A Travelettes Guide to Cape Town
Recently I got asked to provide Cape Town insider tips on the topics of yoga and wine. Apparently I am an expert on these two. But insider tips? Phew… I think travellers have a love/hate relationship with the phrase. If an insider tip gets printed or published can it still be considered an insider tip? Also, just because something is printed in a guide book doesn’t immediately make it great or necessarily overrun by stereotype tourists and thus less desirable. Two of the best restaurants in New York I discovered via Lonely Planet and they became all-time favourites and I would return often over the years I’ve lived there.
Pros and cons aside if you want insider tips who better to ask then the actual insiders – people who live in a place or travel there at least frequently. As I am about to leave Cape Town and move back to Germany I thought I should share my wisdom aka insider tips before I’m officially not an insider anymore. There are some places I have frequented over the years and that I would recommend to friends and clients – people whose opinion I value and who can actually yell at me if I give them crappy advice. I also wanted to add some things that might be really useful and I wish someone would tell me when I am in a foreign city. So here my tried and tested Travelette guide of Cape Town with places nobody has probably ever heard of, some that are all the rave with the locals, and some that might be on every visitors to-do list, but which I will still mention because they are just that good. And of course some wine and yoga included!
A SLICE OF CAPE TOWN.
The most discussed food question in Cape Town is definitely where to eat the best steak. I cannot tell you where to get it. Well, I do know where to get it and it is on my cousin’s patio done to perfection by her husband, but that won’t help you so you are on your own here. However I will help you to answer the question where to get the best sushi, best Mexican, best burger, and a few other bests.
The Dog’s Bollocks – 6 Roodehek Street, Gardens, 083 440 7843
A little bit trashy, a little bit back alley, a lot hip and fact is that the Dog’s Bollocks serves the best burgers in town and has transformed the face of the neighbourhood. Come early to grab one of only 50 Burgers per night. Buy a bottle of wine or bring your own beer and don’t forget to take one for owner Nigel as corkage.
Jason Bakery – 185 Bree Street, Cape Town, 021 424 5644
For me to recommend a haven where the carbohydrate eating hipsters get their daily bread, it must be really something. And it is. Come for rye bread with porcini dust, Doughssants on Saturdays (Cape Town’s very own version of the Cronut), Friday night lobster rolls with craft beer, and anything else you can imagine made out of flour. Jason himself, baker and biker with passion, often teams up with the other cool kids from &Union and Frankie Fenner to bring you the yummiest and coolest events in town.
Massimo’s – Oakhurst Farm Park, Main Road, Hout Bay, 021 790 5648
Yes, I dare go there and declare – the best pizza in town comes from Massimo’s and it is good enough to take a trip to Hout Bay. Thin and crispy with the most delicious toppings from classic to wow, who would have thought to put this on a pizza? Can’t decide on one? Come to their all you can eat pizza party and finish up with their famous chocolate liquor trio.
The Pot Luck Club – Silo Top Floor, The Old Biscuit Mill, 373-375 Albert Road, Woodstock, 021 447 0804
Our very own super chef Luke Dale Roberts is expanding his empire and lucky for all of us The Pot Luck Club was on the menu. Tapas based on the 5 flavours – sweet, savoury, salty, sour, umami – in cool yet cosy industrial loft with the best views over Cape Town. If you don’t mind standing in line for a table (figuratively – you need to have an actual a reservation), this is the place to do it.
San Julian – 3 Rose Street, Green Point, 021 419 4233
This is as authentic Mexican as it gets with homemade nachos and tortillas, the best margaritas, and the largest selection of tequilas in town. The décor is eclectic and wonderful kitschy and the service is the loveliest you will find in Cape Town. No one even blinked an eye when my last birthday party extended from 10 to 25 people within half an hour – No hay problema!
Takumi – 3 Park Road, Gardens, 021 424 8879
While intensely debated amongst locals I feel very confident to tell you where you should be eating your sushi and that is Takumi. While notorious, Papa San, the chef, is also brilliant and he finds the perfect balance between creative innovations and letting the fish speak for itself. Non-pescetarians can stick with Agadashi Dofu or an actual burger roll.
GLASS HALF FULL.
It is hard to get a bad glass of wine in Cape Town, but just to make extra sure – my favourite places to buy, drink, and enjoy.
Orphanage – 227 Bree Street, Cape Town, 021 424 2004
Drinking in the name of charity? Yes, please! Located on Bree and Orphan Street this has quickly become a favourite spot for innovative cocktails, people watching, and dancing. The menu is Orphan Anni themed and if you drink a More Tea Vicar? R15 of the price will be donated to the St. Francis Children’s Home the bar is named after.
Did you always wanted to do a wine course but were afraid of snobby connoisseurs that throw fancy words around and spit more than swallow? Book yourself an UnWined course with Karen Glenfield for six weeks. Once a week you gather to get introduced to varietals and local wineries. And with the motto If you want learn more about wine, you gotta drink more! It’s not only informative but also very yummy.
WEINHAUS+BIERGARTEN – 110 Bree Street, Cape Town, 021 422 2770
Play ping pong, listen to music, bring your dog, have a Prego roll – this is how we do beer gardening. Cape Town’s version of a beer garden not only serves some of the best craft beer, but also a tiny, but exquisite wine selection. Especially on Wednesdays come early for a spot outside as they have live music.
Wine at the Mill – Shop 110-111, The Old Biscuit Mill, 373-375 Albert Road, Woodstock, 083 357 9353
While it is not my favourite, locals and tourists alike love to flock to the Old Biscuit Mill for its Saturday market. I recommend a detour to Wine at the Mill, the most fabulous wine (and beer) shop we have. Owners Tanja and Nigel have put together an amazing selection of boutique wines and will let you taste to your heart’s content. This is only a bit problematic as I tend to walk out there with not one bottle as planned, but usually a few more.
ALL THINGS FUN WITHOUT THE SUN.
With all the sunshine we are getting, Capetonians love spending time outside – hiking, surfing, running or just lying on the beach, there is no shortage of options. For the times when the sun doesn’t want to come out to play or you have gotten a bit tired of all the rays, here are some non-sunshine-dependant ideas.
City Bowl Market – 14 Hope Street, Gardens, 073 270 8043
My personal favourite of the weekly markets because I live right next to it and unlike the Old Biscuit Mill, it is more chilled and open Saturday mornings and Thursday evenings. Get organic produce and flowers, craft beer and fresh juices, and the best chilli poppers in town.
Gallery crawling through different parts of town at night – First Thursdays has quickly become a favourite amongst art and food lovers. Different galleries keep their doors open for free and till late while food trucks and bars support your efforts on rout from one to the next. Check for updates about participants and maps on their website.
Labia – 68 Orange Street, Gardens, 021 424 5927
I don’t like going to the movies – don’t even ask me why, because I don’t know myself. However the Labia is not any other movie theatre, the Labia is an institution – old world feeling, art noveau movies, and strawberry gin slushees with your popcorn make for more of an experience than just seeing a movie. Don’t mind that the paint is peeling a bit and the seats are a little worn – the in-house bar and a lot of charm make up for it!
Two Oceans Aquarium – Dock Road, V&A Waterfront, 021 418 3823
Take your inner child to meet Nemo & Co on a rainy day. Swim with the turtles and the sharks or just admire over 90 species from the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean. Don’t miss Happy Feet time when the Rockhopper penguins are being fed.
THINGS MONEY CAN BUY.
Shopaholic, but allergic to shopping malls? Check out the places below if you need souvenirs for friends and family or for yourself.
Frazer Parfum – Shop 1, State House, 3 -9 Rose Street, De Waterkant, 021 421 9159
Bespoke fragrances and scents that are labelled as chapters, chapters of a time in life, chapters of a journey, this is Tammy Frazer’s domain. All ingredients are 100% natural and while these are sourced all over the world, packing materials like tamboti wood are all proudly African.
Llandudno Market – Victoria Road before Llandudno turn-off
Want to go African curio shopping and have a view? Stop at the road side just before Llandudno en route to Hout Bay – you can’t miss it, just look out for the 2m tall wooden giraffes – and bargain for any African good your heart could desire while overlooking the ocean.
Merchants on Long – 34 Long Street, Cape Town, 021 422 2828
Calling itself the first African concept store, Merchants on Long is a carefully curated selection with wares from designers all over Africa – clothing, accessories, home ware, and art. While your credit card might leave the store crying, you will leave simply happy.
The Oculus – 158 Strand Street, Cape Town, 021 421 0023
Eye emergency while on holiday? Or is all the sunshine teasing you to get some new sunglasses? Either way Oculus is the place to go to. All eye testing plus retina scans can be done right then and there and they have the best selection of international and local brands for regular and sunglass frames.
If all the sun, the ocean, and wine isn’t enough to make you feel amazing, some of the best places to make you feel extra good and pretty too.
Enmasse – 123 Hope Street, Gardens, 021 461 5650
You feel like you have stepped in a calm, blue heaven. Or wait, is it a tea parlour? Enmasse is both and first and foremost the chicest place for a Thai massage in Cape Town. All therapists are expertly trained, the massage mattresses comfy, the music cool, and their opening hours make it possible to usually get an appointment within the hour, 7 days a week from 8am to 10pm.
The Lobby – 160 Albert Road, Woodstock, 021 447 9090
You may think you are in Williamsburg upon entering The Lobby. Leaving shabby Woodstock outside, you will find all cool for your hair on the inside. Craig and his teams are masters of taste which shows in the interior and your hair once you leave.
Petticoat Parlour – 1st Floor Paramount Place, 105 Main Road, Greenpoint, 021 434 9484
A cotton candy 60s vibe, great prices, and amazing treatments. Come for facials, waxes, massages or take all your girlfriends to get a pedicure together on Petticoat Parlour’s pink couch. Book well in advance.
Yogaspirit – 1st Floor Constantia Courtyard, Constantia Village, Constantia, 021 794 5300
Here I might be partial as this was my home as a teacher, but Yogaspirit is simply the best and prettiest hot yoga studio and well worth the trip to Constantia. Come for Bikram, Vinyasa or Yin classes 7 days a week and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere inside surrounded by beautiful Constantia on the outside.
In case you find yourself stranded without wine, feeling a bit sick and in dirty clothes – my most reliable addresses to help you out.
Chinn’s Pharmacy – 169 Buitenkant Street, Gardens, 021 465 6222
Let’s hope you won’t need it, but if you are in need of a pharmacy go to Chinn’s Pharmacy. While quite unassuming from the outside and also not as shiny and high-tech as a lot of others on the inside, you will have a hard time finding a more knowledgeable pharmacist than Saul. He and his team not only go the extra mile for great service, but he will also tell you what medications to spend your money on and where you can save a buck or two. They also have a nurse on duty a few times a week to treat minor injuries, do blood tests, and vaccinations.
Harley’s – 55 Wale Street, Cape Town, 021 424 1128
With all the great choices of wine you have on offer comes a rather strict set of laws on when you can actually buy your bottle (or two or three). Shops need to close their sections from 18h00 during the week and no sales on Sundays are at all permitted. And that’s why Cape Town is so grateful for Harley’s, one of two shops with a special license to trade 7 days a week and till 22h00 during the week. Perfect if you get invited to a spontaneous dinner party and need to pick something up on the way.
While public transport is slowly improving Cape Town’s taxi offerings can still be a bit dire, if not scary. Rather sign up with Uber: download the app, order a comfy town car which will arrive in no time, and pay without cash via stored credit card information.
The White Rabbit Wash House – Buitenkant Street, Gardens, 021 465 3643
The friendliest personnel, the fastest service, and the best décor you will ever see for a laundromat: Madame Zingara shows her influence with top hats swinging from the ceiling and lucky cats watching your unmentionables spin.
Images from businesses’ websites and Facebook pages:
WEINHAUS+BIERGARTEN by Laura McCullogh
All other images by Annika.