In recent years Cape Town has become a celebrated foodie destination for travellers from around the world. The country’s diverse history, with influences from both colonisers and local customs and traditions, have resulted in a wide range of incredible foodie experiences. If you’re looking for something a little different when in Cape Town, check out one of these unique things for food lovers!
Braai at Mzolis
Though the influx of tourists to this informal butchery and eatery in Cape Town’s Gugulethu township means it’s far from the authentic window into local culture that many outsiders claim it to be, there are still plenty of reasons for foodies to visit. Firstly, you get to pick out your raw meat from the display fridge at the entrance. Staff then baste it with a special sauce and send it to the back, where a team cooks it to perfection over open flames. While doing so, you’re free to drink your own alcoholic beverages on the covered courtyard. When the meat eventually arrives, most people just get stuck in without knifes, forks, and little more than a side serving of pap, a local dish made out of grounded maize. It’s a high intensity experience from start to finish, and though many are quick to point out it lacks authenticity, meat-eating foodies will revel in the simplistic charm.
Though today it’s a thriving urban centre, Cape Town has a rich history of fruit and vegetable farming. With the arrival of the first settlers in the mid-1600s a small farm sprung up in what is now called the Company’s Garden, in order to provide fresh produce to passing sailors. Though many of these farms fell away when the city expanded, there’s been a reinvigoration of this tradition in recent years. Today you can walk a small version of the original farm in the Company’s Garden, and also pick up fresh fruit and vegetables at urban farms created to provide homeless people with gainful employment. But the flagship of all recently revitalised farms is the Oranjezicht City Farmers Market. There you can walk the tranquil grounds of this suburban farm, take in the views, and for a donation, pick your own ingredients at source.
If rustic seafood is your thing, and you’re looking for an altogether unique dining experience, head out to the popular Strandloper restaurant near Langebaan. There you’ll find an informal beach restaurant that serves up a wide range of the freshest seafood. Cooks prepare most of the seafood on open flames in the middle of the restaurant, and there’s no limit to how much you’re allowed to eat, with the exception of the grand crayfish finale. This is the antithesis of a fine dining restaurant, and the quality ingredients and laid-back charm make it one of the country’s most celebrated foodie experiences.
Cape Town has no shortage of options for the sweet-toothed foodies out there. Honest Chocolate was one of the first artisanal chocolate shops to pop up in the Cape Town CBD, and they’re still one of the best. There you’ll find a wide range of high-end chocolate goods – both to takeaway and to eat in the store. There’s a cafe that serves up some delectable items, and the knowledgable staff is on hand to answer any questions you might have about their chocolate making processes. Foodies who want to get their hands dirty can also embark on a 90 minute bonbon workshop. And if you’re there after dark, the back courtyard transforms into a painfully hip gin bar serving up some of the best cocktails in a truly unique location.
Cape Town is home to several food markets, some better than others. If you want quality food in a foodie-focused environment, then the original is probably the best. The Old Biscuit Mill, open on Saturday mornings, has several dozen food vendors who create a range of local and international dishes. Though its often overrun by hungover travellers, and the prices tend to be on the high side, if you’re looking to sample some of the city’s best street-food style delicacies in an energetic and vibrant location, you can’t go wrong with a quick visit.
Dine at the country’s most internationally awarded restaurant
Restaurant, South African, Contemporary, $$$
Test Kitchen | Courtesy Luke Dale-Roberts
Also at the Old Biscuit Mill is the country’s most internationally lauded restaurant – The Test Kitchen. This is perhaps the most sought after foodie experience in the country, and it regularly features in global top 50 lists. Renowned chef Luke Dale Roberts ensures that this is a memorable meal from start to finish – and not just on the food front. Layout, decor, service and cuisine are unlike anything else you’ll find in the country. And the inclusion of a new Dark Room and Light Room, which set different tones for your meal, have only added to the magic of the venue. It’s no surprise why this restaurant books up months in advance, so a bit of prior planning is essential if you want to pay it a visit while in Cape Town.
Cape Town’s Bo-Kaap suburb has a rich culinary history, and it’s the perfect place to visit if you’d like to learn more about Cape Malay culture and the cooking techniques still practised to this day. This neighbourhood has its roots in the slave trade of the 17th and 18th centuries, and though techniques and tastes have changed, much of the cooking stays true to the spicy and aromatic style of cooking. There are several companies that offer cooking lessons and tours of the suburb, and it’s an essential addition to any foodie itinerary in the city.