In this, the last of our Cape Town series, we’ve avoided the ‘must be seen at’ places – even if we could get into them in less than a month – opting for attractive and unusual places that offer good quality, interesting food, with an overall great atmosphere and service.
We’ve listed them below in alphabetical order to avoid favouritism, as each is excellent in its own right.
ASH, as the name unsurprisingly suggests, is food cooked over coals by Ash Heeger, the chef. It takes a while to find the restaurant as its part and parcel of the space that’s shared by Publik wine bar at 81 Church Street, both of which are below ground level and when we visited, Ash didn’t even have a sign outside!
You definitely need to be into meat and wine as the place not only looks utilitarian but the display along one wall is more akin to a butcher’s shop than a restaurant. We went there initially to sample the wines on offer at Publik as we’d been recommended to visit by the Sommelier at Balthezar (see below) as the source of an array of fine wines that aren’t produced in volume for mass consumption. You should treat a visit to both Publik and Ash as a little adventure into the unknown.
To quote Ash’s website, which summarises well; ‘ASH is what happens when you focus on flavour, instead of all the other unnecessary frills. The menu is concise, considered and seasonal. Meat, vegetables and even some seafood is cooked over open flames. There is a strong emphasis on nose-to-tail eating, with sustainability being a driving force behind every dish.’
We wondered about the nose to tail bit and can only assume they mean that every part of the animal is used – to use ‘Deep fried slow smoked duck necks with honey mustard and aioli,’ as an example.
From the outside, as we walked along the promenade that encircles the V&A Wharf, Balthezar didn’t look any more inviting than any mid-range gastro-pub style eatery but we’d heard good things and the promise of over 650 different wines by the glass sealed the deal.
We were early and although several tables were empty we nevertheless had difficulty negotiating for a table where we wanted it, instead of being wedged as a couple on a small square table against a pillar. Successfully seated, the place filled rapidly and soon was abuzz with chatter.
The menu is a healthy and wholesome surf and turf selection of meats and fish with a leaning towards traditional South African style such as Skilpadjies for starters – a Karoo dish of flame grilled lambs livers.
Balthezar’s steaks are only eclipsed by the stunning array of wines and we took great delight in enlisting the Sommelier, Luke, to select wines we hadn’t had before to complement each course.
If we didn’t approve of his choice we simply returned it and he’d select another. Each glass arrives with a small tag on the stem to remind you of the vintage you’ve selected – useful after a few!
Viola, our waitress, played us well and couldn’t be more helpful in giving advice and assistance with the menu.
An all-round great fun evening in a really lively atmosphere with excellent food and wine.
Belthezar Restaurant & Wine Bar
Chefs Canteen & Warehouse
Chef Liam’s ‘no reservations’ policy means either an early start or a long wait at The Chefs Canteen and Warehouse on the corner of Shortmarket and Bree Street. Add to this that he serves from 4.30pm-8pm and it only has a capacity of about 25 people and you could end up being disappointed if you were hoping for a late one – but it is very much worth the effort.
We turned up just after 4pm and got a table just before the place filled. Seating is bench style so you share with other diners but it all adds up to a friendly dining experience as we compared each of our dishes with one another.
We opted for the ‘Tapas tasting menu’ for two, which changes daily and is a broad selection of eight superb and unusual dishes served over three courses. These included, Kinglclip with nori, avocado and salmon roe; deep fried Squid with herb pesto potatoes, chorizo and garlic emulsion; tandoori cauliflower with coriander, cucumber raita and curried onions. Even after eating the rest of the wonderful spread we had to order another of the cauliflower dishes – just because we loved it so much!
We kept the food company with a bottle of Luddite Saboteur Red 2014 (a blend of 77% Shiraz, 19% Mourvèdre and 4% Cabenet Sauvignon) which is acclaimed to be the most accomplished vintage to date from this vineyard.
As we left, numerous people were waiting in the ’No Reservations’ bar below for their turn at the table and we met Chef Liam who shared with us that he’s well advanced with plans to open another restaurant nearby in Constantia.
We hope that it shares the same formula for lack of pretentiousness with the same exceptional food as its parent.
Harbour House, Kalk Bay
On the other side of the peninsula from Cape Bay lays Kalk Bay – a small harbour that’s part of the ribbon of hotels, smart houses and restaurants that blend into a continuous thread from Muizenburg to Cape Point. The harbour itself is a motley selection of working fishing boats gathered at the side of a fish market with seemingly random adjacent buildings.
There’s a fish and chip takeaway and another small restaurant on the ground floor of a weather beaten building on the sea wall but if you persevere you’ll find Harbour House restaurant upstairs in the same building – it’s as if you’ve been transported to the Caribbean.
The startlingly white painted woodwork, colourful cushions, bleached floorboards and views out towards the beautifully blue Indian Ocean are immediately uplifting and promising of a great visit.
We originally stopped by for lunch during a walk along the coastline from St. James and were so impressed by the chilli calamari whilst sipping wine at the sunny bar that we immediately booked for dinner the next night.
We couldn’t fault the location, service and freshness of the extensive menu. We opted for the seafood platter which is a vast dish of assorted sea life – each prepared in individually flavoursome ways rather than simply offered in fresh and plain style. Our platter included, paprika grilled calamari; butterfly grilled Mozambican style prawns; black mussels in white wine cream sauce, Hake grilled fillet; Yellowtail grilled fillet and grilled Crayfish. All of this was complemented by light and refreshing Saronsberg Viognier and Edgebaston Finlayson Pinot Noir.
Ruhan, our waiter, added a light and lively touch to our evening that rounded the whole event into one that we’d love to repeat one day.
Kloof Street House
As it suggests, this restaurant is a house on Kloof Street, one of the most trendy bar and eatery streets in Cape Town. Its situated in a Victorian style property that’s retained much of its character (and probably also added some) with its heavily ornate and colourful interior, whilst offering plenty of exterior seating with more casual, covered tables .
We were here on South Africa’s Heritage Day, when seemingly the whole of Cape Town gets together as families for a Braai. It seemed churlish to choose from the a la carte when the dish of the day was Braai – so we went along with the recommend and worked our way through a large platter of barbecued fish and meats.
All were perfectly prepared and the wine recommend to accompany it – Rupert & Rothschild Classique red 2014 (a blend of Merlot 50%, Cabernet Sauvignon 35%, Cabernet Franc 10%, Petit Verdot 5%) was perfect for the more robust flavours of the food.
Afterwards, we retired to the lounge and bar, passing through the various ornately decorated and stylish rooms, to await our ride back to the hotel.
Sitting with a nightcap in hand we were aware that not only does each room have its own distinct character but the place as a whole has a cheerful and friendly vibe that’s infectious – a really good night out within a fun environment.
Why not download our guide brochure or give us a call today on 01202 030443, or simply click ‘enquire’ to let us know what you’d love to do?