cool kids arrive,” she says.
Bree Street has also established itself as one of the main gathering points for the popular monthly event of First Thursdays, but as Jackson points out, more for its bars and restaurants than its galleries. If you’re starting your First Thursday night on Bree Street, though, she recommends taking a short walk away to one of her top gallery picks.“My favourite gallery is SMITH Studio, just a few blocks down from Bree,” she says. There’s also Youngblood Africa, an arts and culture development programme that offers a platform for artists from all genres to showcase their work and become self-sustainable. The three-storey gallery regularly hosts music and theatre performances, art exhibitions and dance classes, from swing to tango – and it’s always thriving on First Thursday nights.