Cape Town Food Bucket List

cape town south africa boardwalk waterfront - East End Taste Magazine
Courtesy of Cape Town Tourism

Situated between the ocean and Table Mountain, Cape Town South Africa is known for its spectacular views. Wherever you are in the city, you’re sure to have something beautiful to look at. One of the best ways to enjoy that amazing view is over a delicious meal. 

Founded in 1652, Cape Town South Africa has been home to people from many different cultures which has left a mark on the food in this wonderful city. Local food embodies influences from the Dutch, French and British settlers, the Malay who were brought there as slaves, and the indigenous Khoisan people, and the Xhosa tribes from the East. 

While Cape Town is an international city and you can taste flavors from all over the world, there are some foods you should really sample during your stay. 

Here’s our picks for your Cape Town South Africa food bucket list. 

Seafood Dinner on the V & A Waterfront

VA Waterfront Cape Town - East End Taste Magazine
Courtesy of Hillary Fox | Cape Town Tourism

No matter where you stay in Cape Town, you’ll probably end up on the V&A Waterfront within the first day or two of arriving in the city. Be sure to head over in the evening and enjoy cocktails, then treat yourself to a delicious seafood dinner from one of the fish restaurants on the waterfront. 

There are a number of good restaurants nearby including Baia Seafood Restaurant (comes with a Portuguese twist), Knysna Oyster Company and the Cape Town Fish Market. Cape Town is right on the coast so your meal is guaranteed to be fresh and delicious

As a bonus, seafood in Cape Town is also quite affordable compared to many other countries.

fish and chips in simons town - East End Taste Magazine
Courtesy of Cape Town Tourism

Fish and Chips on the beach in Hout Bay

For a more rustic fish meal, try fish and chips. A staple in Britain and its colonies across the world, fish and chips in South Africa is best enjoyed on the beach in beautiful Hout Bay. It is a bit of a drive to get there, but the scenery on the way is stunning. 

In Hout Bay head to Snoekies, one of the oldest fish and chips shops in the city and a Cape Town institution. Here you’ll find fresh fish and Cape Town-style “slap chips” (crispy on the outside and soft on the inside). Eat them on the wharf surrounded by panoramic views of the ocean. 

Winery Lunch in the Cape Winelands

Groot Constantia Cape Town - East End Taste Magazine
Courtesy of Groot Constantia

For something a bit more upmarket, head out of the city centre to the Cape Winelands for a winery lunch. Stellenbosch is a popular option and there are a number of wineries serving up delicious food. 

Try Rust en Vrede Wine Estate for simple, delicious food in a Colonial Dutch building, or the Delaire Graff Restaurant for a fine dining experience. There’s a wide range of local wines in the area, so be sure to taste a few while you’re there.

If you don’t have time to head out of Cape Town, visit Groot Constantia, South Africa’s first vineyard, near the city center. With beautiful views of the surrounding valleys, Groot Constantia gives you a taste of the winelands. They offer two restaurants, good wine to taste and an old homestead. There’s also an on-site museum worth visiting.

Cape-Malay Cooking Class in Bo-Kaap

East End Taste Magazine
Lauren Edwards, Cape Town Tourism

To truly get a taste of culture, you need to try Cape Malay cooking. Cape Malay food is a fusion of the flavors slaves from Malaysia, Indonesia and East Africa brought to Cape Town in the 17th and 18th centuries. Usually prepared at home, Cape Malay cooking includes aromatic spiced stews, curries and roasts which often contain a hint of sweetness through the addition of dried fruit.

A cooking class in Bo Kaap is the best way to try Cape Malay food and take some of these unique dishes home with you. Bo Kaap is known for its history and colorful houses, and the cooking classes offered there are perfect for travelers of all levels of cooking ability. 

First you prepare the dishes, usually in the cook’s home, then sit down and enjoy the meal (and often a glass of wine) with the class. It’s a wonderful window into a part of Cape Town’s history and the food is sure to be delicious.

South African Steakhouse Dinner at The Husser Grill

Braaing (or barbecuing) meat is very common in South Africa. Some hotels occasionally have braais, otherwise the best way to try South African style grilled meat is at a local steakhouse

The Husser Grill is a popular chain with high-quality meat, however there are many steakhouses to choose from. Expect a meat-heavy menu including various cuts of steak (with sauces), ribs and chicken, usually served with coleslaw and fries. 

Some game restaurants also have more exotic options such as grilled ostrich, springbok, warthog, and impala.

Gatsby

East End Taste Magazine
Courtesy of Estee de Villiers / Cape Town Tourism

A truly Capetownian food, the Gatsby originated in the Cape Flats (an area in the north of Cape Town where thousands of ‘non-white’ households were forced to move during Apartheid) in the 1970’s. The Gatsby is a huge submarine-style sandwich filled with assorted meats, chips, and sauces. 

It’s cheap and filling – in fact, most people don’t manage to finish a whole Gatsby. With that in mind, order a half portion and be sure to get yours from a small hole-in-the-wall spot like Bona Fast Food, The Golden Dish or Cosy Corner.

Biltong

Biltong is a cured, dried meat, similar to jerky, and very popular in South Africa. This cured meat can be made from beef or venison, or more exotic meats like ostrich or kudu. 

Spices can range from sweet to spicy. Cuts can be lean or a bit fattier, with some types being chewier while others are tender. 

If this is your first time in South Africa, be sure to give it a try. Readily available from many shops, sample a range during your time in Cape Town.

Additional Resources

Check out our other Food Bucket lists for Lisbon and Abu Dhabi.