Cape Town restaurants

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Price guide: Mid-range
expert-rated restaurants in Cape Town
Expert overall rating:4.0 (out of 5)

This social spot is a southern suburbs' institution in pretty surrounds.

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Price guide: Mid-range
expert-rated restaurants in Cape Town
Expert overall rating:3.6 (out of 5)

This neighbourhood favourite does Italian fare in style.

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Cape Town and the Cape Winelands have the reputation of having the best restaurants in the country and, frankly, I absolutely agree. Of the three South African restaurants that have made it into the San Pellegrino World's 100 Best Restaurants 2010, two are from the Winelands and one from the Constantia valley, just 15 minutes from the city proper.

The city’s gourmet reputation is relatively new but what it lacks in pedigree it certainly makes up for in passion, which is in no short supply – from restaurant owners and chefs to the grateful guests who are vocal in their praise of the world-class food they find here at budget prices.

Like the city itself, food here is a sizzling and flavour-filled melting pot. It reflects the fertile surrounds in the plethora of fresh and seasonal produce and rustic-style menus; the cultural melange in the Malay, European and absolutely South African flavour influences; and its proximity to the ocean in the myriad seafood specialities that appear on many a menu. And then there’s the steak. Almost every visitor has something to say about the plethora of meaty cuts they are given the choice of devouring and they love it. A visit without savouring fynbos-fed Karoo lamb cutlets or a juicy rump steak with your choice of sauce would be a waste for any carnivore.

What I love best about my hometown and its surrounds is how the café culture has developed. Cape Town is now a cosmopolitan buzzing spot with shiny, happy people living up to its ’pretty city’ moniker. We have concept coffee stops like Vida e Caffé to thank for that as well as the established Melissa's The Food Shop too.

Some eating and drinking pointers

  • A 10% service charge is the norm here, a little more if you’re in a smarter restaurant.
  • Most restaurants are open from Tuesday to Sunday.
  • Most restaurants serve lunch from noon-3pm and dinner from 7pm-10.30pm.
  • Most restaurants are child friendly but some like Café Roux make lunch with your kids an absolute pleasure.
  • The best fish and chips are often to be had from kiosks in the city – try Kalk Bay and Hout Bay harbours for an authentic experience. We call our vinegary chips ‘slap’ meaning ‘floppy’ chips.
  • As in every city, there are tourist traps aplenty – the waiter who tries to sell you a seafood platter as one of the first specials of the day is a sure sign. Be aware too that there are strict codes for red (no), orange (maybe) and green (ok to eat) fish. SMS a fish name to this number + 27 79-499-8795 and you’ll get a response from SASSI (the South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative) about whether the fish you’re wanting to eat is endangered or not. Restaurants face strict fines for trying to sell endangered fish.
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I'm something of an emotional eater and if a restaurant makes me feel good then it's good to go in my book. Waiters who have attitudes and serve up overpriced coffee leave me stone cold, whereas a chalkboard menu and a message that I'm about to eat whatever the chef has just sourced have me wriggling in my seat with joy. When you can sense the passion in a place, are served by staff who are well versed in their chef's style and what drives him or her, have a wine list that has lots of by-the-glass options and a range of well priced up to heavy hitting offerings and an attitude that's not about upselling all get my vote. There are smart restaurants aplenty in the city and many of them are superb but it's the slightly down-at-heel spots serving out-of-the-ordinary options that generally excite me. Some of my faves include The Test Kitchen for smart, sophsiticated and well conceived fare and confident service on the one side of the dining scale and the likes of Café Roux - a family-friendly, buzzing country café where wholesome food and friendly staff offer a consistent dining experience.