With autumn and winter approaching (not that we’ve had much summer) you may be thinking of a trip to South Africa whose appeal rests not only on its great weather but its vibrant dining out scene.
I last went three years ago and was really bowled over by the quality of the restaurants, not only in Cape Town but in the Winelands which offers some of the most sophisticated wine tourism in the world. Most winery restaurants offer food and wine matching so there are plenty of opportunities to explore different combinations.
For this update I’ve relied on tip-offs from some of my most knowledgeable South African contacts plus some diligent research by Signe Johansen, a recent graduate of Leith’s School of Food and Wine. I’ve highlighted the restaurants that are generally regarded as ‘musts’ in red but if you disagree or have other recommendations you think should be included do send them through.
Caveau Wine Bar & Deli
92 Bree Street, Heritage Square, Cape Town 8001
+27 21 422 1367
An innovative wine bar and deli where the list is organised into "moods"rather than based on varietals or regions. There is a section of "food-friendly" wines for food and wine matching enthusiasts. They also offer regular wine tastings and food and wine pairing evenings such as 'Herbs versus Wine'.
84 Long Street
+27 21 424 6334
Relatively new opening offering ‘contemporary tapas’ with a South African twist but the style appears to be matched by substance. "Really tasty wine-friendly tapas-style eats” according to one informant. Strong South African-based wine list.
48 Hout Street, Cape Town
+27 21 422 2270
Has proved to be extremely popular with Cape Town foodies since its opening in February 2006. Forty Ate's head chef, 24-year old Yngve Myldal is a fan of Heston Blumenthal-style molecular gastronomy. Expect wacky combinations such as Raw Norwegian Salmon with Wasabi icecream
185 Bree Street, Cape Town
+27 21 424 5640
Much-acclaimed Jardine (George Jardine was voted Chef of the Year last year and the restaurant is listed in Wine Magazine’s top 10 places to eat out for a special occasion) is a good place to go and experience the best of modern South African cuisine. Interesting wine pairings
30 Kloof Street, Cape Town
+27 21 422 4747
Not everyone is impresssed by the molecular gastronomy of head chef Richard Carstens (yet another Heston Blumenthal devotee) but if you want to see and be seen design-conscious Manolo’s is the place to hang out.
Onewaterfront at the Cape Grace Hotel
West Quay Road, Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, Cape Town
+27 21 418 0520
No longer headed up by chef Bruce Robertson who now cooks at Showroom (below )but still regarded as a classy and imaginative top end dining option with locally inspired dishes such as truffle scented lamb shank with ‘soet patat’, mngqusho cassoulet, baby winter vegetables and thyme jus. There are five pages of wines by the glass. Great views too.
101 Hout Street, Cape Town
+27 21 424 2626
Once described as serving "sophisticated peasant food" this established Cape Town restaurant and BYOB is praised for its consistency. Watch out for offbeat spins on game such as Brine-Cured Warthog Loin with Neep & Tatty Cake and cabbage paraphernalia
Harbour Edge, 10 Hospital Street, Green Point, Cape Town
+27 21 421 4682
Bruce Robertson is the Gordon Ramsay of Cape Town. I loved his food at one waterfront (above) when I went three years ago which leads me to take a more optimistic view than I might otherwise have done of dishes such as foiegras ‘waldorf’ caramelized apples, walnut popcorn and ginger ale foam and a suf’n’turf of twice cooked salmon nuggets, duck confit and spring lentils. Equally zany desserts such as iced lemon souffl, with hot chocolate, pineapple frits and popping chilli bravely come with a matching wine (in this case a 2005 Paul Cluver Noble Late Harvest Riesling)
Noordhoek Farm Village, Village Lane, Noordhoek 7979
+27 21 789 1390
The latest project from one of South Africa’s leading chefs Franck Dangereux (formerly at Constantia Uitsig's La Colombe) combines a bakery, patisserie, deli and ingredient-driven restaurant, all with gorgeous-looking food.
Salt at the Ambassador Hotel
34 Victoria Road, Bantry Bay
+27 21 439 7258
Highly thought of new restaurant with spectacular views of the ocean. Consultant chef Peter Goff Wood is responsible for the fresh and delicious food and accessible wine list (all 70 wines are available by the glass) Outstanding matches that have been singled out include butternut rotolo with pine nut and sage butter - matched with an oaked chardonnay
Spaanschemat River Road, Constantia 7800 (20min drive from Cape Town)
+27 21 794 4480
The splendidly named Franck Dangereux (see Foodbarn above) has moved on from the Provencal-inspired flagship restaurant of the beautiful Constantia Uitsig estate. The general consensus seems to be that standards have been maintained but it’s not cheap and you may feel you might just as well have this kind of restaurant experience in Europe. The more casual River Cafe, I remember, does wonderful breakfasts.
Haute Cabriere Cellar Restaurant
+27 21 876 3688
A cleverly constructed menu with no starters or mains so that you can pick any dish you wish in a whole or half-size portions. The wines are all available by the glass and accompanied by suggested pairings such as Haut Cabriere Pinot Noir with dukkah spiced roasted loin of springbok with sweet potato tart, hazelnut fritters and caramelized berry jus,
The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Franais
16 Hugenot Road, Franschhoek 7690, Western Cape
+27 21 876 2151
This was the restaurant I enjoyed most on my last trip to South Africa and seemingly I’m not alone. It has been included in Restaurant Magazine's List of 50 Best Restaurants in the world in 2005, 2006 and 2007 - the only South African restaurant to be included this year. Dutch-born Executive Head Chef Margot Janse cooks simply but with real flair and her dishes are invariably wine-friendly. Choose from a 4-6 course menu or an 8-course one with matching wines. Imaginative pairings include such combinations as Wild mushroom consomm, goat’s cheese and sultana flan with Bellingham Maverick Chenin Blanc 2005 and Quail en crepinette, plum salad, beetroot puree with Mreson Pinotage 2006. Janse also oversees the simpler bistro-style iCi and Bread & Wine Vineyard Restaurant & Farm Grocer on the nearby Mreson estate.
De Leuwen Jagt
Seidelberg Wine Estate, Paarl
+27 21 863 5222
If you want a chance to experience authentic Cape Malay food De Leuwen Jagt (which means the Lion Hunt) is recommended for curries and other authentic dishes, paired with wines from the Seidelberg wine estate. Cass Abrahams, an academic who's married her love of South African history and Cape Malay food combines a well researched approach to the menu with experimental dishes such as fish bobotie (which is paired with a shiraz). A must for anyone with an interest in food heritage
021 863 3609
A charmingly rustic restaurant named after the 400 strong herd of goats on the Fairview estate. Their cheese, which includes speciality cheeses such as chevin (with garlic and parsley or sun-dried tomato and basil) and Boland Blue, a fusion of cheddar and blue-veined cheese, and the impressive range of home baked breads are the main draw but they offer a range of Mediterranean-style cooked dishes as well. Try the Agostinelli range of wines which are based on Italian varietals.
Annandale Road, Stellenbosch 7599
+27 21 881 3899
Co-owned by Stellenbosch native, the golfer Ernie Els, and Jean Engelbrecht, Guardian Peak is a popular lunch spot which matches dishes such as Butter Chicken My Way (with spices, garlic, chilli & ginger) with wines from its own winery (a Guardian Peak ros in this case)
Joostenberg Deli & Bistro
Klein Joostenberg Farm, Muldersvlei
+27 21 884 4208
Pork from the farm’s own pigs is the big draw at this country bistro which is run by the Joostenberg estate. Hearty, rustic dishes include a home-made charcuterie plate and pork cheek and chorizo casserole with vegetables and fried polenta. “The food is really good and reasonably priced - a relaxed family-friendly venue.” enthuses one correspondent.
Kleine Zalze Wine Farm, R44, Stellenbosch
+ 27 21 880 8167
Terroir has been the recipient of many awards since its opening in 2004 most recently Eat Out’s Restaurant of the Year. The food is simple but sophisticated, chef Michael Broughton’s aim being to create “food with which to contemplate the wine in your glass.’ Typical dishes include Warm Carpaccio of Beef with Rosemary and Truffle Vinaigrette paired with a Kleine Zalze Cellar Selection Merlot and Braised Belly of Pork with smoked mash
Black Horse Centre, Dorp and Market Street, Stellenbosch
+27 21 887 5204
Although the menu may look relatively conventional the Umami team consciously tries to maximise the umami or ‘delicious’ taste of their ingredients by their cooking techniques and wine pairings. An example is the South African Bento Box: venison and merlot turnover with zucchini (courgette) chutney; curried ostrich sosatie with sun-dried peach puree; sweet pumpkin, goats cheese and thyme filo samosa; pickled fish tartlet with garlic mayonnaise, matched with Beyerskloof Pinotage 2006.