Best Restaurants To Visit In Cape Town
From hot new chefs and go-to favourites to hip tapas spots and pizza joints, the range of restaurants in Cape Town seems to grow year on year. To make it a little easier, here’s our guide of the best restaurants in the Mother City serving up every food type.
This selection comprises all the Cape Town restaurants that made the cut for the 2020 Eat Out 500, the list of best restaurants in the country as rated and reviewed by our panel of critics for the 2020 edition of Eat Out magazine (on sale now). But we know the city is crammed with loads more gems and mainstays that didn’t crack the nod. Please tell us about your favourites in the comments section at the end!
Cape Town City Centre
95 Keerom thrives year after year, always drawing a crowd and never slipping on quality. The menu is rooted in chef-patron Giorgio Nava’s native northern Italy, fused with ingredients of SA. The carpaccio – beef, linefish or salmon – is always a fine start, as is the hand-chopped and perfectly seasoned steak tartare. Butternut ravioli in burnt sage butter is spoken of in hushed tones by regulars and, if you’re lucky, the special of lamb ragù ravioli will be on offer. The prime cuts are grilled Italian-style, dressed with olive oil and salt – the gargantuan La Fiorentina T-bone for two is superb. Leave room for legendary chocolate fondant, rum baba or semifreddo.
The Athletic Club & Social
This speakeasy-style bar offers a meze-style selection of plates ideal for sharing. It’s light food with ample flavour, offering a refreshing twist on the usual bar grub that’ll have you dipping, forking and scooping. Glossy, charred aubergine with an addictively good black-garlic emulsion is a hit; equally pleasing are the tangy home-made labneh with charred broccoli, thyme and crispy lavash and the heartier roasted lamb shoulder with hot, herb-sprinkled pita triangles, tzatziki, cured onion and sweet pomegranate jewels. For dessert, end on really good baklava cigars or head upstairs for a nightcap in a cosy alcove.
For starters, the deliciously tender grilled octopus served with veggie rice paper rolls and a spicy sauce is all kinds of yum. There’s also a burrata with aged balsamic, an unusual salmon soup and hot-smoked hake. For mains, the linefish is pure perfection – crispy skin, tender flaky flesh, served with spring vegetable paella. The herb-crumbed ostrich comes perfectly cooked and a trio of pork is also on offer, which includes the pig tongue and liver. For dessert, skip the local cheese platter for the sublime and silky crème brûlée served with the loveliest zingy granadilla sorbet. The symphony of citrus is beautifully plated and the kumquat marmalade, orange cake and orange sorbet all complement each other perfectly.
A little Mecca for fans of the steamed buns after which the restaurant is named. You should order three or four dishes to share off the small menu, and the prawn toast bao, a steamed bun filled with prawn, then crumbed and deep-fried, is a cult favourite. Meat-eaters should sample the slow-braised Karoo lamb shoulder bao or the saucy chicken wings with just the right amount of spice, and vegetarians will love the Asian green bean salad with puffed rice or the cauliflower cake. End off with Bao Down’s take on Milkbar’s famous ‘crack pie’, with a fudgy caramel centre and a sprinkling of salty cornflakes to offset the sweetness.
Belly of The Beast
The ingredients-driven tasting menu in this 20-seater changes daily and there’s no telling whether you’ll get a series of pork dishes or more plant-based, packed with seasonal vegetables in delightful variety. It’s sumptuous, proper food. Immaculately grilled hake with the most voluptuous sweetcorn purée is so simple; just two elements are on the plate, but both are perfect, and no further embellishment is necessary. The beef tongue with celeriac, beef broth and crispy onions is another dish where restraint is key: the incredibly rich flavours could easily overpower one another if any element were over-reduced or seasoned, but they work in harmonious balance. The tipsy tart with brown-bread ice cream to finish is rich, dark, ambrosial. A nursery classic elevated to fine-dining splendour.
The menu at this charming Bree Street spot is full of original twists. The ricotta-and-spinach gnudi are a great bet, dressed with pine nuts and sage butter. Puddings are fabulous, though. The baked cheesecake is perfection, and the warm date cake is satisfyingly sticky, with a spicy gingery gelato to offset the sweetness of the cake.’
Black Sheep Restaurant
This always-busy brasserie is known for its blackboard menu of interesting, seasonal dishes. The smoked snoek trout with pickled onions, dune lettuce and toast is a winner, with a perfectly creamy texture and delicate, smoky flavour. Fresh, home-made pappardelle topped with a rib-sticking springbok ragu and generous parmesan, and the superbly cooked grilled hanger steak, liven things up. Desserts like the simple almond tart with gooseberry compote and crème fraîche end things off on a sweet note.
Smaller plates to share is the name of the game. Think tuna carpaccio, polpette al sugo (pork and beef meatballs in a tomato sauce), and ortofrito (battered and fried zucchini, artichokes and broccoli). The flavours are robust and the portions substantial. The pizette are alluring, in particular the Foresta, with wild mushrooms, rosemary, mascarpone, parmesan and truffle drizzle. Desserts include a lemon posset, tiramisu, and the tempting cremoso: a dark chocolate mousse with orange compote and biscotti.
Bombay Brasserie at The Taj
The newly renovated brasserie weaves together Indian and Cape Malay cuisines to create a unique melting pot. Novices might opt for a set menu; otherwise, mix and match smoky starters from the tandoor. Dishes are superbly presented, colourful and richly fragrant, and easy to share. There’s a wide choice for vegetarians, from creamy kofta curry to gobi mutter. Highlights are Kerala-style prawn curry and the succulent masala tikka Karoo lamb chop. Don’t forget flaky paratha or naan bread. Desserts boast spun-sugar spirals and cascading dry ice.
Bones Kitchen & Bar
Ethically sourced meat treated with care. For starters look forward to delightfully simple chicken tortellini in a clear broth, dotted with mushrooms and kale, or the deep-fried parmesan croquettes in a hearty mushroom ragout, which you won’t be able to get out of your mind. For mains, the order of the day must be bone-in rib eye that’s charred on the outside yet meltingly marbled on the inside. Pair it with your choice of classic sauce: béarnaise, red wine, bordelaise or pepper, mopped up with thick-cut fries. Offerings of chocolate torte and lemon tart will tempt you into ordering dessert.
The menu is made up of simple, hearty dishes, intended to be shared as tapas. The risotto is a no-brainer, with flecks of mushroom and hints of tarragon and roasted garlic, as is the prawn and potato gnocchi, served with a satisfyingly creamy tomato-and-basil bisque. The mussels served in a simple white wine, cream and garlic sauce are also delicious, complete with grilled bread for mopping up the remaining sauce. While the main menu is long, the dessert menu happily offers only four dishes, and here the crème brûlée is particularly well-executed, with a crispy sugar topping and creamy custard base.