3 old-school steakhouses that serve a great slab

South Africans love their red meat and there’s no shortage of great steak restaurants in Cape Town. Here are a few local favourites worth a visit…

You’ll never struggle to find a great slab of red meat in South Africa and even though Cape Town is known for its cosmopolitan globetrotting cuisine, it is also  home to a number of top-notch old-school steakhouses.

In Cape Town’s southern suburbs the locals speak of one particular steakhouse in reverential tones: The Hussar Grill.

The Hussar first fired up the grills in 1964 and today the service and offering is as dependable as the retro gilded doors that open on to Main Road in Rondebosch.

Consistency is the watchword here and you won’t find foams, jus or fancy cooking; only solid cuts of meat at decent prices. There’s a charming old-school feel to the décor, and the service is unfailingly friendly. A rump steak with chips and onion rings is the default order for most locals, but also look out for special cuts and game meats on the chalkboard.

For something a little more stylish, try the Butcher Shop & Grill opposite the Mouille Point lighthouse. This trendy Johannesburg-based brand has quickly built up a fan base thanks to its upmarket décor and wide-ranging menu. Prime cuts are aged for up to 40 days, ensuring top quality meat, and with two wine cellars on site you’re assured of a great wine to go with your meal.

Down the road the V&A Waterfront shopping and entertainment precinct is filled with great restaurants, but if you fancy a steak Belthazar is your best bet. With the feel of a New York grillroom it’s a distinctly upmarket experience – with prices to match. There’s a good range of seafood on offer as well, but it’s the steaks you should be looking at. Fillet, rump, sirloin and T-bone can all be ordered in portions to suit your appetite, but the daily selection of game meats is most popular.

Belthazar also impresses when it comes to wine. Aside from boasting one of the best wine lists in the city you’ll also find over 200 wines by the glass.

Eat, drink and be spoiled at the Cape’s Delaire Graff wine estate

You know you’re in for a treat from the very moment you drive up a luscious green lane lined with magnificent statues and trees…

The Delaire Graff Estate offers an experience in which all your senses will be stimulated. Nothing makes a better pairing with wine than food, art and beauty – and you will be able to enjoy the complete experience at this estate outside Stellenbosch.

Visually, the estate is an explosion of colour, nature and art. A must-see is the art collection, which recently acquired a fantastic new addition – Vladimir Tretchikoff’s iconic painting the ‘Chinese Girl’. Chairman of Graff Diamonds Laurence Graff acquired the piece, one of the most reproduced and recognisable paintings in the world, in March 2013.

Dotted around the estate and lining the walls are examples of some of the most fascinating art that South Africa has produced. South Africa’s diverse heritage is reflected in the art that can be viewed here: Lionel Smit’s African Woman in the Tasting Lounge echoes the subtle palette of the natural hues used in the sophisticated setting, while signature Dylan Lewis cheetahs grace the landscape. Works by Deborah Bell, Sidney Kumalo, Fred Schimmel, Durant Sihlali and Cecil Skotnes adorn the walls, while guests at the Lodge will particularly enjoy Stephane Graff and the intensity of Ndikhumbule Ngqinambi’s work.

The estate gardens are another visual wonder, landscaped by celebrity horticulturalist and multi gold-medal finalist at the Chelsea Flower Show, Keith Kirsten. Here you can walk amongst mostly indigenous plants, shrubs and trees, including milkwoods, yellowwoods and sneezewoods.

The luxury lodges on the estate – for those who want to spend more time in this fantasy world of art, wine and nature, are surrounded by scented hedges of camellia and swathes of coffee jasmine.

When all the senses are spoken to, hunger will still prevail – but even here the estate offers food and wine that will introduce you to a world of new taste experiences in one of their restaurants.

At the Delaire Graff Restaurant the style is “bistro chic” cuisine, which is organic, feel-good food infused with vibrant flavours. The dishes here are pure Africa on a plate, such as the beef tongue, served with pickled white asparagus, beef jam, brown butter and horseradish. There are also lamb neck, line fish and beef served with chargrilled vegetables, sweetbread ravioli and asparagus. The dishes here are pure Africa on a plate, such as the beef tongue, served with pickled white asparagus, beef jam, brown butter and horseradish.

Indochine serves Asian-inspired food, which can only be described as art on a plate. Here you can enjoy seared miso yellowtail, or sip a mussel and whelk laksa soup. Some main courses to delight in are Thai barbeque, cured salmon trout or curries made with line fish, lamb, beef and duck.

On the wine front, you won’t be disappointed. The estate has won several awards and there is a wine lounge where you can taste the Delaire Graff wine range while you enjoy beautiful views and a roaring fireplace in winter.

For longer stays and pampering treats, the estate has a luxury lodge and spa where you can unwind and relax.

Fine food, wine and a trip in time at historic Vergelegen estate

While its name translates from Afrikaans as situated far away, Vergelegen wine estate – one of the Cape’s oldest wine farms – is a, easy 40 minutes drive from Cape Town, making for a fabulous day trip.

Tucked away at the foot of the dramatic Hottentots Holland Mountains in Somerset West, the sprawling Vergelegen estate is a perfect example of a traditional Cape farm that has moved with the times.

The original manor house and surrounding buildings  – most of which are open to the public – date back over three hundred years to the very earliest days of the Cape Colony, when it took three days to reach the farm from Cape Town via ox-wagons. Remarkably, the Camphor trees that shade the traditional Cape Dutch buildings are just as old and have been declared National Monuments.

The grounds are a highlight of Vergelegen, with 17 formal gardens laid out around the estate. Don’t miss the remarkable Camellia Garden of Excellence, as well as the historic Octagonal Garden. The story goes that the walls were built to their current height so that they would be too high for a lion to jump over!

Felines aside, there’s good food and wine to be had here too. The estate’s two restaurants cover both ends of the spectrum nicely. Camphors offers modern fine dining, while bistro-style Stables restaurant offers casual food. Stables also overlooks the child-friendly East Garden where you’ll find a sizeable playground to keep young ones entertained.

Cellar master André van Rensburg has a deft touch when it comes to classic winemaking, and his Flagship Range of wines is simply superb. The reserve range, of which the Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon are particularly good, are excellent affordable options, too.

Go beyond expectations at Buitenverwachting in Cape Town’s Constantia wine valley.

Established in 1706, the beautiful Buitenverwachting wine farm on the slopes of the majestic Constantiaberg mountains delivers on its English namesake, ‘beyond expectation’, in every way.

The farm produces an array of top-quality wines, including 18 whites and 12 reds. Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Blanc de Noir, Brut, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and more can be enjoyed on the farm or at home.

Visitors can enjoy a leisurely meal at the restaurant, which is situated in a classic historic thatched Cape Dutch building. Terrace tables offer iconic views of the vineyards and mountains, while the more relaxed courtyard is set amidst ancient stinkwood trees and a traditional Cape fountain.

The cuisine ranges from fine dining to relaxed deli-style fare, all with a sophisticated yet contemporary flare. It is no surprise that the restaurant was rated as one of Brian Berkman’s Top 10 in Cape Town in 2009 and 2010.

The farm also boasts a rustic yet trendy coffee shop offering the best in warm beverages and baked goods. Buitenverwachting hosts exceptional bespoke weddings, conferences and other special events. One of the most picturesque farms in the valley, it affords guests endless photo opportunities and the opportunity to relax in the total serenity of the pristine grounds. The farm boasts several function venues that can be utilised for functions catering for from 10 to 400 people.

Head to Muizenberg for dude food and beer with a sea view

There’s no shortage of fine dining and fancy food at Cape Town’s restaurants, but when all you want is beer and a great burgerwith a sea view to boot, head straight for Tiger’s Milk in Muizenberg.

Dude food and beer. That’s what Tiger’s Milk is all about, says owner Michael Townsend, one of the most successful restaurateurs in Cape Town. Boasting superb views of the family-friendly Muizenberg beach, Tiger’s Milk is immensely popular with locals who pull in for a great burger and a cold beer after a surf in the sea at Surfer’s Corner in Muizenberg, a 40-minute drive from the city centre.

If you’re feeling hungry after all that paddling, don’t be shy to tuck in to the generous starters: think peri-peri prawns, mussels drowned in garlic and wine, and sweet and smoky barbecue ribs.

The main courses also don’t mess about. Large steaks win the day here, with plenty of prime cuts at very good prices. The peri-peri baby chicken is also excellent, as are the wood-fired pizzas. Then there’s the beer, with a selection of local craft beers on tap.

While the burgers are excellent and the beers cold, the final feather in the cap of Tiger’s Milk is that it’s a pretty sexy space too. A vintage BMW motorbike bolted to the wall sets the scene for a space that feels rather masculine with its leather couches and exposed metal beams; a good fit for that dude food.

Grab a seat at one of the long communal wooden tables or – if you’re early enough – the window-front counter where panoramic sea views make a fine backdrop for a damn fine burger.

Here’s where to get a taste of Peru in Cape Town

Bree Street has established itself as the hippest, hottest destination for great food in the city – and savvy locals and travellers are heading to Charango for a taste of Nikkei cuisine in Cape Town.

Nikkei cuisine is all the rage across the world, as this fusion of Peruvian and Japanese influences makes its presence felt from London to Miami.

“The future of gastronomy is being cooked up in Peru,” said über-chef Ferran Adrià when opening his own Nikkei restaurant, Pakta, in Barcelona in 2013.

That trend came to Cape Town with the opening of Charango, a trendy restaurant on the edge of Heritage Square.

The menu is compact, with just a handful of choices for each course, and the focus is largely on small plate dining and communal feasting, with everyone sharing a number of different dishes.

The tuna tacos are the standout on the menu, while the signature Peruvian dish of ceviche comes in both traditional and “New style” offerings. The seared tuna tataki is also superb.

As you’d expect with a Japanese influence, the menu focuses on seafood, but there are a handful of excellent meaty options on offer too: Peruvian beef skewers play nicely with a delicious dip of spicy aji rocoto peppers, and more traditional main courses include sirloin, pork belly and lamb loin.

And don’t forget dessert: although unusual for most diners, the toasted quinoa crème with caramelised bananas is a surprise highlight of the menu.

The menu is well matched by a compact wine list of mostly boutique estates, but don’t forget to kick things off with a traditional Peruvian Pisco Sour; the chefs at Charango have even had their own brandy distilled for the occasion.

High tea takes on a whole new meaning at Rhodes Memorial

Perched high on the slopes of Table Mountain, the Rhodes Memorial Restaurant & Tea Garden boasts some of the best views in Cape Town. The cakes are pretty good too.

Colonialist Cecil John Rhodes has something of a chequered legacy in Africa, but his imposing granite memorial on the slopes of Table Mountain remains one of the most popular stops in Cape Town, the oversized steps offering superb views across the city.

Perhaps distracted by those views, few tourists wander up the stone pathway behind the memorial to discover the charming tearoom and restaurant tucked away in the shade of the oak trees.

You won’t find nouvelle cuisine or adventurous dining on the menu here, but the selection of light meals and freshly-baked cakes makes it well worth a stop. You can enjoy wraps, cheese platters and baguettes alongside a handful of meaty main courses. Nothing fancy, but perfectly acceptable fare.

It’s a decidedly family-friendly spot too, with a small children’s menu and a dedicated play area within sight (but almost out of earshot) of the dining area.

Some tables offer wonderful views of the city and distant Durbanville winelands, making it a laid back option for lunch with a view, away from the crowds.

It’s official: chef Luke Dale-Roberts rules the restaurant roost

When it comes to trend-setting food in Cape Town’s restaurants, there’s only one name you need to know. For the very best fine dining that Cape Town has to offer, chef Luke Dale-Roberts sets the bar high.

Gourmet travellers to Cape Town speak of chef Luke Dale-Roberts in hushed tones. Is he in the kitchen at night? Will they get a table at one of his acclaimed Cape Town restaurants? What’s new on the menu this time around?

And with good reason: from his early days at La Colombe restaurant on the wine farm Constantia Uitsig, Dale-Roberts has quickly carved out a niche as the top chef in Cape Town. No, scratch that. As the top chef in Africa.

In the annual The World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards in 2015 The Test Kitchen by Luke Dale-Roberts was rated 28th in the world. And, for the second year running, was also awarded Best Restaurant in Africa.

The Test Kitchen restaurant is situated in the Old Biscuit Mill development in Cape Town’s up-and-coming suburb of Woodstock, and is booked out months in advance. The heart of this creative fine dining restaurant is the tasting menus that can stretch to a dozen courses or more, combining immense culinary creativity with a healthy respect for the seasons. Expect mind-bending dishes like salt-cured scallop served with squid ink custard, or perhaps smoked guinea fowl (a local pheasant) with autumn spices and quince. With Cape Town’s wonderful seafood, the octopus cassoulet is another masterpiece.

And if you can’t get a table for The Test Kitchen? Atop the old flour silos that form the centerpiece of The Old Biscuit Mill you’ll find Dale-Roberts’ other project, The Pot Luck Club, offering similar culinary creativity in a more relaxed restaurant environment.

Rather than tasting menus, The Pot Luck Club is all about small-plate fine dining, so order plenty to share with the table. There are dollops of Dale-Roberts’ creativity here too, but in a more relaxed space and at slightly more affordable prices. Plus, the panoramic Cape Town city views come for free.

*Dale-Roberts opened his third restaurant, Naturalis, in Woodstock in December 2015. Watch this space!

My best Bree Street restaurant is totally on trend

With dozens of great restaurants on the foodie highway in central Cape Town, it’s hard to choose just one favourite. But not for Matthew Ibbotson, publisher of web-based food magazine ‘Crush Online’…

One of my favourite spots is a place called Charango. Bree Street is the street to be on for good food, and this is one of the best.

It’s all about Nikkei cuisine, a blend of Japanese and Peruvioan influences.

It’s a style of food I’m really enjoying and it’s trending. At Charango the décor is amazing and tables spill out onto the street. It’s got a great vibe.

My favourite dish is definitely the seared tuna tataki; it’s a really delicious option. The prawn tostado with ponzu dressing is also really interesting, and they do tuna tacos, which are great. I also loved the way most dishes come with salsas and dips, offering small flavour bursts on the side.

Needs some noodles? Head downtown for real ramen

Cape Town’s so-called East City is a district on the up, with theatres, bars and restaurants popping up at pace. Downtown Ramen is a restaurant riding the crest of a broth-scented wave.

Cape Town is no slowcoach when it comes to picking up on trends. Locals love their tapas; sushi bars are plentiful and dim sum has taken hold across the city. But there’s only one restaurant riding the ramen noodle wave washing across the world.

Downtown Ramen is not the most glamorous restaurant in town, nor is it the easiest to find. Situated above Lefty’s Dive Bar in gritty Harrington Street, chances are you’ll get lost on your first visit. But once you’ve found Lefty’s just head inside, take a left and wander up the stairs.

Here a handful of tables, most of them communal, will be packed with locals slurping their way through a bowl of the best ramen in Cape Town.

Heck, probably the best in Africa.

The chalkboard menu is as simple as the décor: ramen served three ways, with a handful of lip-smacking steamed buns to start. The pork belly bao with citrus pickle is superb, closely followed by the succulent short rib braised in soy and beer. For vegetarians, smoked aubergine with spicy pickles won’t disappoint.

But the ramen is the main attraction here, and the Shoyu is the signature: thick slices of succulent slow-cooked pork, bean sprouts, sesame seeds, spring onion and strips of nori in a chicken and dashi (seafood) broth. There’s a hint of chilli balanced by a creamy soft-boiled egg soaked in soy and sake. Delicious.

It’s no place for a first date or romantic evening out, and service can be brusque to the point of rudeness, but for standout noodles in a charmingly gritty corner of Cape Town, you’ll want to be heading to Downtown Ramen.