What sort of reasons can you think of to want to travel to South Africa? Stunning landscapes? Beaches? Cultural diversity, maybe? Surely all those are very relevant on your list of things that make Africa’s most southern country worth a visit but as I recently found out there is one more major reason why a trip to Cape Town or Johannesburg can not fall anything short of amazing. It is: FOOD.
It makes sense when you think about it – Italy, Thailand, India – have you ever met anyone coming back from those places without raving about the culinary delights? I admit that South Africa hasn’t been on my food radar in the past but now that I spent the last 2 weeks stuffing my face with incredible sandwiches, delectable cakes and – of course – an outstanding selection of wines it is time someone put the spotlight on this part of South African city culture. And what better place to start with than the Neighbourgoods Market in Cape Town.
Every Saturday from 9am to 2pm over 100 merchants get together in a warehouse next to the Old Biscuit Mill (373-375 Albert Rd Salt River), an institution in Woodstock, a cool up and coming district of Cape Town that until recently was more notorious for gun crime than killer sandwiches. Luckily this is changing more and more, with Woodstock currently seeing an influx of artists coming in who open studios and shops there. The opening of the Neighbourgoods Market in 2006 by founders Justin Rhodes and Cameron Munro has played an important role in this development.
If you love food – this is your place on a Saturday Morning. It’s where young families, hipsters and tourists go to hang out, have breakfast, lunch or both, where they buy fresh bread, homemade cheeses, down a smoothie or aBloody Mary, stock up on fancy pastries for Sunday afternoon, or simply sit back in the sun and enjoy the busy atmosphere of this trade fair.
What’s special about this market is that most stands represent food from different cultures – from German beer and sausages over Spanish paella, French cakes and crepes or American steak sandwhiches – you name it, they have it. Even fresh oysters are being cracked open fresh for you.
The hardest part is deciding on what you want to try, but the good news is that pretty much everyhing is tasty, so making a bad choice becomes difficult. Chances are you won’t actually need to buy anything because most stalls let you try the goods they are selling. A piece of rye bread in olive oil, some fresh mozzarella with tomato or a piece of a red velvet cupcake – do the round and odds are you will fill up quickly.
Tip: the locals know best so it’s worth waiting at the stalls with the longest queue. Come early or use the waiting time to start conversations with the people around you, maybe asking about their favorite food on the market. One great thing about Cape Towners is that they love a chat! Once you’ve got your hands on the object of your taste buds’ desire, grab a seat at one of the long tables and dig right in.
If you fancy a break from eating start strolling the cute little shops in the Old Biscuit Mill. Craft, pottery, jewellery and fashion is sold here, making it the ideal place to look around for gifts and souvenirs for the loved ones back home.
Finally, don’t miss out on a visit to Espressolab, also located inside the mill. They reputedly source some of the best beans in the world, making their coffee and irresistable experience. I will admit that coffee is great almost everywhere in Cape Town but this one may just take the cake.
Not tired of looking at food yet? Here are a few more impressions and a video explaining a bit more about the market and the people who run it.
Good news for anyone planning to visit Johannesburg – they also have a neighborgoods market each Saturday from 9am to 3pm at 74 Juta inside a 2-story building. For more information regarding the market, have a look at their website and follow their blog.Tweet