Cape TownWords Jamie Oliver
Photography David Loftus
It had always been a bit of a disappointment to me that I hadn’t been to Cape Town before because it seemed like there’s a real buzz about it.
Last month, with one of my best friends marrying a nice South African boy, I found the perfect opportunity to have a handful of days there lapping up the sunshine. Yes, it’s a bit far away but, my God, you can pack a lot in once there! Safaris, beautiful beaches, a wonderful city, incredible food – it delivers on every level.
After the wedding festivities we hit the streets. We stopped by Cape Town institution Giovanni’s Deliworld for coffee and pastries, watched a carnival kicking off, walked to the port and found the most incredible ice cream parlour, then visited the legendary Mount Nelson Hotel for afternoon tea. The Nelson is a golden oldie and real charmer: one of those hotels that hasn’t lost touch with the idea that it’s nice to be old-school. Not only was our tea insanely good but the atmosphere was top drawer.
We also ate at a few posh restaurants, with some of the city’s most impressive chefs in the kitchen. These guys are cooking in a contemporary, classy way without forgetting that food has to be seasonal and tasty first, and clever and exciting to look at second. They’re using and combining ingredients in a way that – to me – is really inspiring.
I think many parts of Europe, and certainly England, are good at producing ‘convenient’ and ‘posh’ food, but not so much at affordable, middle market, tasty food. I think Cape Town has this nailed. Like people from San Francisco, Sydney and Melbourne, Cape Towners seem to have a really good understanding of food. Their nice supermarkets have shelves stuffed with food that is fresh, vibrant and on a level with any world-class food emporium. I was really impressed, it was clear they’ve got great produce to work with.
Because South African cooking isn’t enshrined in hundreds of years of tradition or ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ − the way other countries can be – it’s as if it can be a bit freer. I think it’s optimistic, open-minded, flexible, respectful and exciting.
There’s no question that Cape Town has loads to offer. I’ve caught the bug and I’ll definitely be back with the family. And with no jet leg it’s happy days!
CITY GUIDE compiled by Andy Harris
EAT & DRINK
Giovanni’s Deliworld 103 Main Road, Green Point; 021 434 6893. Giovanni Esposito and his family run this popular institution with precision. Perch on stools outside for coffee and pastries, or beetroot quinoa or beef carpaccio for lunch. Inside, shelves are packed with Italian imports and local delicacies and a deli counter groans with cheeses and salumi perfect for beach picnics.
The Showroom 10 Hospital Street, Harbour Edge, Green Point; 021 421 4682, theshowroomrestaurant.co.za. Sit at the bar and watch the pyrotechnics of Bruce Robertson and his crew as they cook and assemble creative modern dishes.
Caveau Wine Bar & Deli 92 Bree Street, Heritage Square, City Bowl; 021 422 1367, caveau.co.za. Cosy atmosphere in which to sample superb wines and simple dishes such as calamari with chilli or steak tartare.
Kalky’s Kalk Bay Harbour, Kalk Bay; 021 788 1726. Snoek, kingklip and other exotic sounding fish straight off the boats become perfect fish and chips with lashings of vinegar or chilli sauce at this ever-popular joint.
Olympia Café & Deli 134 Main Road, Kalk Bay; 021 788 6396. No reservations for the great coffee and breakfast fry-ups at this deservedly popular haunt.
Haiku 58 Burg Street, City Bowl; 021 424 7000. Adequate Asian tapas at this trendy, low-lit restaurant with a decent wine list.
Ice Café 92 Main Road, Kalk Bay; 021 788 4816. Excellent homemade ice creams and sorbets change every day at this simple gelateria.
Wakame First floor, corner Surrey Place & Beach Road, Mouille Point; 021 433 2377. Try the tea-smoked salmon, sticky roast duck, sashimi or curries at this contemporary restaurant.
Il Leone Mastrantonio 22 Coburn Street, Green Point; 021 421 0071, gruppomastrantonio.com. Classic neighbourhood family-run trattoria with addictive spaghetti vongole and homemade tortellini.
Vida e Caffè 34 Kloof Street, City Bowl; 021 426 0627, caffe.co.za. Slick designer coffee spot with spot-on sandwiches, Portuguese pastries and a glamorous clientele.
Melissa’s 94 Kloof Street, City Bowl; 021 424 5540. Original branch of a city-wide food store that offers reliable deli fare, local foodstuffs and some notable tarts.
Lazari Food Gallery Corner Upper Maynard Street & Vredehoek Avenue, Vredehoek; 021 461 9865. Chris Lazari offers traditional Greek hospitality and soups and slow-cooked lamb, pita wraps and cupcakes at this packed café.
Manna Epicure 151 Kloof Street, City Bowl; 021 426 2413. There’s a bakery plus simple salads and smoothies at this designer café.
The Food Barn Noordhoek Farm Village, Village Lane, Noordhoek; 021 789 1390, thefoodbarn.co.za. Franck Dangereux has a loyal following that flocks to eat his Mediterranean-influenced food in a restored barn. Try Moroccan-style kofte or a classic tarte tatin.
Green Point Market Green Point Common; Sundays 9.15am–5pm. Buy colourful kikois (sarongs) and plastic kitsch here.
Milnerton Market Otto Du Plessis Drive, Paarden Eiland; Sat–Sun 7am–4pm. Forage for kitchen collectables and antiques at this lively flea market.
Greenmarket Square Shortmarket Street, City Bowl; greenmarketsquare.com; Mon-Sat 9am–4pm. Shop for African artefacts.
Clarke’s Bookshop 211 Long Street, City Bowl; 021 423 5739, clarkesbooks.co.za. Impressive array of African books.
African Music Store 134 Long Street, City Bowl; 021 426 0857, africanmusicstore.co.za. Take home some local sounds.
Woolworths & Pick n Pay Victoria & Albert Waterfront. Check out South Africa’s leading supermarkets (no relation to the UK Woolies) in the upmarket mall and pick up local hot sauces and chutneys.
Pan African Market 76 Long Street, City Bowl; 021 426 4478, panafrican.co.za. A great balcony overlooking the hustle of Long Street, and some fiery African food.
Imagenius 117 Long Street, City Bowl; 021 423 7870, imagenius.co.za. An eclectic range of homewares and artefacts over three floors.
Neighbour Goods Market Old Biscuit Mill, 373 Albert Road, Woodstock; neighbourgoodsmarket.co.za; Sat 9am–2pm. Stop by for breakfast and meander through to check out everything from organic fruit, homemade cake and breads to spicy dips and cheeses – all show the diversity of the bustling Cape Town food scene.
Vaughan Johnson’s Wine Shop Dock Road, Waterfront; 021 419 2121, vaughanjohnson.com. Vaughan Johnson is full of local wine lore and has a superb selection with an export service for wine collectors.
Mount Nelson Hotel 76 Orange Street; 021 483 1000, mountnelson.co.za. There are plenty of new boutique hotels on offer but we loved the Nellie, as it’s known to locals. You must experience this colonial blast from the past, especially the legendary afternoon tea’s expansive spread that includes such delights as koeksisters (doughnuts) and battenberg cake, finger sandwiches and herbal teas. There’s loads of Old-World charm, from the lobby and public areas, to delightful cottage rooms, gardens, cocktails at the Planet Bar and wonderful old framed menus from the great voyages of the Union and Castle Lines. Food from executive chef Ian Mancais and executive sous chef Nick Haszard utilises local ingredients to good effect and there’s a breakfast buffet spread that puts many other ‘grande-dame’ hotels to shame.
Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Lower Cable Station; Tafelberg Road; 021 424 8181, tablemountain.net. This must-do on every tourist list has been open since 1929 and offers incredible views and vistas of Cape Town and surrounds.
Robben Island Museum Take the ferry (unless it’s too rough) to see where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned and a small penguin colony.
Constantia Uitsig Spaanschemat River Road, Constantia; 021 794 6500. If you’ve time you can visit, stay or eat at any of their three restaurants (including La Colombe where British-born Luke Dale-Roberts creates sensational menus) or simply taste some excellent wines at this award-winning winery.