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I'll be vacationing in Cape Town for a few weeks during February and am looking for dining recommendations in and around the city.

I'll be staying in the hills above de Waterkaant and will have a car. I made a similar trip in 2005 and tried a lot of the places that are listed in the guidebooks. I'm wondering what else is out there.

Thanks!

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In Cape Town, go to the Waterfront to Belthazar, sit outside, people-watch, drink bubbles and eat great squid. Also, Savoy Cabbage is very nice.

Blues in Camps Bay.

Black Marlin in Simon's Town, on the drive down or back from Cape Point. Unbelievably good seafood.

Meerendal wine farm in Durbanville (lunch only).

Moving out of CT/direct environs, here are some Winelands recs:

96 Winery Road, Helderberg

Wijnhuis, Stellenbosch

Decameron, Stellenbosch

Java Cafe, Stellenbosch (where we breakfast every morning when we're "working" down there)

Joostenberg Deli & Bistro, Joostenberg (an absolute must for house-made sausages)

Hartenberg Estate, Bottelary (lunch only)

Marc's, Paarl

Bosman's, Paarl (very dressy)

Rozendal farm, Jonkershoek

Quartier Francaise, Franschhoek

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Well, I ended up stuck in a conference room for most of my time in Johannesburg, but our closing out dinner was spectacular. We went downtown to a place called Moyo at the Market--modern African food with a bit of a schticky flair, but not too bad. (It is technically a chain, with three outposts in Joburg.) And the food was excellent.

The whole meal was served family style, and each table started out with a selection of fresh rolls--mini chapati, pumpkin, onion-coconut--and dips--olive oil, chili sauce, chickpea dip (not hummus), and chopped nuts and spices (a dry mix). All were quite good, and a nice start.

This was followed by a tray of samosas, which were easily the best I'd had in my life. They all used the same light, flaky pastry and were shaped differently depending on filling--duck, venison, or pea and potato. The duck was the runaway winner (which is particularly impressive when you consider that I don't like duck), but they all were head and shoulders above any other samosa I've run across.

Finally, the main course. Each table got large dishes of braised lamb, baked chicken, veggie mash, couscous, and cornmeal pap. The chicken tasted like bananas. But while I find that idea to be deeply disturbing and utterly disgusting (bananas, for god's sake!)... it still managed to be *gorgeous*. Subtle, juicy... I was temped to throw a few legs in my purse. (All the other dishes were spectacular too, just not as easy to transport in an evening bag.)

The ice cream dessert (topped with caramel and sweet almonds) was a bit of a letdown, so we just ordered yet another bottle of excellent South African wine to carry us through. (No, I don't remember the name, which is silly--and understandable--considering how many empties were littering the table.)

Caveat: Do not order the local rum, Red Heart. Ew.

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I'm off to South Africa again--another conference in Johannesburg and a few vacation days in Cape Town. Any recent experiences or word of mouth on either? The Joburg portion will be pretty work-intensive, but we're actually staying IN town this time, in Sandton, so I hope to be able to sneak out for at least one dinner and would love to have a name in my pocket since it will probably be spur of the moment.

Cape Town, though, is wide open. I plan at least a day in wine country; our lovely sommelier at Per Se recommended some Stellenbosch wineries to me (Neil Ellis, Meerlust, and Mulderbosch), but I'd appreciate any other recommendations there or in Franschoek. Recent restaurant advice citywide is much appreciated too. Thanks!

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Most of the recommendations up top of the thread are still valid (Decameron is closed, Mamma Roma in Stellenbosch Square mall is quite good, though). Joostenberg for lunch is an absolute must.

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I'm off to South Africa again--another conference in Johannesburg and a few vacation days in Cape Town. Any recent experiences or word of mouth on either? The Joburg portion will be pretty work-intensive, but we're actually staying IN town this time, in Sandton, so I hope to be able to sneak out for at least one dinner and would love to have a name in my pocket since it will probably be spur of the moment.

Cape Town, though, is wide open. I plan at least a day in wine country; our lovely sommelier at Per Se recommended some Stellenbosch wineries to me (Neil Ellis, Meerlust, and Mulderbosch), but I'd appreciate any other recommendations there or in Franschoek. Recent restaurant advice citywide is much appreciated too. Thanks!

When in Cape Town we generally dine at the Savoy Cabbage. Superb food. We sent our friends there last week and they had a superb meal as well. In the winelands, we have had fabulous meals at Le Quartier Francais and Ruebens (in Franschhoek) and Bosmans (in Paarl). We've had pretty good meals at Le Bon Vivant and had a nice lunch at Bread and Wine. I've heard great things about Bouillabaisse.

For wineries, i'd personally skip Mulderbosch and Neil Ellis. You can generally get those wines in the US, though Mulderbosch has some SA only wines which are nice. I'd recommend grabbing a copy of the Platter Guide and looking for the smaller producers you can't get here. That way you can bring back a ton of stuff. I'd do a stop at Vergelegen (a big producer though), amazing grounds and good wine. It is a little out of the way though in Somserset West. Zorgvliet makes some nice wines (near Stellenbosch) as well as Neethlingshof. GlenWood is a place i've been looking to try on my next trip - last time we went they were closed which was annoying since its a 3KM drive down a gravel road. Also, De Toren in Stellenbosch makes some nice wines.

Have a great trip

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I wish I had better luck in South Africa than I did, but a combination of overwork and weather kept me from branching out too much--and eating mediocrity--as a result.

In Johannesburg, work only allowed me one meal outside of the hotel. We had a group dinner at an "African" place on Mandela Square in Sandton that, while nicely appointed, was supremely forgettable. I honestly can't even remember the name of the place. I do, however, remember that the fish tasted like it had soaked in bitter sugar sauce for at least a couple of days, though the lamb and the pap were nice (you know, for pap).

In Cape Town, the worst storms in 20 years battered the city for most of my time there, which kind of put a damper on exploration. For accommodations, I can't recommend the Hippo Boutique Hotel in Gardens more highly. The location is great, the rooms are comfy, and the staff couldn't be nicer or more welcoming. (The woman who checked me in said she'd been at home at night worrying about whether I was okay during the worst of the storms.) Because of the weather and a couple of exhausting tourist days in the winelands and Cape Point, I ate a lot of meals from provisions picked up at Woolworths--which I was surprised to find out is much more of a high-end Trader Joe's than the five-and-dimes I grew up with. Great cheeses, granola-nut bars, and dried tropical fruits.

I did meet a few friends for one excellent night out. We started at The Tank, which offered a bizarre mix of Italian and Asian options (I've really never seen such a thing). We stuck to Asian and had some fine sushi rolls, the surprise winner of which was the Crispy Nori Roll, with spicy tuna, seaweed tempura, and... sweet potato. (See? I told you it was a surprise.) We also drank the excellent and well-priced Haute Cabriere Chardonnay/Pinot Noir.

Our conversation was too good to stop with the check, so we decided to move on for an after-dinner bottle of wine (oh, tell me you haven't done it...) at The Nose, which is located in the same mall as The Tank. My companions told me beforehand that the food there isn't that great, but that they had taken a few wine tasting classes there and fell in love with it. Indeed, their wine list was amazing and interesting and informative; they even generally have on offer a few wines that they're rotating out of stock listed on a chalk board for around a quarter of their normal price. The interior reminds me more of a college coffee shop than a wine bar, but I loved it--fireplace, mismatched furniture, seriously chill vibe. We had the Constantia Uitsig Chardonnay--lovely.

I appreciated all your recommendations above for vineyards to visit, but the fact that I rarely drive in America made me nervous about renting a car to drive on the wrong side of the road to and from a day of drinking in the winelands. Call me overly prudent, but that just seemed like a barrel of trouble waiting to happen. (Ha! Barrel! See what I did there?) So I took a tour, which turned into a predictably disappointing whirl through three mediocre wineries. I was looking for wines to ship home, but I just didn't find anything exciting enough to go to the trouble for. I did taste my first white cabernet sauvignon at Asara, which was interesting, but not nearly interesting enough to haggle with shipping and customs to get home.

All in all though, Cape Town is a dream. Even in the worst weather, I fell in love. It seemed to me a perfect combination of the ruggedness of Australia and the chic-ness and wine culture of San Francisco, built on an indelible foundation of Africa. I can't wait to go back.

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So, we're moving to Cape Town in the fairly near future. I'll try and get some action going in this thread. ;)

Hi all. Love the new look, Rocks.

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So, we're moving to Cape Town in the fairly near future. I'll try and get some action going in this thread. ;)

Hi all. Love the new look, Rocks.

Stretch!

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Stretch: Try the Wijnhuis Restaurant on church street in Stellenbosch, SA.

I was part of the team in 1997 worked in SA there for 2. 5 years!

Paarl and Franschhoek find great simple food made with passion and have some great eateries also. Beautiful wines and terrior plus outstanding weather and landscape.

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Stretch: Try the Wijnhuis Restaurant on church street in Stellenbosch, SA.

I remember eating some of the best arugula of my life here. Wine prices are a little higher than some other places in the area (though still very reasonable by US standards), but it's very comfy.

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I remember eating some of the best arugula of my life here. Wine prices are a little higher than some other places in the area (though still very reasonable by US standards), but it's very comfy.

Agreed but you have to keep in mind import taxes and county or country sales tax. Hence prices.

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Agreed but you have to keep in mind import taxes and county or country sales tax. Hence prices.

Oh believe me, I remember. My point only was that the wine prices at Wijnhuis were higher than at, say, Bistro at Joostenberg or De Oude Paarl or Terroir at Kleine Zalze, but not at all to a point where US-based travelers would bat an eye.

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20 hours ago, Kanishka said:

Any more recent recommendations for Cape Town or the Western Cape?

Well, hopefully better than 2010... Our last trip was in January 2015.

My best and biggest recommendation is that you visit Babylonstoren in Paarl. It is agro-tourism on steroids. They have an edible garden that is one of the most incredible things we have ever seen and a phenomenal produce-focused restaurant. We stayed in one of their guest houses, which I highly recommend for the all-you-can-pick-to-eat produce and because you get access to their spa, hiking trails and can have every meal in there. If you just want to visit for a day you can, but a reservation at Babel is a must.

Restaurants -Generally we've had good food in South Africa, but it tended toward being overly plated - lots of gels, foams, etc which I find very annoying. Here's some standouts

Grand Roche Hotel - Eat outside, beautiful view. Deep library of older South African wines.

The Test Kitchen - Its a favorite of the Worlds 50 Best list; get the tea pairing

La Colombe - Expensive and not particularly memorable

Quartier Francais - Expensive and not particular memorable

Wineries/Wine Stores - We also travel to wine country with Styrofoam wine shipping boxes that we can then check with our luggage. They're often difficult to track down locally and its far cheaper than trying to ship wine back. On this particular trip i think we brought three with us as our goal was to stock up on rare South African wines. 

Sadie Family - If you can find it, drink it or buy it. They're mostly known for their reds but their whites are phenomenal as well.

The Wine Kollective - Tiny little shop in Swartland but worth the schlep. They specialize in local micro-production and natural wines. 

Hotels:

Akademie Street Boutique Hotel, Franschoek -  We have stayed there twice and really love their guest cottages and spectacular breakfasts.

Kensington Place Boutique Hotel, Cape Town - Cute hotel in Cape Town. Nice bathrooms, pool and breakfast.

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Wandering down the aggressively hipster/crunchy Lower Main Road, the main stretch of Obs (Observatory), to the east of central Cape Town, we were starting to get nervous.  It was dinner time, the boys were exhausted, and yet every restaurant seemed closed.  Many until January 7 -- or just three days before we leave to explore the western and eastern Cape (d'oh.)  But lo and behold, just north of the KFC and McDo, there was the inappropriately named Timbuktu, an Ethiopian restaurant I had scoped out but had given up finding.  It's not at all obviously marked, like most of the other restaurants in this part of town.  Ironic that we picked Ethiopian for our first meal (as a family -- i've been here once for work) in SAfrica, and yet had (decent, but not amazing) Ethiopian at the Ramada in Addis Ababa on New Year's Eve, less than 20 hours earlier.

But this was better.  Dare I say it, probably the best Ethiopian I have ever had outside of the greater DC area.

We went all-in and got the "serengaya," the "everything on the menu except lamb" platter built for four.  Our eldest son was the trail blazer, trying everything on the plate and providing commentary for his little brothers ("yummy!", "a little spicy...", "try this! try this!")  Marisa and I dug in, though she worked a moat around the beautiful berbere spiked kitfo, leaving it all for me.  I take that back -- the eldest had that one too, but mixed with the stewed beets.  "The meat and the beets get in a fight in your mouth," he said, "and the spicy from the meat loses to the sweet from the beets, but then it comes back, but then it loses again, in that kind of pattern."  Couldn't have said it better myself.  The stewed collards were fantastic, in my opinion better than anything in DC because the vinegar/acid was upped by a bit.

The two younger ones (three and two) were more hesitant, but eventually both found dishes they liked, leaning towards the softer doro wot and all of the lentils.  The beef tibs was probably the loser (out of a platter of at least 12 different preparations!), because the pieces were cut a little too big.  The berbere was smoky and hot, some of the best I have had.

I haven't had Ethiopian in the States (DC or Seattle) in over two years.  My last two times were at the aforementioned Ramada, and at the Addis Ababa airport last summer (protip: don't do it.)  So maybe I don't remember exactly how good Zenebech at its heyday was.  All I know is that our family of five walked home happy, the youngest with a layer of doro wat sauce on his sleeve, the eldest saying "maybe [he doesn't] like Ethiopian, but maybe [he] loves it."  $45, including four freshly pressed lemonades and a sparkling water.

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After wandering Bo-Kaap, the South African Museum, and The Company's Garden for most of a day, the kids were exhausted and liable to kill each other.   So we decided to find a location about an hour away and let them nap it off -- planning to arrive at Darling right around dinner time.  Sadly I am in vacation mode, and forgot that it was Sunday -- and that the Darling Brewery restaurant would be closed.  We ended up at Cafe Mosaic.  The TripAdvisor reviews are bad and probably not inaccurate, just grumpy.  This is a no-frills place, and we sat outside at picnic tables as the temperatures plummeted (NB:  this is a summer thing here -- je suis si tropicalisé que j'ai oublié que la temperature chute quand le soleil se couche).  Between the five of us, we had two plates of fish and chips, a "fishy platter" (fish and chips + calamari), a 500ml bottle of cheap local white, three apple juices, and a sparkling water.  The fish and chips was of the lightly-battered variety and the calamari were cut thicker than back home, roughly the size of the accompanying fries, which is to say Brit-style.  It was good!  Not the best meal by far, but with a play area a few meters away to give mom and dad some peace, decent fries, and just a pleasant local feel, it was what we needed.  All for 500 rand, or $35.75.  Worth a trip?  No.  But good nonetheless.

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Many of the old-timers here know what I do, and to those I say:  I'm currently on an unpaid vacation.  It's not wonderful, but we have spent several years in some of the tougher (though not toughest) parts of the world, developing a cushion that allows this family of five to travel out of one of those said hard places for a bit and enjoy things like "paved roads" and "clean air."  Oh and "sidewalks," "playgrounds," and "no malaria."  I continue to be thankful to the organization for which I work for making this trip possible.  I just wish I were receiving my next paycheck.  I am not.

Vent out of the way.  Tonight is our last night in Cape Town -- we go from here to Franschhoek, and then further east along the Garden Route.  Tonight we had dinner just a block or so from our rented house, at Ferdinando's.  It's a pizza spot that was written up in Lonely Planet, so is reservation-essential (we thought ahead) and is busy busy busy.  We started with delicious beef carpaccio, lightly dressed in lemon and served with parmesan, capers, and arugula.  The best arugula I have had in many years, frankly.  This was the standout of the night.

We moved on to pizzas after that -- margherita for the boys, the Maiala de Mare for me, and the Mamma Mia for my wife.  All were excellent -- Two Amy's quality maybe?  It's been to long to judge.  I should mention (again) that it's been so long between truly good meals out (we're talking months if not years) that I can't compare, but I can say that we all shut up and just devoured our pizzas when they came, even the little ones.  I also got a side of the artichoke salad, but we barely had room to finish half between the two adults.  The seafood on my pizza was wonderful, but I do wish all of the mussels and shrimp were unshelled.  I think this may be a European thing -- like unpitted olives on pizza.

We closed with dessert, ice cream for the boys, a milkshake for the lady, and a double Negroni for me.  That was one big Negroni -- based on the price ($4) I thought a double would be smart, but it was laaarge.  As in "would cost you $20+ in DC" large.  Oh well.  Walking home.

Ferdinando's is a fun place I would absolutely recommend for families visiting Cape Town with a car and/or Uber.  The upstairs is perfect for littles, with tons of noise and distraction and a wonderfully accepting management.  1100 rand ($80) for a bunch of sodas, a beer, apps, dinner, dessert for five.

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Tonight was our official blowout meal (something we tend to do on all vacations), dinner at the beautiful Werf at the Boschendal Winery near Franschhoek.  I chose the spot because of the fact that according to all my research, it offered kid-friendly fine dining.  Not wrong!  The gorgeous dining room, which looks over the restaurant's impressive vegetable garden, was filled with kids, all making various sorts of noise.  So I felt not at all guilty that our two-year old kept yelling "all aboard!" (why?  I have no idea.) or how our other two boys were fidgety and needed to be taken out to the deck to look at said garden multiple times.

The restaurant itself strikes me as quite beautiful -- all blond wood and natural light, with plants on many of the surfaces indoors as well as outdoors.  Our meal started with an amuse bouche of fennel roti with roasted carrot hummus and roasted radishes.  There were tiny edible flowers scattered on the dish as well, with an odd familiar flavor that was not chive.  The sweet carrot hummus and the radish made it clear that veggies would be the star of our show.

The boys had kid's steak with roasted potatoes and a fantastic salad of shaved carrot, shaved golden beets, and fennel pollen dressed with a vinaigrette.  Marisa and I opted for the three course option:  

Her

Grilled garden leeks, "vichysoisse," dill, cured egg yolks
Yellowtail, smoked potato puree, taramasalata
Grilled Angus steak, giant garden marrow (NB: basically, zucchini), pickled kale

Me

Confit white onion, nut cream "tzatziki," green coriander seeds, watermelon, fennel pollen
Crispy baby marrow flower & pickled mussels, chokka (local baby squid) & parsley "risotto," horseradish
Slow roasted lamb shoulder, maize porridge, Werf Food Garden vegetables

The meal also came with a complimentary bowl to share of the same salad the boys had, and a second salad of marrow, green beans, and bok choy in a parsely vinaigrette.

The meal was wonderful.  Low points were my onion dish (eh) and the pickled kale (which wasn't.)  Everything else was very produce-forward and tasted of peak mid-summer.  Both seafood dishes were standouts, and the chokka and parsley risotto was just out of this world bright, like the  first rays of summer sun exploding on your palate.  The yellowtail, when paired with the smoked potato, was as if the fish itself was smoked.  Separated, it was a completely different plate.  It was fun comparing -- and it was quite rightly paired with a lighter red rather than a white.

The gratis salads were also wonderful, especially the bok choy and green beans.  Our eldest loved picking out the beets and nibbling at them slowly, and telling our very kind waitress he loved the veggies.  

We finished with a single dessert for the five of us, because we were stuffed:  Ariette biscuit, baked vanilla custard, roasted apricot sorbet.  The tangy, nearly sugarless sorbet was my favorite, though the vanilla custard won the day with the boys.  I also had a glass of their top-end "vin de memoire" Syrah ($11.50 a glass -- this is their top end!), which was a nice way to end the evening.

After dinner we walked in the vegetable garden a bit to work off a very nice but very filling meal.  I do have to say I felt pretty virtuous, because the two older boys couldn't stop talking about how great vegetables are and how you don't really need too much meat.  That's me on my high horse, I know.  It's still a nice feeling.  

I have to thank the management of the Boschendal Winery for opening a fine dining experience to kids.  Every dish was just as attractive as the restaurant itself, reminding me of Restaurant Eve during its best days.  What a pleasure to share it with our sons, even though they did make their fair share of noise.  They were very entertained by the nature all around them -- especially the inch-long mantis they found crawling on a wine bucket near the deck, which the staff made no effort to shoo away.  It's a garden after all.

Two kids meals, three three-course meals with wine pairing, three sodas, one dessert, one additional glass of wine, $150 with a generous tip.

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On 12/5/2018 at 5:57 PM, lekkerwijn said:

My best and biggest recommendation is that you visit Babylonstoren in Paarl.

Thank you for the recommendation!  We spent the bulk of today at Babylonstoren.  While staying there and/or dining at Babel (after Werf yesterday--more on what we're spending on in a few days) would have broken our budget (even more acutely with this furlough) the garden tour was wonderful.  Most of the fruits and veg sadly weren't ready, but there were some terrific edible shrubs that we got to taste, and our middle son found what the guide said was probably the first ripe pear of the farm this year.  We ate lunch at the Greenhouse, with a ham, cheese, and local veggie sandwich for me; a local sausage with tomato relish for M; mac and cheese for the boys; and watermelon and tomato gazpacho, and freshly fried "chips" to share.  We finished off with a scone.  A pretty indulgent lunch, but worth it.  

The meal isn't the highlight though -- the farm is.  It is a huge, intense experience once you realize everything in the garden is edible or has some sort of purpose in the agro-chain.  If it isn't food, it's protecting against pests, or it has a medicinal purpose.  If you don't get in on the garden tour none of this is obvious to the non-gardeners *raises hand* amongst us.  For us, with the boys in tow, it was totally worth it.  Our eldest was entranced by the guide's presentation, which held his attention for the full hour!  The smaller ones liked picking herbs, or those fruits or vegetables available, and were very excited when they encountered the two turtles, the ducks, the chickens, or the turkeys.

The Babylonstoren garden is an incredible, fun place that is an absolute must visit, in some capacity, if you want something other than the usual wine tastings in Franschhoek.  What fun.

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