Monday, May 18, 2015

Trendy Cape Town

Cape Town has always been the most cosmopolitan city in Southern Africa.




"Cape Town has the in-your-face beauty of a craggy mountain range dropping precipitously into a glittering sea, its flanks carpeted in greens and delicate florals."

You really can’t overstate the case for visiting Cape Town. First, there’s the in-your-face beauty of a craggy mountain range that drops precipitously into a glittering sea, its flanks carpeted in greens and delicate florals – the Cape Floral Kingdom, smallest yet richest in the world.

Then there’s the pristine white beaches lapped by – it must be said – a chilly Atlantic, their curves defined by giant granite boulders to bake on, and burbling mountain streams in dappled forests. The proximity of nature is a constant source of amazement here, whether it is spotting zebra and wildebeest grazing on the slopes of Table Mountain from the highway, watching whales breach from a restaurant deck overlooking False Bay, supplicating before the Twelve Apostles mountain during a yoga class on Camps Bay beach or being halted by cavorting baboons near Cape Point.







Yet Cape Town has a cool urban edge, too: excellent art galleries, hip bars, world-rated restaurants, design-savvy shops, and home to Africa's innovative artists and designers, drawn by the city's innate beauty.

Certainly it has always been the most cosmopolitan city in Southern Africa: the Dutch who planted the first gardens and built the sombre Castle of Good Hope in 1666 were followed by the French, who augmented the wine-making skills and gabled homesteads of the original colonists; Malay slaves brought spices and minarets; the English left Georgian mansions and Victorian terraced homes, and refugees from all over Africa have made their way south to seek their fortune in the shadow of its flat-topped mountain.
Food, jazz and gospel tours introduce a broad spectrum of cultural experiences, and no visit is complete without at least one full day exploring some of the surrounding vine-carpeted valleys, their rich terroir spawning not only award-winning wines but superb produce, accounting for some of the best (and most affordable) fine dining in the world. It’s a city that has only really been open to the world for the last two decades, and - at R17/18 to £1 – still offers excellent value for money, and a sense of new discovery. 

You can visit Cape Town pretty much any time of year. Summer is the most popular, with peak season falling between mid-December and early January.

Another surge of visitors descends during the hot months of February and March. In April, the temperatures are balmy, the light is softer, the Cape Doctor (the South-easterly wind that howls through the city) is dormant and the sunsets are spectacular.
The temperate winter sometimes starts in May, more often June/July. Sunny days alternate with downpours that bring verdant relief, the mountain streams gushing into rocky gullies and watering the winter-flowering fynbos, including proteas, lilies and aloes. This is the most exhilarating time of year to explore the slopes of Table Mountain on foot.
July to November is the time when the southern right whales migrate to calve and nurse, providing the best land-based whale-watching in the world – but be warned, July and August can be wet. October to November is when the Cape floral kingdom again wows with a new cycle of flowering species, while the beaches, still relatively empty, sparkle in the temperate sun. This is when some of the best deals of the summer season are to be had – especially if you book early.





No visit to Cape Town is complete without circumnavigating the peninsula, travelling south from the city, Waterfront or Camps Bay (the most popular areas where visitors choose to base themselves) along the M3, stopping at Kirstenbosch (these gardens are essential viewing) and visiting a few Constantia wineries en route (Klein Constantia and Eagles Nest make a good contrast). I’d recommend you stop for lunch in the charming seaside village of Kalk Bay, and set aside an hour or so to browse the quaint shops and art galleries there (or revisit them at a later time), before tackling Cape Point and Chapman’s Peak Drive. Llundudno, Clifton and Boulders are the city’s prettiest beaches. And do set aside a day to tour the Winelands options, ringed with mountains – Stellenbosch terroir produces the best red wines and has a lovely historic town centre. With so much choice, it’s best to book a winetour (gourmetwinetours.co.za) but do ask that your tour includes the Helshoogte pass: linking Stellenbosch to pretty Franschhoek, the scenery will have your spirit soaring.
Know before you go

The Basics

Currency: South Africa Rand (R or ZAR). 
Telephone code: From the UK, dial 00 27 for South Africa, followed by 21 for Cape Town. From within South Africa, dial 021 for Cape Town.
Wi-Fi: Most hotels and guest lodges offer free Wi-Fi as do an increasing number of excellent coffee shops. For a list of some of them, see redbutton.co.za (then click on “sites”). Loading Bay (30 Hudson Street, De Waterkant) ticks all the right boxes - good coffee, good food, cool people, close to Cape Quarter shopping precinct and free Wi-Fi. If you want a bit of a sea view, head to Caffe Neo at 129 Beach Road, Mouille Point.

The Food

South Africa has a tremendously wide cultural heritage, which brings with it different eating habits, different diets, different tastes, different recipes, different cuisines.
South African recipes, South African Foods, South African Cuisine... I suppose one has to start with the different ethnic groups which make up this vast land.
South Africa has been referred to as the Rainbow Nation, in part because of its cultural diversity but also in part because of its enormous potential. It is the manifestation of the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, so to speak.
South African cuisine, is part of that rainbow and part of that pot of Gold. An added bonus is the fact that you can drink the water.
True South African cuisine blends together separate ingredients, namely culture and heritage as well as an interesting history, combining them to make a pleasingly tasty whole.



When the Dutch arrived in the Cape in 1652, they found an area that was extremely sparsely-populated.
Some of the people who were already there included the Strandlopers (Beach Walkers), whose recipes would have included boiled and roasted crayfish (Clawless rock lobster), boiled and raw mussels and Abalone. These meats would have been accompanied by roots, fruits and edible seaweed.

Close relatives to the Strandlopers, the Khoi, lived on the coastal plain as semi-nomadic herdsmen. They kept sheep and cattle and one of their favorite recipes, which has survived to this day as a truly original South African recipe, was kaiings; the fat from a sheep's tail fried with wild cabbage.

There were also the San, hunters whose foods would have included venison, elephant and hippo, together with wild plants, sorrel, mustard leaves, and waterblommetjies (water lilies).

The Khoi-San, remnants of these people, live in the Kalahari Desert, still relatively free from the unnecessary trappings of civilization.

The need for food began the colonization of South Africa. The Dutch East India Company needed a re-provisioning station to supply the ships bound for Malaysia with fresh foods after their long trips.


Jan van Riebeeck landed in the Cape in 1652 with orders to establish a farm in order to provide fresh vegetables and meat for the ships rounding the Cape. For labor, the Dutch imported slaves from Sumatra. These slaves became known as Cape Malays and brought their traditions, spices and recipes with them. In this way, South African cuisine started building up its vast, differentiated library of South African recipes. 

Then the French arrived, protestant Huguenot refugees fleeing from persecution. They brought vines with them and transformed forever the agriculture of the Cape. French Recipes blended with Dutch and Cape Malay and became South African recipes. These recipes retained some of the French influence but developed into purely South African Recipes. All this time, the Xhosa were moving steadily Southwards towards the Cape while the Zulu occupied the area now known as kwaZulu Natal. 

They were followed by the Sotho, Venda and Tswana. Each people brought with them different tastes and recipes. South African Cuisine was set for the amalgamation of traditional African with dour Dutch, light French and spicy Malay foods, to once again change the face of South African cuisine with new South African recipes. But Wait! More was yet to be added to the South African Recipe scenario... In the 1820s, waves of British settlers arrived, bringing with them their "beef and two boiled veg" dishes, as well as their pudding recipes. Later, the British established sugar cane plantations in Natal. Indians were brought to South Africa as indentured servants on ten-year contracts to provide labourers for the plantations. After the contracts were up, the Indians stayed and both Hindu and Muslim people added their individual recipes to South African Cuisine. Together with their spices and curries, these dishes now form a prominent segment of any book purporting to be a South African recipe book. 

All these tastes, textures and ingredients, and we haven"t even mentioned the German immigrants who, together with the Dutch and French, formed what is now known as the Afrikaner people. The Germans added their "farmers sausage" or boerewors; a sausage which has spawned so many secret family recipes that you could write a book about them. So many immigrating peoples contributed to South African cuisine. 

The Portuguese added their peri-peri and prawns, the Greeks their pitas and the Italians their pizza and pasta... All these combine to make the collection of South African recipes that form South African cuisine.

Traditional South African Bobotie



This dish has a bit of an oriental twist to it and is mostly made by the Cape Malays. Our Afrikaans folks also just love this dish too and you get many variations to it.

Ingredients:
1kg ground beef or ground lamb (mince)
125 ml milk
1tblsp chutney
2 chunky chopped onions
1tsp crushed garlic
1 thick slice of white bread, trimmed crust and soaked in milk
1tbsp curry spice
1 finely chopped chilli
1tbsp lemon juice
1/2 cup vinegar
1tsp brown sugar
Salt to taste
1 cup raisins
Some bay leaves
Some orange and lemon wheels

Method:

Fry together your oil, garlic, onions and add the minced meat. Add your spices and fry together till meat is browned. Squeeze the milk from the bread then add to the mixture. Now add the vinegar, lemon juice, sugar, salt , raisins and chutney. Give it a quick toss through and remove from heat.  Heat your oven to 160C, in a pie dish, place some lemon and orange wheels and some bay leaves at the bottom, now bomb over the mince mixture. Decorate with lemon and orange wheels by pushing them down along the sides of the pie dish. Beat together the eggs and milk and pour over the top of the mince, add a few bay leaves on top for more fancy-ness. Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Serve with tumeric rice or thick slices of white, buttered bread.

Original Boerewors


The Boerewors recipe given here is for the basic, original boerewors, with suggestions as to how you can ring the changes.
Boerewors Ingredients
· 3 lb beef· 3 lb pork· 1 lb bacon· ½ cup red wine vinegar· 1 clove garlic· 4 tbsp Worcestershire sauce· 3 to 3 ½ oz sausage casing· 2 tbsp salt· 1 tsp ground pepper· 2 tbsp ground coriander· ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg· ½ tsp ground dried thyme· ½ tsp ground allspice· ¼ tsp ground cloves


Method
Dice the bacon into pieces not larger than 1 inch
Cut the beef and pork meat into 1 to 1 ½ inch cubes. Mix it well with all the other ingredients except the sausage casing.
Grind the meat using a medium-coarse grinding plate.
Fill the sausage casings firmly, but not too tightly with the meat mixture.
Refrigerate for 24 hours before using. Boerewors can be kept for a week or for 3 months if frozen
Makes 6 to 7 lbs


BOEREWORS can be fried, grilled or barbecued over coals.
Never prick or make holes in the casing before or during cooking. For this reason you should also not fill the casiung too full in order to prevent it bursting during cookingThis enables the fat to spread throughout the sausage and mingle with the rest of the meat. Since the boerewors retains it's fat, it tis able to burst into the mouth when eating.This makes it difficult to ensure that the boerewors casing does not split, allowing the ingredients to escape on cooking...
Pricked or not, how you cook your "Wors" is entirely up to you.
Although traditionally Boerewors is made with a combination of pork and beef it can be made in a beef only version,  
 but add 2 teaspoons oil or fat for each 1lb of beef, to ensure the finished result is not too dry.
You can experiment with the filling and resultant taste, of your boerewors, by adding different combinations of spices, tomato paste, onions, chili's, tomato ketchup or whatever other strongly flavored ingredient you fancy.
It was and still is, a point of honor with farmers wives and butchers not to add breadcrumbs or soya to bulk up the meat filling.
Starting with the basic Pork/Beef filling you can end up with some incredibly delicious Wors. You will soon find this becoming an absolute favorite at BBQ's.











Restaurants

The Roundhouse
Located in a small 18th-century hunting lodge, surrounded by a cool woodland glen and with views of the ocean glittering far below, this is the central city’s most romantic location for fine-dining  It’s hard to believe you are just minutes from the city centre and the neon-strip nightlife of Camps Bay beach. Get there before sunset to make the most of the views.
Tip: Enjoy the same views from Rumbullion, the al fresco daytime restaurant set up on the lawns below the Roundhouse during the summer months. Rumbullion offers a picnic-style menu served on rustic timber seating under umbrellas – service can be slow but few care to complain when sipping something cold admiring this view!

Address: Kloof Road, The Glen, Camps Bay
Contact: 00 27 21 438 4347; theroundhouserestaurant.com
Prices: tasting menu (6 courses) costs R750 (wines excluded) or R1110 (paired with wines); 4-course R665 (wines excluded) or R905 (paired with wine)
Opening times: Tue-Sat, 6pm onwards and from May 1 to Sep 30 Roundhouse opens for lunch, Wed to Sun 
Reservations: advised
Payment type: cards accepted

Test Kitchen
Luke Dale-Roberts is a true food artist. It's not just about his innovative flavour combinations but his intelligent and oft sensual presentations – unusual crockery is designed to fit the dish, and involve more than just sight, small and taste. I am not one for finicky, over fussy food but his is simply world class. Waitstaff are impeccable, and watching the chefs work in the open-plan kitchen is like watching a contemporary dance routine.Watching the chefs work in the open-plan kitchen at Test Kitchen is like watching a contemporary dance routine.


Address: The Biscuit Mill, 375 Albert Rd, Woodstock/Salt River
Contact: 00 27 21 447 233; thetestkitchen.co.za
Prices: Gourmand menu costs R950 (R1400 with wine pairing; R1200 with tea pairing). Five-course dinner R590 (R890 with wine pairing); Lunch 5-course menu R470 (R770 with wine pairing). Superb vegetarian menu also available. A la carte option only during lunch
Reservations: essential – book as soon as you know you are coming to Cape Town
Payment type: cards accepted

Umi
The atmosphere is clubby and glam; the Asian-style menu is served as and when dishes are ready. Lobster rice rolls, soft shell crab and charred asparagus with yuzu truffle egg sauce are all excellent, as is teriyaki fillet with Shimeji mushrooms and the line fish, steamed with sake, soy and truffle butter. Portion sizes are a bit mean, and it’s pricey for a South African restaurant, but if you want to enjoy a good meal with a sublime sea view overlooking Camps Bay beach, Umi is the restaurant to book (but if you want the best fine-dining Asian food in the city, Kyoto Garden in Tamboerskloof will be a far better choice; for the best sushi, don’t miss Willoughby’s, in the Waterfront).

Address: 201 The Promenade, Victoria Rd, Camps Bay
Contact: 00 27 21 437 1802; umirestaurant.co.za
Prices: mains are between R160 and R200
Opening times: 12pm-12am daily
Reservations: advised, particularly for a table along the balcony/front of the restaurant
Payment type: cards accepted
Terroir


Jordan Restaurant
George Jardine’s move from the city to Jordan Winery (5) in 2010 was instrumental in Stellenbosch becoming the unofficial Gourmet Capital of the Cape (wresting the crown from erstwhile Winelands competitor Franschhoek). Not as famous as Luke Dale-Roberts or Margot Janse but every bit as good, Jardine offers superb value for your money (one of many reasons he is so popular with local diners). The views of Jordan’s vineyards are captivating; service is intelligent. This is also the place to sample South Africa's best cheeses, with a walk-in cold room where diners pick from a superb selection, many of them rare limited-production batches.

Address: Jordan Wines farm
Contact: 00 27 21 881 3612; jordanwines.com
Prices: two course lunch R295; three course lunch R345. Four course dinner R380; add R190 for wine pairing
Opening times: 12-2pm daily; 6.30pm onwards Thurs-Sat
Reservations: advised
Payment type: cards accepted


Foliage
Chris Erasmus, the former head chef of Pierneef a La Motte (where he was awarded top 10 status by Eat Out in 2013), opened his own restaurant on Franschhoek’s main drag in mid-2014, and it has been a roaring success. It’s an unpretentious, relaxed atmosphere, and the food – using interesting local ingredients – top class. My top Franschhoek dining choice (given that The Tasting Room is a much more serious commitment to stomach and pocket).

Address: 11 Huguenot Road, Franschhoek
Contact: 021 876 2328; foliage.co.za
Prices: mains R120 to R140
Opening hours: 12 to 2pm and 7 to 9pm Wed to Mon, 12 to 2pm on Sundays.
Reservations: advised in season
Payment type: cards accepted

Oep v Koep
Owner-chef Kobus Van der Merwe is our most innovative forager, producing uniquely local West Coast cuisine with ingredients most South Africans have never heard of. It’s worth setting aside a few nights to overnight in the seaside hamlet of Paternoster (on the West Coast, about 90 minutes north from the city) just to eat here – but be warned: you can only book 24 hours in advance, and seats get snapped up within minutes. Consolation prize is doing your own foraging at the deli attached to the restaurant.

Address: St Augustine Road, Paternoster
Contact: 022 7522105; facebook.com/oepvekoep
Prices: around R120 
Opening hours: 9-10.30am Wed to Sun; 12.30


Willoughby & Co
The only restaurant in the city that I am prepared to queue for. Willoughby’s serves the best sushi in town, with just the perfect ratio of ingredients; for a uniquely African take, order the 4x4, or a Rainbow Nation. Sit inside at the bar counter rather than at a table in the mall corridor (yes, sadly it’s in a mall) unless you have kids – in which case, the toy shop directly opposite provides wonderful distraction. Non-Japanese dishes are also excellent. Super popular, but service is fast, so queues move.

Address: Victoria Warf, V&A Waterfront
Contact: 00 27 21 418 6115
Prices: mains R80 to R180
Opening times: daily, 11.30am-10.30pm
Payment type: cards accepted


95 Keerom  
This restaurant ticks every box: glam but unpretentious venue; attentive, intelligent service and owner presence (Gorgio personally explains the specials); considered wine list; simple, delicious food; and good value. There are better, more inventive chefs, but this is a traditional Italian menu that may suit the less adventurous. Directly opposite is Giorgio’s second restaurant, Carne, specialising in red meat (including game), and regularly voted the best steakhouse in SA.
Cape Town: restaurants
95 Keerom offers high-calibre food at prices even Capetonians can afford

Address: 95 Keerom Street, city centre
Contact: 00 27 21 422 0765; 95keerom.com
Prices: mains R70 to R200
Opening times: Thur-Fri, 12 noon-2pm; Mon-Sat, 7pm-10.30pm
Reservations: advised
Payment type: cards accepted


Bistro Sixteen82
Sexy atmosphere and beautiful vineyard views, good food (though nitpickers will find it a bit hit and miss) at a reasonable price - what more can one ask for? It’s rustic-chic, romantic yet family friendly; a place where Capetonians come to celebrate special occasions and tourists can’t believe their good fortune. Despite being a 20 minute drive from the city centre, this is one of the restaurants I regularly visit for lunch or early evening tapas (but only in summer as the views, so much part of the experience, disappear at night).

Address: Steenberg Estate, Constantia
Contact: 00 27 21 713 2211; steenberg-vineyards.co.za
Prices: main dishes cost around R100 to 140
Opening times: 9am-11am; 12- 4pm; 4.30-8pm daily
Reservations: Advised
Payment type: cards accepted


Hemelhuijs
Like Bistro Sixteen82, Hemelhuijs is one of my favourite luncheon venues, this one conveniently located in the city centre. Decor is as inventive as the flavours (to give some idea: prawn and coconut broth with garden peas, fresh ginger, coriander and lychees; coconut fried calamari, watercress and pine nut salad with truffle mayonnaise). I am not a huge burger fan but regularly order theirs. Lovely fresh juice combinations. Wish it was open for dinner.

Address: 71 Waterkant Street, Cape Town
Contact: 00 27 21 418 2042; hemelhuijs.co.za
Prices: Main dishes cost around R120
Opening times: 9am-4pm Mon-Fri; Sat 9am-3pm
Reservations: advised
Payment type: cards accepted

Harbour House, Live Bait & Polana 
The fish is fresh and succulent, the service fabulous, the seaviews unbeatable. There is a newer outlet in the Waterfront which serves similar fare, but the Kalk Bay Harbour House location, perched right on the breakwater with the sea against the rocks (and sometimes, the windows), is magical. Downstairs are sister establishments Live Bait and Polana – d├ęcor at these two are far more rustic, menus are smaller and service is slower, but both are right on the harbour rocks and ocean, and prices are excellent.
Cape Town travel guide
The Kalk Bay Harbour House location, perched right on the breakwater with the sea against the rocks, is magical.

Address: Kalk Bay Harbour (or Waterfront), Cape Town
Contact: 00 27 21 788 4131; harbourhouse.co.za
Prices: main dishes cost around R95 to R120
Opening times: Mon-Sun; 12-4pm and 6-10pm
Reservations: advised
Payment type: cards accepted

Maria’s
I’m a bit loathe to share this tiny Greek restaurant with readers given that it already attracts a loyal local following which makes any of my last-minute bookings tricky, even on a balmy summer evening when extra tables spill out onto the square. The owners Clayton and his gorgeous wife Kate are usually in attendance, and the atmosphere is very relaxed and geared very to the local clientele (eg dogs welcome). Service can be slow and food can be a bit hit and miss but not if you order the stuffed calamari, followed by the slow-cooked lamb.

Address: 31 Barnett Street, Gardens (near city centre)
Contact: 00 27 21 461 3333
Prices: main dishes around R70 to R160
Opening times: Tues-Sat; 12-2pm and from 6.30pm
Reservations: advised
Payment type: cards accepted


Il Leone Mastrantonio
A favourite family-run Italian restaurants (the other being Magica Roma in Pinelands - a little off the beaten tourist track but worth it if you like old-school Italian dishes done to a turn). The pastas are all homemade – simple, delicious, and unbelievably good value. A delightful homely location but acoustics can be a problem when it's full.

Address: 22 Cobern Street, Green Point
Contact: 00 27 21 421 0071
Prices: pasta dishes between R65 to R100
Opening times: Tues-Sat; 12-2pm and from 6.30pm
Reservations: advised
Payment type: cards accepted

Col’cacchio Camps Bay
This is a chain, so ambiance is impersonal and decor bland, but if you like your pizza base thin and crunchy, with innovative toppings (great listed combinations, or make your own), this Camps Bay outlet ,across the beach, has the best view and is super family-friendly option. Kids get crayons to draw on paper tablecloths and dough to make into shapes, baked in the oven. 
Get here early to grab a window table and watch the sun sink into the ocean, but be warned, the noise and kid-induced chaos at traditional feeding time is not for the childless. (Note: if this sounds alarm bells and/or you can’t tear yourself away from the beach, they will deliver your pizza to you).

Address: Victoria Road, Camps Bay
Contact: 00 27 21 438 2171; colcaccio.co.za
Prices: pizzas from R60
Opening times: daily, 12 noon-10.30pm
Reservations: advised for window seat
Payment type: cards accepted

Kalky’s
On a beautiful summer’s day the long queues into this small shack on the edge of Kalk Bay harbour (opposite Harbour House) attest to its popularity amongst all walks of life. Arrive at 12 or 2.30pm and you’ll avoid the wait; order at the till, then grab a table to join Cape Town’s most varied cast of characters – from tattooed, gap-toothed and flat-capped patriarchs to Constantia housewives twirling their pearls, all here for the best and biggest plate of crispy hake and chips, devoured with fingers or plastic cutlery.

Address: Kalk Bay Harbour, Kalk Bay
Contact: 00 27 21 7881726
Prices: fish and chips from R65
Opening times: daily, 10am-8pm
Reservations: not possible
Payment type: cards accepted when the machine is working, so bring cash as a back up

Dog’s Bollocks
The city’s trendiest burger joint is not even a real restaurant (no cutlery, no glasses, no proper furniture) but comprises a few garden chairs set up in a driveway in a semi-industrial part of town. That said, the burgers are all homemade by Nigel, who also makes the wine he sells here: Ukuva iAfrica, packaged in 1.5L cardboard tubes. The burgers are great (the vegan burgers are rated ‘best on the planet’ by local vegetarians), as is the hip clientele.

Address: 6 Roodehek Road, Gardens
Contact: 083-440-7843
Prices: R85 (with chips)
Opening times: Mon-Fri from 6pm
Reservations: not possible
Payment type: cash

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