Did you know Cape Town is the Gourmet Centre of Africa? Meet Carrie -foodie, travel writer and HomeExchanger- who went to Cape Town on holiday from London 21 years ago and never left! Here are some of her best culinary discoveries made in Cape Town.
Twenty-one years ago, I first came to Cape Town on holiday from London and never left! Cape Town has that effect on people. Some say the force of energy emanating from Table Mountain mesmerises you, and you just can’t escape. It definitely worked on me! I’ve been so captivated by Cape Town and southern Africa safari that I’ve barely written about anywhere else since I got here.
The one thing I’ve noticed the most over the years is how food has changed in South Africa. When I arrived, the only choice of cheese sold in the shops was rubbery and yellow, and there were no deli products, specialist offerings or little bakeries. Food was downright boring.
Twenty years later, Cape Town and nearby Winelands can rightly claim to be the Gourmet Centre of Africa. I believe that South Africa has leapfrogged to international levels of exceptional cuisine in a mere 20 years, while more developed countries can take generations to change. The blinders have been lifted after the long dark period of Apartheid and South Africans are like kids with new food toys.
It’s not just the food scene that’s benefited. New and expressive talents are being forged in the arts, hotels and guest house quality is top notch, and design and décor are creative and innovative. As the food and creativity have improved, so too have the palates and appreciation of Capetonians. We now have very high expectations.
Everything on your plate, from humble fish ‘n’ chips to Michelin best has to be far above average or we just won’t accept it. And when buying food to cook at home, we can buy cheap if we must, but we don’t find it expensive to opt for top-quality grass-fed meats, organic vegetables and sweet ripe fruits. You may be accustomed to buying whatever fresh produce you desire all year round, but in South Africa, if it isn’t in season, you can’t buy it. That means our fruit and vegetables taste wonderful because they’re ripe!
Cape Town looks out at the ocean, so you can expect the freshest seafood to pass from fishing boats straight to your plate. Go to Kalk Bay harbour (on the way to Cape Town point) at lunchtime to witness the fishing boats come in and offload their catches. This involves manually throwing each fish from boat to jetty. Take care while walking around because you don’t want to get clobbered by a flying fish. Choose the fish you want for supper, have it scaled and gutted right there, and take it home wrapped in newspaper.
I can’t resist letting someone else fry up fish and chips for me right there, but there are also several seafood restaurants in Kalk Bay harbour, from fine dining in The Harbour House to classic wooden benches and fish ‘n’ chips at Lucky Fish.
Eat Out is an online restaurant review website in South Africa with annual awards for the Top Ten Restaurants in South Africa. Without fail, at least six out of the top 10 are located in the Cape Winelands towns of Stellenbosch, Paarl, Franschhoek, Somerset West and Constantia. These restaurants get booked up, especially in the summer season (November to February), so reserve in advance to experience some of the finest cuisine in the country in the most scenic mountain and vineyard surroundings. The cherry on the cake is that just about all foreign visitors will find our very best restaurants ridiculously cheap!
If you come to Cape Town you are going to have a gourmet good time.
Carrie is a professional travel writer based in Cape Town with a blog called ‘Carrie’s Cape Town’ and another website about African safari called ‘Safari Tart’. You can take a look at her home Waterside Cottage on Home Exchange website.