Chef Neil Perry is enamoured of Cape Town’s vibrant dining scene, local delicacies and historic vineyards.
Whenever I visit South Africa, it feels like I’m there for the first time; there are always new experiences to be had. The country is full of wonderful people, stunning cities, the most breathtaking game lodges, incredible wildlife and exquisite flora.
Put the country on your bucket list now. Everyone should visit at least once. And while you’re there, eat, eat, eat! Here’s where I like to wine and dine in Cape Town.
Chefs Warehouse & Canteen
This terrific restaurant is the work of Irish chef Liam Tomlin, who was part owner of the great Sydney establishment Banc until it closed in the early 2000s. Chefs Warehouse & Canteen (92 Bree Street, Cape Town) is on the city’s food street. The tapas-style meals, which change daily, consist of eight dishes and incorporate only the best produce, such as the perfectly cooked piece of Cape salmon served with corn and basil that I devoured. They don’t take bookings so if you miss out on a table, put your name on the list and grab a drink at Tomlin’s bar, No Reservations, directly underneath the restaurant.
A great spot to base yourself, Ellerman House (180 Kloof Road, Bantry Bay) is a small hotel with 13 rooms and two villas. Just 15 minutes’ drive from the heart of Cape Town, it has sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean. Chef Veronica Canha-Hibbert presides over the dining room, where the menu is updated every day, and helps with the guest pantry, dubbed a “guilty pleasure” for the luscious cakes and treats that guests can help themselves to. I enjoyed Canha-Hibbert’s tuna tataki with avocado, snow peas and chilli-and-sweet-soy dressing. It was so lovely and fresh, with beautifully balanced flavours. I decided to leave the grilled ostrich for another time and try the kingklip, a local fish, which was cooked in a laksa sauce and served with spicy sambal – complemented by Kevin Arnold Shiraz, an absolutely cracking drop from Waterford Estate in Stellenbosch, South Africa’s most famous wine region.
Truth Coffee Roasting
This place takes its coffee seriously: double shots are standard and it even has a barista school. Truth Coffee Roasting (36 Buitenkant Street, Cape Town) is almost more Sydney’s Newtown or Melbourne’s Fitzroy than it is Cape Town – it leans a little to the hipster side, somehow reminding me of the voodoo scene in the James Bond film Live and Let Die. The coffee is great, as are the eggs and pastries, and the lunch burger isn’t half-bad either.
Situated in the City Bowl area, Jason Bakery (185 Bree Street, Cape Town) serves good coffee and phenomenal breakfasts. The owners, siblings Jason and Brigitte Lilley, also run Bardough by Jason (33 Loop Street, Cape Town) and a cool crowd hangs out at both. Their premises are small and usually packed – but rest assured, the bacon croissants are worth the wait.
The Test Kitchen
Luke Dale-Roberts’ The Test Kitchen (375 Albert Road, Woodstock) is a must. Housed in The Old Biscuit Mill in the formerly industrial area of Woodstock, the cutting-edge establishment is widely considered the best in the country, making a regular appearance on S. Pellegrino’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. Dale-Roberts likes to incorporate South African ingredients into his dishes. I loved the lamb teriyaki with rosemary glaze and soft polenta, sage and amasi velouté (amasi, a local delicacy, is fermented milk). It was perfectly matched with Sterhuis Merlot. Note that the place has been undergoing a refurbishment and is expected to reopen in early October. Be sure to book ahead, as the restaurant is very small.
This is a very good steakhouse. I visited the original Carne SA (70 Keerom Street, Cape Town), which became so popular that there are now three restaurants in the city. Expect to find any number of steaks, from the massive fiorentina to fillets and sirloin. I opted for the hanger, one of my favourite cuts, and it was tender and juicy and had a deep beef flavour. It required only a lick of hot English mustard – not that choice was lacking, as there’s a long list of delicious sauces, condiments and sides on offer.
Top image: Chefs Warehouse & Canteen