by Tamlin Wightman on February 22, 2013
15 min read

“Cape Town is into fusion the way King Kong is into willowy blondes”

That’s what writer Frank Bruni had to say about the Mother City’s dining experience in a New York Times Travel article, “In Cape Town, anything goes, and usually goes together”.

That’s Cape Town, a cosmopolitan mélange that still includes its own uniquely South African identity (itself also a mix – of ethnicities and influences; Portuguese, Dutch, Malay, to name a few) with original local dishes.

Deciding where to dine in Cape Town is no picnic. And we don’t believe in average. Life is too short for average. No, that’s incorrect. Life is long. Very long. And even longer without great food and wine. If the average human lives approximately 25,000 days in their lifetime, they’ll have at least 75,000 meals. Not counting dessert and snacks.

To ensure that every meal is more than just boilerplate, read this year’s definitive foodie awards – the Rhino Africa Top 5’s List – now in its third year. It features the very best restaurants and bars in the city and surrounding Winelands. Some contenders remain in the running from last year, while others have been booted and replaced.

Tell us your favourites and read what our Hornygrazer had to say about the winners in each of the 10 categories below:


Impress the in-laws

  • The Greenhouse – 93 Brommersvlei Road, Cellars-Hohenort Hotel, Constantia. “The Greenhouse was voted the best restaurant in South Africa last year by Eat Out magazine. Rarely have I been quite so quiveringly excited about a dinner.” – Read the review. Tel 021 794 2137.
  • La Colombe – Constantia Uitsig Wine Estate. “The 12th best restaurant in the world.” So… excellent in every way. The estate is beautiful and acclaimed for its white wines – Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon in particular. Read the review. Tel 021 794 2390.
  • Bizerca Bistro – 98 Shortmarket Street, Heritage Square. “The menu oozes primordial, Gallic excess. Like a nosy truffle-pig I tasted everything at the table. Mopping up sauces that didn’t belong to me and stealing forkfuls with abandon. Think bone marrow, red wine reductions, hearty broths, lamb stews, tongue, truffles and porcini mushrooms.” Read the review. Tel 021 418 0001.
  • Test Kitchen – Old Biscuit Mill, Woodstock. This award-winning restaurant is artfully designed with an industrial-chic, NYC loft apartment feel, serving creative dishes that will change the way you see food. Franschhoek trout with aubergine nitsuke, tamarind dressing and lime purée; slow clam extraction, farfalle, oysters; and pan-seared duck, sake steamed foie gras, kumquats and jasmine consommé. Taste it to understand. Tel 021 447 2337. Read the review.
  • Planet Bar & Restaurant – Mount Nelson Hotel, Gardens. “Without doubt the most spectacular dining room in South Africa, the Planet Restaurant would give New York’s finest a run for their money. The wine list is extensive with a good selection of wines by the glass.” – Read the review. Tel 021 483 1948.
Sea views
  • Bungalow – 3 Victoria Road, Clifton. Not the best meals we’ve ever tasted, but it’s the vibey, young atmosphere and ocean views that pull you. As we said last year, it’s where yuppies meet to sniff sea air, clink cocktail glasses and relax in a chic setting while indulging in Mediterranean dishes. Tel 021 438 5600.
  • Harbour House V&A – Quay 5 V&A Waterfront. Situated in the popular Waterfront Harbour, this is a great place to enjoy a good seafood meal, catch the boats coming in and out and rub shoulders with tourists and locals alike over top-class wines. Tel 021 418 4744.
  • Grand Café and Beach – Haul Road, off Beach Road, Granger Bay, next to the V&A Waterfront. “If you’re looking for the ultimate spot for a beach sundowner, your search ends here. Don your pradas and your panamas – the Grand Café and Beach is just the ticket.” Tel 021 425 0551 – Read the review.
  • The Azure Restaurant & Leopard Bar Twelve Apostles Hotel & Spa, Camps Bay. It’s bound to stay on this list for some time to come. Feel the mountain breathing down your neck while sipping cocktails and fine wine. Take sundowners in the Leopard Bar and five-star meals at Azure with its view over the Atlantic Ocean. Arrive by helicopter if you wish. Tel 021 437 9255. Read the review.
  • Salt Restaurant – The Ambassador Hotel, Victoria Road, Bantry Bay. Salt is more than just a condiment on the table or some American spy film starring Angelina Jolie. It is one stellar restaurant and bar in Bantry Bay, with one of the best views in Cape Town, looking out over the Atlantic from your table. It is custom-fit for a night of champagne elegance on any special occasion. Read the review here and here.
Asian Dining
  • Willoughby and Co – Lower Level, Victoria Wharf, V&A Waterfront. The ever-growing queue that leads to the entrance of this popular sushi and seafood joint on most nights and weekends should be enough of a sign that it’s a worthwhile wait for a table. We recommend Willoughby’s to anyone serious about their sushi. Tel 021 418 6115.
  • NobuOne&Only Hotel, V&A Waterfront. “Nobu, from Japanese master-chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa, is the first of its kind in Africa. If you find yourself in Cape Town, it’d be a travesty not to book a table here.” You’ll get your dose of Asian dining with bento boxes full of tuna sashimi salad, sushi rolls, Nobu sashimi jalapeno, white fish tempura, nasu miso and chicken teriyaki… washed down with saki. Read the review. Tel 021 431 4511.
  • Kitima – 140 Main Road, Kronendal Estate, Hout Bay. Still high up on the list, Kitima is considered by many as the best place to go for Asian in Cape Town. As we said last year – it offers a different view of the city, being on the outskirts of the busy CBD and the espresso martinis are still a must! Tel 021 790 8004.
  • Haiku – 33 Church St, City Bowl. Put a face to the name at this traditional inner-city Asian restaurant and try everything from the dim sum and Peking duck to the daikon, robata and scallop har gau. It’s a delicious education enhanced by fine wines. Tel  021 424 7000.
  • Bombay Brasserie Wale Street, Taj Hotel, corner Wale & St. George’s Mall, CBD. “The executive chef spent fifteen years at the Taj Mahal no less, so contemporary Indian fare doesn’t get much more authentic than this.” Like its namesake restaurant in London, this is Indian specialty dining at its best. Read the review. Tel 021 819 2000.
mountain
  • Sevruga – Quay 5, V&A Waterfront. Sitting outside on the edge of the quay, you can see both Table Mountain and the harbour from this swanky seafood restaurant. It’s a great place to rest a while between browsing sprees in the Waterfront, over the extensive food and wine menu. The service and food is top-notch, especially the dim sum, sushi and desserts. Tel 021 421 5134. Read the review.
  • Simon’s – Groot Constantia Estate. Venture out to this little countryside in the city, run through the vines and sip in the extensive wine list and mountain vistas over a long lunch. Tel 021 794 1143.
  • Roundhouse – Kloof Rd, The Glen, Camps Bay. Views as good as this are dangerous. They get you thinking and reflecting too much. But it sure is magical here at the Roundhouse, with the mountains above and Camps Bay and the Atlantic Ocean below. The food and wine are some kind of magical too. Tel 021 438 4347.
  • Bistro Sixteen82Steenberg Estate, Tokai. The Steenberg Wine Estate is often wrongly overlooked. It is the oldest farm in the Constantia Valley, with mountain views and a state of the art winery, producing award-winning wines.  This innovative Bistro-style restaurant and wine tasting venue is the perfect spot for daytime meals. Tel 021 713 2211.
  • Café Paradiso – 110 Kloof Street, Gardens. Café Paradiso is great for all occasions and offers authentic Italian food – especially the fresh pastas – with a jovial and  relaxed atmosphere and a view of Table Mountain from the outside courtyard. Tel  021 423 8653. Read the review.

Breakfast

  • Manna Epicure – 151 Kloof St. A bit like breakfasting at Tiffany’s, it’s considered for ladies who lunch, but it’s also great for anyone wanting to break the fast over a newspaper or laptop or with a friend.  Tel 021 426 2413.
  • Power & Glory – Kloofnek Road, Tamboerskloof. Still a popular choice with locals looking for coffee in a relaxed, trendy setting. At this bistro-slash-bar, pick up a take-away cuppa or rest your behind inside or by the counter looking out onto the street. They offer great meals; the menu changes frequently, but you can always rely on the pretzel hotdogs. At night, the crowd in the bar grows, until it filters out onto the lit-up streets. Tel 021 422 2108.
The Power & Glory

The Power & Glory

  • Jason Bakery – Cnr Bloem and Bree Streets. Still on the list and still big on beer, bread and bubbles! Regulars love the much talked-about gourmet sandwiches and pastries, as well as the range of beers and the great Deluxe Coffeeworks coffee. Closed Saturdays and Public Holidays, sadly. Tel 021 424 5644.
  • Olympia Cafe & Deli – Main Rd, Kalk Bay. There are many reasons to make the trek out to Kalk Bay and this corner cafe is one of them. Soak in the bohemian feel and sea and mountain views over delicious pastries and a good ol’ coffee or three. Tel 021 788 6396.
  • Beleza – Kloof Nek Rd, Tamboerskloof. This old faithful corner coffee shop is perfect for a morning, afternoon or evening latte, cappuccino or flat white, whatever your preference. The crowd is mixed, hip, the waitresses quirky and the food Portuguese and Italian-inspired. Sit inside or out, and browse the rails of vintage clothes and jewellery for sale inside. If that’s your thing. Tel 021 426 0795.
winelands
  • Delaire Graff Restaurant – Delaire Graff Wine Estate, Helshoogte Pass, Stellenbosch. A sure bet on our winelands list, Delaire Graff allures with its superior views of the region’s vineyards and mountains. The restaurant offers fine food with fresh, vibrant flavours served on the terrace under oak trees or within the grand interiors. Tel 021 885 8160.
  • Overture – Hidden Valley Wine Estate, Annandale Road, Stellenbosch. “Overture is a very fine restaurant indeed, in one of the most spectacular parts of South Africa. I cannot wait to return.” Read the review. Tel 021 880 2721.
  • Babel – Babylonstoren Wine Farm, Simondium Road, Klapmuts. For something wholesome and organic, the much-talked about Babel is the place, set on a 300-year-old working farm. The ingredients making up the unique meals are sourced locally, with many even from the farm’s gardens. Dine inside or al fresco with views that will make it tough to leave. Read the review.
  • Jordan – Stellenbosch Kloof Road, Stellenbosch. This is by far one of the top spots in the winelands to go for a meal, with a warm family-friendly atmosphere and award-winning dishes and fine wines to be enjoyed on the terrace overlooking the lawns, lake and Stellenbosch mountains in the distance. Tel 021 881 3612.
  • Makaron – Majeka House, Houtkapper Street, Paradyskloof, Stellenbosch. “Makaron and M-Lounge at Majeka won the Eat Out 2011 Boschendal Style Award and it’s easy to see why. Sensational food with a presentation that really impressed.” Read the review. Tel 021 880 1549.

steak

  • Carne SA – 70 Keerom Street, City Bowl. We didn’t realise meat could be served in so many forms until we dined here. Carpaccios, veal tongue, biltong salad, steak tartare, slow-baked lamb shoulder ravioli, any steaks cut any way you like… Served in a modern and upmarket, yet warm setting. Tel 021 424 3460
  • Nelson’s Eye – 9 Hof Street, Gardens. The Real Deal Old-School Steakhouse, is how it’s touted. Still a favourite with locals after all these years with steaks that do not disappoint. Tel 021 423 2601.
  • HQ – Heritage Square, Shortmarket Street, CBD. HQ – or Headquarters Restaurant – is great if you like steak. If you don’t or your date doesn’t, you best go elsewhere. They serve one main dish – sirloin steak and it’s a damn fine one at that, served with some of the best fries and Café de Paris Béarnaise sauce we’ve ever tasted. Tel 021 424 6373.
  • Hussar – Somerset Rd, Green Point.  The Hussar has a distinguished old-school feel; it’s a bit like being in a Cleudo boardgame with the tall book shelves and cognac and cigar bar. They make a mean steak and our favourite: the Fried Crumbed Camembert, with cranberry jam and Melba toast. Tel 021 433 2081. Read the review.
  • The Grillroom – Huguenot Street, Heritage Square, Franschhoek. Being in the Winelands, The Grillroom not only serves some of the best meat we’ve ever tasted, but also has a wine list that surpasses expectation and a whole countryside to explore afterwards. Tel 021 876 2548.
everyday
  • Maria’s Cafe – 31 Barnett Street, Dunkley Square, Gardens. Still one of our favourites, Maria’s is a unique, more off the beaten track city eatery, serving traditional Greek fare that is as wholesome and tasty as they come, especially when washed down with one of the cold beers or wines. If the weather’s good, pull up a chair outside on the square among the trees. “Just don’t break your plates here – it’s not that type of Greek restaurant.”  Read the review. Tel 021 461 3333.
  • La Boheme – Main Road, Sea Point. One of Cape Town’s best bistros, with good, simple food at reasonable prices, a great tapas menu and up to 60 wines on offer. Sit outside when it’s warm. Tel 021 434 8797.
  • Woodlands – 6 Deer Park Avenue West, Vredehoek. “What makes The Woodlands Eatery an oak among the ferns is the fantastic décor, simple tasty food made with great fresh ingredients and the chilled vibe lacking from many of the posher foodie spots. You just feel at home.” Read the review. Tel 021 801 5799.
  • Il Cappero –  The Fairway, off Victoria Road, Camps Bay. With the host, Aldo, hailing from Rome, and his wife, Cetti, from Palermo, you can expect authentic Italian dishes with a focus on Sicilian Cuisine. Try the genuine Grappa and Limoncello… when in Rome! Tel 021 438 7074.
  • El Burro – 81 Main Road, Green Point. “The food at El Burro is fresh, funky and simple Mexican fare; the décor is great and the vibe chilled, with funky Mexican-inspired bits and bobs everywhere. The staff are a friendly, smiling bunch, and their enthusiasm rubs off on you.” Read the review. Tel 021 433 2364.

drinks

  • Alphen Rose BarAlphen Hotel, Constantia. Also known as the Cougar National Park, for obvious reasons, this outdoor bar and terrace in the Winelands of Constantia, is at once both elegant and old colonial and trendy and modern. A place for heels and blazers. The extensive cocktail and sushi menu and decadent snack platters could keep you there all night – from the spiced prawns and smoked paprika mayonnaise and lemon tempura squid heads to the fresh West Coast oysters. Tel  021 795 6313.
  • &Union – 110 Bree Street, St Stephen’s Church Bowl. Sausage, beer, wine and ping pong. With live music some nights and a trendy, good-looking crowd to gawk at. This city bar is a sure bet for a drinks night with friends. The first proper beer bar in South Africa, it also serves delicious, hearty meals. If beer and wine aren’t up your alcoholic alley, try somewhere else. Tel 021 422 2770.
  • Orphanage Cocktail Emporium – Corner of Bree & Orphan Street, City Bowl. It’s small and intimate. You’d hardly even know it was there if we didn’t tell you. But this trendy new specialist cocktail club and eatery attracts a vibrant crowd keen to mix drinks and rub shoulders. Tel 021 424 2004.
  • Caprice – 37 Victoria Road, Camps Bay. A stone’s throw from Camps Bay beach, Caprice is on the bustling trendy strip that is popular with models, celebs, and the like. The daytime Bahamas-style Beach chic rolls into bright lights, loud music and strong cocktails by night. Tel 021 438 8315 .
  • Bascule Bar – Cape Grace Hotel, V&A Waterfront. Known for its extensive – and expensive – whiskey menu that makes connoisseurs froth at the mouth, the Bascule is also the place for fine wines and cocktails. It looks out over the a private Waterfront marina, with its yachts and sea gulls. Tel 021 410 7082.

Coffee

  • Deluxe Coffeeworks – Roodehek Street, Gardens. We’re locals here, not just because our offices are around the corner but because we know a damn fine coffee when we smell one. If you’re having a take-away, take away at least two cups. The house blend – 45% Brazil, 45% Guatemala, 10% Ethiopia – is the perfect combination of rich and creamy, smooth and strong. What started as an evening burger joint in a garage called The Dog’s Bollocks was extended and now the L-shaped property includes the Deluxe micro-coffee roastery and a lunch-time eatery, known as The Bitches’ Tits. Hey we didn’t name the place… The design is rustic and trendy, with bicycles on the wall and a giant roaster alongside motorbikes, old records, t-shirts for sale, wire garden furniture, loud music and leather couches held down by men with tattoos. It’s somewhere you imagine The Beats would have hung out. Tel 083 440 7843.
  • Bread, Milk & Honey – 10 Spin Street, City Bowl. It has a homely, intimate feel and is amid the hustle and bustle of the CBD with a mixed clientele – everyone from students to photographers to lawyers. The bubbly service and excellent coffee is a great way to start the day. Tel 021 461 8425.
  • Loading Bay – 30 Hudson Street, Die Waterkant. Hipster capital, with a variety of coffees and a hip layout inside and out. Bring your fixie bicycle and grab a cuppa before or during work. Tel 021 425 6320.
  • Haas – 67 Rose Street, BoKaap. On the outskirts of the CBD, this small, quirky coffee shop has excellent coffees and pastries, with seats inside and out. Plus, it’s the only place we know of where you can buy the very sought-after (read: expensive) Indonesian Kopi Luwak beans. Google them. Tel 021 422 4413.
  • Gusto – 117 Hatfield Street, Gardens. Still a firm favourite of ours since it’s on the route to work. Tom the man behind the counter knows us by name, as he does many of the regulars. It’s small, with a covered outside area to sit in, just up the road from the Company Gardens. They serve a delicious coffee (compliments of Deluxe roastery) and sweet and savoury treats too. Tel 021 461 7868.

Like Coffee? Read more here.

Deluxe

Think we missed something? Let us know below. And be sure to consult this list the next time you’re looking for somewhere to wine and dine in Cape Town. Contact us to find out more about this city and start planning your own tailor-made trip here!

Read our blog for Cape Town’s Top Vegetarian Restaurants.