The reputation that precedes South Africa, is truthfully, a very reductive one – ‘nature’…’animals’…’Mandela’…’loincloths’ and ‘endless song & dance’.
Yet, one of the most incredible things about South Africa’s growth and development in the last 5 years though (besides the spectacular art, diversification of the Gin & Wine world, as well as the inspired architecture we’re mastering), is the formidable strides we’ve made in elevating our Food & Wine industries, and experiences…and not just for tourists.
I have fallen into the trap, to aspire to eat at elite & foreign eateries, lauded singularly by the denizens of dining.
I’ve disregarded South Africa’s foodie culture without even a thought – not considering its established eateries as worthy to prioritise on my Bucket List, and squishing those establishments with potential to be great, all in one fell swoop.
So, while pondering my failings as a lover of food who is actually limiting her experiences with subconscious prejudices, I decided to educate myself on local foodie spots I should be prioritising – for my tummy’s sake, at the very least!
Here is my Cape Bucket List:
I’m not even going to lie: I am in it for the hype!
Kobus van der Merwe is a former food blogger-turned-Head Chef of The Wolfgat , which is officially awarded 2019s Best Restaurant in the world.
It may be the daily Strandveld foraging (for the likes of succulents, herbs and dune spinach), which helped the restaurant clinch the highest honour at the inaugural World Restaurant Awards in Paris, or it could be:
- Retreating from messing with the ingredients too much, in order for their most authentic taste and shapes to remain – somewhat of a commentary on the most celebrated chefs and dishes being the overly complex ones in their creations, perhaps?!
- The affordability of its simple fine-dining (seven-course tasting menu at R850 |$60)
- The unique staffing situation (of 6 staff members with no formal training).
It would take me a while to make my way back to Paternoster – so far off map as a destination -but The Wolfgat seems like it would be worth it.
I have experienced The Classic High Tea at Cellars-Hohenort, but touring the property with the hopes of one day having a Staycation there, led me to the Greenhouse restaurant, and its delectable-looking menu.
Greenhouse is the flagship restaurant of The Collection by Liz McGrath.
Beyond its prestige as an affiliate of such an esteemed hospitality brand, I am intrigued by expert Sommelier Michelle Michaels assisting diners with perfect wine & food pairings, related to the restaurants ‘Experience’ tasting menu.
I’m always passing by a Jason Bakery – in the easy city, central business district, or in Sea Point – without actually sampling its rich wares.
I think I’m overdue a visit to what is known as a trusty Cape Town spot, to watch beautiful people, as I score: visibly fluffy croissants, well-plated breakfasts, and hearty lunch sandwiches.
I have a deep addiction for Netflix cooking shows, ever since the streaming service got smart enough to load some of Anthony Bourdain food & travel shows.
I started one of the shows, The Final Table, a few months ago, and was pleasantly surprised to discover a fellow South African competing on there.
Chef Ash Heeger is a Cape Town-based chef, with one of the most desired food experiences, in a city jampacked with food options at all hours.
The bright Riverine Rabbit on Church Street, was birthed from the ashes of its darker-toned predecessor, Ash Restaurant, where Chef Heeger utilised her advanced skills to master a charcoal-based food concept, with success that burnt as bright and quick as a phoenix flame.
I want to visit the family-owned Riverine Rabbit for its commitment to using natural resources sustainably. Ash and her team forage and even serve freshly caught fish. The additional draw the restaurant has, is the paved terrace, highlighted: with glossy wood, vibrant greenery, marble tabletops, and a simple, warm colour scheme.
I’ll hopefully see Riverine Rabbit in the summer!
Newly discovered in my research on this Bucket List, I stumbled upon a multi-functional cultural centre, designed with all the airs of an upper crust French & Italian revival.
Cucina Labia is in Muizenberg, a place that takes careful planning over weeks, for me to get to…mostly because I am a Millenial who does not want to learn to drive.
The stunning residence, was the former residence of boujie people with proper European titles, and a taste level reflective of 18th century Venice, Italy.
I have dreams of dressing up glamorously, gorging myself on the finest cuisine made by Andrea Foulkes and her team, and –fittingly – snapping an inane amount of photos in the opulent spaces the centre houses.
Okay, so in my quest to aspire towards Bucket Listing ‘The South African’ dining experience, I forgot many a chef and eatery owner, may bear the European influences I’ve long-since held in the highest esteem.
Guilio’s, located at the corner of the busy intersection of Loop & Riebeek Street, has been branded an authentic Italian Cafe, with its owner having trained at famed chef Jamie Oliver’s Recipease, in London.
I would not be able to authenticate the validity of its Italian claim, on the backbone of my food knowledge or amateur palate, but I know good food so I am very excited to one day try Guilio’s Pancakes à L’Americana.
The Potluck Club & The Test Kitchen
Luke Dale-Roberts is a name that now leaves people salivating; The British chef has carved out a very imposing corner in the South African food circuit.
The Potluck Club, as well as The Test Kitchen, were never not going to be on the list. I have been coveting their carefully branded dining experiences, for the past 2 years.
The Test Kitchen is one of Luke’s original love letters to dining out, and the art of cooking – complete with food styled in homage to the likes of Heston Blumenthal.
“It is here that you want to lower your voice, breathe deeply and focus on food and conversation.” – Luke Dale-Roberts, The Test Kitchen
Smack-dab in the cusp of what is inarguably the Cape’s best culinary landscape, The Potluck Club sits lofty at the top of Old Biscuit Mill’s silo complex – its trendy Woodstock locale, and vantage point overlooking the harbour and twinkling cityscape, an aesthetic experience to buy into, in and of itself.
I have dreams of me and my friends having schedules & budgets that sync up enough to head to both these inspired Old Biscuit Mill restaurants.
Perhaps, I’ll begin with the edgy The Potluck Club – known around foodie circles, as a lively experience with a high-end price tag. I’m ready for Asian tapas and pan-African wisps of flavor.
Given The Test Kitchen‘s new design concept, 40-guest per night limit, as well as its award-winning and celeb-studded status, I’ll likely be unable to breathe near it, in the next 2 years.
I did not know that the taste of Mother Russia, could create a symphony of flavor, when married to traditional South African recipes.
Avante-Garde Restaurant is located on the wine estate and heritage farm Hazendal, in Stellenbosch – considered a significant region of South Africa’s ‘Napa Valley‘.
The lush green lawns and vineyards of Hazendal, are picturesque, while the estate’s buildings exemplify beautiful contemporary architecture. The interiors, where Avante-Garde Restaurant and the estates Jazz Club are located, are newly revamped atmospheric masterpieces, complete wit stunning hand-painted murals, copper fireplace, and sparkling chandeliers.
I have seen great things of the estate and its dining options; vivid imagery of impossible culinary fusions, as well as edutainment opportunities for kids and adults alike.
I am eager to showcase my ‘PhD’ in tapas-style & à la carte dining, as well as showcasing my snooty tea etiquette, when I get the chance to step foot on the sprawling estate for dinner or Russian tea tasting.
Okay, so I went here for breakfast once.
It was…well, I left indifferent.
I think I may have to visit once again, in order to figure out whether the striking interiors are matched by the overt pomp of the menu – with its handful of aesthetically appealing dishes comprised of seasonal ingredients.
Coffee, Alcohol…and steampunk?
Drinks have to be on your Bucket List in the Cape.
We have crazy cool drinks experiences one can enjoy, like:
- Wine tasting with gifted Sommelier Ricardo Roux, at a resort even Elton John considers a favourite (La Residence, Franschhoek)
- Speakeasy-style bars with whimsical cocktails (Orphanage and Art of Duplicity, Cape Town)
- Laid back inner city haunts, with live music (House of Machines Cape Town)
- Steampunk-themed cafe (Truth Coffee, Cape Town)
- Artsy coffee joints (Haas, Cape Town)
If you’re looking for the perfect sample group to people-watch or rub shoulders with, then look no further than Cape Town’s wholesome weekend markets.
The free entry Neighbourgoods Market, in the much gentrified Woodstock district, is where the cool Millennials go for shopping, brunching, and picking up on a ‘vibe’.
Families head in to the stripped-brick, three-storey factory with an accompanying tent, as there’s something for everyone, and couples enjoy some sunshine and nibbles between errands.
I have visited the Saturday market a fair few times, but I have yet to work my way through the entire food section of thee amazing vibey spot. I’ve gorged myself on burgers, traditional Bratwurst, and even some divine, spicy Paella.
There are still many a craft beer, fried this’s and frozen that’z, which I need to try.