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 traditional African experience:
- Gold Restaurant – This is wonderful spot if you want to experience a taste of the local Cape Malay cuisine 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. Note that the restaurant has just moved to 15 Bennett Rd Greenpoint (August 2012)
- The Africa Cafe – 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
- Amadoda – this slightly off the beaten track spot (but only 10 minutes from the city)
is open daily from 1pm until late – here you can sample a variety of “braai” specialities done the traditional African way. The place has vibe, is always great for people watching and to sample the local cuisine and to enjoy the vibe. To an African person a meal is not a meal without meat – so it may be an idea to leave any vegetarian friends at home! Every second sunday they host different DJ’s and the place becomes extra vibey – so make sure you check the website to see if you are heading there on the correct Sunday! Address 1 – 4 Strand Street Woodstock. Tel no +27 21 447 2133
- Mzoli’s – This is a Cape Town favourite spot to really experience a no frills typical
African braai (BBQ). 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 – AmaZink Live is a wonderful African show in the small township next to Stellenbosch. During the summer season in Cape Town the shows 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.
Mama Africa – 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
Bo-Kaap Kombuis – This is a really lovely spot in a gorgeous modern building . 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 bowl. 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. Note that they have not got a website. Address: 7 August Street, Bo-Kaap, Cape Town. Tel no: 021 422 5446
Marco’s African Place – 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. So if you are 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. 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.
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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