Cape Town’s Top Chefs reveal their Hidden Restaurant Gems

Cape Town’s Top Chefs reveal their Hidden Restaurant Gems

The Hidden Gin Bar

The Mother City is teeming with lesser-known beauties, waiting to be discovered. How many of these hidden gems have you eaten at?

In a gourmet hotspot like Cape Town, big-name restaurants pop up faster than memes after Oscars night. So, the real pursuit is the hidden gems – the eateries that, depending on your locale, are familiar haunts, or under-the-radar secrets waiting to be unlocked.

We asked 20 of SA’s top chefs where they go when they’re not conjuring magic in their own kitchens. And here’s what they revealed…

OUR PANEL OF CHEFS

(in alphabetical order)

Hidden Restaurant Gems

1. South China Dim Sum Bar

Cape Town Hidden Gems: South China Dim Sum Bar
Genevieve van Vuuren

The term “hole in the wall” has been used to describe this Long Street haunt that’s imbued with flavour and feel of the old Cantonese Tea House. Here, the key word is simplicity: from the wooden benches and closely set tables to the authentic, mouth-popping flavours in every single dish that comes out of owner-chef Edmund Hung’s kitchen. Tradition practiced to perfection.

CHEFS WHO RATE IT

Bertus Basson
Peter Tempelhoff
Chris Erasmus
Kerry Kilpin

Contact 078 846 3656, southchinadimsumbar@gmail.com
Address South China Dim Sum Bar, 289 Long Street, Cape Town City Central, Cape Town

2. Hallelujah

Cape Town Hidden Gems: Hallelujah
Conde Nast

It’s no secret that all the top chefs go to Chefs Warehouse when they’re off duty, which leads us to an equally important matter: where the hell does the chef from Chefs Warehouse go when he’s off duty? The answer: Hallelujah – which, despite the glut of eateries in Tamboerskloof, still manages to stand out, earning rave reviews from those lucky enough to have discovered it. Asian cuisine is the speciality here, specifically Asian tapas, served in casual surroundings that resemble some sort of mix between an American diner and a surfer hangout. An interesting combination, to be sure, but it works.

CHEFS WHO RATE IT

Peter Tempelhoff
Liam Tomlin

Contact 079 839 2505, info@hallelujahhallelujah.co.za
Address Hallelujah Restaurant, 11 Kloof Nek Road, Tamboerskloof

3. Genki Sushi & Japanese Tapas

Cape Town Hidden Gems: Genki Sushi & Japanese Tapas
Josh R. Bland

Situated in the heart of Stellenbosch, Genki serves some of the best sushi and Japanese tapas around, made using the freshest sustainable fish and seafood. And if you don’t have time to sit and enjoy a platter of sushi beneath the oak trees in a charming courtyard setting, you’ll be glad to know that the restaurant does takeaways to order. The winelist – carefully selected to complement the menu – comprises some of the finest local wines.

CHEFS WHO RATE IT

Gregory Czarnecki
Lucas Carstens

Contact 021 887 5699, info@genki.co.za
Address Church Street, De Wet Centre, Stellenbosch

4. The Hidden Gin Bar

Cape Town Hidden Gems: The Gin Bar Wale Street

“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in the world…” yeah, you know the rest. This hidden gem is particularly well hidden… tucked away at the back of the back of Honest Chocolate Café. Just knock on the door and give the password… Okay, you don’t really have to give a password; the Gin Bar is open to all, whether you’re after the classic G&T, or something more exotic. The Mediterranean-style courtyard sets the scene, and the excellent selection of local and international gins ensures you’ll find a tincture to suit your taste.

CHEFS WHO RATE IT

Gregory Czarnecki

Contact 060 606 6014, gatekeeper@theginbar.co.za
Address The Gin Bar, 64A Wale Street, Cape Town

5. Fetta di Cielo

Cape Town Hidden Gems: Fetta di Cielo

To borrow (and slightly alter) a quote from Pixar’s Ratatouille, not every restaurant can be a hidden gem, but a hidden gem can be any restaurant. Or something like that. Either way, award-winning chefs and takeaway pizza is not an association most people would readily make, but according to Gregory Czarnecki, the wood-fired pizzas at Fetta di Cielo are a Sunday night favourite. And when you think about it, takeaway pizza may very well be one of the greatest things ever invented, so any place that gets it right is worthy of plaudits.

CHEFS WHO RATE IT

Gregory Czarnecki

Contact 021 851 6317
Address Vergelegen SPAR Complex, 3 Schapenberg Road, Somerset West

6. Sexy Food Cafe

Cape Town Hidden Gems: Sexy Food Cafe
Sarah Heron

A living raw-food café that serves pure inhouse-cultured, organic and probiotic food. Although it’s definitely one of Cape Town’s best vegetarian and vegan restaurants, this healthy-food spot will have diners of all kinds raving. Whether you choose kefir with raw sunflower granola and honey; or a sexy, bunless burger, you can be sure that your meal will be bursting with delicious flavours, mighty microbes and energy-giving live cultures.

CHEFS WHO RATE IT

Rudi Liebenberg

Contact 021 422 5445, info@sexyfood.co.za
Address 190 Bree Street, Cape Town

7. Obi Restaurant

Cape Town Hidden Gems: Obi restaurant

It’s the current abode of owner-chef Hatsushiro Muraoka, otherwise known as Papa San, whose colourful personality and mastery of the ways of the sushi have made him a long-time stalwart on the Cape Town (Japanese) restaurant scene. He and his protégé Ben Bettendorf, who learned his trade under Papa San at Takumi, spent two weeks in Japan, where they brainstormed various ways of advancing their culinary craft, evident in the dishes served here.

CHEFS WHO RATE IT

Reuben Riffel

Contact 021 418 4040, info@obirestaurant.co.za
Address Obi Restaurant, 14 Long Street, Cape Town

8. Hoghouse Brewing Company

Cape Town Hidden Gems: Hoghouse Brewing Company
Melissa Delport

Top chef PJ Vardas lets the three Bs (beer, barbecue and bread) speak for themselves and, boy, do they have good things to say! The tasty, Texan-style BBQ specials are made from free-range, locally sourced meats – and we’ve been told the Pasteis de Nata (Portuguese custard tarts) are, in themselves, true gems. Its relaxed, welcoming vibe makes it perfect for any occasion..
Insider tip Hoghouse Brewing Company also has a branch at Spier Estate: Hoghouse BBQ & Bakery.

CHEFS WHO RATE IT

Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen
Michelle Theron

Contact  021 810 4545, howdy@hhbc.co.za
Address Unit 4, Technosquare, 42 Morningside Street, Ndabeni, Cape Town

9. Wolfgat

New Restaurant Cape Town: Wolfgat
Food & the Fabulous

This restaurant gem is somewhat of a historical – and archaeological – wonder… and that’s before you even get to the delicious, seasonal food. Situated in a 130-year-old building – with a cave on the premises – the restaurant lends itself to all sorts of adventures. Award-winning chef-forager Kobus van der Merwe has concocted a seafood-based, weather-inspired menu that showcases what the Strandveld and pretty Paternoster have to offer.

CHEFS WHO RATE IT

Lucas Carstens

Contact diewolfgat@gmail.com
Address Wolfgat10 Sampson Street, Paternoster

10. The Foodbarn

Cape Town Hidden Gems: The Foodbarn

It may be quite well-known in foodie circles – and, of course, among those in the Deep South – but for many in the Mother City, it remains somewhat of a hidden gem. With its excellent food and long-standing stellar reputation, it’s hardly surprising that it eases onto most restaurant lists.
Its appeal may indeed lie in the French flair, fine-dining fusion and easy-going country charm that chef Franck Dangereux has masterfully brought together at this Noordhoek institution.
Insider tip The Foodbarn Studio – a culinary feast of cooking classes headed up by chef Franck – is also worth experiencing.

CHEFS WHO RATE IT

Liam Tomlin
Scot Kirton

Contact 021 789 1390, info@thefoodbarn.co.za
Address The FoodbarnNoordhoek Farm Village, Corner Village Lane and Noordhoek, Main Road, Noordhoek

11. Rhodes Memorial Restaurant and Tea Garden

Cape Town Hidden Gems: Rhodes Memorial Restaurant
Judelle Drake

Tucked away behind the famous (and now controversial) Rhodes Memorial, lies this unique restaurant and tea garden, with glorious (and rare) views of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans (on a clear day, that is). This charming cottage restaurant is unsurprisingly a tourist favourite, but happily caters to (family-friendly) locals too, with a variety of cuisines available. And, as a bonus, several mountain walks start and finish here.

CHEFS WHO RATE IT

Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen

Contact 021 687 0000, info@rhodesmemorial.co.za
Address Rhodes Memorial, Rhodes Avenue, Devil’s Peak, Cape Town

12. Plant Cafe

Cape Town Hidden Gems: Plant Cafe
Mei

Even though this hip innercity spot specialises in plant-based food, meat-eaters, vegans and vegetarians, and those with food allergies, are sure to find something to satisfy their food cravings and dietary predicaments. The food’s delicious, and the buzz is great, too.

CHEFS WHO RATE IT

Zunia Boucher-Myers

Contact 021 422 2737, info@plant.co.za
Address Plant Cafe8 Buiten Street, corner of Loop Street, Cape Town

13. Lizette’s Kitchen

Cape Town Hidden Gems: Lizette's Kitchen

You can’t beat the Overberg for good, old country hospitality, and Lizette’s Kitchen is emblematic of all the things people love about Hermanus. Set in a spacious farmhouse surrounded by gardens, with an outdoor deck for sunny afternoons, the tranquility of the location is matched by the freshness of the ingredients. The menu offers an impressive mix of culinary influences, including Asian, Moroccan and South African cuisine – a reflection of Chef Lizette’s experiences: growing up in the lowveld, followed by work stints in the Franschhoek Valley and at the five-star Caravelle Hotel in Saigon.
Good to know pets, and there is a play area for children.

CHEFS WHO RATE IT

Reuben Riffel

Contact 028 314 0308, lizettesfom@gmail.com
Address Lizette’s Kitchen, 20 on 8th Street, Voelklip, Hermanus

14. New York Bagels

Cape Town Hidden Gems: New York Bagels
Louis through a Lens

This New York Bagels, which began life in Gardens in the 1940s, took on a new lease of life when it reopened in Harrington Street, Zonnebloem, a few years ago. It hails as Africa’s only dedicated Bagelry, specialising in 13 varieties of traditional, hand-made and, above all, boiled bagels. The bagels are baked fresh all day, and stuffed with delicious fillings. Enjoy with a cup of Joe for a New York-style experience.

CHEFS WHO RATE IT

Siba Mtongana

Contact 021 820 4359, orders@newyorkbagels.co.za
Address 44 Harrington Street, Zonnebloem, Cape Town

15. Cosecha

Cape Town Hidden Gems: Coscheca
The Opposite House

This restaurant combines the rich flavour of Mexican cuisine with the tranquil surroundings of the Cape winelands. Add to that estate-produced wine, an assortment of ales and, of course, a selection of tequilas, and you have a dining experience that stands out among the winelands crowd.
Fun fact The Californian family who owns Noble Hill Wine Estate were handed a set of keys when they purchased it, hence the large key on the wine bottle’s label.

CHEFS WHO RATE IT

Lucas Carstens

Contact 021 874 3844, info@cosecharestaurant.com
Address Noble Hill Wine Estate, Klapmuts-Simondium Road, Paarl

Restaurant research and write-ups: Matthew Flax and Tamlyn Ryan

The Inside Guide would like to thank each of our executive chefs and their personal representatives for their valued feedback.  

Disclaimer:

The Inside Guide has made every effort to ensure that the information in this post was correct at the time of publication. However, we do not assume any liability caused by errors, such as price, cost, time, and location.

Time of publication: 05 April 2017

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