The Slow-food Lover's Guide to Cape Town
January 1, 1970
by Kiki Hughes
The city of Cape Town is one of the most vibrant and inspiring cities in the world. So inspiring, in fact, that it was voted the 2017 Best City in the World by The Telegraph. As a native Cape Towner myself, this is no surprise. The CBD is constantly bustling with activity, beaches are unbelievably magnificent in summer (regardless of the unbearably cold sea), the mountains are labyrinths of incredible hiking trails, and the restaurants and bars never seem to lack customers. From penguins to paragliding, from art to architecture, from diving to decor, and from fashion to food, Cape Town has it all. As a food-lover myself, growing up in Cape Town meant I had access to a large variety of different cuisines. Not only this, but our lifestyle began to change as the very relevant, international trend of “slow-food” began to emerge and flourish. This meant health and earth conscious, artisanal food from sustainable and organic sources that benefitted local initiatives. As the city adapted to this trend, it started presenting some of the most delicious and innovative foods around. Whether you are an earth-conscious traveller, or simply someone who appreciates quality, the following places are a “must-visit” for food shopping and dining when in and around Cape Town (in no particular order).
Babylonstoren Food-gardens, Restaurant and Vineyard – Stellenbosch
A 40-minute drive from the city centre, this historic Dutch-style farm has a revitalising energy which is rooted in its magnificent, home-style food-garden. Vegetables, fruit, and vineyards extend for 3,5 hectares, and it’s not all for show. The produce from the gardens is used to produce the unique, hand-crafted cuisine offered by the restaurant and bakery, which are nestled at different positions within the gardens. When seated in the Babel Restaurant, previously an old cow-shed, you are not only seated below the Cape Winelands mountains but are presented with an array of colours. The plant-based portion of your meal is only what is seasonally available from their garden, and a wine from their own vineyard is suggested to match. Once you have enjoyed your delicately rustic meal, you are encouraged to take a stroll in the garden to investigate the simple yet superb origins of your culinary experience. This may lead you to the Greenhouse Restaurant, where you will be introduced to the healing garden to harvest your own herbal tea. From the indigenous wild Cape herbs in the greenhouse, you will be able to design your own tea and drink it! Full of natural wonder, Babylonstoren is a must-visit for gardening and food enthusiasts.
Inside & You’re Out (IYO) Burgers – Bree Street
Starting as a mobile burger joint, this locally owned burger restaurant could pass as the definition of a slow-food establishment. Not only are the burger ideas flavourful and creative, but everything is locally sourced and inspired by environmentally friendly principles! Triple-goodness! There is something for everyone. From their meat-marvellous Pulled-piggy burger (using grass-fed meat, of course), to their Hell-O-Portobello vegan burger, every taste and moral standpoint is catered for. And to all the wheat-conscious eaters out there, not to worry. Your bunless burger does not mean you’re left with just half a meal. The bunless option is given just as much thought as the normal burgers (if not more!), and you’re presented with a bowl of super-satisfying greens to go with your chosen patty. So, when next you visit Cape Town, make sure to explore this take on ethical eating.
Bay Harbour Market – Hout Bay
Occupying an old fish-factory warehouse, this inventive market pulls the crowd from all reaches of the city and abroad. Every weekend, Friday night to Sunday lunchtime, the warehouse comes alive with the bustle of a home-grown band, locally sourced clothes, native craft beer, and a selection of flavourful foods, both savoury and sweet. From dim sums to creative butchery to home-made South African-Italian ice-cream, I can guarantee there will be something for everyone to enjoy. Of note is the pizza stall, who serve a fantastic thin and crispy gluten-free base that is suitable for even severe nut allergies (tested and confirmed)! Local wineries and chocolatiers also vendor their goods in this vibrant atmosphere. Whether you’re in the neighbourhood for food or just some fun, the Bay Harbour market will be able to entertain you. And if you’re in the mood for something simpler, just pop next door to Fish On The Rocks for some traditional Kaapstad fish and chips. But please, keep your distance from the seals sunbathing on the rocks! They look cute, but they give a nasty bite. And even if a local assures you it is ok, never give money to anyone who encourages petting or feeding of the sea-lions.
Neighbourgoods Market, The Old Biscuit Mill – Salt River
The Old Biscuit Mill is home to a selection of the finest restaurants in Cape Town – and it’s not just my opinion. The Potluck Club, The Test Kitchen and Burrata are all award-winning establishments, revolutionising the city’s restaurant world. Then, on Saturdays, the whole mill comes alive with an ambient, locally motivated food market. Mediterranean-style food, fresh-mushroom kebabs, and South Africa’s famous pumpkin fritters are all options on the menu. There are even guys trying their hand at activated-charcoal vegan burgers! The best part is, most of the food is cooked right in front of you. The making of the “ice-cream roll” has also begun in this village, and they really live up to their tasty reputation. You won’t only find food here, but a selection of proudly South African crafts, clothes and designer jewellery. And if you’re feeling your sweet-tooth, you can always take a meander to the chocolate factory hidden behind the clothing stores and try their tasters (yes, FREE chocolate tasters). Everyone is bound to find something that tickles their taste-buds in this vivacious little village.
Organic Route Goodies – Hout Bay
If you don’t plan on eating out every night you’re in CT, but can’t think where to get your organic, locally sourced produce, this is one of the places to go. While it’s a little off the beaten path in terms of Cape Town city centre, it stocks all its fresh produce from local farmers along the Garden Route. Their pasture-fed dairy products, such as Greek yoghurt, Cheese, and Kefir, are not only free from hormones but incredibly tasty. This includes delicious untreated, full-cream milk; exactly what you need for your guilt-free morning cappuccino. They even make their own Kombucha! If you don’t find what you need in their store, or you need some healthy meal ideas, the ladies behind the counter are super knowledgeable and will be able to point you in the right direction.
Back Area Gardens, Oude Molen Eco Village – Pinelands
Nearer to central Cape Town, it all started as a back-yard garden with two people’s hopes of supplying fresh, organic vegetables to as many individuals as they could reach. Now, it has upscaled to a team of resident “micro-farmers” who are working together to grant the surrounding suburbs access to holistically-grown, sustainable produce. In addition to their own vegetables and herbs, they stock biodynamic meats, truly free-range eggs, and a variety of other holistic food-products. They have also started their own Local Deli, using the produce they supply to give you well-rounded and wholesome meals. As you stroll through the charming gardens, you experience an atmosphere of holistic health that revitalizes your entire body – and I’m not just saying that! In terms of community development, this little haven is a huge testament to the way Cape Town has embraced the times and it is the perfect place to experience the community-driven spirit of the city.
Of all the cities in South Africa, Cape Town is definitely the cultural capital. And for food-lovers from all walks of the world, exposing yourself to this good-food-revolution is bound to be an experience that will not only inspire your health but your creative and adventurous spirit, too.