While we remain devoted to restaurants that have stood the test of time, sometimes only something shiny and new will do. We’re always the first in line to try the buzzy new spot on the block – and then tell you about it. Lately, Cape Town has seen an emergence of new restaurants attuned to cosmopolitan crowds with a penchant for contemporary cuisine and design. The industry’s most pioneering individuals are debuting new concepts and reimagining the old. Ready to dig in? Here, a selection of standout spots in a city dense with incredible food.
Mentored by restaurateur Natasha Sideris of Tashas fame, chef Nic Charalambous is regarded as a rising star of Cape Town’s food scene – and he’s in full creative flight at Ouzeri. He succeeds, completely and beautifully. Named after a type of Greek tavern which serves ouzo and mezedes, this eatery fittingly focuses on a collection of small plates usually paired with booze (and there’s plenty of it). The décor has a distinct whiff of Cyprus’s irresistible promise of sea, sand and sun all year round. A whole palette of ochre tones can be admired. Every detail – from the plastered white walls and the brass light fittings, to the cosy corners dressed with embroidered cushions and the textured bar fringe under the wooden stairs – breathes refinement. It’s one of those restaurants that have a welcoming feeling and always feel right, no matter the occasion. A lively playlist and subtle, engaged service perfectly match the laidback elegance. Ouzeri serves Greek-Cypriot cuisine taken up a notch with modern flourishes and organic and artisanal produce. The menu is a superbly balanced mash-up: Start with the precisely plated taramasalata and chickpea fries as well as the green olives – served warm to accentuate the paprika oil, spicy citrus and coriander marinade’s lemony flavour. Savour it with a Caperitif vermouth spritz, or the ultimate bittersweet negroni with equal parts Campari, gin, and sweet vermouth. Then, work your way up to their famed anari and spinach dumplings, Cream of the Crop halloumi, warm, just-baked potato bread topped with pork neck kalamaki, and sweet and sour whitebait savoro – lightly fried fish with blackcurrants, fennel salt and hibiscus vinegar; an experience that will make all seafood enthusiasts yearn to return. Evenings are for meat aficionados with fine cuts from the best origins. Book ahead for dinner, where the ante is upped with a parade of road-less-travelled flavour and texture combinations. Regional dishes are made with flair … the likes of lahanodolmades (cabbage leaves stuffed with ground meat and rice) and fennel broth, say, and lamb ribs with skordalia (a rich and hearty Greek potato dip) and ladolemono (like a supercharged vinaigrette). It’s all good, often sublime, including the finely tuned wine list. Get the mahalepi, a refreshing summer pudding featuring pomegranate, Campari and clementine sorbet for dessert – you saved room, didn’t you?
58 Wale Street, Cape Town
061 533 9071
You absolutely can’t leave Cape Town without trying this new coastal Mexican restaurant. Those who love to be surprised and experiment with new flavours will adore Hacienda on the Bree Street strip. It’s a dark and stylish culinary temple with exposed brick walls, natural wood touches, a variety of earthy tints, gold accents and one of the best high-end menus in town. Energy pulsates through this restaurant headed by executive chef Justin Barker and sous chef Michael Badenhorst all seven days of the week. It’s as great a spot to snack and sip margaritas as it is for a multi-course meal. The team turns out pricey, pristine and market-fresh Baja California fare, bolstered by from-scratch ingredients, such as homemade totopos, mole sauce and tortillas made with masa harina. Crispy beef brisket, frijol negro, sea bass ceviche, chorizo prawns, a few tacos, marinated lamb chops – the cooking style here beautifully melds coastal Mexican tropes and ingredients. Warm tortillas beg to be dipped in authentic mole sauce featuring spicy, smoky and earthy-sweet notes. Must-have dishes include the guacamole prepared tableside; freshly shucked drunken oysters with Los Danzantes Espadín Joven Mezcal salsa verde, salmon roe caviar, burnt corn and cholula; chorizo chicken with embutido, tiger’s milk aioli and a garlic, onion and oregano crumb; and the signature flame-licked wagyu denver steak with truffle, blackened onion purée and papas a la cono. Whatever you do, don’t miss the Baja-style lobster tacos, a pitch-perfect sensory experience that revels in exciting flavours. Succulent tempura lobster, spiked with fennel salsa, pomegranate aioli and dried grapefruit, pops with colour. The tortilla-to-meat ratio is perfectly balanced and the black tortillas are thin and springy. The cool kids aren’t just here to dine, however. They’re also here to drink and improve their understanding of tequila. Inspired cocktails – like a paloma, an añejo old fashioned or a michelada flavoured with Clamato tomato juice – are always a good idea, as are the churros with burnt banana dulce and a moreish chocolate guajillo ice cream. The carefully curated set menu for two and tequila flight certainly shouldn’t be missed, but is best saved for a ravenous moment. It’s also worth noting that the service really stands out here. The result of the floor team’s winning blend of knowledge and charm is a truly memorable meal. Straight fire!
92 Bree Street, Cape Town
021 422 0128
One thing about Cape Town – there’s a great view wherever you look. Nowhere will you feel more in love with the Mother City than at the V&A Waterfront, where you can stroll along the swing bridge at the Clock Tower or gaze across the water. In summer tourists can be a little overpowering, but at The Waterside you’ll miss all the hustle and bustle. The latest restaurant in the La Colombe Group’s stable is an absolute cracker – vibrant, exciting and alive with creativity. The modern dining space found in the Pierhead Building has all the trimmings of fine dining, but without the unnecessary pomp. Natural light spills across the spacious interior, with its floor-to-ceiling windows, light natural wood and glistening bar. You’ll be forgiven for wanting to wallow in the beauty of the harbour views. Yet for all the laidback charm, it’s clear that head chef Roxy Mudie – along with an all-star lineup of floor staff – brings exceptional talent to the equation. Make the most of the warm weather and dine waterside. A beef tartare, oat and jalapeño tartlet and a meltingly soft, almost buttery milk bun with a cloud-like texture set the tone for the nine-course Chef’s Menu. It’s served with two dips – roasted garlic, smoked pine nut and rosemary as well as chicken liver parfait and rhubarb. Next, prawns arrive grilled to perfection, reclining in Cape Malay apricots, sweet potato and an intense slick of green asparagus espuma. Punchy Thai broth enlivens fresh salmon, shimeji mushrooms and avocado; celeriac risotto is a silken base for sage and goat’s cheese; and Szechuan-spiced pork belly is chicly accessorised with a caramelised scallop, sunshine-hued corn and peanuts. Grass-fed beef is anything but prosaic teamed with smoked garlic and a Madagascan green peppercorn sauce, while raspberry sorbet, peaches, vanilla and prosecco loaded up with coarsely torn croissant provides a tasty excuse to linger. Coffee bonbons from the bonbon chest send diners sweetly on their way. Wine is sourced from near and far – B Vinters Haarlem to Hope from Stellenbosch rubs shoulders with The Wine Thief Costa del Swart from the Swartland and Hermanuspietersfontein Kleinboet from the Hemel-en-Aarde wine area. However, like the relaxed dining room, the wine pairing plays a supporting role to the food. Whether you’re celebrating life’s milestones or simply treating yourself, dining at The Waterside is a must-do. The perfect expression of self-care.
Pierhead Building (between the NSRI and Life Grand Café), V&A Waterfront, Dock Road, Cape Town
021 879 6329