Yet again, The New York Times voted Cape Town as its top holiday destination in 2014.
And really, what’s not to love about Cape Town? It’s just one long sleep away, a mere two hours time change so virtually no jet lag and a guaranteed instant hit of winter sunshine.
Much has changed since my last trip a decade ago.Cape Town exudes confidence, it’s a brilliant cultural stew-pot, businesses seem to just spring up all over the place, hip urban coffee shops, farmers markets, roadside shacks, super cool cafés, restaurants, pop-up concerts where the music can be anything from bongo drumming, French folk singing, classical to hip-hop.
On my earlier trips to South Africa, imported products and ingredients were greatly sought after but now virtually every shop and restaurant proudly touts the fact that the produce or products are produced in South Africa. The sea and farms around Cape Town produce some fine quality fruit, vegetables, meat, and beautiful fresh fish which is often cooked within hours of coming off the boats.
Many Cape Town eateries are casual affairs but it also has its share of stellar chefs and two of its top restaurants The Test Kitchen in Cape Town and The Tasting Room in Franschhoek are on the world’s Top 100 Restaurant List. Over the festive season it was really tough to get a table in many of the most talked about places but I had a particularly memorable lunch at The Pot Luck Club, the more casual and edgier roof-top sister restaurant of Luke Dale-Roberts’ The Test Kitchen. Chef Wesley Randles and his gang of passionate young chefs turn out an irresistible range of pan African and Asian sharing plates.
Out in Franschhoek where I spent a few days to attend a family wedding. I greatly enjoyed staying at LeQuartier Français on the main street. Breakfast was one of the best I have eaten anywhere. Freshly squeezed and I mean freshly squeezed juices - orange, beetroot, grapefruit… Beautiful fresh ripe fruit, crunchy granolas classic and gluten free, thick unctuous buffalo milk and Greek yoghurts, home-made jams and croissants and house cured bacon.
The Old Biscuit Mill in the Woodstock is not to be missed. What used to be a rundown area home to fishermen and factory workers is now a collection of little shops run by creative young artisans, furniture makers, artists and craftspeople. The Neighbourhood’s Saturday Market is an insight into the vibrant artisan food scene with local farmers, bakers, cheese-makers, charcutiers with over one hundred traders selling their handmade and home grown produce.
Out in Kalk Bay we had brunch at the Olympia Café for old times sake. There was a queue as ever for the plates of simple food, chippos, scrambled egg, frittata, omelettes, bacon… served on chipped formica tables. I ordered coconut hotcakes with passion fruit and strawberries and soaked up the hippie vibe.
Melissa’s The Food Shop in Cape Town is an interesting deli and café with an intriguing system. You can choose a selection of lunch dishes from her table and then have the plate weighed to arrive at the price, it seemed to work brilliantly.
And finally, Silwood Kitchen, South Africa’s first cookery school established by the feisty Lesley Faull, celebrates their 50th year with the publication of ‘A Year at Silwood’ published by Quivertree Publications.