Capetonians love to eat, and visitors love to eat in Cape Town. Fresh, local ingredients are the norm here, and the South African capital’s melting pot of cultures makes for a brilliantly diverse, globally inspired culinary landscape. But if there’s one Cape Town classic you shouldn’t miss? Try the Gatsby sandwich, a mainstay of the city’s markets that’s so long and overstuffed with slaap chips and polony that sharing is essential. At the other end of the spectrum, fine diners will be delighted by the tasting menus and wine lists (plus occasional beach views) at the city’s priciest restaurants. From haute cuisine to cheap eats, these are our favourite restaurants in Cape Town right now.
Eaten somewhere on this list and loved it? Share it with the hashtag #TimeOutEatList.
Best restaurants in Cape Town
What is it? Chef Luke Dale-Roberts has been showered with awards since this inventive fine dining restaurant opened in 2010. The tasting menu is packed with local specialities given a modern European flourish. If you’re struggling to get a table, though (you will), try casual sister restaurant Pot Luck Club for tapas-style small plates instead.
Why go? World-class food in a development that typifies the good and the bad of Cape Town’s gentrification.
What is it? Yes, we know, meat-based burgers are kinda over. Cape Town knows that too. That’s why this local stalwart has totally moved with the times – as well as a full page of vegan and veggie burger options in the menu (think black beans, pumpkin, butternut squash, soya, lentils and falafel), there are also dairy-free shakes. We like the chocolate and coconut. For a meat feast with a South African twist try the Big Bird, a 160g ostrich patty with homemade beetroot relish.
Why go? The restaurant that set the standard for Cape Town burgers.
What is it? There’s genuine warmth to this opulent-looking restaurant, and the haute cuisine-style menus are even more impressive to taste than they are to look at (also stunning). You’ll feel like a gourmet celeb even if really this is your only treat before you head out hiking the Garden Route.
Why go? Luxurious dinner and fancy service but with a manageable price tag.
What is it? Can’t function without your flat white? Got a craving that only kimchi can fix? The menu at Clarke’s could be straight outta Shoreditch or Williamsburg, but sometimes things are cliched because they’re great. Order the avo on toast and feel no shame.
Why go? Familiar, Insta-friendly dishes, with a dangly houseplant collection to match.
What is it? The hit restaurant that’s inspired several popular cookbooks. This is the fast, fresh, casual, delicious lunch spot you’re always looking for but never quite find.
Why go? The super-fresh salads, sandwiches, coffee, and the bustling vibe. Curious to see what’s on offer? Check out their live SaladCam.
What is it? This homely, slightly out-of-town restaurant is so good at what it does that you might need a return visit, because what it does is super-fresh fish and incredible steaks. And the portions are way too big to have both. The place is always buzzing but the staff will be happy to help you decide what to eat. You can thank them later.
Why go? An unbeatable protein hit served with zero pretence.
What is it? Far more affordable than its even showier forerunner La Colombe, and there’s an à la carte for those whose budget can’t stretch to the tasting menu.
Why go? Up in fancy pants suburb Constantia this French-leaning restaurant is turning local and seasonal produce into fancy-pants dishes, and doing a very fine job of it.
What is it? An open-plan, minimalist (think haute cafeteria) lunch spot with three rotating daily options – including one that’s vegetarian – all cooked in a wood-fired oven.
Why go? Simplicity reigns, with fresh local ingredients the starting point for each meal. You’ll be reminiscing about these mouth-watering dishes long after you leave.
What is it? Celebrated for its authenticity as well as its cheery disposition, this dinky dim sum joint’s changing menu generally offers potstickers, wontons and bao plus a few heartier favourites such as spicy prawn laksa. Its Long Street location makes it ideal pre- (or post-) drinking food, but order plenty as the portions can be on the slight side.
Why go? Fresh, light dumplings that prove it’s not only red meat on the menu in this town.
What is it? Get a taste of Cape Malay cuisine at this Bo-Kaap restaurant with unassuming furnishings and keen prices. The extensive menu swerves from grilled cheese to ‘Biesmiellah spice pasta’ (their quotes), but stick to the traditional chicken curry and maybe some samosas and you’ll be laughing.
Why go? Sample the best of the Bo-Kaap Muslim community’s cuisine.
What is it? Round off your day of window shopping in Kalk Bay with fish and chips from Cape Town’s favourite fryers. Bring cash, but not much – the prices are small fry. You may have to queue but the people-watching opportunities are ample, and the fish here is well worth the wait.
Why go? A reminder that fish and chips can be good (or even better) outside the British Isles.
What is it? Don’t expect to rub shoulders with the locals here – it’s strictly for tourists. But the family-style, pan-African ‘Communal Feast’ spread offers a winning array of dishes from across the continent.
Why go? Even the most well-travelled will be surprised (and delighted) by dishes like cassava flatbread, Tanzanian chicken sesame kebabs and Kenyan channa fish.
What is it? Capetonians are serious about brunch, and this chic café has all the croissants, muesli, muffins and eggs to prove it. Their menu also features a rare appearance from bunny chow, a Durban speciality that’s a must-eat if you enjoy curry and bread – because it’s curry served in bread.
Why go? Sometimes your caffeine obsession needs extra attention.
What is it? Beautiful Camps Bay is the city’s celeb hangout, but the Codfather has little of its district’s showy nature. Choose from a wide array of fish in the chilled counter or pick from the sushi belt. And make sure to bag a table near the windows to catch the sunset views.
Why Go? The pun. But also the superlative seafood.
After more solid recommendations?
There are few better places to saunter aimlessly – and get a thrill out of it – than Cape Town. A fascinating blend of African, European and Malay influences, this wonderful city has emerged over the past two decades not just as one of the world’s great capitals, but also as South Africa’s thriving, diverse, exhilarating heart.