Culinary Cape Town: The perfect four-day itinerary

If cities were romances, Cape Town would be the love-at-first-sight kind. From chic hotels and world-class restaurants to dreamy vineyards and a thriving art scene, there’s lots to keep you busy. To help curb that feeling of being overwhelmed while also increasing the wonder found in a trip to the Mother City, we’ve put together this four-day itinerary to the foodie haven. With only a few days here, you want to get it right and fall in love all over again each day.

DAY 1: 

Majeka House 

Best for: Eating, drinking and sleeping amid antique furnishings and flamboyant patterns 

Perfect days in Cape Town consist of overeating, overdrinking, oversleeping, then walking it all off while exploring before you repeat the delicious cycle again. On the first day, we recommend checking into the tranquil haven that is Majeka House in Stellenbosch; a sleek, modern boutique hotel in prime wine country surrounded by stunning scenery of dramatic mountains and verdant valleys planted with vines. 

Originally a whitewashed farmhouse, the property has been transformed into a small luxury hotel with luxe accommodation, creative cuisine, a spa with an indoor pool and beautiful gardens with outlandish cacti, rambling roses and bright blue furniture. In a leafy enclave in the midst of the Stellenbosch Wine Route, the hotel makes for a seductive escape with handcrafted furniture and quirky design details, evoking a neo-colonial look. The rooms are spacious and feature natural materials of wood and stone, bright nature-themed wall coverings, garden and mountain views as well as private terraces. 

Our favourite space in the hotel is the fashionable bar lounge filled with books, art, oriental rugs, custom furniture and some homey touches. Eclectic, theatrical, fun and luxurious, it’s a lovely spot to have a pre-dinner drink before heading to Majeka Kitchen. The hotel’s small farm-to-fork fine-dining restaurant has a well-earned reputation, and everything about the stylish spot is bespoke – from the crockery to the staff uniforms. Expect a warm welcome, creative attention to detail and an optional two or three-course menu with plenty of dishes to savour, including lusciously creamy baby marrow risotto, flaky, tender pan-fried fish of the day in a lemon and garlic sauce served with sautéed spinach and mushrooms, and strawberry and vanilla anglaise soufflé that’s soft and fluffy on the inside.

The next day, breakfast is served in the lush gardens, which will get you in the mood for a decadent morning meal. The three-tiered serving tray for the table is stocked with yoghurt, cereal, muesli, seasonal fruit, charcuterie, smoked salmon, cheese and home baked pastries and danishes. You wouldn’t be disappointed by blowing your carb allotment on the croissants here, but the American style pancakes off the à la carte menu – ethereally fluffy with butter-crisped edges served with blueberry compote – is the order to beat. 

26 Houtkapper Street, Paradyskloof, Stellenbosch 

021 880 1549 

Tokara Wine Estate 

Best for: A wonderful architectural statement and drinkable, food-friendly wines 

While the historic town of Stellenbosch is a short drive, there are more than 145 vineyards to visit in the area. Designer winery Tokara Wine Estate, on the top of Helshoogste pass, is the location of one of the Cape’s most innovative restaurants. At this trendy destination for wine, food and art lovers, start your afternoon with an olive oil tasting consisting of the estate’s four cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oils, from mild to robust. You’ll also get to sample their preserved Kalamata olives and olive paste. 

After the tasting, the contemporary and cosmopolitan Tokara Restaurant is a must-visit for lunch with drop-dead gorgeous views through floor-to-ceiling glass. Start your meal with a bottle of one of our favourite wines, the ultra-stylish Tokara MCC with delicate bubbles, flavours of toasted almonds and freshly buttered toast plus notes of lemon and lime preserve and crisp minerality. Or, the Tokara Director’s Reserve White 2017 with a zesty persistence, which is complex on the nose with attractive notes of ripe passion fruit and pink grapefruit all intermingled with hints of lemongrass and freshly baked brioche. 

The menu is South African with a hint of Europe and the friendly and knowledgeable staff will guide your choices according to appetite and preference. Dishes like the salt baked beetroot carpaccio with raspberry, fennel, toasted walnuts and celery or the beef tartare with turnip, radish, avocado, salsa verde and horseradish mayo are finesse without the fuss. On the other hand, the springbok loin with peach and apricot mebos, green beans, pomme anna and apricot and orange buchu jus is as complex and joyful as South Africa itself, as is the vegan smoked roasted carrot with rainbow carrots, gnocchi, black rice crisp and parsley and carrot jus. For dessert, the Spanish almond cake – simply heaven for almond fans with hibiscus and lemon posset and nougat ice cream – will certainly satisfy most. 

Helshoogte Road, Stellenbosch 

021 808 5900 

DAY 2: 

Editor’s pick: Steenberg Hotel & Spa

Best for: Discreet glamour and splendid isolation in a Constantia Valley sweet spot 

From the entrance of Steenberg Vineyards, a road winds up between the prized vineyards surrounded by natural beauty – rugged mountains and tantalising glimpses of the sky. On arrival at the recently renovated hotel, the overwhelming impression is of generous space, immaculate lawns and mature trees that have been growing for decades, if not centuries. The air is fragrant with roses thanks to the well-established rose bushes. The Cape Dutch-style buildings are flamboyant, old-school glamour and the staff are waiting in the driveaway to welcome you. 

It won’t be easy to find rooms or villa-sized suites with sumptuous décor in such a brilliant location that’s as slickly managed, luxurious or private anywhere else in Cape Town. Located on the oldest original wine farm in Constantia, Steenberg Hotel & Spa stands out for its ideal location – halfway between the city and the beaches of the southern Peninsula, you could call it the best of both worlds. You also have access to the whole Steenberg private estate lifestyle, including wine tasting, a choice of restaurants, an 18-hole championship golf course, nature trails and biking routes. But what really sets this venerable hotel apart is its distinct sense of place, complete with a secluded swimming pool and pool lounge with facilities for early check-in or late-stay guests plus a spa with fabulous QMS facials and Africology body treatments. It’s both a haven and inspiration, and unlike any other hotel we’ve encountered. 

The individually decorated rooms are vibrant, open-plan spaces, incorporating timber floors, grey and soft blue tones, pink vanity design with gold finishes, natural materials, modern fabrics, contrasting textures and a clever curation of furnishings by South African designers. They also feature the latest mod-cons such as iPod docking stations and PC data and power outlets as well as Wi-Fi, fresh flowers from the garden and locally made Healing Earth bathroom amenities. While no two rooms look exactly alike, there’s a fresh, contemporary theme, culminating a well-balanced, serene space. Our one-bedroom suite also had French doors that opened up onto a private terrace, which is probably the best place to watch the stars pop out after the sun has gone down. The three villa-like suites – which are best for big families and feeling right at home – have oodles of space and their own private pools. 

Even if you don’t overnight here, you’ll want to stay for a meal at one of the two excellent, reliable and consistent restaurants, both overseen by chef Kerry Kilpin. Pre- or post-wine tasting (the sparkling wines, sauvignon blanc and Nebbiolo hit the spot), we recommend a decadent breakfast or lunch at the cellar-door bistro, Bistro Sixteen82. In this sociable space, you’ll be tempted by a mix of classics and contemporary fare that offer fantastic value for money – think a panko-crusted cheese fritter, curried baby calamari, beef tataki, broccoli and spinach risotto, ethically sourced fish and braised lamb neck. 

Enjoy the estate’s cool-climate wines or a glass of bubbly with fresh fare like Saldanha Bay oysters and the lightest tempura prawns imaginable, served with a peanut and coriander noodle salad, harissa mayo and chilli syrup. For mains, the roasted pork belly served with celeriac mash, pecan nut and green bean salsa and maple jus is a must-order – and don’t skimp on the sides; the hand-cut chips are a sensation. But Chef Kerry is also a dab hand at desserts, so save room for the lemon posset served with yoghurt and mango sorbet, berry coulis and white chocolate shortbread. Attentive staff who fulfil every request – whether spoken or otherwise – make for an absolutely flawless experience. 

Steenberg Estate, Steenberg Road, Tokai 

021 713 2222 

La Mouette 

Best for: A luxurious dinner and fancy service … with a manageable price tag 

Forget all about difficult-dish decision-making – La Mouette’s tasting menus give you the chance to wine and dine on the very best that recently appointed culinary advisor chef Neill Anthony has to offer at a range of different price points. It’s all about finely prepared French-inspired cuisine with seasonal South African influences and foraged indigenous ingredients. The opulent-looking restaurant’s interiors – crisp white linen, signature blue water glasses and dining rooms with fireplaces – and the mountain views are a bonus. 

Choose between a two (R350), three (R450) and five-course (R350) tasting menu. Chef Neill’s obsession with local ingredients, techniques and flavours finds expression in the five-course tasting menu, in which each plate offers a bite-sized course that makes the most of seasonal food. It’s fine dining, condensed. For an additional R300, the elegant wine pairing option is hard to refuse and each glass chimes with the flavours of the plate without overwhelming your senses (or your sobriety). The five-course tasting menu starts with snacks – chicken liver parfait cornetto and deep-fried truffle mac and cheese with grain mustard – followed by your choice of tuna tartare or fresh asparagus. The former is a colourful, zingy blast of summer in food form; the seaside tang of tuna combined with the acid kick of fennel mousse, radish salad and tom yum vinaigrette. 

Next up is the refreshing celeriac velouté with caramelised Granny Smith apples followed slow braised Karoo lamb neck, line fish or fresh fettuccine. In the lamb dish with harissa yoghurt, peas, broad beans, feta and mint, chef Neill masterfully balances flavour and texture in intriguing ways. And, as ever, his veg-centric fettuccine dish with rocket pesto and pecorino is as complex as its meaty counterparts. Perhaps controversially though, the star of the night is the mango parfait with coconut sorbet and coconut crumb that’s so good you’d be excused for ordering two. After your meal on a clear summer night, enjoy a parting cocktail in the tranquil courtyard where all the tables are positioned circling the fountain centrepiece. 

78 Regent Road, Sea Point 

021 433 0856 

DAY 3: 

Victoria & Alfred Hotel 

Best for: Plush eclectic décor, an unparalleled vantage point and unbelievable value for money 

What you can see from the entrance of the Victoria & Alfred Hotel in the V&A Waterfront, part of the hip Newmark Hotels group, doesn’t prepare you for what’s tucked neatly into the building. Offering possibly the best value in the city, this hotel holds many trump cards, not least its historic location and old-school vibe. However, the superlative views of Table Mountain always end up stealing the show. 

From the road, you enter a starkly modern architectural space with a handsome secretarial desk that opens out into the smart, spacious indoor-outdoor Ginja restaurant with a harbour view. There’s a lot of hotel packed between mountain and sea, including a spa, gym and swimming pool. About a third of hotel’s rooms, which are in ship-shape condition, are loftlike spaces, but they all overlook either the waterfront or a nearby piazza. The rooms are decked out with every home comfort imaginable – think a swivel TV, king size bed, writing desk, air-conditioning, 300 thread count bedding and more. In this location with five-star service and design interiors, you can’t go wrong. 

The whitewashed brick mountain-facing rooms are generously sized and elegantly decorated with crisp white bed linens, jewel-toned velvet armchairs and commissioned art. White subway tiles, topaz marble and bath and body products jazz up the generously sized bathrooms. The post-sunset vista from your window has to be one of the best views of the waterfront found anywhere on earth. Breakfast is served downstairs in the restaurant or in your room. With hot specials ranging from fluffy Spanish omelettes to eggs Benedict or Florentine, it delivers on the property’s unspoken principle: It’s like your home, only way better. 

Featuring the use of timber and leather seating, the casual Ginja restaurant and adjacent coffee shop have undergone a very successful makeover. The number of restaurants and bars within strolling distance to your doorstep are plentiful, but don’t miss a dockside prawn dinner served with a view of Table Mountain at Ginja. The Prawns & Wine Special Offer for two includes 16 queen prawns, chips, toasted ciabatta, a table salad and a bottle of Iona Sauvignon Blanc. The juicy prawns are done in a spicy, garlicky chilli and garlic sauce, which makes for a spicy and refreshing meal. With tropical, floral and fine herbal notes, the sauvignon blanc is the perfect wine with the simply cooked prawns. 

Pierhead, Dock Road, Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, Cape Town 

021 419 6677 

Harbour House – V&A Waterfront 

Best for: Tucking into treats from the sea and a glass of fizz 

With its postcard-worthy location and crowded tables, Harbour House – V&A Waterfront is one of the best restaurants for eating the ocean’s gifts and the ultimate spot for a very Cape Town long lunch. It gives you the feeling every restaurant should leave you with – utter refreshment, and those five-star views out over the ocean and harbour are a big part of it. Because of its positioning and extensive glass walls, it feels as if you’re almost floating on the harbour, surrounded as you are by water. 

The food is best described as aspirationally fresh, local and elegant fare. For starters, the kitchen delivers delights ranging from a simple snack of fried calamari with rocket, spring onion, green olives and anchovy and tartar sauce to a seafood stack with salmon tartare, tempura prawns, caviar, avocado mousse, tomato, cucumber and sweet chilli sauce. We recommend ordering the oysters with lemon granita and the salmon roses that never disappoint (the ratio of sushi ingredients is near perfect), even if it’s just an excuse to order more wine. Because, fun lovers, the wine list is brilliant and really thoughtfully put together. If you’re here to luxuriate a little and can lock down a table on the upstairs deck, you’ll want to spend some time with it while you soak up some summer goodness. 

Served up for mains are signature seafood dishes alongside killer cocktails featuring a sublimely seasonal mix of ingredients. Order the grilled crayfish done in a lemon butter to keep the meat, moist served with a roasted garlic aioli that adds a flavour punch, or the luxuriously rich, creamy seafood pasta with handmade pappardelle and an abundance of calamari, mussels, prawns and line fish in a Parmesan sauce. Each dish is a taste explosion that leaves you wanting more. On a non-seafood note, both the rib eye and pork belly are to die for, as is the salad with heirloom tomatoes, feta, pickled onions, black olives, basil aioli, herb croutons and honey lemon emulsion. Don’t miss the eton mess for dessert; a pretty-as-a-picture plate of raspberry sorbet, wild strawberry meringue, white chocolate mousse, almonds and macerated strawberries. Silky-smooth service only adds to the appeal. 

Quay Four, Dock Road, V&A Waterfront, Cape Town 

021 418 4744 

DAY 4: 

The President Hotel 

Best for: A grand yet unpretentious place to stay in a fashionable neighbourhood 

The President Hotel in Bantry Bay is a feel-good hotel where most of the staff have been around for years and many guests are regulars, which comes as no surprise as the place is astonishingly good value. With mesmerising views and an atmosphere worth forfeiting a day out – or at least cutting the day’s sightseeing short – it’s one of the most stylish and sun-soaked hotels to lurk in when visiting Cape Town. Book at the right time and it’s a bargain! 

Nestled beneath the majestic Lion’s Head and just a two-minute walk from its pedestrian pleasures, the hotel offers sublime ocean views, easy pedestrian access, excellent food and authentic, warm service. In keeping with the splendid surroundings, the rooms are decorated in a beach-bling palette of blue, silver, grey and white, whether facing the sea or the mountains behind. If you can, book a One-Bedroom Apartment with an open-plan kitchenette, spacious lounge and dining area, separate bedroom and en-suite bathroom, balcony and front-row views of the glittering water. Aside from the beautifully appointed rooms, there are plenty of comfortable public areas to unwind in, including The Islands Restaurant, The Deck Bar & Terrace, Botany Café, Senate Bar and a lovely infinity pool. 

Lunch alone makes a trip to this chic hotel worthwhile – it’s no wonder the hotel has such a loyal following. You could stay for a week and still not try everything: Artisanal wood-fired pizzas with gourmet toppings, a seafood platter in a lemon butter sauce, tandoori Norwegian salmon, Atlantic line fish, a beef burger, basil pesto caprese pasta and a steamed bun piled high with sesame pulled chicken, carrot salad and miso aioli are among the choices. It’s hard to go wrong, but definitely don’t miss the baked rhubarb cheesecake served with ginger crumble, ginger candy and strawberry granita. If you’re not in the mood for somewhere so sceney, the hotel can arrange for their acclaimed dishes to be delivered to your room. 

The laidback bar is one of the best places in the city to toast to the setting sun. Tables spill out past the swimming pool, where the hotel has its own sunbeds and umbrellas. Settle in for cocktails like the Presidential Piña Colada, Lion’s Head Mojito or Mother City Margarita, or grab a ride into town if you feel like dancing till late. The only caveat: The longer you stare at the ocean, the less you’ll feel like venturing out. At The Islands Restaurant, there’s a seasonal dinner menu for those who don’t feel like going out (with vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options), but a plethora of excellent restaurants just a few minutes away. 

4 Alexander Road, Bantry Bay 

021 434 8111 

La Colombe Restaurant 

Best for: A truly unforgettable culinary experience featuring Constantia’s finest wines 

Perched up on Constantia Nek on a working wine farm, the pressure to secure a table is the only unpleasant aspect of what is otherwise the best fine dining experience in the city. A white-table-clothed ode to modern fine-dining, at the multi-award winning La Colombe Restaurant you’ll find passionate eaters excited about the famed Tuna ‘La Colombe’ and a bevy of Instagram-loving locals and tourists, all at the ready with their cameras. The food is generally inspired by nature; it’s a world filled with imaginative flavours and textures as well as top-notch service and grape pairings. 

We highly recommend coming in the day for the whimsical 11-course chef’s lunch menu (R895 plus an additional R800 for the optional beverage flight) for a sense of dining in the treetops from the treehouse-style restaurant, which reflects its garden and forest-inspired themes. You’ll start with snacks consisting of game fish with burnt lime and lamb roti followed by a decadent bread course with sweet potato, wagyu drippings and bone marrow butter. Thereafter, it’s innovative course after course, such as the mussels and curry in a burnt passion fruit shell and the kerala style quail with prawn and coriander. You’ll ooh at the unexpectedness of the signature Tuna ‘La Colombe’ and the mandarin and kalamansi palate cleanser (no spoilers). It’s dishes like these that explain the restaurant’s status as a table to book well in advance – especially in summer. 

No palate is left wanting as the elegantly presented next few dishes cater for a variety of tastes, with a range of specialties from line fish with lemongrass and coconut to heavenly petit poussin with wild mushroom and truffle jus gras. The well-choreographed tasting menu ends with your choice of cheeses from ‘the cheese chest’ with smoked pear and rooibos, a strawberry, cashew and rose dessert and finally garden treats including coconut and tonka macaroons. With comfortable yet classy indoor seating and views of the vineyards along with crisp linen, earthy wood and well considered crockery and cutlery, there’s no joy like being immersed in nature in this mountaintop dining room. A place where you’re truly able to relax, to escape and to dream, it’s one of the very best restaurants to bookmark now for your next Cape Town trip. 

Silvermist Wine Estate, Main Road, Constantia Nek 

021 794 2390 

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