We've hit our friends up for their fave foods and places to eat, and come up with what we think is a pretty comprehensive list of what to eat and where to eat it, whenever your tummy starts rumbling at the bottom of Africa.
Article Quick Links
- Award-winning eating spots
- Snacks - eat them on the go
- Mother City meals and cool places to eat
- Desserts & puddings
- Drinks - how to wash it all down
Before we even get into all the culinary delights that South Africa has to offer, we need to mention the fact that our country has some pretty amazing restaurants, some of whom have earned internatonal awards for their fabulousness. There are many, but we'll just mention two of our favourites here: Riverine Rabbit and Wolfgat.
Named after the endangered Karoo hares – read about them in our blog, Hare today, gone tomorrow – Riverine Rabbit prides itself on providing diners with a conscious experience using locally-sourced, seasonable and sustainable ingredients. The result is a fine dining experience, in the middle of Cape Town's CBD, that'll knock your socks off. Owner and chef, Ash Heeger, recently took part in the popular Netflix series, The Final Table.
They offer full and reduced tasting menus and a 3-course set menu, with options for each course. The hardest thing about a visit to Riverine Rabbit is trying to decide what to choose – all their dishes are gorgeous and delectable.
Recently crowned both 'Restaurant of the Year' and 'Best Off-Map Destination' at the inaugural World Restaurant Awards, you'll need to book for Wolfgat well in advance. Situated in the picturesque fishing village of Paternoster, two hours drive from Cape Town on the West Coast, chef Kobus van der Merwe serves a 7-course tasting menu to just twenty diners at a time.
Here, too, the focus is on local sourcing and sustainability. Wild herbs, seafood and seaweed straight from the sea and fresh ingredients from the garden are melded together into a gastronomical sensation.
And now onto our 40 must-eat foods while you're in Cape Town. First up: let's solve that all too common travelling dilemma – on the road snackage.
1. Droëwors – dried, spiced sausage. We're fans of Frankie Fenner's version of this more-ish snack (and their biltong).
2. Biltong – dried, salted and spiced strips of beef or game (springbok, kudu and ostrich are common). J&M Famous Biltong is heavenly and they have branches throughout Cape Town.
3. Niknaks – bright orange maize snacks.
4. Top Deck – a two-tone milk and white chocolate bar from Cadbury.
5. Chuckles – melt-in-your-mouth malted puffs, peanut, raisin or shortbread coated in chocolate (at Woolworths).
6. Bacon maple croissants from Jason Bakery in Bree Street.
7. Freshly-baked muffins, particularly the cappuccino ones, at the in-house bakeries at Spar supermarkets.
8. Rusks – Coffee isn't complete without rusks. Dip a buttermilk or condensed milk Ouma rusk in your morning coffee.
9. A monkeygland burger or steak at the Spur. No monkeys were harmed in the making of these.
10. Boerewors (farmer’s sausage) rolls from street vendors throughout South Africa.
11. Calamari – have it grilled or crumbed. Hout Bay, and specifically the Chapman’s Peak Hotel, is a good place to taste it.
... which goes well with this:
12. Waterblommetjie (water lilly) bredie – a lamb and pondweed stew (it’s delicious, honest!). It's seasonal but if you're lucky you may find it on the menu at Thyme at Rosemary's in Gansbaai (where the shark cage diving happens).
13. Ribs at Sticky Fingers in Obs, Rondebosch and Parow – specials on Tuesdays.
14. The Love sandwich at The Kitchen in Sir Lowry Road - Woodstock and Michelle Obama's favourite Cape Town lunch spot.
15. Giant burgers at The Dog’s Bollocks in the city centre.
16. Snoek – this local fish is often braaied (barbecued) with apricot jam, or smoked, and it makes a killer paté. Try the paté at Jonkershuis at Groot Constantia. You'll want more. Dried and salted, it’s known as bokkoms.
17. Springbok carpaccio. Sit el fresco in the courtyard at Beluga in Green Point and taste this flavourful dish.
20. Steers chips (fries) – this South African fast food chain uses a delicious and unique seasoning salt.
21. A braai (barbecue). For an unforgettable experience, head out to Mzoli’s in Gugulethu for a DIY shisa nyama. Braais can also include boerewors (farmer’s sausage), pap (maize-based porridge) and braaibroodjies - tomato, onion and cheese sandwiches toasted over the fire.
22. Braai pie – SA’s YouTube sensation, Suzelle, shows you how to make one of these yourself.
23. Anything and a beer at the Brass Bell in Kalk Bay.
24. Breakfast at the Bay Harbour Market, winner of the 'Best Weekend Market' award from Cape Town Exeriences Magazine for 2019, in Hout Bay.
25. Speaking of markets ... enjoy gourmet and artisan tasties every Thursday evening at the Cape Point Vineyards Community Market.
26. A steak gatsby (meat and fries sandwich) from the Wembley Roadhouse.
27. The Cape Malay Estate tasting plate at Jonkershuis restaurant, Groot Constantia.
28. Pastries, bread and breakfast at the Olympia Café in Kalk Bay.
29. Bunny chow – no, no rabbits involved. This is a hollowed out half-loaf of bread filled with curry. Head to the Eastern Bazaar near the Grand Parade or to Cape Town institution, The Sunrise Café in Mowbray, to sample this delight.
30. Kristen's Kick-Ass Ice Cream. We know, this should be in the pudding section, but you'll want to have a couple of flavours as a full 'tasting meal'. There are shops at the Noordhoek Farm Village and Constantia Uitsig.
32. Sushi at Willoughby’s – this restaurant’s location in the middle of a mall thoroughfare is immaterial when you’re eating their delicious creamy rock shrimp maki or 4x4 rolls.
33. Ceviche at Charango, a favourite Cape Town Peruvian restaurant in viby Bree Street.
34. Also in Bree Street, try the lunch plates from their daily lunch table slection of freshly prepared dishes at Café Frank in Bree Street.
35. Peppermint Crisp – the chocolate itself, or the dessert layered with tennis biscuits, caramel and cream. Our current favourite is The Wild Fig's terrarium take on this delight.
36. Artisan ice lollies from Las Paletas, available at various stockists. Guava cheesecake or roast peaches and coconut, anyone?
37. Gelato at Gelato Mania in Green Point – particularly the watermelon sorbet.
38. Koeksisters – fried doughy treats soaked in lightly spiced syrup. The round, doughy ones covered with coconut (koesisters) found in Bo Kaap are wonderful, but the plaited, ultra-syrupy ones (koeksisters) in the supermarkets are yummy too. The Rose Corner Cafe in Bo-Kaap is the place to go.
39. Ice cream from The Creamery in Newlands, Claremont, Mouille Point and Durbanville.
40. Malva pudding – a hot sponge dessert; sweet and delicious comfort food. Try the one at Bertha's in Simon's Town and expect to want seconds!
You probably already know about Cape Town’s world-class wines, and reputation for being a coffee-lover’s paradise, but the locals want make sure you don’t miss out on these drinks too:
41. Rooibos tea – ‘red bush’ tea, grown in the Cederberg region, is a caffeine-free, anti-oxidant packed national treasure. Try it black (red!) with lemon, or order a cinnamon and honey-topped red cappuccino (Lekker in Kalk Bay makes a killer version) or latte. Bos ice tea is a great cold version.
42. Dom Pedros – vanilla ice-cream blended with whiskey, Kahlua, Amarula (see below) or other liqueurs. They're available at most South African restaurants but word on the ground says that the one at the Nelson's Eye is superb.
43. Amarula – African animals get intoxicated on fermented marula fruit but we recommend this cream-based liqueur version. Drink it straight or in a Dom Pedro.
44. Vin de Constance from Klein Constantia – this sweet dessert wine has been discontinued but if you can find some, try it.
45. Springbokkie shooter – Amarula is layered over mint liqueur to make this patriotic drink. The colours represent the green and gold kit worn by SA’s rugby team.
And if you’re staying in self-catering accommodation, look out for this in the grocery stores:
46. ProNutro – This energy-boosting breakfast cereal that many South Africans grew up on has mysterious ability to absorb crazy amounts of milk.
Many thanks to all who contributed to this article: Andrea, Adeleida, Belle, Peter, Lynn, Sam, Coralie, Mongezi, Jaclyn, Jackie, Jacqueline, Ian, Simone, Judith, Alice, Emily, Belinda and Nicolas. This blog was updated in February 2019 by Brion Chisholm.