Our guide to 6 authentic Cape Town experiences that you don't want to miss out on.
Named the best food city in the world in 2016 by Conde Nast Traveller in its Readers’ Choice Awards survey, it’s certainly no secret that Cape Town is one of the top food capitals in the world. But while the Mother City’s culinary scene is most definitely hot and trendy, in Cape Town local and authentic is what it’s REALLY all about! Because in Cape Town, there’s no experience quite like the local food & drink experience – and we’re about to prove it to you too!
To make it super easy for you to experience the very best of what Cape Town’s food culture has to offer, we’ve rounded up 6 of our favourite food and drink experiences everyone who visits Cape Town must try. And the BEST thing is, we’ve included them all (plus a few more secrets spots and hidden gems) on our Cape Town Culinary walking food and culture tours. Working our way through the local, authentic, sweet, savoury and down-right delicious, you definitely won’t be left hungry. But we can’t promise that you won’t be left wanting more! Cape Town’s thriving and thrilling local culinary scene has that effect on most of us!
The Cape Town's 4 B’s – Bobotie, Biltong, Boerewors & Bunny Chow!
We’re starting off with a BANG by getting some delicious food in your stomach that we KNOW will sustain you right throughout this jam-packed culinary adventure through the streets of Cape Town. Biltong, Bobotie, Boerewors and Bunny Chow have been known to sweep even the die-hard global foodies right off their feet. Not only are these 4 local dishes unique and delicious, each one forms an integral part of our culture. And we’ve got the inside scoop on where you can find the best of the B’s Cape Town has to offer and a bit of insight on these dishes too.
Bobotie at Café Charles: Regarded by many as the flagship dish of South Africa, Bobotie has fast become a fan-favourite among locals and travellers from all around the world. Bobotie is essentially a delicious, mild curried mince dish, topped with a thin layer of baked savoury custard or an egg-based topping. The dish is usually served with yellow curry rice and Chutney.
Bobotie was first imported to South Africa from Indonesia in the seventeenth century. It was then adopted by the Cape Malay community who were brought to South Africa as slaves for the European settlers in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Since then the culture and history of the Cape Malay have had a major impact on both the city and its cuisine. Giving us this (any many more) beloved local dish that has earned a special place in every local’s heart. And Café Charles, located in the vibrant neighbourhood of De Waterkant, undoubtedly serves up the very BEST Bobotie Cape Town has to offer! And not to mention their warm and welcoming atmosphere and incredible Chef and staff!
Boerewors at The Butcher Man: Boerie, as it is affectionately known by locals, is considered staple fare in South Africa. Ask any South African local and they’ll tell you, there’s nothing better than enjoying a lekker braai (barbeque) and a boerewors roll on a Saturday afternoon with friends and family. Essentially Boerewors (translated as ‘farmer’s sausage’) is a traditional sausage indigenous to South Africa.
The origins of Boerewors is believed to trace back to the Voortrekker’s ‘Groot Trek’ (Great Trek). Taking place between 1835 – 1846, the Great Trek was a movement of Dutch-speaking colonists up into the interior of southern Africa in search of land where they could establish their own homeland, independent of British rule. It has since become an integral part of our local food culture and an absolute must-try for anyone visiting the Mother City.
Biltong also at The Butcher Man! Biltong is one classic South African favourite that can get any meat-lovers mouth-watering in a matter of seconds. Yes, it truly is that delicious! And the best thing is, it’s uniquely South African and we love it! Essentially, biltong is meat that has been cured, spiced and dried. Various types of meat can be used to produce this local snack, ranging from beef and game meats to fillets of ostrich.
While it might sound a bit strange at first, trust us, you’ll be hooked after your very first bite! Both these great dishes can be tasted at The Butcher Man! Located in the trendy hub of Green Point, The Butcher Man is a one-stop meat emporium, offering a wide selection of prime cuts to go or eat-in, alongside a selection of curated biltong, award-winning wines, and all your culinary braai essentials. What more could you ask for? It’s no surprise it’s become the GO-TO butchery in Cape Town!
Bunny Chow at the Eastern Food Bazaar: Considered as South Africa’s very own street food, the Bunny Chow is a South African fast food dish consisting of a quarter loaf of bread filled with delicious Durban curry. And for the full local Bunny Chow experience, you must eat it like a local with your hands only. But where is the best place to enjoy this delicacy? None other than one of Cape Town’s most authentic hidden gems, the Eastern Food Bazaar.
Located in the bustling Cape Town city centre the Eastern Food Bazaar is street food at its best where locals and travellers get the opportunity to taste Indian food in Cape Town with flavours and foreign spices from as far as Istanbul to Bombay. You can, therefore, expect to enjoy the very best regional Indian, Chinese and Turkish street food from a string of bustling stalls while surrounded by a vibrant and welcoming atmosphere.
DRINKS! It’s time to get festive with some must have drinks needed at every Cape Town feast!
Are you feeling a little thirsty yet? Now that we’ve lined your stomach with something delicious, it’s time to raise your glass, cheers it out and celebrate our local Cape Town culture with a drink in hand! Yes, you’ve guessed it, it’s drinking time! When it comes to experiencing a city’s restaurant and bar scene, there truly is no way like the local way! We’ve therefore lined up some our favourite Cape Town dinking spots just for you. Get ready, this is going to be one epic alcohol-infused ride! And hey, it might be a little bumpy too, but that’s the fun of it, right?
BEER! We’re kicking things off with a good old’ craft beer! While the Western Cape is certainly known for its beautiful Cape Winelands and thriving wine culture, here’s a bit of insight into South African Alcohol 101 – WE MADE BEER BEFORE WINE! Believe it or not, it’s true, and we couldn’t be prouder! In order to give you the very best introduction into Cape Town’s local sports bar and craft beer scene, we definitely recommend one of our favourite beer spots – Beer House on Long Street.
If good craft beer is what you’re after, Beer House on Long is right up your beer alley. Priding itself on being the flagship Beer Revolution brand in South Africa, Beerhouse boasts a cool contemporary beer hall with 25 taps and their legendary ’99 Bottles of beer on the wall’ of the best local and international beer. With that much beer to choose from, you better know you’re in for a GOOD time! In addition to their wide selection of beer, Beerhouse is also at the forefront of the local Cape Town craft scene. They, therefore, strive to uphold the true ideals of craft all while giving local micro-breweries the chance to showcase their beers to the local and international beer crowd. Because in Cape Town, local is lekker, and we LOVE it, and so does Beerhouse!
Are you ready for the next local beer spot? If you’re an avid sports lover and looking for the best combination of good beer, a good vibe and a really good time, Café Extrablatt is definitely the perfect spot for you. Situated right in the heart of Cape Town’s vibrant suburb of Green Point, right where the Green Point Stadium is located (making it an extra special treat for sports enthusiasts), Café Extrablatt is right at the centre point of our sports culture.
What better way to celebrate our dedication and love of sports than with fellow sport lovers in one of the coolest sport bars in town? Known as the place to be when a good game or match is on, Café Extrablatt is the perfect place to sit back, relax, eat, drink and celebrate while watching your favourite sport.
Time for some GIN!
Now that we’ve given you a good taste of our beer scene, it’s time to give the gin lovers something to enjoy! If you’re a head-over-heels gin fanatic at heart, we definitely encourage you to explore Cape Town’s unique and exciting craft gin scene. Gin has fast become somewhat of a culture in Cape Town with the Mother City’s gin scene exploding in recent years with gin gems like the Gin Bar having a lot to do with it.
Located on Wale street, The Gin Bar is known as one of Cape Town’s coolest hidden gems and was also one of the first bars in the Mother City to dedicate itself to all things gin. It is also one of the country’s only true speak-easy bars. How cool is that? Fondly known by some locals as the ‘secret’ Gin bar, mainly due to its hush-hush, unmarked location hidden behind a cool Chocolate Café, Honest Chocolate (another local must-visit spot for chocolate and sweet treat lovers), it has fast become one of the most sought-after gin experiences for anyone travelling to Cape Town. Of course, as the name would suggest, all their cocktails contain gin, and they’ve cleverly named their classic five cocktails the Head, Heart, Hope, Soul and Ambition. All intended to provide their drinker with as much needed healing for whatever may ail them. Thereby certainly adding an extra unique and personalised touch to the experience.
Another top local gin spot for avid gin drinkers is the Gin Bar’s sister bar, the Botanical Bar. Celebrating all things botanical, it aims to pay tribute to the Western Cape’s rich diversity of flora and fauna, especially fynbos, in the most unique way. This has given rise to the Western Cape turning into an unexpected gin trendsetter, as a new wave of gin makers gives the age-old spirit an authentic South African twist. It’s less about juniper and more about endemic botanicals plucked straight from the Cape Floral Region, home to more than 9,000 plant species, nearly 70% of which grow nowhere else on earth.
This has encouraged many craft gin makers and gin bars, including the Botanical Bar, to experiment with varieties of fynbos – a family of fine-leaved shrubs with distinct terroirs, chosen for their unique tastes and aromas. There is no doubt that the Botanical Bar is making quite a name for itself as it also holds the title of being the first botanical-inspired bar in the Mother City. Spreading the botanical gin love one fresh and fragrant botanical-infused drink at a time by making sure all Capetonians and globe-trotting visitors get their fynbos fix in the best possible way.
But wait, your gin journey through the streets of Cape Town isn’t over yet, so you better strap in! We can’t help but include 2 more of our favourite hangouts in this jam-packed line-up of must-visit spots. If you’re a cocktail and gin lover, another mind-blowing experience awaits you at the Athletic Club & Social. Besides incredible and exciting combinations and gin cocktails, their preparation and presentation skills are absolutely on-point. And will definitely have you ordering one drink after the other and spending your money like there’s no tomorrow. If this is, in fact, the case, here’s an insider tip from a local that has experienced it first-hand, you’re most definitely happy, festive and drunk and its best to hand your wallet over to your friends for safekeeping. And of course, to make sure you’ve still got enough moola left to explore the rest of the cool spots we’ve lined up for you. Trust us, you’ll be SO happy you did and will most certainly thank us later!
Now for our final must-visit speciality cocktail and gin drinking Cape Town experience, Cause & Effect. The Cause & Effect Cocktail Kitchen is most definitely a spacious-on-the-inside, but blink-and-you’ll-miss-it from the outside kind of place. So, make sure you don’t move too fast down Gardens’ bustling park road located close to the V&A Waterfront. When it boils down to the drinks, Cause & Effect is the closest thing to a New York Apothèke Cocktail Bar you’ll find in Cape Town. While they have a variety of Craft Beers and wine on offer, it really is the cocktails that keep people going back for more. Boasting an extensive and exciting cocktail menu, it’s their dedication to molecular pizzazz and unique approach to cocktail making that keeps people hooked. You are therefore in for quite a show filled with some thrill and a dash of magical flair, so be sure to soak it up and enjoy every second, we definitely do!
Time for a SNACK– Because everyone needs a delicious local snack to keep them powering through!
Time for a SNACK– Because everyone needs a delicious local snack to keep them powering through!
Now that you’re all liquored up and loving life, it’s time for a delicious snack to super-charge your culinary spirit and keep you powering through the rest of what’s to come! And we’ve got just the local snack to do all that – Samosas! A samosa is a fried or baked pastry with a savoury filling, such as spiced potatoes, onions, peas, meat or lentils. And its absolutely mouth-wateringly DELICIOUS!
Where’s the best place to get this light, flavour-filled must-try Cape Town snack you ask? None other than Mariam’s Kitchen! Located right in the heart of Cape Town’s city centre at the top of Wale Street in the colourful and culturally diverse neighbourhood of Bo-Kaap, Mariam’s Kitchen has fast become one of the most beloved local spots to get your Samosa fix. But that’s definitely not all this local culinary gem is known for.
Besides come-back-for-more Samosas, Mariam’s Kitchen is also the BEST place in town to get a local Gatsby sandwich. An iconic local Cape Town dish, this Mother City super sandwich is traditionally filled with loads of saucy chips and meat, as well as a few other delicious surprises tucked in there. But don’t you dare underestimate this Cape Town culinary delight, they are not dubbed the SUPER sandwich of the Cape for nothing. It’s BIG, it’s bold and it’s sure to banish both your hunger, and a couple of your friend’s cravings too. So, you better be REALLY hungry when taking on the great Cape Town Gatsby. So, while the Gatsby might not exactly classify as a snack, we couldn’t help but add it to our list of must-try local food. We just can’t have you missing out on this iconic Cape Town dish!
As Mariam’s Kitchen is situated in a predominantly Muslim area, thereby practising the traditional prayer hours, you should visit this Cape Town spot during trading hours to ensure you get to try all the delicious local dishes you’re so looking forward to. As you might have already picked up from all our excitement, Mariam’s Kitchen is one of our absolute favourite local gems, and if you’re looking to taste the best Samosas, Roti’s and Gatsbys in town as well as experience Cape Town’s local food culture and people in the most authentic way, a visit to this local Bo-Kaap café is a must!
WINE & DINE – In true Cape Town style of course!
In Cape Town wine and dine goes hand-in-hand and we sure love celebrating every occasion, celebration, lunch, brunch or evening out with a glass of vino in hand. Home to the largest wine producing region in Africa, the Western Cape is any wine lover’s dream come true. Although we export just under 50% of our wines, the best is yet to be explored. Home to a variety of exceptional wine routes, Wine Estates, Wine bars and local wine drinking hotspots scattered all around the city, there is nothing more exciting than going on a local wine adventure in Cape Town.
Because after beer, WE MAKE WINE, and LOTS of it too! Enjoying classic and equally sensational Cape vino has therefore become somewhat of a Cape Town rite of passage. And indulging in an authentic Cape Town wine drinking or tasting is considered a must-do Cape Town culinary and bucket-list experience. Here are some of our favourite spots and top recommendations for wining and dining your way through the streets of the Mother City.
Kicking things off with one of Cape Town’s best wine bars, Openwine is a great place to enjoy a light meal paired with an amazing glass of wine. Located on the vibrant Wale street in Cape Town’s city centre, Openwine is described as a ‘Taste Pair Shop’ and is on a mission to introduce Capetonians and global wine lovers to a new way of experiencing the local South African world of wine. And the best thing is, it truly is a one-stop wine spot for every wine lover at heart! In addition to an exceptional and exciting range of wine, Openwine is also known for their awesome taste in music, unique boutique wines, great food and an incredible atmosphere and vibe that makes you feel right at home.
However, if you’re keen to experience the Mother City’s fine dining scene, paired with some exceptional wine of course, a reservation at the sought-after Grub & Vine is definitely a must. Besides the fact that they offer guests an incredible selection of world class cuisine, their vibrant, bold and ‘bad-ass’ staff and relatable, yet varied, wine list makes you feel like you fit right in even if you don’t know a single thing about wine (fake it till you make right!). Thereby inviting wine lovers from all walks of life to come together and celebrate Cape Town’s local wine culture in the coolest way.
When you’re done getting your much-needed Grub & Vine fix, you can hop right over (literally, it’s right next door) to another one of our favourite local wine bars, Frogitt & Vonkel. While Frogitt and Vonkel might be the new kid on the wine bar block, only opening their doors in 2018, it certainly didn’t take long to establish itself as a major Cape Town wine bar contender. Boasting an impressive wine list with over 30 local and international wines, all of which can be enjoyed by the bottle or glass, Frogitt & Vonkel offers guests the best combination of local charm and a vibrant energy with their classic surroundings of an old building paired with the fun atmosphere of pool, darts and board games. You’re therefore guaranteed an exciting night out in the Mother City paired with some REALLY good wine. What more do you need really?
SEAFOOD – Its finally time to indulge in some sensational local seafood!
Now that you’re all wined up, there’s no better time than right now to indulge in all the delicious seafood Cape Town has to offer. While the fact that the famous meeting point of the Atlantic and Indian Ocean at the iconic Cape of Good Hope might mean that our ocean waters are freezing, it also gives rise to a thriving seasonal seafood industry that’s worth every second of exploring. As we’re all about providing you with the best of the best local Cape Town recommendations, our list of must-visit seafood gems is no different. And the fact that they purely specialise in seasonal harvest and high-quality fresh produce just makes it even better.
First up is one of our absolute favourites (like really, we’re OBSESSED) local Cape Town culinary gems, Beluga! Situated right in the heart of the iconic De Waterkant in the oldest Foundry Courtyard in South Africa, Beluga has become a sought-after dining destination for locals and travellers from all around the world. An impressive line-up of famous celebrities have even dined here on their visit to Cape Town. Pretty cool right!
Besides the fact that they offer guests one of finest, and definitely the most delicious, selections of local seafood, Beluga boasts a warm, vibrant and welcoming atmosphere that truly sets it apart. Thereby making it a top must-visit and highly recommended local spot for anyone visiting and exploring Cape Town. But, if you’re looking to experience this unique local culinary spot (and a jam-packed line-up of Cape Town’s best kept food secrets) in the most authentic and exciting way with a cool and knowledgeable local guide and fellow food lovers by your side, you should definitely join us on our Essentials Food Tour!
Another great place to enjoy some of the Mother City’s top seafood is by visiting one of Cape Town’s oldest and most beloved fishing villages, Hout Bay. While it’s located a little outside of town, you will be well rewarded for your extra time and effort. Boasting a colourful selection of incredible markets, including the most vibrant market in Cape Town the Bay Harbour Market, a charming and captivating vibe, warm and welcoming people and of course, a sensational selection of seafood, Hout Bay is definitely a must-visit stop on your adventures through the Mother City. Hout Bay is also home to the oldest seafood restaurant in town, Snoekies! So, you better believe you’re in for some truly SENSATIONAL seafood and an authentic experience unlike any other. And the locals will make you feel right at home and part of the Hout Bay family in no time at all.
Calling all SWEET treat lovers, it’s time to indulge in all things local & SWEET!
Of course we have to end our food adventure though Cape Town on a SWEET note! You better still have some room left, because we might just have left the best for last! It’s finally time to indulge in all the sweet goodness Cape Town has to offer, are you excited? Because we sure are! We’re not sure why, but sweet treats are always left till the end. But we firmly believe that the following local sweet treats can be enjoyed any where ANY time.
First up is one of our personal favourites (seriously, we just can’t get enough of it) – the famous ‘koesister’ or ‘koeksister’ – yes, there are two versions of this sweet local delicacy. Everyone who has ever lived in South Africa, knows what a koeksister is. That delicious sweet treat with a firm texture, soaked in the most delicious syrup, and braided like the prettiest maiden’s hair, it’s very hard to mistake for anything else. But few people know that there are actually 2 different variations of this local South African sweet treat. The Afrikaner version, ‘koeksister’ and the Cape Malay version ‘koesister’! But what’s the difference? The Afrikaans original, koeksister, is a golden, twisted plait, crisp on the outside with a sweet syrupy centre.
Koesisters on the other hand are authentic to Cape Town’s Cape Malayan influence which consists of oval dough balls with a doughnut-like texture, flavoured with spices and naartjie peel and is also much darker in colour. Sounds pretty incredible right? And the best place in town to find this delicious fluffy doughnut with a secret Cape Town twist is none other than Mariam’s Kitchen. And while you’re there, be sure to keep an eye out for another sweet local delicacy, Milk Tart! Trust us, it’s a winner! Although you might be on a MAJOR sugar high, but hey, who’s complaining?
Another must-try local South African sweet delicacy is Malva Pudding! But prepare yourself for sweetness overload, this one is jam-packed with ALL the sweet goodness your sweet-treat loving heart desires. Known as the puddings of all puddings in South Africa, Malva Pudding has a very special place in every local’s heart. A sweet pudding of Dutch origin, Malva Pudding is usually served hot with custard or ice-cream.
Made with apricot jam, this typical South African dessert has a spongy, caramelised texture that will undoubtedly sweep you right off your sweet-loving feet and wanting more after your very first bite. But don’t feel too guilty, it has hat effect on us too! But here’s a little local insider secret, it absolutely must be freshly baked! Pop into one of Cape Town’s best kept culinary secrets, and one of our favourite local spots, Café Charles for a light lunch paired with a slice of Malva pudding. You absolutely won’t regret it!
That’s it, we certainly hope you’ve had TONS of fun and that you’re super happy, satisfied and pleasantly surprised after your jam-packed journey through the streets of the Mother City experiencing the very best of what local Cape Town food culture has to offer. But this is the Mother City after all, which means she’s every bit as bold, daring and full of surprises as she is beautiful. Therefore, besides these incredible local spots and beloved culinary gems, there is so much more to experience and explore.
So, keep an eye out for our upcoming blogs where we’ll continue to share all our culinary secrets, stories, tips, tricks, local culinary gems and so much more with you ALL by our side! OR join us on one of our jam-packed and exciting walking food and culture tours. The Essentials Food Tour or Food Safari Tour, where we discover and taste our way through the streets of Cape Town as real locals would. Trust us, it’s an ADVENTURE – and we can’t wait to share it with you!