We asked SA's top chefs where they eat when they're not whipping up feasts in their own kitchens…
Who knows more about food than the culinary wizards responsible for making Cape Town’s restaurant scene one of the most acclaimed in the world? With so many great eateries to choose from, it helps when people with such credentials bring their valuable insights to the table.
To get us gastronomically excited for 2018, we asked 38 of SA’s top chefs where they go for a bite when they’re not whipping up feasts in their own kitchens. We divided the questions into categories, to ensure we covered a gamut of experiences and cuisines, and our chefs’ answers ranged from pricey fine-dining establishments to delightfully relaxed wallet-friendly joints.
Meet our panel of chefs
We’d like to thank all the chefs who participated in 2018 (arranged below in alphabetical order). We appreciate you taking time from your busy schedules to provide your much-valued input.
The Best Restaurant Categories
- For a casual meal: Because you’re not always in the mood for fine dining, and restaurants that offer good food and service in a casual atmosphere deserve recognition.
- For a special occasion: On the other hand, when you’re looking to treat that special someone, you want a restaurant with the elegance to match the occasion.
- For a quick bite: Eateries that are easy to miss, but difficult to resist – the ideal spot for grabbing a quick bite on your way to work, or during your lunch break.
- For a winelands experience: Where the food and service match the spectacular scenery.
- For a healthy meal: Health-conscious eating is the new trend, and the Cape has no shortage of restaurants that have stepped up to the plate. (Most of the panel declined to answer this question.)
- For authentic cuisine: Whether it’s Indian, Italian or Japanese this restaurant provides the most authentic experience.
- The best restaurant overall: Finally, this is the restaurant that our panel of top chefs rate as the best overall dining experience
Without further ado, here are the best restaurants in each category, according to some of South Africa’s most accomplished chefs…
1. The Best Restaurant for a Casual Meal
WINNER: Four & Twenty Café
This charming café takes the cake for the best casual spot, already a stalwart on our best breakfast spots in Cape Town. Situated in Chelsea Village, Four & Twenty has the feel of a sidewalk café in Paris, making it a fitting winner, since Parisians are famous for taking their food seriously, such that they treat even casual meals as an art form.
Contact 021 762 0975, email@example.com
Location 23 Wolfe Street, Chelsea Village, Wynberg
“Quirky, busy, delightful. Love the cakes, brekkie options and the ever-changing menu.” – Zunia Boucher-Myers (Avontuur Estate Restaurant)
“Hoghouse is simply good food, executed well. They sell the best hot dogs I’ve ever eaten, as well as a nice selection in the deli.” – Eric Bulpitt (Pierneef à La Motte)
One of three eateries owned by feted chef Luke Dale-Roberts, the man credited with putting Cape Town on the international fine-dining map. The Pot Luck Club is less formal than its glamorous sister restaurant, The Test Kitchen – aiming for a more laid-back ambience, but with the same utterly delicious cutting-edge cuisine.
2. The Best Restaurant for a Special Occasion
WINNER: Greenhouse Restaurant
The place to go for a truly memorable dining experience, Greenhouse is helmed by Peter Tempelhoff, who was the first Relais & Châteaux grand chef in South Africa, in partnership with head chef Ashley Moss. The setting lives up its name, and is made all the more prestigious by its surroundings (the Cellars-Hohenort Hotel began as a humble farm and guesthouse, way back in the 17th century).
Contact 021 795 6226, firstname.lastname@example.org
Location The Cellars-Hohenort Hotel, 93 Brommersvlei Road, Constantia Heights
“Pete has redesigned the interior but still serves up a meal to get dressed up for. The drive through Constantia and the grounds of The Cellars-Hohenort adds to the special feel this restaurant evokes for me…” – Veronica Canha-Hibbert (The Silo Hotel)
“Chef Peter Tempelhoff has gone above and beyond: the menu is sophisticated and showcases some of the best gastronomy Cape Town has to offer.” – Siba Mtongana (Chopped South Africa)
“It’s a very adult space, and you feel the need to ‘dress up’, but it’s also quite intimate. The food and service are also exemplary.” – Pete Goffe-Wood (Ultimate Braai Master)
“What better place for a special occasion? Incredible food. Incredible wines. Incredible service. An extraordinary experience that leaves you reminiscing about it for months after.” – Ash Heeger (Ash Restaurant)
“Simply put, you get what you pay for: excellent cooking with some of the best service around. Scot, James, John & Morné have nailed it.” – Oliver Cattermole (Bovine)
“The cheese room is a special occasion on its own.” – Jenny Ward (Chefs)
3. The Best Quick Bite
Winner: Jason Bakery
The classic corner bakery is the clear winner in this category, and justifiably so. Tucked away among the bricks of bustling Bree Street, Jason Lilley’s joint is the go-to spot for hipsters and innercity office workers looking for artisanal bread, buttery croissants and kick-ass pie. Be sure to stop by on Saturdays for one of those tasty doughssants – Jason’s take on the croissant-doughnut hybrid popularised by the Dominique Ansel Bakery in New York City.
Contact 021 424 5644, email@example.com
Location 185 Bree Street, Central Business District
“Jason Bakery – I have an extreme sweet tooth.” – Michelle Theron (Hazendal Wine Farm)
“I could eat ‘The Bomb’ every single day of my life. I think I almost do.” – John van Zyl (former head chef at Thali)
Bertus Basson’s takeaway burger joint, situated in the heart of Stellenbosch, serves 200g free-range beef burger patties (with your choice of additional toppings). There are few things that can beat a burger done right.
This Asian Street Food Bar in Hout Bay serves baos (fluffy steamed buns with meat and veg fillings), ramen dishes and wagyu burgers, along with some other exotic delicacies.
4. The Best Restaurant in the Winelands (or Countryside)
In a highly competitive category, Overture manages to rise above (albeit by a slim margin) a number of stellar contenders. Situated on Hidden Valley Wine Farm, at the foot of Helderberg Mountain, Bertus Basson’s Winelands restaurant combines spectacular views with modern South African cuisine (drawing inspiration from memories of his mother’s cooking).
Contact 021 880 2721, firstname.lastname@example.org
Location Overture at Hidden Valley Wines, T4 Route, off Annandale Road, R44, Stellenbosch
“My favourite restaurant in the winelands year after year. Bertus orchestrates a beautiful symphony of flavours and textures that impresses me every single time. And how about that view?” – Ash Heeger (Ash Restaurant)
“Overture is always a solid winner: good cooking from Bertus and his guys, good service and always a good few options on the wine list.” – Oliver Cattermole (Bovine)
“Wonderful food, friendly service, excellent wines.” – Zunia Boucher-Myers (Avontuur Estate Restaurant)
“The restaurant has an intimate, Parisian feel to it, which I love. No-bullshit cooking, honest good food served by friendly, well-trained staff.” – Eric Bulpitt (Pierneef à La Motte)
“Jardine’, short, fresh, constantly changing menu – beautifully showcasing professionally curated local ingredients.” – Pete Goffe-Wood (Ultimate Braai Master)
“We love to go there for lazy Sunday lunches. That’s probably the only time we ever soak up the sun.” – Cynthia Rivera (Mulberry & Prince)
5. The Best Restaurant for a Healthy Meal
Winner: It’s a tie!
That’s right, there was no clear winner in this category, as most of the chefs passed on the question. Michael Broughton best summed up the attitude of our panel with this response: “As the French say: ‘The diet can start tomorrow”’. Feel free to indulge and enjoy.”
Meanwhile, the chefs who did answer provided such a wide range of suggestions, that we ended up with several contending restaurants, all receiving an equal number of votes.
“I’m all about healthy, clean eating, Bowls on Bree is a great solution to healthy lunches when I don’t have time to pack my own.” – Siba Mtongana (Chopped South Africa)
“Raw, vegan food – inventive, vibrant and damn tasty.” – Pete Goffe-Wood (Ultimate Braai Master)
“Nourish’d makes some really fresh and healthy Buddha bowls.” – Cynthia Rivera (Mulberry & Prince)
Situated on the beautiful Babylonstoren farm, Babel utilises ingredients picked from its expansive gardens. The menu changes seasonally, ensuring guests are treated to the freshest produce.
Like its tongue-in-cheek name, this innercity spot doesn’t take itself too seriously, with its Miami-Deco-meets-downtown-Tokyo vibe. Poke, for the uninitiated, is a raw-fish dish originating in Hawaii and this South African interpretation is straight-up, simple, fresh and delicious.
6. The Restaurant with the Most Authentic Cuisine
A clear winner in this category, Thali takes one of the world’s most popular cuisines, and executes it to perfection. With a special focus on tapas dishes, it offers an array of exotic Indian flavours, matched by the vibrant colour of the restaurant’s decor. We’d expect nothing less from culinary master Liam Tomlin, and his former protégé, John van Zyl.
Contact 021 286 2110, email@example.com
Location 3 Park Road, Gardens
“Thali does incredible Indian tapas! I also love the warm ambience and décor.” – Matt Manning (private chef)
“incredible food, amazing atmosphere, great service. Indian food is always comforting, and with chef Liam Tomlin’s modern take on it, who wouldn’t love it?” – Siba Mtongana (Chopped South Africa)
“Hands down to Liam Tomlin at Thali – some serious Indian cooking.” – Oliver Cattermole (Bovine)
“Vanie [Padayachee] is just next-level” – Veronica Canha-Hibbert (The Silo Hotel)
This cosy eatery in a treed courtyard, just off Stellenbosch’s happening Church Street, Genki does heavenly Japanese sushi and tapas.
“Doesn’t take itself too seriously and always delivers.” – Reuben Riffel (Reuben’s)
“Great guise, fantastic food and, of course, the slightly eccentric Papa” – George Jardine (Jordan and Jardine Restaurant)
“Gold is a 100% authentic African experience. A fantastic feast with influences from all over the continent served over a couple of hours while being entertained by a never-ending stream of talented drummers, dancers and life-sized puppets. Everyone is so welcoming from the moment you step through the door. It feels like coming home.” – Ash Heeger (Ash Restaurant)
“An unapologetic Afrikaans restaurant, with a homely feel. Afrikaans menu and cuisine, the way your Ouma would cook it.” – Eric Bulpitt (Pierneef à La Motte)
7. The Best Restaurant in Cape Town
Winner: Chefs Warehouse Beau Constantia
As you’d expect, this was a tightly contested category that, for a while, looked as though it was going to end in a tie. But in the end, the new Chefs Warehouse at Beau Constantia just managed to edge it over a host of strong contenders.
The original Chefs Warehouse in Bree Street garnered numerous accolades, including being named the best restaurant in Cape Town by our panel of top chefs in 2017. So when Irish-born chef Liam Tomlin – 2017’s Chef of the Year – opened a new branch at Beau Constantia Wine Estate, foodies in the southern ‘burbs danced a collective jig! With chef Ivor Jones (Luke Dale-Roberts’s righthand man at The Test Kitchen) in charge of the kitchen, expect the same utterly delicious, beautifully curated dishes that Liam Tomlin’s eatery is so famous for. This, combined with magnificent views, excellent service and a laid-back atmosphere, makes Chefs Warehouse Beau Constantia the complete package when it comes to first-class dining experiences.
“This restaurant ticks all the boxes; beautiful décor, stunning views, good service and delicious food. I am also a major fan of sharing menus, as they provide an awesome interaction experience for guests.” – Eric Bulpitt (Pierneef à La Motte)
“I had dinner at The Test Kitchen; the offering is a complete package. There are other restaurants where you can eat a similar standard of food but the show, service and overall experience is unrivalled in South Africa.” – George Jardine (Jordan and Jardine Restaurant)
“The Test Kitchen – for me the most complete, professional experience. The introduction of the Light & Dark experiences have brought back and old school element to the dining experience with the canapés & cocktails before the meal. Plus all of the staff are knowledgeable and enthusiastic, not to mention the fabulous, inventive food.” – Pete Goffe-Wood (Ultimate Braai Master)
“Sho. La Colombe absolutely blew me away when I visited recently. Everything from the first to last bite was pure ecstasy. Seamless, slick service, an unreal winelist, beautiful setting and delicious food that runs the risk of being too frilly but 100% delivers. Scot is just killing it.” – Ash Heeger (Ash Restaurant)
The timeless gem, helmed by brilliant executive chef Peter Tempelhoff and head chef Ashley Moss, continues to raise the bar for modern South African cuisine. Its meticulously crafted dishes, combined with the magnificent setting, makes the elegant eatery an obvious inclusion in any list of top Cape Town restaurants.
“In all honesty, Janse & Co, up the top end of Kloof Street. Been four times in two months and every dish is on point: great cooking with great flavours, excellent winelist with outstanding service.” – Oliver Cattermole (Bovine)
“Kobus [van der Merwe] brings something special and totally different to the plate, while also showcasing Strandveld cuisine at its best” – Cynthia Rivera (Mulberry & Prince)
“Great concept, great food and a really cool and easy atmosphere.” – John van Zyl (former head chef at Thali)
“Always delicious, vibey and good service (it’s fun)!” – Michelle Theron (Hazendal Wine Estate)
You’ll find George Jardine’s acclaimed restaurant on one of Stellenbosch’s most picturesque wine estates. Here, George and head chef Kyle Burn’s meticulous dishes are served by professional, enthusiastic staff. If you love cheese, you’ll fall in love with the walk-in cheese room filled with local cheeses such as Fairview Blue Rock and Klein Rivier Gruyère.
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