Recommendations for solo dining in Cape Town, Winelands and Garden Route
I'm spending the next three weeks travelling in the Western Cape, staying in Cape Town, Camps Bay, Franschhoek, Hermanus, Plattenberg and Wilderness.
I'll be travelling solo, and would welcome any suggestions on where I can get good food (casual or upmarket) at any of these places, but also feel comfortable as a single female diner. Or perhaps places where where you can eat at the counter, if that's an option (seems to be more common in upmarket places in the US and Canada, than here in the UK).
I'm told it's advisable to book ahead at the good places in Franshhoek, but would prefer somewhere that's a bit buzzy rather than somewhere quieter where I may feel less comfortable. Has anyone been to Reuben's,and would that be a good place for dinner?
What are the "must not miss" experiences? I'd like to try out what the region does best, but if there's anywhere doing standard international food really well I'll happily try that out too, and give feedback afterwards.
I'm poring over the guide books today too, for ideas. Does anyone know of any good online restaurant reviews of the area, other than here of course?
Thanks for your help,
I did not have a great dinner at Reubens. But I did have a very good one at Bouillabaise, also in Franschhoek. And most of their seating is at the counter so it would be ideal for a single. Kind of Asian-inflected local food...and it fits into the "buzzy" category.
In Camp's Bay do not miss the Codfather for seafood that you choose and have cooked in the style you prefer. They also have a sushi bar with counter seating.
Hi Parkin, I did a similar trip last summer. I was a on a tight budget, but splurged at two places that I would recommend:
Mama Africa in Cape Town: it's a tad touristy, but I really enjoyed it and there were more locals there than tourists. The attached bar has live music (which is terrible--South Africans who have beautiful music of their own playing Western hits to please tourists) which bleeds into the restaurant, but it provides some entertainment if you're alone. I had curried mussels and a delicious plate of game prosciutto-type meats that was fab.
In Stellenbosch I had an AMAZING splurge meal at a tiny little place in the shopping center across from my hostel (the Stumble Inn). It was all booked so they took my name and sent me to a bar on the other side of the courtyard, and came and fetched me when my table was ready. They had an amazing menu with South African wines paired to everything. I ended up getting a 5-course tasting menu, which included a wine with each course, and a liter of sparking water and total it only set me back about $45 or so. The service was impeccable. The interior is very modern and classy, yet cozy. Couldn't recommend it enough. I am sorry I don't remember the name, but it is literally visible from the Stumble Inn--standing from the Stumble Inn it is just across the street to the left. Stumble is on Market just north of Dorp Street--the restaurant is in a small shoopping center occupying the corner of Dorp and Market just across from Stumble Inn. I hope you try it!
We roadtripped the garden route in December, and had a lovely time.
Some stops I'd recommend:
Ile de Pain in Knysna (just after Wilderness on the garden route): considered by many to be the best bakery in the country, run by former CIA pastry and chocolate chef Markus Farbinger and his partner Liezie Mulder. This is seriously good food by anyone's standards. We were there for lunch in December, and had a wonderful bread sampler (different crostini, mini-sandwiches, etc) and a pulled pork sandwich. Cosy atmosphere, single diner would be welcome and not feel out of place.
We didn't stop at Le Fournil in Plettenberg Bay this time, but I still remember the pain au chocolat and croissants from the last trip a couple years ago.
If you get as far east as Jeffrey's Bay (it's just before PE) Die Walskipper was a lovely open-air restaurant right on the sea, with sand floors, tin plates and delicious chips (the SA term for both french fries and crisps) and sweet, sweet prawns.
I didnt share Erica's experience at Reuben's; I've often had lovely meals there. I like how there are two menus, one classical and one a bit more modern and adventurous. It's not too formal, which I prefer when dining alone.
I adore Bread and Wine at Moreson farm, even though there hours are a bit erratic (the chef's a family man, so it's understandable why!). They have a bar where you can get casual sandwiches and plates inside their deli shop, which focuses on the charcuterie Chef Neil Jewell specializes in.
I usually avoid eating in Camps Bay, because it caters more to tourists (both in prices and quality) although it's lovely to walk along the beach and have evening sundowners at one of the beachside cafes. You're not far from town though, and most of Cape Town's restaurants are in the city bowl, not too far away.
While eating at the counter is certainly more of an American thing, a lot of lunch time delis, buffet places and bakeries are starting to have large communal tables. These places also offer the local paper, magazines, etc. to encourage single diners. These sorts of places are quite European in character, but usually offer fresh, seasonal, local fare. Melissa's deli (Kloof Street is the nearest branch to Camps Bay I think) comes to mind, but I think you'll find quite a couple in the city centre too, catering to lunch crowds.
Lots of kloof Street (big restaurant street in the city bowl) eateries are friendly, casual and would be welcoming to a single diner. We're partial to Nando's (big SA chain offering healthy(er) fast food, mainly fire grilled chicken), Naked Wraps (everything tastes really fresh), Ocean Basket for the fried calamari (another chain, reasonably priced seafood), Melissa's (go to Heartworks store next door for good Sa presents), Manna Epicure (more fashionable, all white decor, good food and bread), Vida e Caffe (good street side people-watching).
In terms of reviews, SA has an annual magazine called Eat Out, which is available at news agents and bookshops throughout the country. It gives a brief description of each resto's dishes, cuisine, ambiance, prices, contact info, etc. arranged by location. I find this useful when travelling (travelled with it up the garden route with much success!) but it mainly gives information rather than a reliable review of how good the food is.
This reply may be a little late but hopefully it will help other people who're looking for recommendations in Cape Town. I went to Reuben's and Le Petite Ferme in Franchoek and really enjoyed them both.
Mama Africa was nice and the band was good. When I was there they played local music not western influenced stuff. I second Manna Epicure. I also liked Cafe Paradiso and loved going to Vida E Caffe (Coffee chain). I also liked some of the chains we don't get in the US. Kauai had good breakfast and shakes.
I've reviewed a bunch of the Cape Town Restaurants I've been to on my blog with photos. Hope it helps!
Cape Town Restaurant Reviews