Cape Town is a creative hub and with the artists come artisans who are channeling their creativity into the food and entertainment world. This creativity is best felt and experienced by exploring areas of the inner city and its fringe areas e.g. – Bo-Kaap, De Waterkant and Woodstock.
The trend over the last few years has been a return to artisan roots and to support the smaller local artisanal businesses. There is a very public shift away from big brands eg Illy Coffee, versus Cape Town artisanal roasted coffee eg Origin/Deluxe/Truth/Haas. In addition the recession has meant that there have been less of a focus on opulence and as such fine dining establishments have struggled and many have closed. Naturally chefs are not opening new fine dining establishments – they are opting for smaller quirky spots with a focus on quirky and artisan sourced food and drinks. Another big buzz is (finally) the rise of craft beer in South Africa. For years the market was dominated by one big company which made sure they kept the monopoly and as such there was no space in the market for craft beer.
To get your first taste for some of the trends happening in Cape Town, I would recommend you start at one end of Bree Street and work your way down the street as far as the intersection of Bree with Strand Street. Bree Street is the local new hotspot for creative business openings and offers a wide variety of quirky and interesting spots
Bree Street, City Centre Cape Town:
Sababa – Picture some of the most beautiful salads with Middle Eastern and Mediterranean influences. This spot is tiny, quirky and delicious with gorgeous white interiors. You can either squish inside or sit out on the pavement and watch the world go by. The food is delightfully fresh and the flavours rock my world. These are truly talented foodies who understand that simplicity works. 231 Bree Street. http://sababa.withtank.com
Kirsten Goss and Missibaba – These are two local South African companies producing really great locally designed products. They share a shop space. Missibaba is a community empowerment project creating trendy bags ( http://www.missibaba.com) and Kirsten Goss designs and produces jewelry locally in Natal ( http://www.kirstengoss.com) 229 Bree Street
Orphanage – This is a quirky, fun upmarket bar that boasts a restaurant and a club. They are located on the corner of Orphanage and Bree Street – make sure you order the cocktail that gives a R15 contribution to a local orphanage. This is open from 5pm onwards. 227 Bree Street http://www.theorphanage.co.za
Skinny Laminx – for those that are into looking for local textiles while traveling this spot is a must include while visiting Cape Town. Started by Heather Moore as a hobby, her fabrics are now sort after around the world and are available in stores in South Africa through to New York. http://skinnylaminx.com/shop/ 201 Bree Street
Jason – this is a cult following bakery. People flock here for the sandwiches and the coffee and to stock up with bread. It is also a favourite of mine for people watching. People sit along the pavement and you need to know that there is no service – you simply order from the hatch. He works closely with other artisan producers such as Franky Fenner Meats and there is a great synergy between the two businesses. To find out updates on what is happening at Jason you need to follow him on twitter. 185 Bree Street. http://jasonbakery.com (open daytime only)
Clarke’s bar & dining- This spot is quirky, it is hip and it has become a local hangout for the trendy 20 somethings in Cape Town. It started life as a burger bar that cared about where its meat was coming from – everything is free range and they can track the source. The burgers remain an insanely good option. They have however added to it – with fab pulled pork sandwiches, Caesar salads and in fact a fairly large menu! It has become a spot to meet up with friends for a real value for money delicious dinner and drinks and is a funky and fun hangout at night. 133 Bree Street. http://clarkesdining.co.za Another trend in Cape Town is the rise of Food Trucks. Clarke’s food can also be found in their food truck which is always at the Biscuit Mill on a Saturday morning. Unfortunately we still have archaic legislation that makes it hard for them to simply pop up and operate. As such to track the Cape Town food trucks one needs to follow where they are on the Food Truck facebook page https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cape-Town-Food-Trucks/424139807602526
Bird Boutique Café – Chef owned restaurants seem to always offer a taste of love on the plate and Bird’s is no exception. Here Chefs Leigh and Kevin offer delicious well priced dishes in a simple café style setting. Well worth popping in. Open Tues – Sat daytime and Wed – Fri evenings. 127 Bree Street https://www.facebook.com/BirdsCafe
Lucky Fish – this is the new baby of Lucky Fish from Kalk Bay Harbour, which is an award winning fish and chip shop. The concept is very simple. Excellent good old fashioned fish and chips using the freshest fish direct from the Kalk Bay Harbour. Note at this stage they have no liquor license – but they are in the process of applying for one. 120 Bree Street https://www.facebook.com/LuckyfishandChips
SMALL DETOUR: Frankie Fenner Meat Market & Publik – TURN LEFT INTO CHURCH STREET – Frankie Fenner was one of the top food bloggers in Cape Town who decided to begin researching where our meat was actually coming from. On his journey around the country he visited a large number of farms and searched for the happy cows and happy piggies and happy sheep. His gut told him that people were looking for the answers too and as such he launched a small outlet where you could order his happy meat online and fetch it from his little outlet on Kloof Street. The little outlet was inundated with visitors and the local chefs started to proudly state on their menu’s – Frankie Fenner meats – a new brand had been born. Due to demand Frankie has moved to a larger premises and now shares premises with a wine bar called Publik that offers a different wine list each week so that you can have the opportunity to try some of our more artisanal and interesting wines. Picture sitting in a butchery with a backdrop of swinging meat carcasses sipping your wine and enjoying your charcuterie platter. Mad and Quirky. Do not take your vegetarian friends for drinks. Frankie Fenner is open during the day and publik is open from late afternoon (note closed on Weekends!). 81 Church Street http://www.ffmm.co.za and http://www.publik.co.za
andUnion – Craft Beer and Wine Bar – This is an absolute favourite spot to simply relax and catch up with friends while enjoying locally sourced wines and BrewersandUnion craft beers. They offer a lovely small selection of dishes that are all absolutely delicious and even though simple – seem to attract all the foodies! Favourites are the trio of sausages and the burger. This is mainly an outdoor beer garden style of spot with large wooden tables. You simply arrive – look for a gap – then ask people to share their table. It is a great way to actually meet some locals. Note this is not a good choice if there is bad weather. Open from late afternoon until late. Closed Sunday & Mondays 110 Bree Street http://andunion.tumblr.com
La Parada – this is a fabulous new Spanish style tapas bar where everyone meets up with friends for drinks and a few plates of fun Spanish dishes. It operates on a first come first served basis and as such no table bookings are taken. Cape Town needs a few more upmarket fun bars and as such this spot has been inundated since it opened about two months ago. In addition the Cape people flock to whatever is new – so hopefully it calms down a little! The chefs were brought in from Spain to ensure authenticity and the dishes offer a variety of fun Spanish flavours. This spot is vibey and fun. If you are going – try to get there by 5pm to secure a table. 107 Bree Street – https://www.facebook.com/LaParadaTapasCapeTown Open from 12 till late Monday to Sat. Open on a Sunday during the day
Avoova – This shop really shows off how creative innovation can uplift communities. Prince Albert is a small town in the Klein Karoo region of South Africa that produces great hams, figs, cheeses, ostriches and a variety of gourmet products. It is however a town that also struggles with a shortage of employment opportunities. An artist in the town called Gideon Engelbrecht started experimenting with using the waste product of broken ostrich egg shells as an art form in the mid 1990’s. Today this has turned into a thriving business and you cannot believe the variety of beautiful objects that can be created or decorated using a mosaic effect onto frames, bracelets, mantle pieces etc. A visit to this store is a treat for anyone who enjoys seeing original creativity. Purchasing from them also contributes to an amazingly successful job creation project. 97 Bree Street http://avoova.com
Heritage Square Parking Lot – First Thursdays Cape Town – There has been a movement that seems to be spreading to many cities around the world to open all the art galleries in a city on the first Thursday of the month. This way all those hard working souls who have day jobs can come and experience the art that the city has to offer. This is a really festive event in Cape Town and great fun. Start your first Thursday in the car park behind andUnion which is where you will find three of the local food trucks parked. This is the perfect spot to enjoy a snack before you start walking. On either side of you are Church Street and Shortmarket street. Both have loads of galleries, so head down either of them and simply pick up a First Thursday map from the first gallery and start your walk. The town buzzes and many of the galleries offer you wine along the route! My suggested route would be to start with Shortmarket street – after about 5 galleries you find a favourite bar called House of Machines on your left that is well worth stopping for a quick drink and to check out. The idea is a quirky bar where you can order your custom made motor bike and patrons will be able to watch it being built at the back of the shop. These guys also support the artisan beers – so stop for a quick one. Oddly enough their coffee seems to come from San Francisco! http://www.first-thursdays.co.za
SMALL DETOUR: Turn left into Shortmarket street and enter into the Heritage Square building. Here you will find three places that are worth visiting:
- Signal Hill Winery – which is the only city winery. They make wine from the vines that are close to the city and actually make the wine in the entrance! They also sell local wines from small wine estates at cellar door prices. This is a must stop to stock up with wines if you are spending a longer time in the Cape. They will happily advise you which their favourite wines and wine makers are.
- Bizerca – this is one of Cape Towns top French Bistros. The secret here is that there is a hidden courtyard in the middle of the building which is fabulous as a setting to enjoy dinner. Plus this is a really talented chef (Ps look for the oldest vine in the Cape which is in the courtyard here. Signal Hill Winery still make 20 litres of wine from it each year!)
- Headquarters (HQ) – this is a themed restaurant – do not book unless you want to go for sirloin steak done medium rare with chips. They only serve the one dish – but have made a concession to vegetarians by offering a giant mushroom! This restaurant is slick and trendy and upmarket and actually quite sultry. They have a nice bar which is nice to pop into for a drink after dinner in the neighbourhood. They offer a variety of DJ’s and live music
Keep walking for a few blocks down and you will find the Beautifull Life Building on your left hand side
Youngblood Beautifull Life Building – was born out of the desire to connect artistic talent with capital so that artists would be able to continue to establish themselves and there reputation through obtaining exposure and not simply fade from the art scene. This building is truly a beautiful gallery space that rambles over four stories. At its base it offers Beautifull food in a beautiful space. Make sure you build in time to at least stay for a coffee here, it has a wonderful energy. 70 – 72 Bree Street http://ybafricanculture.com/en
Tip to those visiting our beautiful quirky Cape Town – our city shops are open strictly during the week until 5pm. On a Saturday our shops shut in the city at 1pm. On a Sunday very little is open. Plan your exploring of our city for a weekday to get the best experience.