One of the highlights of my life……going to South Africa!
I was pleasantly surprised at all of the amazing food we came across during our 4 weeks in South Africa. In fact, so much that I am having a hard time with this post. The foodie scene is alive and well with chefs pushing the boundaries and preparing gorgeous dishes that looking back, it was some of the most memorable food I have ever had. Read on…….
One of my favorite overall food/ambiance experiences was a place called Polana in Kalk Bay. We went on a weekend for lunch and I had no idea what to expect. I was told it was a place built into the rocks on the water with a great view. Sounded great, I’m in. We arrived and it was packed. There was live music and a lively bar scene. We were lucky to only wait a few minutes before someone signaled to us that they were leaving their precious, window seat real estate behind and we could snatch it up. The lounge is all low couches and tables making it super relaxed and inviting. There are huge windows along the wall where, no joke, whales swim right in front of the restaurant. I was in love with the place. The vibe & design was hip, the crowd was hip, I was sipping a glass of prosecco watching whales and seals …..I didn’t even care if the food was good. I had no expectations although the plates of oysters all around me looked promising. I ordered a bunch of tapas style dishes for the table to share (I’m always put in charge for some reason 😉 We started with oysters…….holy, briny deliciousness…..and the meal got better from there. Check it out…..
ground level of Harbour House, Kalk Bay, Cape Town
Out in Hout Bay is a beautiful thai restaurant called Kitima. Knowing my love of asian food, our South African friends decided to take us there. The restaurant is housed in in an old manor with ornately decorated rooms making this place super romantic. We chose to eat in the lounge in order to take advantage of the comfy leather seating. The cocktails were excellent and the food had authentic thai flavors or lemongrass, chills and fish sauce . We of course, ordered a ton….thai dishes, some sushi, chinese buns….The fact that this restaurant is totally beautiful and the less formal vibe of the lounge made for a great night. This a super special place. Go.
Kitima at The Kronendal
140 Main Rd Hout Bay, Cape Town
South Africa loves meat. I love meat. I love South Africa.
The meat in this country, oh man…..so of course, while shopping on Long Street in the heart of Cape Town, we had to make a burger stop. Royal Eatery hit the god damned spot. Their motto is something like “burgers that make your soul tingle and your dreams come true.” Yeah, I’m down for that. My burger dreams came true, that’s for sure, along with my craft beer dreams. (My super skinny dreams….not so much) The space is ecclectic and cool. Royale Eatery displays art from local artists which rotates every so often. You can people watch from a table or choose a large, comfy booth like we did.
Now I regret to inform you that I do not have a picture of this burger moment so go and google image that shit. But the menu has like over 30 kinds of burgers….you can choose The Federale “chorizo, chilies, coriander and fresh guacamole” or the Sweet Petunia “grilled mushrooms, fresh rocket, home made mustard mayo” or get crazy with the Santori “pork patty blended with teriyaki sauce, ginger, chorizo and chili & served with a home made asian reduction”. You can have an ostrich patty or a lamb patty. You can have a wagyu patty. You can have the Fat Bastard “double patty, double bacon, double egg and double cheese. Then you might have a heart attack but god damn it, it was delicious. Oh and shit! They have adult milkshakes. Jack Daniels and ice cream make me a happy lady. They also have pretty awesome looking salads and (although I don’t even wanna mention it) a pretty large veggie burger selection for those blasphemers. And these burgers cost about $8 bucks! In Los Angeles, these would be $15 burgers for sure. So go. Have a burger and a craft beer. Or a burger and a milkshake with booze. You will leave fatter. But happier.
Royale Eatery 273 Long Street, Cape Town www.royaleeatery.com
While we are on the meat tip, let me tell you about a place called Mzoli’s Meat.
I had read about this place, located in a township just outside of downtown Cape Town. A butchery, a meat heaven. An outdoor, communal table spot with the occasional dj where locals gather to eat meat with their fingers and share bottles of booze. My SA friends wouldn’t go, feeling it was dangerous, located in a township and all. But I would not be deterred. If it was on the internet with tons of reviews, that meant people go there and that there must be something about this place. It couldn’t be too unsafe, right?! Foodies love it, I had to go. I was craving something authentic so it was exactly the kind of adventure I wanted. Ryan and I headed off on our own one afternoon not knowing what to expect. I’m not gonna lie, driving through a township is super sad. The ramshackle, tin roof huts lining the road go on for miles and miles with no space in between. Living in a non first world country, I am used to seeing housing like this. Just not on this scale. At all. And I am well travelled. It was unlike anything I have ever seen. But, the kids were playing soccer, and people were cooking and socializing and we never once felt unsafe.
We finally found Mzoli’s and some locals directed us to a parking spot right in front. We could smell the meat and see the smoke immediatly. I had read that Mzoli’s is a “hip scene” with local djs and a huge crowd. It wasn’t exactly that kind of spot when we were there. To me, it was better. It was real. It was authentic & rustic. It was local. It was a community township experience. There was no trendy dj in sunglasses, no other white people in the joint…..just some african music playing over the speakers. There were no hipsters, just about a hundred local people, families and groups of friends alike sharing 40s of beer and bottles of communal whiskey & vodka on the tables. All ripping into huge platters piled high with meat and using their hands. Heaven.I couldn’t wait to eat mine.
The way it works is you walk inside, choose your meat cuts at the counter and they give you a receipt. You take the receipt back to the braai area (above) and the cooks tell you about how long it will take and when to come back. The grill area is insane btw…a room filled with meats over an open flame. It is hot, it is smokey and it smells delicious. I could have hung out in there all day with the cooks.
You then go outside to the tented area filled with communal tables and plastic chairs and find a spot to sit. You can go next door and buy beer or liquor or bring your own. They don’t provide utensils so don’t be scared to get into it with your hands ! (but you can buy them for about .25 if you think you need them) The meat was insane. We had a steak, sausage, chicken wings….sadly we we not super hungry as it was kind of a last minute decision to go. We spent a total of about 6 american dollars! I recommend going hungry and not being shy. Get it all. And the SAUCE! The best part is their house made special bbq sauce. It was ridiculous. I would drink it straight. Seriously one of my best SA food experiences. Don’t be skerrrrd. Do it.
Mzoli’s (google for more info) Gugulethu Township outside Cape Town
Another place that I would literally go back to again and again is a restaurant in Camps Bay called Bungalow. This place is all about location and view. It is touristy but with a view like that, who the hell cares. This is a scene. Come dressed well. Come for brunch. Come for cocktails. Come for sunset. Just come. The food is good, not amazing-best-food-ive-ever-had but I could lounge here in the sun with a huge bloody mary all the god damned day long. If you plan on doing just that, try to get a daybed.
Bungalow www.thebungalow.co.za Camps Bay
OK. Now we get to it. My favorite meal in SA! This restaurant not only had the best food, but an insane view. Even getting to the restaurant in the glass elevator was a fun experience. It seriously, has everything going for it. Food so good I’m still thinking about it and a view that is like no other. The restaurant is The Pot Luck Club on the top floor of The Old Biscuit Mill. It’s located in an up and coming, artsy part of Cape Town called Woodstock. The menu is small plates, meant to be shared and is divided into categories of the basic tastes “salty, sour, sweet, umami, bitter”. If you have ever eaten with me, you know my favorite way to eat is to order as much as possible so I can try everything. I think between the four of us, we pretty much had the entire menu. As I’m reading the current menu on their website, all the dishes are different from what we had but it all sounds amazing and I want to go back. We had a sauteed squid and green apple dish that I am intent upon replicating in my restaurant, yellowtail crudo with citrus and tomato, asian spiced chicken wings that one order was not enough ( I don’t think two was enough), beautiful pan seared whitefish with black bean ginger puree, short ribs, churros and much much more. It was all excellent. And exciting. AND I’m a dick and don’t have pics because I had been tourist-ing all day and my camera was dead 😦 I suck. Check out the photos on the website and start drooling. They do two seatings here a night and reservations are essential.
The Pot Luck Club www.thepotluckclub.co.za
While wine tasting in Franschhoek, we had lunch at a cute restaurant at the Moreson Vineyards called Bread & Wine. I’m just going to say it was the best lamb dish of my life. I was slightly intoxicated from all the wine tasting but still…..We also shared a mushroom pizza and a charcuterie plate and both were excellent. But that lamb……
SO those were all MAJOR food moments…..but there’s so much more! SOOOOOOOOOOOOOO………………………………….
In addition to the above highlights, I had a lot of other super rad food moments. In Kalk Bay, we had breakfast at the Olympia Cafe. Check out the photo of their french toast with banana piled with bacon. This is the spot for breakfast in Kalk Bay and super cheap.
Also in Kalk Bay, I was craving a cold, crisp cider and some flakey, fried fish (how’s that for alliteration?;). We decided to walk down to where the boats were docked and see what was around. We came up on Kalky’s
….an unassuming local spot serving seafood right off the boats. I had a platter of fried hake and sauteed calamari and fries for really cheap and it totally hit the spot.
Our friends took us out for some margarita drinking at El Burro in Green Point, Cape Town.
The mexican food was yummy and the drinks were strong. The design of the restaurant was trendy and fun. The lighting was also a bit romantic with candles on every table. A great spot for a night out with friends or a date.
A casual lunch spot in Hout Bay that reminded me of some spots in so cal is called La Cuccina (The restaurant Lemonade is a good comparison). We had a nice late breakfast/lunch here. You can order off the menu or they have a bunch of prepared foods, salads, stews, etc that you can pile onto a plate and pay by weight ( we did both). This isn’t your average buffet. It’s all freshly prepared and very “whole foods esque” . Food is health conscious and super yummy. The burger here with the fried egg was great. Not the gluttonous, cheese oozing, toppings falling off as I eat burger like at Royale, but a tamer, still yummy, burger none the less.
Our friends who live in Cape Town have their go to pub called Pirates Grill. The neon sign and wood paneling may lead you to believe this place is divey (and it is, which is why we like it) but don’t let that lead to assumptions about the food. Sure the salads are generic looking (but why would you order a salad?) and I’m pretty sure this place is a chain but it has some decent meat for a really good price. If ya wanna drink a pint, watch the game and act like a cave man, this is a pretty good option. The ribs were on point. They have daily platter specials which are a great bargain. We ended up here several times throughout our trip in various states of sobriety and we always had a good time. There is also karaoke some nights in the next room if that’s your thing and if it isn’t, we probably wouldn’t be friends.
After one of our scenice drives, we stopped at the Chapmans Peak Hotel for a snack and some adult beverages. We sat outside on the patio as the sun set and again, the view was ridiculous. As th wind picked up, we moved inside just off the bar to a little room with a fireplace and a large sofa. We ordered their signature sauteed calamari dish. It was pretty fucking fantastic. I love when restaurants don’t hide calamari under a layer of batter and this calamari you could actually taste. I could have had two orders. And I wasn’t even hungry. Go for a glass of wine on the patio, stay for that calamari dish.
Another restaurant in Franschhoek wine land that we enjoyed was Dutch East . It was toward the end of our stay in SA and wine country was a last minute overnight trip I am so glad we took. We didn’t make advance reservations anywhere for dinner and a lot of the grander dining rooms at the wineries were booked. We found this cute restaurant on the main road. Here I had a really great pork belly dish. Actually everything that everyone had was really good. That pork belly sticks out in my mind. We had had a ton of wine by dinner sooo I’m surprised I remember anything from that night. This picture helps for sure 🙂
A South African friend of ours we know from Los Angeles emailed me while we were on vacation in SA to tell us about a new spot that he heard was hot and that we MUST try. Kloof Street House sits behind a tall hedge in a gorgeous old house. I mean, really. This spot is model beautiful, not just normal pretty. You could tell the restaurant was a experiencing bit of buzz as everyone inside was good looking, even the waitstaff. It had a bit of an air of exclusivity to it, a touch of that hollywood pretension we are so used to having come from Los Angeles. It didn’t bother me at all. In fact, it made me feel right at home haha. It was too cold to dine outside but I’m sure when the weather allows, the patio is divine. This is the spot to impress. It’s romantic, stunning and has really good food focused on seasonality. Some dishes I remember were a short rib special, a gnocchi with oxtail and a grilled calamari dish ( whipping out the camera here to take pictures felt a bit odd to me that night, and sometimes I can’t be bothered to take photos. I just wanna eat) . Some photos from the website:
While in SA you will no doubt want to go on a few scenic drives as everything around you is pretty damn scenic and almost unreal. A great place to stop and eat is about 40 min outside Cape Town called The Food Barn in Noordhoek . They have a quaint restaurant inside or you can grab prepared food to go. Like these yummy, flaky, perfect savory pies……
They have an amazing little shop inside the restaurant that sells specialty items perfect for a picnic. Meats, cheeses, wine, fancy chocolate…..I could have spent a ton of time in there but the road was calling. SO stock up, take a drive, hop out and take all this in…..
Wow. this post is making we want to fly the 23 hours back to South Africa. If you are lucky enough to go there, enjoy the food. Along with everything else about this stunning place.
Thanks for reading!
ps…if you enjoyed reading this, check out my video adventures in South Africa!