In honour of International Women’s Day, we rounded up seven of Cape Town’s fiercest females to bring you the inside track on the Mother City, from film to food and wine.
1. Party queen Tecla Ciolfi
Want to know the trendiest places to see and be seen? Tecla’s got the inside scoop. The brains behind one of South Africa’s favourite music and lifestyle blogs, Texx and the City, nightlife explorer Tecla points you towards the best pints, cocktails, gin and more for a neat night out. Read more
2. Feisty Foodie Abigail Donnelly
Who better to introduce you to the best of Cape Town’s cuisine scene than a multi-award-winning food editor and critic? Abigail’s the one to send you and your taste buds in the right direction… Read more
3. Film fatale Julia Stephenson
Julia’s film festival is guaranteed to offer you something weird and something wonderful with each week. Short & Sweet is an evening of movie delicacies served up luxuriously, piece by piece. Read more
4. Go-to guru Gerlinde Vassen
Cape Town is the best place to rejuvenate your body and mind, says yoga teacher and guru Gerlinde – and with more than a decade of experience under her stretchy yoga pants, she should know! Find out why
5. Mistress of music Angela Weickl
DJ, manager and music agency owner, this leading lady tells us why hip-hop culture is alive and kicking in the Mother City. Read more
6. Fashionista Genevieve Putter
Art, design and fashion empress Genevieve knows her street style from her catwalk crazes and gives us her inside tips on finding fierce fashion in the Mother City. Read more
7. Trailblazer Fiona McIntosh
A mountain woman with the freedom we all envy, editor, author and expert on almost all things outdoors Fiona lets us in on some of Cape Town’s best-kept hiking trail secrets. Read more
Short on time, big on appetite and hungry for a real taste of Cape Town? Dax Villanueva, the man behind popular Cape Town food, wine, travel and lifestyle blog Relax-With-Dax, reckons this Cape Town food festival should be at the top of your list.
Cape Town is well known for its high quality food offerings, but often the street food of a city is a great journey of discovery and a way of meeting different people.
Food trucks are becoming a big thing in Cape Town now, as they are all around the world. For these reasons I like the idea of the Cape Town Street Food Festival. It’s something different and, most importantly, it’s fun!
Be wowed by the interesting creations of the food trucks or get your head around the Gatsby (a giant sandwich stuffed with fried chips and sometimes other ingredients), a local creation that is either horrifying or heavenly depending on your taste. If you’ve never had a bunny chow (a hollowed out loaf of bread filled with curry), this is your chance.
If you take your food seriously, look out for the conference that runs concurrently and features speakers related to food, creativity and digital.
Want a taste of Cape Town’s booming food markets? The Saturday market at the Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock should be your first stop.
Food markets are flourishing in Cape Town, and every weekend hungry locals and tourists flock to wonderful food markets across the city to pick up fresh produce from local farmers, meet food producers turning out artisanal products, and settle in for a lazy Saturday morning of fine food and (perhaps) a little wine.
The Neighbourgoods Market in the Old Biscuit Mill precinct in the vibrant suburb of Woodstock is perhaps the most famous Saturday market in Cape Town – and well worth a visit if you can stand the crowds.
If you can’t, get there by 08h30. Either way you’ll find a market with a split personality. Upfront is a dizzying array of fresh produce, from leafy greens to locally grown mushrooms to raw-milk cheeses.
Hungry visitors head for the back, with food stalls selling Alsace-style pizza, craft beer and chunky steak sandwiches worthy of your hangover. Take your pick.
Don’t forget that Cape Town markets mostly operate on cash, although a few vendors accept payment via the smartphone app SnapScan, which app allows you to process card payments by simply scanning a QR code. It’s becoming widely used in Cape Town, so worth installing if you’re visiting.
If the old dictum “you are what you eat” is true, then Cape Town is an unusual mix of umngqusho (a corn and bean stew), pickled fish, melktert (milk tart), ulusu (stewed ox tripe), bobotie (mince curry with a savoury custard) and koeksisters (knotted pastries soaked in syrup). Iain Harris, whose company Coffeebeans Routes runs a cuisine route in Cape Town, chats to us about the link between food and culture.
“As soon as you’re looking at food, you’re looking at history and how people came to be here … You can do a lot of unpacking of how the city came to be and who built it.
Cape Malay food can be found everywhere in the city, and that says a lot about the power of Islam and who has been living in the city historically. There’s so much Cape Malay food in the Bo-Kaap (the neighbourhood directly above the city bowl) because of where people who live there have come from and what brought them here, and how identity persists through food. Their ancestors (slaves during the colonial era, mostly from Malaysia, India, Java and Bengal) brought their food over here. It was a connection to back home, and it was an establishment of their identity here in the Cape.
But the central business district is hardly representative of the diversity of food and culture in Cape Town. For example, if you really want to experience township food, it is almost impossible to experience it in the city centre. You literally have to go to the townships (the areas outside of city centres where non-white people were forced to live during apartheid, the system of enforced racial segregation that ended in 1994).
One of the interesting myths around township food is that everybody’s just eating meat. In fact, if you look carefully, vegetables are the most accessible and the kinds of vegetable dishes that people prepare are pretty wild.
The Cuisine Route food tour we offer is really trying to explore traditional food in Cape Town, so it is mainly looking at isiXhosa and Cape Malay foods, with some gaps in between where perhaps you’ll go to Bean There to sample an organic single origin coffee or to a little pan-African eatery. We are trying to use food as a medium to explore the city quite widely.”
For a culinary wander through the very finest restaurants the city has to offer, there are few better foodie festivals than the Taste of Cape Town.
It’s often hard to take a snapshot of what’s hot on the city’s culinary trend-map. So what if only the latest and greatest restaurants, as well as the classics, were all in one place, offering a taster of their signature cuisine with the chef behind the grill to share the secrets of their culinary inspiration?
Say hello, then, to Taste of Cape Town.
Taste of Cape Town takes place over three days in April, transforming the fields of the Green Point Cricket Club, a few minutes’ drive from the city centre, into a glorious array of food, wine and fine foodie fare.
The festival typically sees over a dozen restaurants set up shop, with each chef offering a handful of starter-sized portions of their signature dishes, allowing you to mix and match to create an unbeatable Cape Town menu.
There’s also a wide range of exhibitors, ranging from premium drinks brands to artisan food producers and award-winning wineries. Sip, sample and shop to your heart’s content! Alongside the restaurants and exhibitors you’ll also find food-focused tutorials, guided tastings and cocktail masterclasses.
The festival works using its own currency of “crowns”, with each crown costing R5, and dishes costing a varying number of crowns. For instance, in 2015 a crispy pork belly with gingered sweet potato courtesy of Longridge Restaurant would set you back eight crowns, or R40. A bargain.
Cape Town boasts an array of delightful venues where you can savour a delicious meal and enjoy quality live music. Here’s a few ideas of where to go for a sublime experience.
We’re not talking pub food here. Nor are we talking raucous singalongs and jangling guitar solos. The venues mentioned here are all “listening” venues. The artists who play at these places are carefully selected as both popular and well suited to the intimate experience that these shows offer.
Café Roux is nestled in the Noordhoek Farm Village, very close to the easterly end of Chapmans Peak and a good hour’s drive from Cape Town’s city centre. While it’s hard to find fault with any of the venues mentioned below, Café Roux’s line up is absolutely second to none with regard to the high profile stars they regularly feature. The food is delicious and the atmosphere welcoming.
Not too far away, the rustic setting of The Cape Farmhouse has become a very popular spot for both music and food lovers. The farmhouse boasts a fantastic restaurant headed by the talented Phil Mansergh, and hosts a fortnightly music concert under the name Farmhouse Rocks. These Saturday afternoon concerts begin at 3pm, making it a great day out for the whole family.
The most centrally located is the delightful Alma Café, in the heart of the leafy suburb of Rosebank and a quick 10 minute drive from the city centre. Previously a suburban corner store, the Alma Café has been transformed into a warm, comfortable and intimate live music venue that serves delicious home-style meals. A somewhat unique feature of this family-run venue is that music is the absolute focus. To this end, food or drinks are served before the performance begins and respectful silence is requested while the music is played.
The most northerly of these restaurants is Die Boer (Afrikaans for “The Farmer”), located in the suburb of Durbanville, just under an hour’s drive from the city. Like Café Roux, Die Boer has a virtually non-stop music menu and very often features acts whose home language is, indeed, Afrikaans. It seats 120 people, all with an unobstructed view of the stage. Guests are offered an intimate, upmarket, yet affordable dinner-theatre experience.
And now for something completely different: The Crypt Jazz Restaurant is in the basement of the St George’s Anglican Cathedral itself — located in the heart of the city centre. Every week, from Tuesday to Saturday, The Crypt plays host to an amazing array of local and international jazz musicians to create an atmosphere that is quite unique. If you enjoy something different, not to mention special, try this.
Spicy, smoked or chewy: it’s a tough call naming just one winner of Cape Town’s coveted biltong prize – after all, it’s a matter of personal taste, innit? We’ve picked five of the better-known brands to chew your way through…
1. Biltong by J&M
With biltong bars all over the country, J&M has become a household name since its humble beginnings in a Sea Point butchery in 1942. They’ve got a wide range of tasty treats in beef, ostrich, chicken or game meats, including biltong, droëwors and snapstix. It’ll take you days to sample the different varieties…
2. Kleyn Begin
Based in Melkbosstrand, this local Halaal-certified company is routinely named manufacturer of the “best biltong” in the Western Cape. Their hand-cut dried meat delicacies are only available through wholesale orders but owners Anton and Naomi Kleyn guarantee the freshest and prime-cut meats around.
3. Chops Biltong Bar
These family-owned meat makers take pride in their local roots. They opened their first shop in the False Bay town of Fish Hoek in 1994 and have since grown their reach to the Southern Suburbs of Plumstead, Constantia and Steenberg, and across the bay to Somerset West. You’re likely to spot their traditional or “silverside” biltong (with a strip of fat on the side) at flea markets, or if you’re lucky enough, the catered “VIP” boxes at Newlands Stadium when you’re watching cricket, or another big game. They come in plain, chilli, chutney and pepper flavours.
4. Famous Kalahari Biltong
Feeling game? Try Famous Kalahari’s kudu, ostrich, eland, gemsbok or springbok offerings. This company has biltong bars in Wellington, Sunningdale, Bellville, Worcester and Kraaifontein.
5. Fisherman’s Biltong
Try something a little unconventional – fish biltong or “bokkoms” as the local fishers call it. Hout Bay Fisherman’s Wharf is a great place to have a first taste of Fisherman’s Biltong, or try the tuna biltong at Woodstock Fisheries at 250 Victoria Road.
Editor’s note: Ja, ja, we know, we haven’t included a bunch of lekker biltong spots here (we only promised five!). Don’t hate – just go onto our Facebook page and tell us where you get the best biltong in Cape Town! Click here
After several years in the doldrums a major revamp has seen Boschendal Farm, an hour’s drive from Cape Town in Franschhoek, transformed into one of the hottest destinations in the winelands.
Boschendal farm traces its history back to 1685, marking it as one of the oldest estates in the Cape winelands. However, an injection of new investment has made this dynamic estate in Franschhoek a must-visit stop on the wine route.
The heart of the estate is the rejuvenated Werf precinct, where there’s no shortage of wonderful food and wine to experience. First enjoy a tasting at the stylish tasting room, where tables spill out onto the shady terrace and well-informed staff will talk you through the range of wines produced on this vast estate. Don’t miss the reserve collection’s Syrah and Chardonnay.
A few steps away you’ll find the chic farm shop, which sells local produce and homeware; it’s a great spot for souvenir shopping. Across the lawns you’ll discover the remarkable food garden, which stretches over three hectares and provides fresh produce for the estate restaurants and surrounding community.
Speaking of restaurants, you’re spoilt for choice here: The Werf is fine dining under the knife of acclaimed chef Christiaan Campbell. This is accomplished upmarket cuisine, with a firm focus on seasonality and farm-to-fork cooking.
Across the courtyard, the Bistro is the more relaxed option and offers country-casual cooking. Alongside you’ll also find a well-stocked deli and farm butchery if you’d like to take a few goodies home.
Your last option here is one of the most popular: Le Pique Nique offers gourmet picnics under the pine trees, a popular choice on hot summer days.
The Camps Bay “Strip” is perhaps the most glamorous corner of Cape Town: palm-lined boulevards straight out of Miami fringed by drop-dead gorgeous beaches. No wonder tourists and locals love to watch the sunset here. But once the light is gone, where to eat? There’s no shortage of restaurants, but it pays to choose carefully. Here are some of my favourites…
You could do worse than booking ahead for a table at Umi. This Japanese “small plates” restaurant is, unlike many other eateries, raised above street level, allowing for an unobstructed view of the beach and Atlantic Ocean. And the food is delicious, with a range of sushi plates and innovative Japanese options.
Next door, Del Mar does the same for modern Mexican cuisine. The décor is as contemporary as the cooking, with a decidedly upmarket take on traditional antojitos (street food). These small plates include everything from tacos to ceviche, while main courses focus on grilled meats and seafood. The grilled tuna in adobo marinade is particularly good. The prices aren’t shy, but then Camps Bay has never been a budget destination… those views don’t come for free!
Vicky Cristina’s is another good choice: inspired broadly by Spanish cuisine, the menu here combines flavours from Latin America and the Basque country into a fusion of fine fare. The highlight is the wide selection of tapas dishes, ranging from mussels in a saffron-infused cream sauce to pork riblets rubbed with coffee, chocolate and citrus. Don’t miss the traditional Catalan coca (flatbread) or the Brazilian-style beef picanha.
Of course, with that entire ocean glinting back at you, chances are you’ll be in the mood for seafood. Here your best bet is The Codfather, a restaurant set a short way back from the beach. A stalwart of the Camps Bay scene, this local favourite does top-notch seafood with a wide range of fresh fish available daily. The day’s catch is displayed up at the seafood counter, with all seafood charged per weight. Your fish or shellfish is then simply grilled, plated and served in rustic skillets. If you fancy an appetizer, there’s an excellent sushi counter.
As cosmopolitan as Cape Town is, with its proliferation of shopping malls and trendy cafés, it is most definitely still part of Africa – and home to stimulating ethnic African music. Here’s where to get into the rhythm.
In the heart of Long Street, itself an essential part of any South African adventure, Mama Africa offers a vibrant and authentic African experience that is made all the more magical through music. Every night a live marimba band takes to the stage and rocks the restaurant with a variety of musical stylings till late into the night.
With a wide range of eclectic dishes and lively African entertainment, Marco’s African Place is where the rest of the world meets Africa. Conveniently situated a stone’s throw from Cape Town’s Fan Walk, Marco’s will greet you in true African style for an evening you won’t forget.
Only 20 minutes from the centre of Cape Town lies the township of Gugulethu. Here, the Thuthuka Jazz Café offers visitors a night filled with authentic local flavour, with world-class jazz mixed with traditional musical elements. Here you can expect a truly South African experience.
Based in the Cape Town Convention Centre, the Marimba Restaurant often features live music from bands that include some of the finest Congolese, Mozambican and South African musicians.
For an experience that will definitely stand out on your travels, Gold Restaurant in Green Point combines spontaneous, interactive entertainment with a delightful cross-section of African-themed food. Food is served as a set menu, but includes 14 different courses (tapas style), which means that your taste buds will almost certainly meet delicacies they have never met before. With three different performances throughout the course of the evening, this is one entertaining experience!