by Tamlin Wightman on October 6, 2011
16 min read

Like mushrooms after heavy rain, new restaurants and bars seem to pop up out of nowhere and in frenzied batches in Cape Town throughout the year. Some last, some wither. Here are the ones we think have passed muster. This is… Rhino Africa’s TOP 5 Cape Eateries & Bars for 2011!

It’s an Insider’s Guide compiled by the obsessive foodies and winos that fill our offices with the smells of fresh coffee and warm muffins from local cafés in the morning and leftovers and takeaways from down-the-road restaurants.

Consult our list the next time you’re heading out for after-work drinks and any-time-of-day meals, whether it’s mountains, ocean or vineyards you wish to overlook; or steak, seafood or coffee you’re after… We’ve linked some of the spots to our Horny Grazer reviews so click the links for a taste of more. Make sure you comment and let us know whether you would add or remove anything – we want to know your favourites!

Category One

  1. Sevruga, Victoria Wharf, V&A Waterfront – This is a great one for seafood lovers. Dine indoors or out, overlooking the harbour. Dress up or down. And if budget is an issue, pull in any day during lunchtime or on Sundays and enjoy half-price sushi. Tel: +27 21 421 5134
  2. 95 Keerom, Keerom Street – It’s all about the ingredients. This is a slick and versatile Italian restaurant with an impressive food menu and award-winning South African and Italian wines. Tel: +27 21 422 0765
  3. La Colombe at Constantia Uitsig – Enjoy contemporary French-meets-Asian fine dining just 20 minutes from the heart of the city in Constantia Uitsig, Cape Town’s own Vineyard. So you don’t have to travel very far to impress the in-laws with the Cape’s Winelands… And if they’re tough-cookies to crack, be sure to ply them with the great wine list. Tel: + 27 21 794 2390
  4. The Test Kitchen, Old Biscuit Mill, 373 – 375 Albert Road, Woodstock – At this much-talked about restaurant in the corner of the Old Biscuit Mill, you can smarten up and enjoy an à la carte menu or five- and eight-course tasting menu, or dine at the kitchen bar. The dishes are unique and sure to have the father-in-law wagging his tongue about to all his chums. Tel: +27 21 447 2337
  5. The Planet Bar & Restaurant at the Mount Nelson Hotel, Orange Street, Gardens – This will wow the in-laws speechless, which sounds perfect, doesn’t it? Besides luxurious decor, the menu is out-of-this-world and features smoked crocodile, Namibian red crab, rooibos cured ostrich and springbok. Have drinks at the bar, with fine Cape wines, cocktails and a variety of spirits. Tel: +27 21 483 1000

Category Two

  1. Salt opposite Ambassador Hotel, 34 Victoria Road, Bantry Bay – You will struggle to find a view like this elsewhere. Get there just before sunset and watch the sky change colour over the Atlantic Ocean, as you indulge in simple, tasty food, great wines and other drinks in a classy setting. It’s great for celebrations and special occasions. Tel: +27 21 439 7258
  2. Polana and Harbour House, Kalk Bay Harbour – Polana, a vibrant cocktail lounge on the ground level, has big glass windows right on the rocks so you can watch waves crashing while you knock back drinks and tapas. You can also dine at Live Bait (downstairs) or Harbour House (upstairs), with views of False Bay. Work up your appetite by taking a walk on the pier and see seals and boats in the water. Tel: +27 21 788 5755
  3. Grand Café and Beach, Haul Road, off Beach Road, Granger Bay – It’s pricey, way pricey, but an experience… Here, on a white sand beach next to Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront, you can enjoy quality cuisine, such as tempura prawns, kingklip tagliatta, crayfish pasta and sizable pizzas, with excellent sea views. Tel: +27 21 425 0551
  4. Azure and Leopard Room Bar at the Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa, Victoria Road, Camps Bay – Sip down drinks at the Leopard Room bar and then indulge in some award-winning Cape Fusion cuisine and spectacular Atlantic Ocean views at Azure, in this mountain setting. Heck, follow your dining with an intimate viewing of a film at their private cinema. Now that’s decadence! Tel: +27 21 437 9000
  5. The Black Marlin, Miller’s Point Road, Simon’s Town – For somewhere quieter, more casual and away from the city centre, pull in here for the day. Just outside Simon’s Town, en-route to Cape Point, dine with views of False Bay. It’s especially popular during Whale Season! Come summer, they braai fish and crayfish on weekends. Plus, of course, there are cocktails and other drinks to enjoy, and an à la carte menu. Tel: +27 21 786 1621

Category Three

  1. Willoughby & Co, V&A Waterfront – If sushi’s your thing, this is the place to come! Even if it’s not, you can try the fish and chips served in a copper pan or something from the Japanese kitchen or oyster bar. Wash it down with one of their exclusive wines, amid the buzz of the V&A Waterfront. Just don’t head out shopping afterward if you’ve knocked back one too many. Tel: +27 21 418 6115
  2. Kitima at the Kronendal, Kronendal Estate, Main Road, Hout Bay – A 30 minute drive from Cape Town centre, enjoy authentic Asian cuisine prepared by 5-star Thai chefs. Their Raya Lounge has one of the finest, most extensive cocktail selections in Southern Africa. Worth a try, we reckon! Tel: +27 21 790 8004
  3. Beluga, The Foundry, Prestwich Street, Green Point – This stylish eatery, located in a 100 year old red-brick building, boasts a full Sushi, Dim Sum, wine, cocktail and à la carte menu. Sit indoors, by the bar or in the enclosed courtyard. Tel: +27 21 418 2948/9
  4. Panama Jacks Live Lobster & Sushi Bar, Quay 500, Cape Town Harbour – Known as “The Original Cape Town Habour Seafood Restaurant Since 1989”, PJ’s is situated in the working half of Cape Town Docks. There are fresh sea water tanks with live abalone and lobster. If you’re not squeamish, choose your own to eat and pay for what they weigh. If you are, there’s plenty more on the menu. Tel: +27 21 448 1080
  5. Den Anker Belgian Bar and Restaurant, Pierhead, V&A Waterfront – Forget that it’s pricey and tuck into this popular Belgian restaurant’s menu of fresh, seasonal dishes – including crayfish, herring, mussels, foie gras brulee, velvet-smooth chocolates from a top Belgian chocolatier and more. Sit indoors or out and enjoy quality Belgian beer on tap and great wines with views of the harbour and Table Mountain. Tel: +27 21 419 024

Category Four

  1. Table Mountain Café – Top Cable station, Table Mountain, Tafelberg road – You don’t get much better mountain views than this, being right on the mountain and all… Whether you hike up or ride up (on the cable car), enjoy a snack at the top at this self-service café – breakfast buffet, pizza slices, paninis, cheese platters and more. There are drinks too – although probably go easy on the wine if you’re walking back down. Tel: +27 21 424 8181
  2. Blue Peter, Popham Street, Blouberg – Get your relax on at this popular beach bar and restaurant, a 20 minute drive from Cape Town centre, with not just sea views but also a cracking mountain view to boot. It’s great for watching sports matches on their TV screen and chilling with friends over a beer. You can even bring the dog. Tel: +27 21 554 1956
  3. Café Paradiso, Kloof Street – This is one place to enjoy great typically Italian food on a lazy day or evening. And if your partner gets boring to look at there’s always Table Mountain. Tel: +27 21 423 8653
  4. The Roundhouse Restaurant, The Glen, Camps Bay – Look out for their winter specials, because it is a rather expensive fine dining experience. We suggest dining at Rumbullion, the outdoors area where they serve pizza and drinks – it’s much more affordable. The Roundhouse offers one of the best views in South Africa, as you look down across Table Mountain Nature Reserve, along the Twelve Apostles to Camps Bay and beyond. Tel: +27 21 438 4347
  5. Bistro Sixteen82, Steenberg Vineyards, Steenberg Estate – Experience the winelands right here in Cape Town with this Bistro-style restaurant in the Constantia Valley. It’s a great way to spend a day. Plus, winos can enjoy great vintages from the state-of-the-art Steenberg Winery, Wine Tasting Bar and Tasting Lounge. Get thee here! Tel: +27 21 713 2211

Category Five

  1. Olympia Cafe, Main Road, Kalk Bay – Try something different and head out of the CBD to this bohemian seaside hamlet. Grab a delicious cup o’ coffee or chai latte from this colourful and down-to-earth cafe, and try any of the delicious options on their menu – pastries, breads, salads, shellfish, mussels and other seafood dishes, soups, pastas and more. The air is just fresher here and the people in seemingly no rush… What’s not to like?  Tel: +27 21 788 6396
  2. Sidewalk Cafe, Derry Street, VredehoekGreat food. Great views. Great atmosphere. It’s popular with locals – and their dogs – and gives you a great feel for Cape Town. They make mean sandwiches, cakes and “really cheap breakfast” Monday to Friday. Tel: +27 21 461 2839
  3. The Food Barn Restaurant & Deli, Noordhoek Farm Village, Corner Village Lane and Main Road, Noordhoek – This deli-style open-plan restaurant is rustic country chic with a well-priced and wholesome farm-style menu. It’s a great place to take the kids and feel miles away from the city. Tel: +27 21 789-1390.
  4. Manna, Kloof Street – This comes highly recommended if you’re in need of a wholesome injection. Great for breakfast or lunch, enjoy freshly squeezed juices and excellent coffee, eggs benedict, poached salmon trout and potato wedges. Um… yes please. And the white interiors should clear your mind of stress. There are also cocktails and wine to be indulged in if the goodness gets too much. Tel: +27 21 426 2413
  5. Old Biscuit Mill Market, 373 – 375 Albert Road, Woodstock – This is Cape Town’s original gourmet market and possibly the best. Buy breakfast from one of the stalls and dig in. There are cheeses, pestos and pâtés; wood-fired breads, bagels, croissants; delicious wines from the Cape Winelands; sweet things; seafood; biltong; mushrooms; and more. Tel: +27 82 370 4075. Read about other markets here.

Category Six

  1. Delaire Graff, Helshoogte Pass Road, Stellenbosch – This is by far one of the most amazing wine farms in the Cape, with a setting second to none, in our opinion. Here on the magnificent Helshoogte Mountain Pass, choose to dine at either the Delaire Graff Restaurant or the Asian-infused Indochine Restaurant, or taste wine and delicious cheese platters at the wine lounge, overlooking the most picturesque of valleys.
  2. Overture, Hidden Valley Wine Estate, Annandale Road, Stellenbosch – Of the mass of vineyards to pick from in this area, this is definitely one of the best. Enjoy fine food and wine at this restaurant on the Hidden Valley wine farm with views of Table Mountain, the Stellenbosch valley and Robben Island. Tel: +27 21 880 2721
  3. Rust & Vrede, Annandale Road, Stellenbosch – Considered to be the top restaurant in South Africa by Eat Out magazine, this winelands gem is set in a Cape Dutch building among oak trees, rolling lawns and vineyards. Enjoy fine wine and dishes you’ll struggle to pronounce but happily devour. Tel: +27 21 881 3757
  4. The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Francais, Huguenot Road, Franschhoek – This global dining destination was ranked 37th in the world by the San Pellegrino “World’s Best Restaurants” ratings. Heck, it even has a review on askmen.com. For a South African restaurant, that’s huge! Enjoy unique South African flavour with optional wine pairing with each course. Tel: +27 21 876 2151
  5. Pierneef à La Motte, Main Road, Franschhoek – The restaurant’s name is inspired by the legendary South African artist Jacob Hendrik Pierneef (1886 – 1957), whose paintings you can view in the restaurant. Before digging into the best of traditional Cape Winelands cuisine. Tel: +27 21 876 8800

Category Seven

  1. Royale Eatery, Long Street – Perhaps they put it best: “Royale is a restaurant. We serve burgers. Not just any burgers – burgers that make your soul tingle and your dreams come true.” It’s quirky, it’s trendy and serves damn fine grub and drinks, with several specials. Tel: +27 21 422 4536
  2. Van Hunks, Corner Kloof and Upper Union Street, Gardens – Relaxed and popular with locals, this makes for a great after-work-drinks option, watching a rugby game over beer, lunchtime with the parents or partner. Heck, anything. There’s a bar section, a restaurant inside and an outdoors deck area. Tel: +27 21 422 5422
  3. Woodlands Eatery, Deerpark Drive, Vredehoek – This has fast become a favorite among Capetonians. It fills up most nights so booking is wise. The the interior design of this little arty neighbourhood bistro is as much of a draw as the food (wood-fired pizzas, burgers, pastas, and more, as well as excellent Craft Beers and wines in the drinks department). Tel: +27 21 801 5799
  4. El Burro, Main Road, Greenpoint – This authentic southern Mexican eatery with its crunchy ‘n cheesy Tex-Mex fare seems to have gained popularity and a loyal following overnight. It oozes quirkiness and character, with waiters dressed in Mexican dresses, pink walls, plush leather booths and a range of Mexican objet d’art. The imported tequilas and cocktails are a must and best enjoyed on the balcony overlooking Green Point Stadium. Tel: +27 21 433 2364
  5. Chef Pon’s Sawaddee, Rheede Street Mall, Gardens – We reckon that this Asian restaurant has the second best sushi in town (after Willoughby & Co) and the most affordable wine list too. It’s great for take-aways. Tel: +27 21 422 1633

Category Eight

  1. HQ, Heritage Square, Shortmarket Street – The menu here is pretty straightforward:  salad, sirloin and chips. There are also, of course, plenty cocktails, wines and other drinks to be indulged in too. There’s a stylish and elegant restaurant area, comfortable bar and lounge, and brasserie-like atmosphere. Tel: +27 21 424 6373
  2. Hussar Grill, Camps Bay/ Green Point/ Rondebosch – The Hussar has been around for a while and they sure know how to do meat. There’s a very old-school gentleman feel about the place, as though you should sit back in an armchair with a cognac and cigar, over a good book or with a good companion. Which you can, well, do. The one in Green Point is our favourite. Tel: +27 21 433 2081
  3. Brad’s Grill, 2nd Avenue, Harfield Village, Claremont – This is a popular steak joint outside of the city in a quaint village in the Southern Suburbs. They have an “in-by-6-out-by-8” Early Bird Special, from Monday to Saturday. Tel: +27 21 671 2527
  4. Carne SA, Keerom Street – While not in a great part of town, this Italian restaurant is ideal for meat lovers, with the finest cuts of Romagnola beef, Dorper lamb, game and more. And it has fantastic allumettes chips. Tel: +27 21 424 3460
  5. Nelson’s Eye Restaurant, Hof Street, Gardens – Stephen Fry recently dined here and it’s definitely a favourite of ours too, with a warm atmosphere and years of experience in the meat industry. They boast about offering guaranteed super grade, grained beef and wet-aging the meat for up to 21 days before serving. If you’re a true carnivore, you’ll know that’s a good thing. Tel: +27 21 423 2601

  1. &Union, Bree Street – It’s packed with Cape Town’s Cool, but it’s one trendy place that is popular for a good reason. &Union has done well at introducing the city to fine beer – and wine. There’s vibey live music and specials many nights of the week, and the food is the type you fantasise about. Food porn, they call it here. Definitely a great night out. Tel: +27 21 422 2770
  2. Bascule Bar, Cape Grace Hotel, V&A WaterfrontTake a Sugar Daddy if you can because this one is costly. At this chic whiskey, wine and cocktail bar, you can enjoy just about any drink your mind can conjure up, with views over the private V&A Waterfront marina. Tel: +27 21 410 7082
  3. Daddy Cool Bar and Sky Bar, Long Street – The Daddy Cool Bar is a bling champagne bar at the top of the unique Grand Daddy Hotel. Indulge in decadent cocktails, fine whiskies and a remarkable selection of wine. It’s James-Bond-meets-Austin-Powers with the gold dust banquettes, gilt beads and tassels, twinkling shell chandeliers and a baling gold mosaic bar counter. The Sky Bar on the rooftop  features a wooden deck area with deck chairs surrounded by vintage Airstream trailers, all under a Bedouin tent. It’s something special – especially on nights when there’s live music. Tel: +27 21 424 7247
  4. Twankey Bar, Taj Hotel, Wale Street – Clink champagne glasses and cocktails and snack on hot and cold seafood tapas in the heart of the Mother City in this glitz ‘n glamour setting in the Taj Hotel. There’s also a coffee bar and occasional live music, at this 5-star luxury Indian establishment. Tel: +27 21 819 2000
  5. Tjing Tjing Bar Lounge, 165 Longmarket Street – Situated above the Dear Me bistro in a restored 181-year old home, this Chinese-inspired rooftop bar, offers a sophisticated and trendy place to enjoy a few drinks, as well as tapas dishes once the roller doors of Dear Me have closed after lunch. This loft room opens to an outside balcony. Meet you there! Tel: +27 21 422 4920

And the award for best supporting latte goes to…

  1. Origin Roastery, Hudson Street, De Waterkant – If you’re going to drink coffee right, this is the place to do it. It’s the home of the coffee elite, the place to taste the glory of beans handpicked and imported from all over the continent. There is also a courtyard, a coffee lab with a meeting space, a professional barista school with a warehouse and a tasting room – because coffee should be an experience. Tel: +27 21 421 1000
  2. Bread, Milk and Honey, Spin Street Down the road from our Rhino Africa offices, this small family-run coffee joint is a favourite by far! Partly because they have hefty jumbo-sized cups, compared to the pithy little containers most coffee spots give you to take away. But also because the coffee is superb – and made from Origin’s beans. Try the Big Daddy for an extra caffeine kick! They also have great eats to buy and a lunchtime buffet. Tel: +27 21 461 8425
  3. Gusto Cafeteria, Hatfield Street, Gardens Also down the road from our offices, Gusto is a great stop for a delicious morning cuppa – made from beans from the popular Deluxe Coffeeworks. There’s an early bird special where you can get a muffin and coffee for R20 before 9 am. Or indulge in their freshly baked goods, buffet menu and organic market every Wednesday and Saturday. Tel: +27 21 461 7868
  4. Haas Coffee Collective, Rose Street, Bo-Kaap This Bo Kaap gem combines a coffee roastery and shop and uses 100 % Arabica coffees. There are eight kinds of coffees to try, for normal prices, but should you be willing to splurge on something totally unique, like civet poo coffee, also known as Kopi Luwak, specially ‘processed’ by the Indonesian Luwak civet, you can for the price of R730 for 250g, and R80 per cup. Tel: +27 21 422 4413
  5. Espresso Lab Microroasters at the Old Biscuit Mill – Experience the buzz of the mill market on a Saturday and enjoy a cuppa delish coffee at the Microroasters, or head here daily for a delicious cup, served by upbeat and knowledgeable baristas. Tel: +27 21 447 0845

Read more about coffee here.