With vineyards to rival Napa’s, a coastline more dramatic than Big Sur’s, and lush mountains dotted in the background, Cape Town feels like Northern California transported to the wilderness of southern Africa. And like its stateside doppelganger, the food here is truly world class. Not only will carnivores relish trying some of the more unusual animal offerings, but vegetarians can savor fruit and vegetables genuinely found nowhere else in the world, thanks to the region’s unique Fynbos Biome floral kingdom.
Breakfast: Cooking for demanding VIPs aboard private yachts made chef-owner Lara O’Sullivan experiment beyond the usual toast and coffee routine. Now, her inventive breakfasts at Table 13 will wake up your tastebuds and get you ready for a day of wining and dining in South Africa’s gastronomic capital. Scrambled eggs with artichokes and tomatoes, with a side of corn fritters with bacon, coriander relish, and aioli will fortify you for that hike (or cable car) up Table Mountain.
Lunch: Overlooking the shop-filled V&A Waterfront, and a stone’s throw from the ferry to Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned (you’re sure to be in the area at least once) look no further for a good midday meal than Dash. Bypass the Waterfront’s bland chain eateries and climb the steps to the Queen Victoria boutique hotel to reach this jewel-box restaurant. For a lighter lunch, go for the Cape Malay butternut veloûte followed by hazelnut-crusted scallops on braised baby fennel and cauliflower purée with curry oil. Or, linger over the Cape cheese board and a glass of the region’s renowned muscat de frontignan dessert wine by Klein Constantia. (Photo courtesy of Dash Restaurant)
Dinner: An essential Cape Town experience is vineyard-hopping an hour from the city center in Stellenbosch, which now rivals Bordeaux and Napa for the quality of its wines and restaurants. Rust en Vrede (Rest and Tranquility), one of the region’s premier wineries, has opened a restaurant in its former maturation cellar, serving innovative cuisine with local flavor. Fruit and vegetables mostly come from the estate’s own gardens, while springbok (a small antelope and the South African national symbol), kingklip (a white fish), and lamb are all sourced from the region, and whipped up into unexpected combinations.
A tangy green-veggie soup (whatever’s pulled from the plot that day) comes with a moreish dollop of herby gruyére custard. Risotto is glammed up with pear and reisling, and crafted into a cake surrounded by walnuts, split peas, and fresh asparagus. Gamey springbok crusted with cocoa nibs and coffee is served with parsnip, walnut cream, and roasted pear. Whatever you eat here, it’ll be anything but ordinary.
Drinks: Location, location, location — this fabulously feminine bar has it in spades. Pulling up to the unassuming parking lot at The Grand Café and Beach, you’ll think you’ve taken a wrong turn, but as you step through the gate, Granger Bay opens out before you.
Grab a table on the sandy beach, with water lapping nearby and thrill-seeking surfers riding heart-stopping waves farther out. Or if it’s rainy, head indoors to the crystal-chandeliered café, stopping to browse its plush home décor shop. The Grand gets clubby later, but at 6 p.m., it’s filled with laid-back locals having pre-dinner drinks. Join them with a Champagne Julep, and kick back to watch the sunset.
Hidden Gem: When celebrity chef Reuben Riffel wanted to branch out from his renowned restaurant near Cape Town, he thought small. Not keen to dilute his brand with a Puck-style empire, Riffel opted for the intimate setting of Robertson Small Hotel.
It’s just two hours from Cape Town, but you’ll want to stay a couple of nights at this honeymoon-y 10-room hotel to sample the valley’s wines and olive oils, and to dine at The Robertson’s gourmet gem. While sticking to his “quality ingredients, simply prepared” ethos, Riffel has given the food here gastronomic flair. Salmon trout tartare gets a mirin and yuzu flourish, the kingklip is tandoori-roasted, and the chocolate fondant comes with salted caramel ice cream.