Telegraph readers have just named Cape Town the number one tourist city in the world for the seventh year in a row. Despite the complexities of South Africa and its many struggles Cape Town remains an attractive destination. It is within easy reach of the ocean, white sandy beaches, mountain ranges, wine lands and incredible safari. The attractive exchange rates on the South Africa Rand make holidaying for internationals even more attractive. Here are my top ten favourite places to take people in Cape Town to build relationships.
1. Fine Food Restaurant: Janse & Co
Cape Town has an increasingly interesting restaurant scene. Janse & Co is my out and out favourite casual fine dining experience. Chef and owner Arno Janse van Rensburg serves a tasting menu from which you can choose to have 3, 4, 5 or more courses. The food focuses on local seasonal ingredients and the last time I visited the restaurant they had started making their own cider and cheese. On a summers evening I love to sit in their garden and come winter sit at the table by the log fire.
2. Social Restaurant: Riverie Social Table
Private members clubs often have members tables where you can sit to eat if you want to chat with others. Cape Town has a restaurant version - Riverie Social Table - you show up at 7.30pm and share a single table with other guests who are dining that evening. Chef and Patron Julia Hattingh and team serve a five-course set menu meal paired with wines from local farms. Riverie can be enjoyed solo or with friends because the whole point is being social with everyone at the table. You eat, drink and be merry with people from all walks of life and from around the world.
3. Neighbourhood Restaurant: El Burro
For me a good neighbourhood restaurant is a downscale spot, serving great food, with great service at a great price. In a city it can be like finding a needle in a haystack so let me save you the trouble in Cape Town… My favourite is El Burro a Mexican neighbourhood restaurant near the stadium at Greenpoint. Located on the first floor with booths for group dining inside and a New Orleans style terrace outside. A Mexican isn’t Mexican unless there is a fabulous chorizo dish accompanied by a zingy drink - El Burro does not disappoint with its chorizo tacos and selection of margarita but if you fancy something soft the home-made lemonade is super fresh.
4. Street Food Restaurant: The Melting Pot Cafeteria
Pop-up restaurants have been popular for a couple of decades appearing on a temporary basis in old factories and private homes alike. The Melting Pot Cafeteria in Cape Town started life as a pop-up restaurant on Loop Street and proved so popular the team decided to move to permanent premises on Wale Street. The Melting Pot Cafeteria serve tasting plates which are inspired by global street food. The dishes are R75-85 each or you can order all seven for R550. The food is flavoursome and great value. In my opinion a must try.
5. Rooftop Bar: The Silo Rooftop
The V&A Waterfront is full of tourists, tourists shops and tourist restaurants so I avoid the area if I can, there is however a hidden gem. The Silo Rooftop is located nearby and is the best rooftop bar in Cape Town and can be found on the 11th floor of The Silo Hotel and has awesome views of the harbour. Access to the rooftop is for hotel residents or by reservation only, however there is another way if you get stuck - direct message me for the secret!
6. Gin Bar: The Gin Bar
In the last few years gin has become in vogue with hundreds of branded varieties available. It’s hard to say The Gin Bar is my favourite gin bar in Cape Town because as far as I know it’s the only gin bar in the city - but it is spectacular. The interior is a spacious, homely warehouse feel and has AC which is a much appreciated break in the summer. There are over one hundred gin varieties to choose from on the menu so plenty to keep you going.
7. Boutique Hotel: Cloud 9 Boutique Hotel
Downtown Cape Town has a plethora of hotels, however like all cities many are cooky cutters international hotel chains. Personally I prefer a smaller hotel that is more shaped by the local culture and context. Cloud 9 Boutique Hotel hits the spot for me - its rooms have space, an outdoor rooftop pool to cool off in, spectacular views of Table Mountain and it’s located on the doorstep of iconic Kloof Street with its myriad of restaurants and bars to choose from.
8. Wine Farm: Babylonstoren
Cape Town maybe short on water but it is not short on wine - the wine lands are awash with spectacular wine farms. One of the oldest is Vergenoegd Löw who have a team of ducks who in the winter are sent among the vines to eat the snails and other unwanted creatures. The rest of the year there is a daily duck run through the farm at 12:30 to keep them fit - it’s a must see with or without children. My favourite wine farm however is Babylonstoren with tasting room, farm to table restaurant, kitchen and horticultural gardens, cabin accommodation with open log fire on winter nights and a day spa. Everything about Babylonstoren is world-class so if you do it it’s a treat!
9. Museum: Robben Island
One of the things that surprises me in Cape Town is how many white South Africans haven’t yet visited Robben Island. During apartheid it was used as a prison and Nelson Mandela was imprisoned there for 18 or his 27 years in captivity. The guard who showed our group around was a former political prisoner. I asked, “Are you angry about what happened to you and if not why not?” He replied quoting Mandela who said, “Holding onto bitterness is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die”. The most unforgettable museum I have ever visited.
10. Park: Table Mountain
Table Mountain is the Cape Town iconic land mark. You may be looking up to it or looking down from it whichever the views are spectacular and change constantly. There are two ways to the top of Table Mountain either a 5 minute cable car ride or a 3-4 hour hike, so far I’ve only done the former. In Cape Town you can get all four seasons in a day so it’s necessary to prepare for anything. So the key to visiting The Table Mountain National Park is having the flexibility over several days so you can ascend when the elements look best for enjoying maximum visibility.