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Feb 20, 2012 09:03 AM

Cape Town and around again

I attached this on the last Ct post but no one responded so I'll try again. We are leaving in 2 weeks and I would love some food advice. No one has mentioned Ruben's who has restaurants in both CT and Franschhoek. Read about him in Saveur and menus look great. What does anyone think? Ruben mentions Bread and Wine Vineyard for lunch in Franschhoek? Good choices in Stellenbosch? Where is the best place for well prepared African dishes such as ostrich or antelope?We will be in CT for a week and will have a car so we can do lots of day trips.

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  1. I haven't dined at either of the Reuben's (they're quite pricey in comparison to other local restaurants), but I have heard excellent things about it and am planning to go there for whatever special occasion comes up first this year :) - I've just had a look, and the set menu and summer buffet look more reasonable.
    I do also like the bar at the One&Only. Great spot for drinks.

    Can't advise on Franschhoek and Stellenbosch as I haven't been to either on anything other than work in a year.

    I'm not big on eating meat when I'm out because of religious dietary restrictions, so can't help you with recommendations there. You should be able to get ostrich at several places. I'm pretty sure I've seen antelope on the menu at Karibu at V&A Waterfront.

    1. We visited CT and Franschhoek in June 2010. Reuben's was wonderful - great food, lively atmosphere. Bread & Wine is absolutely wonderful and a great pit stop when out wine tasting - it's only open for lunch. If you like pig in all of its forms, the Charcuterie is his speciality and it's wonderful. We also ate at La Petite Ferme, where the views are stunning and the food is good enough. Try Dieu Donne as well for a glass of wine and beautiful views - they also have microbrews if you need a break from wine. Food was average. We had a fantastic blowout wine and food pairing at Le Bon Vivant as well - definitely would recommend it. There's apparently an amazing value food/wine pairing at Clos Malverne in Stellenbosch that might be worth checking out for lunch.

      In CT, we had a great burger at the Royale Eatery (plus great milkshakes!) and also splurged on Nobu at the One & Only - it's the best 'value' as we wouldn't be able to afford to go there in any other country. Food was very nice as one would expect. Didn't get a chance to try the Codfather in Camps Bay, but it has been recommended by more than one person for the fish and 1/2 price sushi at lunch.

      We're heading back in April so would love to hear what you find so we can explore some new gems! Have fun!

      14 Replies
      1. re: hobbes1313

        Please: Would welcome any updates for visit planned for September of this year.....

        1. re: erica

          Anything specific that you're after?
          Check out The Test Kitchen, which is now #61 on the best restaurants list.

          1. re: haiku.

            Thanks..I have Test Kitchen on my list. How far in advance do I have to reserve for dinner for two..suppose best to go on a weekday??

            I prefer places that utilize local foods as much as possible, what we in the US would call "market to table" cooking," perhaps with some Asian influence. Not really looking for stuffy French places. Last trip I had excellent meals at Showroom (closed). Ginja and Savoy Cabbage were good as well.

            Also have on my list The Miller's Thumb..comments?

            In Wine Country for a day trip, maybe try Bread and Wine?

            Also, where is the best places for crayfish or giant prawns? Last time we ate at Panama Jacks, which I liked a lot, but I've read it has gone locals still go there? If not, where?

            We will have car and driver, so can range far for lunch; hope to stay near center for most dinners.

            1. re: erica

              I have been compiling a list for 6 nights in CapeTown. Definites thus far are Test Kitchen and La Colombe.

              A local has recommended the following and I wonder if I can get feedback on these, and any other suggestions for an October trip:

              Pot Luck Club
              Round House, Camps Bay
              The GreenHouse at Cellars Hohenort
              Food Barn (lunch)

              Babel in Franchhoek (this would also be lunch)

              Very excited about our return to Capetown!!

              Many thanks!!

              1. re: erica

                I've finally made it to Test Kitchen, and can highly recommend it! Cannot wait for my return trip there!

                La Colombe is supposed to be good, but is closed whenever I'm nearby so I haven't tried it out yet.

                I have not tried some of the others you mention, but will check them out when I can and report back. I would not go to Pot Luck Club if going to Test Kitchen - the reviews haven't been as positive and the menu looks quite limited.

                You should also check out the local markets. There's one happening somewhere in the city almost every day of the week, and it where you can sample a lot of food by small, artisan producers and should suit your requirements. If you're here on a Saturday morning, the Old Biscuit Mill market is quite popular. The EarthFood Fair Market is also really good, and is on 3 or 4 times a week in different locations.

                Panama Jack's is still open, but I haven't been there for a while. Was just planning a trip back there with some friends; will report back.

                Food Barn was quite nice, but I was last there about 2 years ago.

                1. re: haiku.

                  Haiku thanks for the response!

                  I booked the following for dinners in CapeTown:

                  Test Kitchen
                  The Greenhouse
                  La Colombe
                  Pot Luck Club (first night after arrival, wanted a casual dinner near hotel, but can change this)

                  Still have a few lunches to figure out including one on a Sunday in Winelands. Babel has been recommended and Ii have heard good things about Bread and Wine.

                  (Last time, about 2007) I ate at Reuben's, Le Quartier Francais, and Petite Ferme. LQF was excellent, among the best meals of the trip, Reuben's was pretty good, and LPF had a great view but not memorable food. Also had a good lunch at Tokara.)

                  Wanted to try a new place on this trip so would welcome suggestions, or comments on Babel and Bread and Wine, and any other recommended spots in the area that are open Sunday lunch.

                  Sunday dinner am thinking about finally trying chicken at Nando's (???)

                  1. re: erica

                    I've only dined at the Reuben's at the One&Only, and it was excellent there. Day trips to Franschhoek are always too short to try everything :(

                    Can I suggest that you make a plan to go to Madame Zingara's on one of your nights in Cape Town? The food was great, the show was fantastic, and it was just one of the more memorable dinners we've had this year. More details at (including the menu). They are usually fully booked, so I would mail them now to see which dates work for you.

                    I've heard good things about Overture and Makaron in Stellenbosch, but have not made it out to either yet.

                    I need to find foodie friends who are willing to try these places out with me!!

                    1. re: erica

                      Looks like the date of your trip (September 2013) has come and gone. Anything to report? I'm thinking of going to Cape Town next year and my early research led me to the same 4 restaurants you listed.

                      1. re: Ponder99

                        We had two excellent dinners at The Test Kitchen in October. Excellent is an understatement. Here is what I wrote, on another thread:

                        THE TEST KITCHEN

                        We had two outstanding dinners at this award-winning restaurant which occupies a ground floor former industrial space in the Old Biscuit Mill Complex, not far from its more casual sibling, the Pot Luck Club. Diners adhere to one of two set menus; there is no a la carte option. The dishes do not change much in the course of a week so, essentially, we had the same meal on two different evenings, something I cannot recall ever doing in a restaurant. Dinner was so good that this was hardly a hardship. (The restaurant has just snagged the top spot in the 2013 EatOut Awards for the best restaurant in South Africa)

                        On both evenings, my partner had the Discovery Menu (R520) and I had the same, with wine pairings (R765). All wines were South African.

                        Dinner opened with two amuse and a bread plate highlighted by wonderful pretzel bread sticks, followed by a shaved salad starring pickled yellowtail accompanied by BBQ carrots and a honeycomb dusted with Ras Al Hanout spice blend. This was truly lovely.

                        Second course, for me, was Plum-cured foie gras with cinammon poached guava. Marvelous! For my partner: Grilled scallop with miso and shitake mushrooms, prepared two ways. Like all of the dishes we enjoyed, these were intricately arranged and imaginatively presented in a manner that reminded me a bit of the work of Wunderkind British Chef Paul Liebrandt. Next, for both of us: Pork belly with apple and honey, served alongside pork cracklings. Absolutely smashing; perhaps the best dish of the trip!

                        Main course, again for both: Chef’s signature dish of duck, magret and confit, with truffle and foie gras egg. Another winner.

                        Dessert: Assiette of chocolate..intricate and fantastic.

                        I gave the barest details above; the dishes were so intricate, and so inventive, with so many complimentary elements drawn from not only European and South African, but also Asian and North African flavor profiles, that it is very difficult for me to recount with any accuracy exactly how they were presented.

                        Here is the menu, with a bit more detail; the menu had changed slightly when we dined there last month:


                        The industrial-chic design--metal, wood, and brick elements, towering ceilings crisscrossed by weathered wooden beams--is handsome and, thankfully, the dining area was not deafeningly noisy. There is counter as well as table seating. Dress is casual. Service was exemplary: Informative and very friendly.

                        Taxi fare is about R70-80, each way, from the center.

                        Reservations are needed many weeks in advance, perhaps more for high season. Outstanding! The total for dinner, for two of us, amounted to
                        R1483, including tip, or about US$150.


                        We also had an excellent dinner at La Colombe, which was my second favorite in the area based on this past visit. I will try to add a few details in a new thread soon.

                        Pot Luck Club is a fun spot; food is generally good although there were a couple of misses and I think they need to work on the results of the sous vide, as both meat dishes turned out a tad dry.

                        Again, will try to update asap..

                        1. re: erica

                          Thanks! We've already booked The Test Kitchen for our trip. (Six months out and had to go down to my 4th choice of date and time!)

                          Deciding whether or not to go to Pot Luck Club since we have limited time we're worried about it being too similar to The Test Kitchen.

                          Did you take a taxi to La Colombe? I read that it is about 20-30 minutes away from the Waterfront, which seems like it could get expensive.

                          1. re: Ponder99

                            I'll hold off on the comments about Pot Luck Club until I hear the others on your list. (If you don't mind posting these).

                            Our hotel, the Mt. Nelson, offered a car to take us to La Colombe for ZAR600 each way. We declined that and took a regular taxi from the hotel. The fare on the meter read ZAR265 or so, each way, and we added a tip. Both in the case of La Colombe, and The Greenhouse, also in Constantia, the driver preferred to wait while we dined, so we used the same driver round trip. Fares from the Waterfront should not be too different. So yes, the taxi fare raises the total price of the evening in the area of $US50-$60, if my math is correct. I liked La Colombe very much and would return, even with a taxi. It does help that the prices for the meal itself are quite reasonable by US or European standards.

                            1. re: erica

                              Thank you for the response. I had lost track of this thread in planning other trips.

                              I have reservations for The Test Kitchen and La Colombe. I appreciate your details about the fare to La Colombe. Did you just take a random taxi off of the street? Did the driver charge for waiting time even though you did not ask them to wait?

                              Need 2 more dinners. Others I'm considering besides Pot Luck Club: The Greenhouse, Miller's Thumb, Savoy Cabbage.

                              1. re: Ponder99

                                We took a taxi from the line-up outside our hotel, the Mt. Nelson. The driver was very keen to wait, as he would have a guaranteed large fare, and did not charge for that time.

                                As as aside, I will say that many of the drivers we encountered on this trip were from African countries further north (DRC,Rwanda, etc) and it was absolutely fascinating to talk with them. The dream of our "regular" driver was to make enough to buy a machine that makes French fries and open up a fry shop in his hometown in Lumumbashi, DRC. If you like a driver, you can ask for his cell number and then phone him when you want to take another taxi ride.

                                I did write a more detailed report on CT but the only one I am finding now is this one, on TK:


                                I ate at Savoy Cabbage on my first trip, and wrote about it here, but that was about 5 years ago. It was good, especially the desserts, but not nearly as exciting as TTK or La Colombe.

                                Food at The Greenhouse is excellent; service less so. I would say the food is almost equal to La Colombe, and more intricate. All these places are excellent value due to rate of ZAR.
                                If you want to read my notes, I will try to find them.....

                                1. re: Ponder99

                                  Savoy Cabbage was good many years ago. More recently... it's not worth having on the list.

                                  I thought The Greenhouse was fantastic, and can't wait for another opportunity to dine there. I didn't experience bad service there as erica did, but I was taken there for my birthday and they may have paid more attention to me because of that, so YMMV.

          2. Bumping up this post again to fill out the itinerary for our Cape Town visit coming up in less than 1 month. I'm thinking about cross-posting this to TA, but their restaurant recommendations are usually limited.

            We have one more open night for dinner, which will be on the eve of our arrival. The following 3 days we have reservations at La Columbe, The Pot Luck Club, and The Test Kitchen.

            We are staying at the V&A Waterfront after 1 week in the Kruger area. Seafood will probably be a nice change of pace by this time in our trip. Something at the Waterfront would be convenient, but not necessary. I've looked at Willoughby & Co, but the mall location and ambiance is a bit of a turn off. Miller's Thumb looks interesting and I have a message out to my hotel to see if they can reserve it for me since I cannot call Any other suggestions?

            I'm also trying to gather lunch recommendations. It would be nice to have lighter fare with relatively quick service so we can get on with sightseeing. At the same time, we don't want to have utilitarian meals at nondescript places that just happen to be convenient.

            On one of the days, we are planning to go down the Peninsula to Boulder's Beach and Cape Point with the flexibility of a rental car. Are there any good lunch spots in any of the Peninsula towns we should not miss?

            Another day we are planning to ride the Hop-On-Hop-Off bus city tour (red route) and ascend Table Mountain on the cableway (if the conditions are good). It looks like most of the route is concentrated in the central City Bowl area. Any gems and local favorites would be appreciated. I have already have Societi Bistro written down as a viable option.

            I'm still unsure of the remaining day. We might do the longer HOHO bus circuit (blue route). Any decent choices on this route? It travels south to Hout Bay Harbour along the coast and returns along the east side of Table Mountain with stops along the way and a spur into Constantia. (Both HOHO bus maps at:

            Thanks for reading this wall of text!

            4 Replies
            1. re: Ponder99

              Will try to answer as much as I can :)

              For your remaining dinner day, may I recommend Gold?
              Aimed at tourists for sure, but the food was pretty good and there was a nice variety, and the entertainment was also good.

              If you do want seafood and want to stick to the Waterfront, I would highly recommend Baia. They do fantastically good seafood, and I have never had a disappointing meal there.

              When you're doing the Blue bus route, you will have the option of taking the wine tour. Do it and check out Simon's at Groot Constantia for lunch.
              You can also stop at the Hout Bay Harbour and eat at Mariner's Wharf. It's not sophisticated, but it's a pretty good fish&chips place.

              In Kalk Bay, there are several options: Harbour House and Polana have good food and nice views, Kalky's is another decent cheap fish&chips option, Brass Bell isn't my favourite for food but does have a nice location. There's also several other places you can check out on that strip.
              There's a restaurant called Black Marlin just past Simon's Town that used to be good. I haven't been in years, so can't comment about what it's like now.

              Difficult to comment on gems and local favourites as there are many that make others' lists but not mine, and vice versa. Also tricky to advise without knowing whether you're looking at day/night, meal/drinks, etc.

              1. re: haiku.

                Thanks! That helps, especially the recs in the Peninsula. Basically just looking at lunches. No need for sophistication.

                I've read good things about Baia on other forums, and I'm debating between that or Miller's Thumb. I think we'll pass on Gold as it does look really kitschy.

              2. re: Ponder99

                Just returned a couple of weeks ago. I can highly recommend Myoga for the tasting menu. Be sure to get the wine pairing. We like the Pot Luck Club, but I think it's more for lunch than dinner (small plates).

                We went to Baia at the V&A. Good seafood, not exceptional. Probably more touristy.

                One unusual recommendation: Mr. Chan's for Chinese seafood. South Africa abalone is really sought after in Asia, and they do a great job with abalone Chinese style. Also steamed lobster and whole steamed fish. Call ahead to reserve an abalone if you are so inclined.

                1. re: Ponder99

                  Follow-up after having returned from our trip:

                  MILLER'S THUMB (dinner)
                  Nicely prepared fresh seafood in unexpected styles with a decided lack of focus to the menu. Asian, Malay, Indian, Moroccan and even Mexican influences the menu. Large portions, fairly priced. Friendly, but inattentive service. Big cleanliness problem (ants on the tables). Reservation highly recommended.

                  WILLOUGHBY & CO (lunch)
                  Over-hyped, unremarkable sushi. For the best Cape Town has to offer, it's very run-of-the-mill and no better than any upscale sushi restaurant in any big city. Perhaps the cooked menu is better. Zero ambiance in the middle of the shopping mall. Expensive for what you get. Service about what you'd expect for any busy lunch spot. Prepare to wait at the peak of lunch. No reservations.

                  REUBEN'S (dinner)
                  Couldn't make it to La Columbe as originally planned and settled on going to Reuben's at the One & Only Hotel out of convenience. Very well-prepared moist peri-peri chicken. Great curry as well. Pleasantly surprised after having no expectations. No reservation needed.

                  TWO OCEANS (Cape Point, lunch)
                  Only option in the nature reserve. Really expensive. Fish was sloppily butchered and over-cooked. Prawns were really small and overcooked. Server annoyingly kept trying to push the most expensive items on the menu. Slow service. Would have been better to pack a picnic basket. Reservation made by our tour guide, but didn't look to be needed.

                  POT LUCK CLUB (dinner)
                  Nice small plates. Most items were perfectly prepared. Great views atop the highest floor on the building. Quite loud. Located in a run-down part of town--probably better off to cab it, even if you have a rental car. Exceptionally well-priced. So much better than The Test Kitchen downstairs (see below). Reservation essential.

                  SOCIETI BISTRO (lunch)
                  Huge portions, but lacking in flavor. Overdone pork neck. Ostrich burger had the consistency of meatloaf. Conveniently hear a hop-on-hop-off tourist bus stop. Only 3-4 tables taken at a quiet lunch on a weekday. Fairly priced. Dinner is supposed to be good.

                  THE TEST KITCHEN (dinner)
                  The worst service experience we've ever had at a world-class restaurant. Horrendous service issues overshadowed finely-prepared food. Seemed to be both a FOH and BOH problem. Unacceptably long waits between courses (30-40 minutes) later in the menu. The 9 course tasting took 4 hours. We've had 20+ course tastings that were done in less time. The worse of it was when a food runner clearly delivered one of our courses to the wrong table. Then, instead of correcting it on the fly and caught up, we were delayed. We started on the same ticket as another two-top next to us, but after this foul-up we never got our food as the same time as they did again. Somehow, even tables who sat 30 minutes after us finished the menu before us. Water went unfilled and ignored unless specifically requested. Can't understand how it made the S. Pellegrino Top 50 with these type of problems. Talked with the server and floor manager after settling the bill and got the impression that this is normal for them. Perhaps Capetonians are very patient people who don't mind waiting so long, but put this place in NYC or Chicago and it would get ripped apart. No recourse except for the offer of an aperitif. Great food but not worth the painfully slow service. Can't believe I had to reserve months ahead of time to go through this torture. Admittedly the food is very good, but I'd never go again and can't recommend it. If you have to give money to them, go to Pot Luck Club instead.

                  Not nearly as big or busy as a place like Granville Island Public Market in Vancouver or the Ferry Building in San Francisco, but still a nice place to browse the stalls and get some quick eats from the vendors. Cheap and much better quality compared to the fast-food food court at the V&A mall.

                2. I was in CT and the wine region feb, 2013. Le Quartier Francais in Franschoek was the best meal of our entire trip! Not cheap but worth the money. Make sure you book in advance!
                  Farm house in Stellenbosch was a rustic place with good food.Worth a lunch look.
                  In CT, our 2 best meals were Savoy Cabbage and Galbi. Both had excellent game choices; the latter is a korean bbq. Both in the downtown area. Checkout my food and travel blog,, for more south africa ideas! look at the untitled page and scroll back to last summers posts when I posted about SA!

                  1. We'll be in Capetown for several days/nights next month. There's great info here from Erica and Ponder but I'm curious if anyone has any updates.

                    We have reservations at Test Kitchen and will probably have lunch at Pot Luck Club.

                    We're more interested at this point in downscale than in sophisticated, high end places.


                    3 Replies
                    1. re: el jefe

                      We really loved Savoy Cabbage with well prepared, delicious game choices. Galbi was a little more rustic (funky); an interesting combination of game and Korean BBQ!

                      1. re: el jefe

                        Which parts of Cape Town, and what kind of food are you interested in trying?

                        1. re: haiku.

                          We're staying in the Gardens area for 6-7 nights. So anything within 3-4 kms would be a nice walk. (I posted separately about Simon's Town.

                          I spend most of the year split between NYC and Thailand so it's easier to say what I'm not looking for. French, Italian, Thai, Mexican. Game would be great. (Thanks, Bruce, for those recs). other African cuisines too.

                          I can do high end easily in NY. If you have a recommendation for an inexpensive restaurant that serves good, interesting food, I have no problem traveling to get there.