29 March 2013

The OK Guide to Cape Town: Wine

Wine Farms

·      Kleine Zalze - great wine that is also great value wine  especially the white wines. Laid-back attitude. Open late on Saturdays. Terroir restaurant is here.
·      Villiera - Gorgeous tasting area in a courtyard under oak trees. World-class sparkling wines and great, diverse overall selection.
·      Peter Falke - stunning farm with a small selection, which you can enjoy whilst lounging in the stunning atmosphere. Open until 7 every day except Monday.
·      Neil Ellis - sourcing wines from all over the Western Cape to make amazing varietals and world-class blends.
·      Vergenoegd - gorgeous Cape Dutch building and gardens that host runner ducks, good cheapies, and great expensive reds varietals.

·      Rickety Bridge - delicious wines with tasting area overlooking the vines. Do not miss the chenin blanc and semillon.
·      Solms-Delta - great wine farm that also features ethical labor practices and an edifying museum on local history. Try the sparkling Cape Jazz Shiraz.
·      La Bri Estate - very pretty small farm with our favorite Shiraz.
·      La Petite Ferme - stunningly beautiful wine farm. Incredible white wines. Book for lunch and come early for a free tasting.

Charming little town with great value, high-quality wines.
·      Groote Post
·      Ormonde
·      Darling Cellars

Hermanus / Hemel en Aarde Valley
·      Creation - incredibly beautiful view over the wine farm. The Syrah Grenache blend was one of our favorite wines in South Africa. The lunch is also famous, and the Chardonnay cheesecake is divine!
·      Newton Johnson - famous for its pinot noir, which is a regional specialty (but a tough grape in the rest of the country). Stunning location and home of Heaven restaurant.
·      Hermanuspietersfontein - famous for their Sauvignon Blancs; the reds are also amazing. Overall one of the best wine farms in South Africa. 

The OK Guide to Cape Town: Coffee and Booze


·      Deluxe Coffeeworks (25 Church St) - tall ceilings, solid and well priced coffee. This is pure coffee bar. No tea, no snacks, but they really turn out a great espresso and the crowd is hip and pretty to look at.
·      Heaven (Greenmarket Square) - cute little space in the Central Methodist Mission church.
·      Truth Coffee Cult (36 Buitenkant St) - steam-punk coffee palace with huge, atmospheric seating area; decent nibbles; and servers wearing excellent hats. Great place to work or people-watch.
·      Bean There (58 Wale St) - 'fair trade' coffee roasters with a nice cafe too. If you take your coffee seriously, so do they. Free cup of joe when you buy a package of coffee to brew at home.
·      Bread Milk and Honey (10 Spin St) - great, well-priced coffee and very tasty snacks, especially for breakfast. They can make an proper iced coffee a rarity in Cape Town. Well-rated but expensive lunch buffet.

Booze - [ note: cocktails will NOT compare in quality to cocktails in major U.S. cities. Visiting Americans might want to stick with the wine, which is much better value and high quality ]
·      Roxys (14 Wandel St) - pleasant dive/diner.
·      Kitima (Hout Bay) - lovely, old house with a great cocktail menu. You can order their food from the bar (see Restaurants).
·      Clarkes (133 Bree St) - several inventive cocktails make this a good early-evening stop in town.
·      Julep (Long Street, alley near Long Street Cafe) - cool, intimate, dark space with solid cocktail list. Best when they are not playing loud dance music.
·      Planet Bar (76 Orange St) - spacy (and spacious) lounge in the Mount Nelson Hotel that offers solid, boozy cocktails with worldly ingredients. Expensive.
·      Black Ram (Tamboerskloof, Corner of Kloof Nek Rd & Burnside Rd) - cool space with a nice but pricy selection of microbrews, wines, and booze. Very crowded and smoky on weekends. A see-and-be-seen kind of place, especially for hipster types.
·      Orphanage Cocktail Emporium (227 Bree St) - Victorian orphan-themed menu delivers tasty cocktails with stunning presentation and decent small plates. Pleasantly dark inside. More tea, Vicar?
·      Tjing Tjing Rooftop Bar (165 Longmarket St) - cool vibe with mixed indoor/outdoor space. Good music, wine, and cocktails.

28 March 2013

The OK Guide to Cape Town: Arts and Culture

Good spots for live music in town include Zula Sound Bar and The Waiting Room (Long Street); Straight No Chaser for serious, intimate jazz (Zonnebloem); and Mercury Live and theAssembly (Zonnebloem) for dance and rock. Further out, there are some decent spots in Observatory with erratic schedules and talent (Tagore's, Obviouzly Armchair; Obz Cafe; Mojo's).

Artscape, the Fugard Theatre, and the Baxter Theatre generally put on good productions that from an international perspective are amazing value.

Maynardville Open-Air Theatre makes for a great picnic and show in Wynberg during the summer.

Be on the look-out for interesting theatre festivals, especially the free public-art festival Infecting the City (in March).

Cape Town has a number of good small galleries and exhibitors. Here are a few favorite spaces in town:
·      Salon 91 (Gardens, 91 Kloof St)
·      AVA Gallery (Town, 35 Church St)
·      SMAC Gallery (Town, Cnr Buitengracht & Butensingel)
·      SA National Gallery (Company's Garden; small but usually solid)
·      Erdmann Contemporary (town, 63 shortmarket St)
·      Commune1 (town, 64 Wale St)

Woodstock is a fun neighborhood for gallery hopping and offbeat shops.
·      A Word of Art (rotating)
·      Stevenson Cape Town (160 Sir Lowry Rd)
·      Goodman Gallery (176 Sir Lowry Rd)
·      Blank Projects (113 Sir Lowry Rd)

Urban wanderings: 
·      Long Street: antique shops, hip boutiques, and colorful facades
·      Bo-Kaap: Cape Muslim history, brightly painted houses of every shade
·      Company's Garden: pretty garden in town with many museums and great views of the mountains
·      Woodstock: art galleries, grungy urban renewal, and funky shops
·      Sea Point Promenade: stroll along the sea wall, stop as you wish at beaches and saltwater pools
·      Muizenberg / Kalk Bay: take the train to cute beachfront towns on the False Bay side; decent swimming, cute boutiques, delicious seafood (a.k.a. the perfect day-trip)

The OK Guide to Cape Town: Outside

Hiking and Outdoors

In Town:
·      Lion's Head: great 2.5 hour hike to the top, with 360-degree views of the city and the ocean. Big elevation change and some definite rock scrambles, but delightful.
·      Table Mountain, via Platteklip Gorge: 2.5-3.5 hours of Stairmaster, with breathtaking reward at the top. Can take cable car up and/or down if so inclined.
·      Devil's Peak: harder than Table Mountain, but many fewer people. Often lost in the clouds.
·      Clifton Beaches: beautiful non-commercial beachfronts (but likely crowded). Great for a sundowner picnic in summer.
·      Signal Hill: not a traditional climb, but even driving to the top provides beautiful views and a great sundowner spot (although the traffic to get back down in season can be hectic).

Out of town:
·      Chapman's Peak: not many other hikers for the amazing views after a nice, gradual but challenging climb (2-3 hours). Chapmans Peak Drive is one of the most stunning drives in the Western Cape.
·      Silvermine: beautiful and easy hike with great views of entire Cape Peninsula; awesome cave optional (2-4 hours)
·      Cape Point: amazing hike between two points, with amazing ocean views the whole way; serious schlep from town (1.5 hours) 

26 March 2013

The OK Guide to Cape Town: Restaurants, Part 1

After spending a year in Cape Town, I am proud to present a hand-made list of favorites in food, wine, and beyond:
The OK Guide to Cape Town

There is a lot of good food in Cape Town. There is a lot of terrible/regrettable/overpriced food in Cape Town. Choose wisely. It is often advisable to book ahead, especially on weekends or in high season. Do not expect world-class service in the less-expensive restaurants.

[ Restaurants are listed by neighborhood and then from cheapest to most expensive. Highlighted restaurants are still memorable years later.] 

In Town:
·      Eastern Food Bazaar (96 Longmarket St) - cheap and cheerful "food court" downtown with Middle Eastern, Indian, and Asian food. Great Indian ice cream. Huge, ridiculous portions. Cool, diverse crowd. Lines at lunch can be epic.
·      Ou Meul Bakery (14 Long St) - great stop for fresh pies.
·      Clarke's (133 Bree St) - burgers and milkshakes are hip in Cape Town. Clarkes is the best of several crowded "American food" restaurants; better than Hudson's or Royale Eatery.
·      Bird's Cafe (127 Bree St) - lovely spot for breakfast and lunch. Tall ceilings, wood tables. Delicious food with stunning presentation. Dont miss the chicken pie.
·      Fork (84 Long Street) - small plates with South African / international flair. Great ambiance.
·      Masala Dosa (167 Long St) - solid Indian café with some vibe. Great lassis and solid vegetarian options. Thalis and dosas are highly recommended.
·      Addis in Cape (41 Church St) - solid Ethiopian place off of Long Street. Loud but atmospheric. Come with a large group and share something spicy.
·      Savoy Cabbage (101 Hout St) - some of the best fine dining in town: seasonal/organic + great atmosphere + game meats done perfectly.

Kloof St / Gardens:
·      Societi Bistro (50 Orange St) - classy Italian joint. Great vibe, especially in the bar.
·      Rick's Cafe Americain (2 Park Rd) - Casablanca-inspired Moroccan spot. Hearty portions. Can get noisy at dinner but is generally quiet at lunch. The deck upstairs is perfect for drinks after work.
·      Arnold's (60 Kloof St) - reliable Gardens spot for breakfast, WiFi, and delicious Modern South African game-meat dinners. Skip the fish dishes.
·      Takumi (3 Park Road) - respectable sushi.
·      Mount Nelson Hotel (76 Orange St) - afternoon tea plus buffet is legendary and delicious. Waste all afternoon eating sandwiches, pastries, and macarons. A fully colonial experience. Book ahead.

Tamboerskloof / Oranjezicht / Vredehoek
·      Toni's (88 Kloof St) - Portuguese and Mozambican place in Tamboerskloof. Best peri-peri chicken in town. Seafood curries are incredible.
·      Manna Epicure (151 Kloof St) - great lunch/brunch spot in Tamboerskloof. Delectable eggs benedict and other treats. Try the eggs with smoked salmon and coconut bread.
·      Cafe Paradiso (110 Kloof St) - pleasant Italian food in a house that is lovely inside and out. In winter they run a glorious lunch buffet that is a great deal (R55 for a big plate of goodies).
·      Sidewalk Cafe (33 Derry St) - delightful Vredehoek neighborhood spot. Modern South African food and a mean Pimms Cup. Dine on grilled linefish or fillet medallions. Book ahead.
·      Miller's Thumb (10B Kloof Nek Rd) - some of the best fish in town. Menu does not change, but they offer creative sauces, fresh seafood, and amazing springbok carpaccio. For dessert, try the poached pear with blue cheese ice cream. No corkage on your first bottle of wine; genuine good service in Cape Town. One of our favorite spots.
·      Bombay Bicycle Club (156 Kloof St) - wacky, weird, and delicious Modern South African food in Oranjezicht. Terrible service though. Funny hats and whimsical seating available/encouraged. Book ahead.
·      The Roundhouse (off of Kloof Rd) - there are few better places for a sundowner. Bottles of wine and tapas available on the lawn outside during summer. The restaurant itself features modern fine dining with South African touches. Book ahead.