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Cape Town: best restaurant?

What's your vote for the best 'fancy' restaurant in Cape Town proper (not Winelands)? Aubergine? Five Flies? Showroom? Your advice most appreciated.

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  1. I can't give you an answer - haven't eaten at all of them. But to add to a possible shortlist: ginja, Jardine's, Riboville.

    Is this a general query, or are you looking for a specific meal? Because they all have different ambiances, and somewhat different food...

    13 Replies
    1. re: Gooseberry

      I am headed to Capetown for a week's stay at the end of this month. I have a short list but it needs lots of refining...

      Please comment on these; we have no set budget but want great food, setting is less important. All cuisines with emphasis on shellfish, meat and local ingredients:

      Jardine
      Ginja
      Panama Jack's
      Blue's
      Showrooom
      Bo Kaap Kombuis
      One Waterfront
      Savoy Cabbage

      I am open to any and all suggestions within a taxi ride of our hotel in the Gardens..many, many thanks!!

      1. re: erica

        Hi Erica.

        Jardine, Ginja, Showroom, Savoy Cabbage & One Waterfront are all fancy restaurants. Now, while there's certainly nothing wrong with fancy food, I'm not sure if it's sustainable to eat at mainly fancy restaurants during a week stay - I find I get a bit bored and overwhelmed by fancy meals when I travel. You might be different, but it's something to consider. I haven't eaten at all of them, but Showroom, Ginja and Jardine have been getting the most food buzz recently.

        Blue's is an institution in Cape Town, but in recent years I've found it to be resting on its laurels, and producing nothing but tired, overpriced food. Consistency has been an issue here - although apparently the staff are as difficult as ever! I don't think I am alone in this view. Go there for drinks if you must, but don't waste a meal on it.

        1. re: Gooseberry

          Gooseberry thanks so much for the response. I agree about the fanci-ness thing. I think we will narrow that list down a bit..I want to try Panama Jack's. One Waterfront has not made the cut.

          About Africa Cafe: The descriptions lead me to think it is a total tourist trap but a local on another board raves about the food and the scene there..what do you think?

          I am planning on trying Nando's one day for lunch. I would love to hear more about any non-fancy places you like. Ethnic is great...dives are great, too.

          If I can have your attention one more minute...in Franschoek, I keep reading about Le Quartier Francais. They request a credit card to hold the booking. On that alone I am kind of turned off...is the food really spectacular or will it just be a fancy tourist-ridden place?

          1. re: erica

            check out the postings by afrodizzy, I couldn't agree more that Kalky's is a must for fish and chips! The snoek and yellowtail is amazing. Koeksisters, the traditional doughnut also a must have. Fresh and dipped in syrup rolled in coconut with coffee is a perfect Sunday morning traditional breakfast. Moyo at Spier was fabulous and I suggest you make a day of it! Get a picnic basket at the deli with a bottle of wine and have lunch on the grass at a picnic table and then work up an appetite for a full buffet dinner, I mean full, of fabulous traditional African and South African dishes and spend the evening eating and being entertained, wonderful!
            Bokaap take-aways for fantastic curry and roti unlike anything else in the world - can be ordered as a salomi which is roti filled with curry. Also try slap-chips, pronounced "slup-chips" the fries in cape town are cooked differently and seasoned with spicy peri-peri salt which varies from place to place. Fried calamari in Cape Town is gooood, using Alaska calamari and squid very tender and tasty! A good add on to your plate at Kalky's. For a more upscale seafood feast I love Mariner's Wharf in Hout Bay, the platter with crayfish, mussels, langoustines, calamari, frothy garlic butter etc etc yeah! For great sushi, Cape Town Fish Market at Waterfront, Canal Walk and Grandwest, the casino!
            Mama Afrika on Long Street, great food and entertainment.
            For great Indian food go to Bukhara, very elegant resto at Grandwest Casino also at 33 Church Str.
            For local Cape Malay flavour try Cosy Corner, Shop 1E The Link, Main Rd, Claremont 7760
            If you love fish and chips, do not leave Cape Town without a stop at Kalky's! I was raised in CT and return often, on my way again in six weeks and I will be found at all of the above at some point for sure!

            1. re: erica

              The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Francais usually makes the list for best in SA. Since that's an international acknowledgment, a lot of tourists go there, yes. Also because most locals can't really afford it. But on the other hand - the Cape is famous for its Winelands, so it's going to be full of tourists (relatively speaking) pretty much wherever you go in high season.

              In its favour - LQF is not that fancy - you wouldn't need a tie and jacket, for example. It's nice (simple classy ambiance), the service is impeccable, and the food is certainly good. I've been fortunate to go there (as someone else's guest!), and had a good experience. But I don't think, having done it once, that I'd go again. I reviewed it in more depth on my blog (http://capegooseberry.blogspot.com/20...). Have a look at the food I ate there, see if it's your sort of thing. But don't feel that you've missed out on a 'south african experience' if you don't go.

              1. re: Gooseberry

                Kalky's for lunch one day! For certain!

                Gooseberry..thanks so much. Being a bit turned off by the credit card thing, I reserved at their casual place, ICI, for a lunch. The menu looks pretty good.... Bad move on my part?

                I could not access the link you posted..would very much like to read your blog...

                1. re: erica

                  I am a particularly big fan of ICI's lamb-burger. Haven't tried anything else recently. If you're there in nice weather, ask to sit on the lovely patio. The inside has recently (and rather unfortunately) been redecorated, and is not what I'd call a restful ambiance - bright colours, modern patterns, what in god's name were they thinking? Otherwise Reuben's for lunch across the road (although are you going there for dinner? Or was that Diane?) is a sure-fire winner.

                  I'm also a fan of Kalky's, but I suspect it is more nostalgia on my part. It's extremely rough and ready, cafeteria-style ordering, long benches in a little 'shack' of a room right on the harbour. It's fun with kids, but unless you're a big fried (and I mean FRIED) fish fan, it's a bit heavy. What I typically suggest is that you go look at Kalky's (and definitely walk along the harbour wall - Kalkbay must-do), and if you decide you're not up for what's on offer, you either go to Live Bait (very light and airy, comfortable place next to it, also with seaspray on the windows, light brunchy-lunchy fare) or walk down the main road and go to Olympia Cafe. Olympia is extremely popular, very bohemian, unpretentious bakery-restaurant with excellent food. There's always a line out the door, but it's worth putting down your name and browsing the quirky neighbouring shops for fifteen minutes. They'll offer a mix of sandwiches, fish of the day, and wonderful, thrown-together pastas.

                  Admittedly, both Live Bait and Olympia Cafe offer very different experiences from Kalky's, but consider (and maye pop by) all three and see what you're feeling like.

                  Apologies to both Capetowngirlie and Kalky's for my betrayal and foodie snobbishness!

                  my blog is:

                  http://www.capegooseberry.blogspot.com

                  1. re: Gooseberry

                    We are going to Reubens for dinner..the other dinners are at Bouillabase and Mange Tout. But changes are possible!!! (travel agent had suggested Topsis but I nixed that...)

                    Based on tips here, lunches will be at Ici, Guardian Peak and Le Petite Ferme.

                    Nando's chicken is a must for one city lunch...correctr??

                    You have been amazingly helpful, Gooseberry. I am all ears, as they say, until I leave at the end of next week....thanks again..

                    1. re: erica

                      Hi Erica,

                      Haven't heard of Mange Tout (but it's a cool name!), and not sure if I've been to Bouillabaise. Reuben's is a good plan for a dinner. Consider French Connection for either a lunch or a dinner - consistently lovely food. If you haven't already, look at the questions posted by diane (Zinfanatic), as lots of them pertain to F'hoek.

                      As for Nando's - it's a very popular 'healthy' South African franchise. Whether you choose to eat there depends on several things - how many lunches are you having in the city? Nando's can make a nice break from 'restaurant' meals (I find eat-out fatigue can hit rather suddenly while travelling!) because it can be a quick, light(er) meal. And since it is takeout (although there are usually tables at all branches too) it's good if you need to grab something on the run to a tour, airport, road trip, etc. If you only have two or so lunches in the city though, perhaps there are more pressing food-musts. Depends what you feel like.

                      If you're in the city on a Saturday morning, the Neighbourhood Goods Market in Salt River (www.whatiftheworld.com) is a must for good food gifts and a fun brunch.

                      1. re: Gooseberry

                        Thanks for the info re Neighbourhood Goods Market. I leave on Sunday for CT for a few months and I look forward to checking that out.

                        1. re: capetowngirlie

                          Thanks for taking the time to offer so much good advice. I leave in to days and will try to sample as many places as I can!!

      2. Any opinions on Beleza restaurant? I will be in Cape Town next month (staying at VA Waterfront) and was looking to have a nice celebratory dinner...a place where the locals would go.

        3 Replies
        1. re: priscilla2

          Um... never heard of it I'm afraid! Not that this should be a criticism in itself - despite my chatterbox presence on this forum, I am not constantly eating out. And of course, there are thousands of restaurants in Cape Town. What sort of vibe do you ant, what sort of cuisine, and how much do you want to spend per head?

          1. re: Gooseberry

            Will be in Cape Town mid-Nov. Where would the locals would go to celebrate/splurge on dinner....not touristy. We are staying in the V&A Waterfront (I know touristy). Want a nice dining experience, excellent food, great service and not concerned about cost. Don't want to be sitting next to the ugly tourist with the screaming kids ordering chicken fingers.

            1. re: priscilla2

              your description made me laugh. Mid-Nov is a good time to come - the weather will be quite nice, and the tourist season is only getting started. Local tourists arrive early december, and international tourists start coming mid december generally, so your erstwhile tourist companions will mainly be adult couples, and not too many hopefully.

              There are many good restaurants in the city bowl (i.e. the centre of cape town) and along the sea.

              Not sure how many there are in your party, or what type of cuisine you're after, but -

              Riboville has a separate restaurant in its cellar. Never been, but heard good things. Also probably atmospheric.

              Jardine's on buitengracht is also very well thought of, prize-winning, etc.

              Bukhara's on Church street is a bit noisy, but serves the best Indian food in town (some say in the world), in a very nice setting.

              One.Waterfront is popular on this board - haven't eaten there myself, but would probably meet all your criteria.

              I'd look at their menus online if I were you, and decide based on that.

        2. Gooseberry- a report upon my return and help for other about Capetwon and Winelands. I will be brief and if anyone wants more details, I will be happy to add further notes. Recommended- Jardine, Savoy Cabbage, Bukara,- definitely not RX Ginja. This was one of my original two choices. It was cold dark and damp and the food was overwrought and too fussy. We had a hard time finding a place open on Sunday so we opted for Five Flies- not RX. The Winelands,meals limited by illness- Tokara winery for food and view, Hillcrest Berry Farm for shopping for honeyand jam and we had tea. Rubens ws our favorite.Bread and Wine was great and French Connection was ok. We did eat a small dinner at Ici as we recovered. It was good, not great. We cancelled our lunch date at Le Petie Ferme- got mixed reviews from locals. We had lots of help from a wine connossieur that we met on the plane for our choices for wine farms.

          1 Reply
          1. re: zinfanatic

            Glad you are back. Me, too. I will post more details soon, but the places I liked best in Capetown were Showroom, Panama Jack's (for unadorned but superb shellfish in a no-frills setting on the docks), Codfather in Camp's Bay (shellfish and fish in more upscale but not dressy setting; we had lunch here), Beluga, and Ginja. The only place I thought was poor was Afrika Cafe; not sure why I got talked into going in the first place but would recommend giving it a miss; they no longer have music, by the way. Savoy Cabbage was good, their desserts were outstanding. Will write more once I get adjusted to being home..

          2. I found it to be a very good restaurant that serves very good food at very good pricess. If u want to eat kiddies meals at adult prices then go to places like Jardine.

            1 Reply
            1. re: pd3431

              This is a great list.
              We will be in Capetown mid-January for 6 days.
              Do I need to reserve any of the restaurants before our arrival?
              Also we are staying at the Cape Grace Hotel, are there any recommendations within walking distance?
              We want good food,.. fancy, plain, doesn't matter.
              Just out of curiosity.
              Why do you need to get the calamari from Alaska?
              This is our first trip to South Africa, so I am not familiar with Capetown.