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The 18 Essential Cape Town Restaurants

The 18 Essential Cape Town Restaurants

Where to find springbok with foie gras, supersized Gatsby sandwiches, and beloved croissants in the South African port city

Cape Town has long been one of Africa’s premier food cities. It sits in an important trading location at the tip of the continent, and it has access to excellent produce from a variety of climates. More recently, Cape Town has become home to a cluster of high-caliber chefs and savvy entrepreneurs who have created a booming restaurant scene in the city and surrounding areas. The offerings today are incredibly diverse, with menus featuring everything from dumplings to curry, fine dining fare to flame-grilled meats.

Here, then, are the most utterly essential restaurants in Cape Town.

Price key per person, excluding alcohol:

$ = Less than R250 (Less than $15 USD)

$$ = R250 – R600 ($15 to $40 USD)

$$$ = R600 – R1250 ($40 to $80 USD)

$$$$ = R1250 and up ($80 USD and up)

Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Oranjezicht City Farm Market Day

Nautica, Beach Rd, Granger Bay, Cape Town
8005, South Africa
+27 83 628 3426

Capetonians take their Saturday-morning market-hopping very seriously. This neighborhood market outgrew its former home at an urban farm in Oranjezicht and moved into fancy digs at the V&A Waterfront, but it retains its charm, making it a rustic alternative to Neighbourgoods’ hipster vibe. Capetonians pop in to the first tent for their weekly shopping, stocking up on fresh figs, heads of cauliflower, and a rainbow of carrots, persimmons, and chiles. When they’re done, they head to the next tent to fill up on everything from burgers to gluten-free brownies. [$]

2. The General Store

22 Bree St, Cape Town City Centre, Cape Town
8000, South Africa
021 418 2305

Capetonians can’t get enough of the salads from chef Colette Robert’s General Store Kitchen & Grocer. Inside the nook of a restaurant, daily dishes might include halloumi salad with grilled peppers or roasted squash with cabbage and lime, as well as decadent treats like doughnuts crammed with vanilla custard or gooey chocolate tortes. Snag a coveted seat along the wood-lined wall or take a meal to go. Just don’t leave without a flat white. The General Store pours one of the best cups of coffee in the city. [$-$$]

3. La Tête

17 Bree St, Cape Town City Centre, Cape Town
8000, South Africa
021 418 1299

Don’t let the stark white space of La Tête allow you to think the food is anything but decadent and utterly delicious. Dreamed up by brothers Giles and James Edwards, La Tête opened on a corner of Cape Town’s bustling Bree Street in 2016. Chef Giles, who previously sharpened his knives at Fergus Henderson’s St. John restaurant in London, expertly executes nose-to-tail dishes that are perfect in their simplicity. You’ll want to order the mussels with leeks and bacon or the confit duck leg, but leave space for the sweet, pillowy madeleines (which thankfully come six or a dozen to an order). Maybe take some to go, too. [$$$]

4. Hemelhuijs

71 Waterkant St, Cape Town
Western Cape 8001, South Africa
+27 21 418 2042

You might not recognize Hemelhuijs if you only stop by every few months. Chef and owner Jacques Erasmus transforms the menu every season and changes up the restaurant’s interiors to match, painting the walls in bold new colors. One enticing thing you’ll always find on the menu, though, in one form or another, is thick slices of mosbolletjie bread, which is laced with aniseed and grape must. [$$]

5. Chef’s Warehouse & Canteen

92 Bree St, Cape Town City Centre, Cape Town
8000, South Africa
+27 21 422 0128

Wondering where Cape Town’s chefs eat on their days off? Bree Street, the Central Business District’s recently anointed restaurant row, is a good start. There, celebrated chef Liam Tomlin’s eatery doubles as a culinary hangout for those who know a thing or two about food. Tomlin is a pro with his set menu of contemporary South African-fusion tapas — expect shared plates of ham hock terrine with celeriac remoulade, oxtail ravioli, and roast onion risotto. [$$$]

6. Grub & Vine

103 Bree St, Cape Town City Centre, Cape Town
8000, South Africa
087 898 2207

Chef Matt Manning, who has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants in London, opened his unfussy restaurant late last year. While the food is described simply as “bistro-style fare,” it’s certainly more refined than everyday eats. In dishes like kudu loin with orange-glazed endive or salt-baked celeriac with chargrilled apple, Manning’s solid, honest cooking is everything you want from a lazy Sunday lunch. [$$-$$$]

7. Mariam’s Kitchen

101 St Georges Mall, Cape Town City Centre, Cape Town
8000, South Africa
+27 21 423 0772

This low-key spot is popular with Cape Town’s Cape Malay Muslim community for its simple, delicious food. Pop in with a friend to split a spicy steak, chicken, or sausage Gatsby, a classic local style of sandwich. Supersized Gatsby subs often overflow with saucy meat and french fries, and they’re usually cleaved into two or four generous portions. While you can pick one up at any local “takeaway,” as fast-food joints are called around town, the versions at Mariam’s Kitchen are especially beloved. [$]

8. Jason Bakery

185 Bree St, Cape Town
Western Cape 8000, South Africa
+27 21 424 5644

Heavily tattooed baker Jason Lilley might well be the pioneer of the Bree Street restaurant revolution. His corner cafe, Jason Bakery, has been a fixture near the top of Bree since 2011 thanks to its carb-focused breakfasts and sandwiches served on freshly made sourdough, ciabatta, baguettes, and more. The gluten haven was such a hit that Lilley opened a second outpost on nearby Loop Street. On Saturdays, Lilley also serves the city’s spin on the Cronut, an over-the-top “doughssant” in flavors like high tea (topped with macarons) and cream soda float. He has also earned a fervent following for his simplest offering: airy croissants stuffed with almond, bacon, or cheese. [$]

9. Fyn Restaurant

5th Floor, Speakers Corner, 37 Parliament St, Cape Town City Centre, Cape Town
8000, South Africa
021 286 2733

When Fyn opened in late 2018, people couldn’t get enough of its slick interior and spectacular location. Set on the rooftop of the historic Speakers’ Corner building, the lofty glass-fronted dining room is decorated with pendant lights, leather booths, and marble countertops. Chef Peter Tempelhoff’s fine dining Japanese menu changes constantly, featuring dishes like tuna with smoked kelp or strawberries paired with yuzu. No matter what’s available, though, the food is invariably as polished as the restaurant itself. [$$$$]

10. Between Us

176 Bree St, Cape Town City Centre, Cape Town
8001, South Africa
021 823 8695

Opened by twin sisters Jesse and Jamie Friedberg, who originally started the much-loved Skinny Legs & All (since renamed Skinny Legs Cafe and under new ownership), Between Us is the perfect restaurant for an easygoing but polished breakfast or lunch date. The restaurant feels homey and welcoming, with warm wood and stone decorating the interior. On the menu are house-made chicken pies, scrambled eggs with Parmesan and mushroom, and pappardelle with oxtail ragu. Casual daytime fare has never been so decadent. [$$]

11. The Pot Luck Club at The Old Biscuit Mill

373 Albert Rd, Woodstock, Cape Town
7915, South Africa
+27 21 447 0804

Chef Luke Dale-Roberts is the country’s most lauded chef, and his Test Kitchen regularly lands on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list — naturally, reservations fill up months in advance. Skip the hassle (and the expense), and check out the Test Kitchen’s laid-back sister restaurant nearby. The Pot Luck Club serves shareable, Asian-inflected plates, broken down on the menu into categories called Salty, Sour, Sweet, and Umami. The chic setting atop a silo at the Old Biscuit Mill also features 360-degree views of the city. [$$]

12. Neighbourgoods Market at the Old Biscuit Mill

373 Albert Rd, Woodstock, Cape Town
7915, South Africa
+27 82 370 4075

Neighbourgoods Market spearheaded the regeneration of the Woodstock district when it opened in the Old Biscuit Mill a decade ago, bringing together Capetonians from all walks of life every Saturday morning. These days, you’ll mingle with an even split of tourists and locals grazing on ostrich burgers, haloumi kebabs, paella, and steak pies. The popular market has even expanded to Johannesburg. [$]

13. Janse & Co

75 Kloof St, Gardens, Cape Town
8001, South Africa
021 422 0384

Walking into Janse & Co., located on Cape Town’s buzzy Kloof Street, you might feel as though you’ve waltzed into a new Nordic restaurant in Copenhagen. The interior is positively Scandinavian, with charcoal walls, jet-black lamps, and clean wooden tables and chairs. And then there’s the menu, filled with seasonal plates with distinctive local flair. Chef Arno Janse van Rensburg has managed to take local ingredients up a few notches with dishes like organic lamb with soutslaai (a tart local succulent), mullet pickled in a sweet and savory Cape Malay-style curry with custard apple, and tjokka (squid) with passionfruit and mustard leaf. [$$$]

14. Bao Down

3 Vredehoek Ave, Oranjezicht, Cape Town
8001, South Africa
066 022 1165

Getting a reservation at Asian hotspot Bao Down is not an easy task. Opened by a husband-and-wife team (a former caterer and former head chef at Chefs Warehouse), the restaurant is consistently packed, and with good reason. Inside the retro pink-and-blue space, small but mighty dishes fly out from the kitchen, with options like Asian green bean salad with puffed rice, hot and sour soup with beef brisket wontons, and prawn toast. There are two sittings, but try to get seated for the later option so you can linger for as long as possible. [$$]

15. Salsify

Camps Bay, Cape Town
8040, South Africa
021 010 6444

The dining room in the Roundhouse has long been iconic for its historic structure and staggering views of the mountains and glistening Atlantic. Now the restaurant finally has food to match. The building has changed hands a few times, but it recently reopened as Salsify, run by local star chefs Luke Dale-Roberts and Ryan Cole. The tasting and a la carte menus are filled with stunning dishes like grilled langoustine with broccoli and black rice and suckling pig with salted apple and num-num (a sweet, indigenous fruit). Plus the views are as good as ever. [$$$$]

16. Mzoli’s Place

Ny 115, Guguletu, Cape Town
7751, South Africa
021 638 1355

At Mzoli’s, diners can expect a party along with a good meal. Opened by Mzoli Ngcawuzele, who started selling meat out of his garage in 2003, Mzoli’s has since grown into a full-blown restaurant with a cult following for cuts flame-grilled over a braai (barbecue). But people don’t just seek out the restaurant in Gugulethu for lip-smackingly good meat. They come for the vibe and the music, which is always thumping on Saturdays and Sundays. [$]

tides restaurant

17. La Colombe Silvermist

Silvermist Wine Estate, Main Road, Constantia Nek, Nova Constantia
Western Cape 7806, South Africa
+27 21 794 2390

A number of skilled chefs have passed through the kitchen at La Colombe, but the restaurant has remained one of the city’s most iconic dining destinations. Executive chef James Gaag cooks seasonally driven fine dining dishes with heavy local ingredients like foie gras, mushrooms, and springbok. Locals show up for this fancy fare but also for the location, on the organic farm of the Silvermist Estate winery, with views over the Constantia Valley and False Bay. It’s a much-loved spot for weekend meals, especially Sunday lunch, which the kitchen takes to a whole new level. [$$$$]

18. 4Roomed eKasi Culture & Foods

A, 605 Makabeni Rd, Khayelitsha, Cape Town
7784, South Africa
076 157 3177

MasterChef contestant Abigail Mbalo launched 4Roomed eKasi Culture as a food truck in 2014. In 2016, she opened a full restaurant in Khayelitsha based on the traditional four-roomed family homes found in South Africa. In the bright space, Mbalo serves homey, nostalgic dishes using quintessential South African ingredients, like lamb served with pap (maize-based polenta) and amped up with nutmeg and beetroot pulp. [$-$$]