I could never be one of those people who eats to stay alive because for me, food is more that just fuel, it’s the closest tie I know to understanding culture. I plan my days around what meal I’m craving to eat next.
If you’ve ever traveled to New Orleans, many locals and guides use gumbo as a way to teach people about the amalgamation of cultures that have crossed paths there. The stew combines the culinary practices of the French, Spanish, German, West African and Choctaw. New Orleans takes its food so seriously that you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone talking about the city’s history without mentioning its local (and unique) cuisine.
A big reason Cape Town intrigued me so much, aside from its photogenic coastlines and inviting landscapes, is because I have no idea what Capetonians actually eat. A port city and a mix Dutch, German, Italian, Malaysian, Indian, and African cultures, Cape Town is very much like the melting pot that is New Orleans (sans humidity).
MY FIRST MEAL/MY FAVORITE MEAL
Harbour House Restaurant at V&A Waterfront
While not traditionally South African (it’s more international if you take a look at what I ordered), I couldn’t have picked a better place to have my first meal in Cape Town. First impressions are important! Harbour House is located at the Victoria and Albert Waterfront and features a serene view of the harbor. It’s considered as one of the more upscale restaurants but if you’re traveling from the United States (or live in New York City), after the exchange rate the prices are a bargain. For a three-course meal + a bottle of water, I paid less than $30. Everything I ordered was so freaking good. And the presentation is so fancy! For this kind of service in New York City I’d be paying at least $70.
Appetizer - Potato and Parmesan gnocchi garnished with roast butternut, grilled artichokes, mushrooms, pine nuts, sage and a truffle Parmesan sauce:
Main - Grilled fillet of beef with fondant potato, fine green beans, mushroom ragout and a truffle cream sauce:
Dessert - Chocolate tart with vanilla ice cream and cookie crunch, caramel corn, fudge and caramel sauce:
Eastern Food Bazaar at Cape Town City Bowl
If you’re on the fence about where to stay in Cape Town, check out the Airbnb listing for the Mutual Heights apartments. Not only are you centrally located in city bowl, you’ve got a pharmacy downstairs that open late nights (think Duane Reade and CVS) and the Eastern Food Bazaar. A long corridor that spans the width of the block, the bazaar sells Turkish, Indian, and Chinese food as well as pizza and gelato. The portions are enormous and almost everything costs around $3. Add to the fact that this place is open on Sundays while everything else in the city is closed, this place ensures you don’t go hangry.
BREDIE (SOUTH AFRICAN STEW)
Karibu Restaurant at V&A Waterfront
A case for ordering lamb (my favorite kind of meat) and whatever I couldn’t pronounce. This dish sounded super exotic. I mean how do you even pronounce waterblommetjiebredie? In case you were wondering, waterblommetjiebredie is an aquatic flowering plant native to South Africa. If you’re in the mood for traditional South African food, stop by Karibu and enjoy your dish with a view.
J&M Bilton at V&A Waterfront
Also known as the place where I realized biltong actually tastes pretty good. Is it just me or does anyone else think biltong = jerky? I mean, yes, bilton is technically jerky but when I think of jerky I think it’s one of those vacuum-sealed meat sticks you get at gas stations. But unlike those tough, gummy meat Twizzlers, the biltongs from J&M are air- rather than oven-dried. The result? A well-seasoned, soft, chewy, and tender piece of dried cured meat.
INTERNATIONAL/THE HOT NEW SPOT
Hemelhuijs at Cape Town City Center
If you like places that feature an all-day breakfast, this is the place considered by many Capetonians as *the best breakfast*.
French toast with apricot marmalade and sour cream, a side of bacon, and scrambled eggs with avocado