It is a challenge to find the local cuisine on offer in the Cape as many of the cuisines that our people eat are home cuisines that somehow have not made it into our restaurants. One of the factors that influenced this was apartheid. The draconian laws saw to it that the job of “chef” could only be allocated to a white person. As such many of the hotels brought into International chefs who brought them their international flavours. Our traditional cuisine retreated into peoples homes and it was only after 1990 that people started talking about our local dishes again. In the Cape we celebrate a combination of our African roots as well as our Cape Malay roots – and you should try both while you are here! If you would like to learn more about our cuisine read my blog on South African Cuisine across our cultures.
Below is a list of some of my favourite spots to go to for a taste of traditional South African Cuisine:
New – find them towards the top of Long Street in the middle of the city. This is a great addition to the city! Pitso is from Limpopo and has been doing African food for markets and events for some time now. He has finally opened his own restaurant in Long Street. The daily dishes available will grow – but for now expect approximately four meat dishes a day. Note that this is an African Kitchen – Mzansi style! This is traditional African food cooked wonderfully well in a restaurant setting………..note there are not a lot of options to find great African food where the clientele is likely to be local African people – instead of tourists! This is “PROPER”. Note that with African cuisine – MEAT IS KING. Vegetables are often done in small portions and are not the hero of the meal! As such go and order a couple of HUGS – this is their menu term for a few meat dishes to share with a few sides…..note that you need to try – PAP (the maize porridge) + SAMP & BEANS (dried corn combined with beans) + STEAMED BREAD (bread that is cooked in a bowl in a pot with steam!). We had the beef stew (slow cooked and delicious), the hard body chicken (this is traditional free range chickens that are extremely tough), steam bread (the best I have ever had), pap (always my favourite, spinach (tiny side!!), butternut (tiny side dish) & chakalaka – a must to include on any African meal – it is a spicy relish. We loved the great selection of African brewed beers – we had three different beers. The most interesting was the sorghum based beer. I would recommend heading here at night for dinner or on weekends. They are open 7 days a week and are open late. 230 Long Street. Ps this spot also has adventurous options such as – chicken feet, sheeps heads & mopane worms!
This is wonderful spot if you want to experience a taste of the local Cape Malay cuisine, some African dishes as well as some African dancing and singing. They create a wonderful atmosphere through having all the staff dressed in beautiful African outfits. The staff are all get a chance to sing and dance – and you can see that each and every one of them are having loads of fun. The price for the dinner and entertainment is one set price and they do a set menu of many courses – as such if you are at all fussy – don’t worry about it as a large amount of dishes come out and you simply chose which ones you feel like eating. If you have any kids with you – it is great fun to book to do a drumming class before dinner. Find them at 15 Bennett Rd Greenpoint. Tip – book in advance during summer – they are very popular!
Yes – lots of tour groups go here – but you don’t feel it at all as they have a lot of different rooms in the building. I was dragged here kicking and screaming the first time as I thought this was only for foreigners. I had a blast! They serve an endless number of dishes where you get to experience flavours from all over Africa. It is great fun and if you fall in love with any dish – you can order more! Expect a lovely tastefully done African theme restaurant – each room is themed to a different tribe – lots of cocktails and lots of food! It is great fun! Corner Buitengracht and Shortmarket str, City Bowl area. Tel +27 21 422 0221
This is a Cape Town favourite spot to really experience a no frills typical African Braai (BBQ) located in a Cape Town township.
Mzoli is one of the biggest seller of meat in our township regions of Cape Town. Here you visit the butchery to chose your meat and side dishes (NB you should order a dish of pap (maize porridge – staple for most of the African tribes in South Africa) and samp & beans (samp is dried corn that has been cooked with beans for many hours and is the traditional staple of the Xhosa tribe) as well as a side order of chakalaka. Note that this spot is quiet for lunch during the week and manic on the weekends. On weekends there is live entertainment – so get here early – it opens at 12h00. Otherwise your meat may take a few hours to come out! Note that this is street style dining – there are some rough looking tables and chairs – there is truly no nice decor! You simply buy your drinks in the neighbouring shabeens as Mzoli’s does not sell alcohol. You are also welcome to bring your own. Directions: Come on the N2 towards the airport. Take exit 15 Duinefontein/Modderdam road. Turn right at the top of the exit. Take a left into KLIPFONTEIN RD. Pass over a traffic light and look for a church on your left. It is the very next street left. Note – it is safer NOT to drive yourselves there. A great way to experience Mzoli’s is to do the new La GuGu tour being offered by the City Sightseeing bus people – for a really cheap price you get to do a tour in a van in the townships which stops to do a walking or cycling tour for an hour and then takes you through to Mzoli’s – where you can stop and do lunch. As such I would book recommend booking the 10am or 11am slot online for La GuGu – bringing you into Mzol’s for lunchtime.
AmaZink Live is a wonderful African show in the small township next to Stellenbosch. During the Cape’s summer season the dinner theatre shows are on a Friday night. This is a wonderfully funky African themed space. Your theatre tickets can be combined with a dinner braai booking. To check out the various options for the dinner and show check out their website. Note that they can organize you transport from Cape Town, Stellenbosch or Franschhoek – simply make an enquiry on their website.
Head here if you want to try game meat – including crocodile! This is an African theme restaurant – and yes it does feel touristy – but it is great fun. They usually really good African music – so it is worth popping in for a drink if you are out an about exploring Long Street. There is a small cover charge for the music – but it is well worth it! 178 Long Str. Tel +(27) (0) 21 424 8634
This is a really lovely spot in a gorgeous modern building perched on the slopes of Signal Hill. The restaurant is located in the heart of Cape Town’s Cape Malay community in the Bo-Kaap. They do a wonderful assortment of the local dishes – which include the local Cape Malay curries. The view is fantastic up here and you have a view of Cape Town city below you while you enjoy dinner. To get here simply turn into Wale street and head up the mountain – the road winds and changes name twice, on one of the upper bends you will see the contemporary building pictured – I am not sure if they now have a sign – they did not last time I went! NB this is the Muslim quarter of Cape Town – no alcohol is served. Address: 7 August Street, Bo-Kaap, Cape Town. Tel no: +27 21 422 5446
This building is proudly decorated in an African theme both inside and out and can be seen from Buitengracht street as you head down to the Waterfront. Marco serves traditional black African cuisine. This gives you a taste of the cuisine – the drawcard is however that they have a good assortment of musicians that play here. The food is average. Head hear if you are in the mood to hear the loud sounds of Africa – head on down to Marco’s! Note it is best to visit at night for dinner. There is almost no ambiance during the day. Tel no 021 423 5412
For a truly authentic taste of Durban Curry – track down Vandiars on Dunkley Square. They have the BEST BUNNY CHOWS IN CAPE TOWN. The restaurant has a lovely outdoor area under the trees for sitting in the summer. The decor inside includes a history of the family on the walls. A visit includes the history of the family and the cuisine! Great friendly service as well as one of the most delicious mutton curry bunny ever.
Did you know that Durban in South Africa has the largest number of Indian people living in a city outside of India in the world? Indian workers were brought in as indentured labourers about 160 years ago to work in the sugar cane fields in Durban. As such Durban has had its own Indian dishes as well as spice markets for many many years. If one is invited to an ex Durban friends home for dinner – one drops everything and heads over immediately. A visit to Prim Reddy’s Indian Chapter feels like you are being welcomed into a friends home. She is a local celebrity in South Africa and we are extremely lucky to have her in the Cape. If you are a foodie I would head through to Blouberg and watch the sun set over the beaches – perhaps enjoy a lovely beach walk ………and then head a few roads back from the beach once the sunsets and find the Indian Chapter. I would not look at the menu – simply wait for Prim to come and tell you what to eat. A reminder that dishes are meant to be shared in Indian cuisine! Tell her your brief is to taste her most delicious dishes as well as to have a taste of Durban South Africa. This is a gem of a place. Her aim is to keep it simple like a Mumbai canteen. It is fabulous. The food is fabulous and she is fabulous! Note this is about 45 minutes away from the city centre! It is worth the beautiful drive!
TIP – if you are keen to try local flavours – why not consider doing our CAPE TOWN EATS WALKING TOUR. This tour takes you on a culinary journey through the city where you taste the local flavours of the communities that make up the Cape.
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