We well know that Cape Town is home to one of the most competitive dining scenes in the world. As we roll into a new year, we’re taking you on a journey to eat your way through the city’s latest gastronomic pleasures. Whether it’s for a special occasion, a glamorous dinner, a girls’ night or casual post-work bevs, there’s plenty of new additions to keep your appetite satiated. We look at the boundary-pushing restaurants and delectably flavourful mouthfuls that you’ll want to treat your taste buds to. Be the first to book these hottest new places in town!
Head to Scala Pasta Bar for a taste of Italian sunshine
“Not your mamma’s pasta.” Never has there been a more apt description than here, at the newly opened Scala Pasta Bar in collaboration with Michelin star chef Luciano Monosilio. Pasta lovers, run don’t walk – this is some of the best pasta we’ve tried in Cape Town. Nab a table downstairs in the urban-cool dining space with black walls, exposed airducts, marble tables, and the brightly lit open kitchen and Pasta Laboratory. Napkins printed with “The carbonara effect” on one side and “Everything you see I owe to pasta” (a famous quote from Sophia Loren) on the other bring pops of marigold yellow. Indeed, the décor here is an Instagram hit. Once you’ve adjusted to the sexily dim lighting and the buzzy soundtrack of diner chatter, order a cocktail. We loved the orange blossom negroni, a fruity take on the classic negroni made with Bombay Sapphire Gin, Martini Extra-Dry Vermouth and Italian bitters. The focus is of course on pasta, though Scala Pasta Bar also serves up some impressive antipasti and – best of all – encourages you to order several plates to share. For starters, feast on luscious burrata with panzanella (Tuscan-style tomato and bread salad) and dill; stewed beef meatballs with jewel-bright salsa verde, sweet mustard and chives; and prawns crudo – sashimi-grade prawns, burrata foam and tomato consommé theatrically crowned with tomato gel. Fresh, zesty and bursting with flavour. You also have to try the most deliciously garlicky potato focaccia bruschetta with culatello (a cured meat), blistered tomatoes and basil as well as the chargrilled melanzane – a layered work of art with tomato salsa, basil and Parmesan. Depending on how hungry you are, we recommend two to three antipasti between two. From the excellent, honest plates of carbonara gently mixed into a yellowy silk to the curly pappardelle with chicken ragù, the pasta options are turbocharged in flavour. The sinfully rich cacio e pepe with its thick, hand-rolled pici pasta was our favourite, despite its deceptively simple ingredients (Pecorino Romano cheese and black peppercorns). Special mention must also go to the tortelli – tiny pockets pumped with coal-roasted tomatoes and burratina, served lukewarm with a flurry of black truffle – and the rigatoni amatriciana, which combines thick tubes of pasta, salty cured pork, tangy tomatoes and Pecorino Romano. If, after all that, you have room for dessert, you’re made of stronger stuff than we are. But the signature tiramisu did look delicious. There are aperitivos to keep you merry and the vibe during the 20h30 seating is fun for the servers and clientele. This might just be one of the best spots to have recently landed on Cape Town’s restaurant scene.
81 Church Street, Cape Town
021 424 7204
Get your fill of seafood and other fine ingredients at Urchin Restaurant
There’s plenty of culinary competition among the buzz of Cape Town, but this dinner spot is a truly special find. Bringing a touch of city centre to Bo-Kaap, a dose of zen meets slick service at Urchin Restaurant. So confident is chef Gerard van Staden in his culinary prowess that he’s buried his latest venture, ‘elemental ocean dining’ with elevated sophistication, deep inside the Hyatt Regency Cape Town. The payoff is immediate – the restaurant is a purposefully serene recess from its frenetic, multicultural neighbourhood. Sea urchin art, ocean inspired dinnerware and perfectly starched white tablecloths bring a splash of luxury to the space, otherwise outfitted in beige and grey tones with muted woods and herringbone floors. Food comes from two separate preparation areas – a classic sushi bar and a kitchen. There’s simple pleasure in the food: Tuna tartare, tempura prawns, sweet potato gnocchi (vegetarians are surprisingly well-catered for here), sole thermidor and saddle of Karoo lamb, for example. We were happy to be guided by a knowledgeable and enthusiastic waiter, following the menu through Starters, Sushi, Lighter, Fuller, Signature and Desserts. Start your meal with Lüderitz oysters laced with juniper and cucumber caviar, lobster capellini bathed in a lemongrass butter sauce, soft seared king scallops with ‘chilli candy’ as well as the less-raved-about shrimp and tomato soup oozing with punchy flavours. The appetite-whetting salmon and kingklip carpaccio with toasted Parmesan, truffle oil and sweet bell pepper salad also deserves a shoutout. For mains, get the soy-slicked salmon trout with roasted cauliflower and sweet potato dumplings, or the medium-rare rib-eye steak accompanied by toasted brioche and salsa verde. Wash it all down with a glass of red from the extensive grape list. The desserts, in our opinion, are the star of the show. The must-try is the raspberry mousse, which is as pretty as it is refreshing with delicate meringue leaves and tart raspberry coulis. The flourless chocolate cake with praline, caramelised hazelnuts, berry leather and cardamom ice cream deserves way more airtime as a dish we’re still daydreaming about. Top tip: Whether you’re celebrating something or simply looking to spend a weekend away from home, checking into the Hyatt Regency Cape Town is just the thing for foodie travellers. It’s primely located for explorations of the city’s best restaurants. The interiors of the 137 pristinely furnished rooms and suites are pretty much the same style – a medley of grey and dark teal furnishings – and are shielded from daytime street noise. The hotel’s bonus features include a fitness centre, in-room spa services and a Starbucks counter in the lobby.
Hyatt Regency Cape Town, 126 Buitengracht Street, Cape Town
021 215 1234
Encounter Asian flavours you’ve never had before at TANG Waterfront
One of the hottest openings of 2022, the much-anticipated TANG Waterfront is the latest venture from businessman Nicky van der Walt. The sumptuous décor makes it a dream destination for any celebratory meal. With high ceilings, black-veined white marble, oak wall panelling, sleek Japanese aesthetics and low gloaming lighting, it’s the perfect respite from the luxury mall inside, filled with shoppers. Thoroughly professional staff who are among the best in TANG’s stable – along with an admirable wine list that gives maximum support to the menu – only add to the feeling that you’re in the presence of an acclaimed restauranteur who’s still at the height of his powers. The lavish restaurant and bar unites two concepts: Izakaya, centred around flamboyant Japanese tapas, and the traditional charcoal robata grill, where meat and fish dishes accompanied by intricate condiments take centre stage. It’s fusion the way we like – under a clubby beat, you’ll find finely rolled sushi, a huge selection of stir-fried dishes, Angus and Wagyu beef done flawlessly as well as some of the most pristine seafood on the planet. These classic plates and refreshing twists that have already won group executive chef Vixa Kalenga legions of fans makes dining here an almost transcendent experience. It’s only right, therefore, to order from both the sushi bar and robata grill. A feast for all the senses, get ready for plate after exquisite plate – from the much-lauded (and rightfully so) steaming fragrant edamame, to the creative luxe dim sum, to the fresh slivers of new-style salmon sashimi splashed with spicy ponzu dressing. From the small plates menu, the fresh oysters with dollops of truffle shiso salsa and the wagyu tartare topped with yuzu truffle make for a delicate starter. They’re best paired with Nicky’s very own wine, Mirabelle Rosé, which helps cut through the richness. Or, be wowed by pitch-perfect yakitori chicken, meticulously balanced octopus tiradito, spare ribs doused in plum sauce or money bag dumplings stuffed with pork and prawn. But then comes the showstoppers – the soft-shell crab, crunchy and golden with black pepper soya, and the wagyu rib-eye steak with a marbling score of 5-7 or 7-9. These revelatory dishes will have you planning a return visit before you’re even out the door. The fact that TANG can turn a simple steak dish served with triple-cooked fries into something we’re raving about long after our visit is testament to how serious this place is about eating. Cap it off with a nightcap at the bar. Try the truly impressive Wabi-Sabi with Patron Reposado Tequila, junmai-shu and jasmine tea syrup, or the Ikebana combining chamomile-infused tequila, elderflower and rose water.
Shop 153, V&A Waterfront, Dock Road, Cape Town
076 652 8972