Cape Town’s gourmet revolution kicked off amid the vineyards beyond the city, but these days it’s just as evident in the buzzing, cosmopolitan streets below Table Mountain and on the ocean’s edge. Local gastronomy has an authentic, homegrown identity at last, influenced by the global provenance-driven, farm-to-fork movement while incorporating regional culinary heritage and indigenous, often foraged flavors. Chefs are sharpening their inventiveness and creativity as much as their knives, so expect to hustle to secure one of these top tables—or get friendly with your hotel’s concierge. Luckily, we’ve done some of the more difficult work for you. These are are our picks for Cape Town’s best restaurants.
Andy Lund/The Pot Luck Club
The Pot Luck Club
Ride a glass elevator six levels up to the Pot Luck Club, perched on top of an old flour silo in the Old Biscuit Mill where 180-degree views of the city, harbor, and table mountain are breathtaking by day or night. It has a New York loft feel about it, and everything about the stylish spot is bespoke, from the staff uniforms to the crockery. Owner Luke Dale-Roberts is doing some of the very best food in South Africa, and though it’s been open since 2011, the Pot Luck Club is still the coolest place to be in Cape Town.
Courtesy The Stack
Upstairs, the Stack has Cape Town’s colorful take on a members’ club, with chic locals holding meetings amid the antique furnishings and flamboyant patterns. For non-members who can’t get beyond the velvet rope though, there’s plenty to savor at the ground-floor brasserie and bar, which are open to the public. From cocktails dreamed up to suit your personality to decadent coq au vin and steak frites it’s all designed to make you feel extreme comfort.
Andrea van der Spuy/Courtesy La Colombe Restaurant
La Colombe has become one of those tables you must secure well in advance of arrival in Cape Town for good reason: the scenic setting up a steep, winding road high above the Constantia Valley is well worth the trek for chef Scot Kirton’s whimsical, inventive French-Asian tasting menus. Every course shows phenomenal attention to detail, regardless of whether the star ingredient is wagyu beef or wild mushrooms, and despite exquisite plating and novel presentation, nothing is overworked or overcomplicated. Don’t miss the signature Tuna La Colombe, a play on a tin can filled with cubes of marinated raw tuna, best washed down with some of the small-batch house gin.
Claire Gunn/Courtesy La Tête
At La Tête, a chef trained under nose-to-tail guru Fergus Henderson is bringing that resourceful approach to cooking to the heart of Cape Town. In this sociable space on Bree Street, you’ll choose from a daily-changing menu—try the ox heart with chips and horseradish, trust us!—while an attentive staff fulfills every request, whether spoken or otherwise. But there’s more than meat here, from fresh fish to plenty of Mediterranean-style small plates to share.
Chefs Warehouse at Beau Constantia
The Constantia Valley outpost of city stalwart Chefs Warehouse is sheer magic to look at with drop-dead gorgeous views, through floor-to-ceiling glass, of the entire valley, across False Bay to the distant mountains. But the food is even more magical than the setting, thanks to chef Ivor Jones’s inventive, Asian-inflected menu—dishes like linefish sashimi with toasted lemongrass and yuzu dressing and smoked coconut or Korean chili cauliflower tempura with corn masa mayo will leave an impression you won’t soon forget.
Tucked away in an exclusive residential part of rural Constantia, the Greenhouse is the show pony of the venerable Cellars-Hohenort Hotel, set in acres of English country-style gardens. Here, chef Farrel Hirsch aces exquisite combinations like steamed corn bread with smoked snoek emulsion and apricot glaze—apricot jam being a typical Cape Malay accompaniment to smoked snoek (a bony game fish). It’s a beautiful setting in which to enjoy inspired food, while learning a bit about South Africa’s star ingredients—the chefs describe their food as an experience that’s as complex and joyful as South Africa itself.
Courtesy The Shortmarket Club
The Shortmarket Club
You’ll be forgiven for mistaking Shortmarket Club with a movie set for a period piece from a glamorous bygone era. Up a narrow flight of stairs, just off pedestrianized Shortmarket Street, is this opulent space reminiscent of a private club or speakeasy in London or New York. Here, chef Wesley Randles turns out creative takes on classics: crispy octopus with green mango atchar, mango tahini, panko and masala-spiced crumbs, and bonito flakes, or springbok tartare with ponzu and walnut dressing, pickled shimeji, raw endive, and frozen parmesan. Dining in this glamorous, old-school environment transports you to another era, where life was slower and unapologetically more decadent.
Claire Gunn/Courtesy Chef’s Warehouse Canteen
Chefs Warehouse & Canteen
Regulars at the no-reservations Chefs Warehouse trust that the eight dishes that will emerge from the kitchen for the set menu of shared plates will be close to a religious experience, in terms of punchy flavors and contrasting textures. Chef Liam Tomlin’s tapas draw on frequent globe-trotting, a passion for Asian street food, and the ease that comes from chefs cooking the sort of food they love to eat.
The vegan movement is gaining ground in the Cape Town, and Nourish’d is one of the most authentic, hip spots in which to revel in eating and living consciously. This quirky little café is boho heaven—like a rustic beach bar on a tropical island, complete with granadilla creepers—and makes for a small oasis on a busy street. Pop in for elaborate salads, CBD smoothie bowls, gourmet sandwiches on gluten-free sourdough or rye bread, gut-healing vegan broths, and cleansing juices.
Willoughby & Co.
Willoughby’s has been in the V&A Waterfront for decades, right in the middle of the action, which makes for great post-retail-therapy sushi refueling. Come here for reliable, consistent, flapping-fresh fish—whether you spring for the Cajun-style calamari, fish-and-chips, seared sashimi, spicy and creamy rock shrimp, or 4×4 California rolls, you really can’t go wrong.
Claire Gunn/Courtesy Kyoto Garden Sushi
Kyoto Garden Sushi
In a tranquil setting just steps from lively Kloof Street, Kyoto Garden Sushi serves some of Cape Town’s most authentic Japanese cuisine. Stop by for fresh fare like oysters, sea urchin, farmed abalone, Mozambican conch, sake-steamed mussels, and the lightest tempura Alaskan scallops imaginable, then wash it down with a Dirty Ninja Saketini, all under the guidance of the attentive US-born owner. This is Japanese fine dining, without the hype of Nobu.
Grub & Vine
Grub & Vine’s short, sharp menu offers bistro fare prepared with great skill and attention to detail. There are classic pairings like pork belly with braised apple and pomme puree and rainbow trout with pea and bacon fricassee. Flavors are often umami-rich, and the sauces are so good you’ll want to scrape them off the plate with your finger. Smoked impala (venison) with baby fennel and parsnip puree is a treat, as is the sticky toffee pudding. Here, you get all the finesse without the fuss.