RETURNING AFTER ALMOST A DECADE, NICHOLAS CHRISOSTOMOU FINDS AN INTENSELY ENERGISED CITY REBORN
The port city of Cape Town has always been an entertaining, edgy and happening place to visit. Its spectacular location, in the shadow of larger-than-life Table Mountain at the northern end of the Cape Peninsula bordered by impressive scenery, gorgeous beaches and miles of magnificent coastline, has permanently bestowed upon South Africa’s most vibrant metropolis the status of the continent’s most visually pleasing city.
Near-vertical cliffs falling into the cold, crystal-clear waters of the Atlantic on Cape Town’s west and the much warmer jade-coloured waters of the Indian Ocean to the city’s east, make for an inimitable cityscape that cannot be matched by any other metropolis on the planet. If you are lucky enough to see Cape Town through the window as you come in to land, that first glimpse is indelible. The city’s setting is truly incomparable.
Boasting a diverse topography and an inordinate variety of striking natural wonders, nature lovers can hike, bike, climb, glide, boat, surf, swim, explore and much more, all within the city’s limits. None other of the world’s cities-on-the-sea can offer such a huge range of activities. Moreover, the Western Cape is brimming with opportunities to be outdoors all year round, and it never gets European cold, not even in the winter months.
The country’s apartheid past, by which black people were institutionally segregated and excluded from cities – especially from Cape Town where the government maintained they had no historical right to live – today provides a number of tourist sites for history buffs to visit, including Robben Island, 7 kilometres off the city’s coast in Table Bay. It was here that South Africa’s first democratically elected president – Nelson Mandela – spent 18 years incarcerated in prison.
However, for all its historical and natural allure, and despite being repeatedly name-checked as the world’s most beautiful city, until relatively recently Cape Town could not compete on a cultural level with its international peers, particularly in terms of art. For this reason, it was always considered by many to be a tourists’ playground and a “fun” place to visit, rather than highbrow or sophisticated in cultural terms. But, the recent emergence of a cutting-edge art scene, crowned by the 2017 unveiling of a world-class museum and uber-cool adjoining district, have shaken everything up and catapulted Cape Town onto the world’s artistic stage where it now has a permanent seat.
It has been nine years since I last visited Cape Town. A distinct lack of cultural substance, an ever-present division along racial lines and a noticeable increase in Cape Town’s crime rate are the reasons I stopped visiting at around the time of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Before then, I literally couldn’t get enough of the place. A combination of the South African sun, the city’s party spirit, superb food, jumping bars and a favourable exchange rate routinely combined to continuously draw me back to Cape Town year-in-year-out for a decade. But when my safety and cultural hunger outweighed my need to party, it was time to give the city a break. South Africa’s crime rate is notorious and I began to feel it in 2010.
It must be mentioned at the outset of planning to visit Cape Town, one must get to grips with the flaws underneath its intensely picturesque façade from the get-go. As visitors we cannot fix inequality or help the poor in any country we visit. Like an elephant in the room, in Cape Town there’s no getting away from it. We can only hope that our tourist Pounds will in some way seep down to those who need it most.
When I return to South Africa in 2019, I soon find that Cape Town still has the ability to surprise. And surprise me it does, mostly by its art and culinary scenes.
Thanks in large part to The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA), the gritty Silo District and an electrified food scene helmed by a new generation of innovative chefs, I find an energised city reborn as the Rainbow Nation’s cultural capital. Even crime appears to be under control, perhaps thanks to a new network of more than 1,500 CCTV cameras and visibly more police in touristic areas. Despite the obvious inequity between the wealthy and the rest of its 4 million Capetonians, the city feels safer. I walk the streets of the CBD alone and browse the shops and galleries. Cape Town feels different and art has everything to do with it.
Built in 1921, Cape Town’s famous grain silos were the industrial heart of the city’s harbour area for the best part of a century and the nation’s tallest buildings for a long time. They were also a geographical landmark for millions of South Africans. Everyone knew the unsightly grey concrete building in the middle of Cape Town, which was bizarrely listed as a UNESCO world heritage site. So, when British architectural genius Thomas Heatherwick spent ZAR 500 million carving a thrilling museum out the silos, the first such institution of its kind in Africa, anchored by a show-stopping cathedral-like atrium celebrating art, everybody noticed and the city was changed, for the better, forever.
Named after Jochen Zeitz – the former CEO of Puma whose art forms the basis of its permanent collection – when Zeitz MOCAA opened two years ago, I doubt that anyone foresaw the magnitude of the effect the museum would have, not just on the city of Cape Town and the country of South Africa, but on the African continent. Zeitz MOCAA has utterly transformed the cultural landscape of Cape Town and its artistic influence is being felt throughout Africa. For want of a better analogy, Zeitz MOCAA has become South Africa’s Tate Modern and its cultural spell is far reaching.
Where contemporary African art was once limited to small, private galleries, it is now one of the hottest artistic genres on the planet and being shown in every notable museum on the world stage. And all of this is feeding back into Cape Town, resulting in an electrification of its art scene like never before and a new-found citywide cultural momentum. Furthermore, the energy being generated by Zeitz MOCAA is fuelling many other cultural facets of Cape Town, not least gastronomy, which has taken-off Concorde-style in recent years.
Born in England and trained in Switzerland, Luke Roberts is just one of a new breed of owner-chefs who have been reinvigorating Cape Town’s restaurants with a fresh approach, new flavours and exciting concepts. A scene which was largely dominated by traditional and often fuddy-duddy food and beverage offerings when I last visited the city, is now positively bursting with new talent and culinary creativity, so much so that I cannot possibly visit all the restaurants I really want to during my 10-day stay. Decided by over 1,000 respected chefs, food writers and gourmands, for the fifth consecutive year, Roberts’ Test Kitchen restaurant in Cape Town was included in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. But what Roberts is doing to Cape Town’s food scene is just the tip of the city’s gastronomic iceberg.
In the past few years, the world-wide gin craze has also landed in South Africa, making the most of the abundance of unique fynbos indigenous to the region. The Western Cape is more botanically diverse than the richest tropical rainforest in South America, and many of its 9,300 species of fynbos pair rather well with gin’s essential ingredient, the juniper berry. Consequently, there are now more than 50 registered gin distilleries countrywide, at least 30 of which are in the Western Cape, and some 200 gins are produced in South Africa, many of which are world-class.
The marriage of a booming art scene with first-class wines, charming wine estates and a myriad of new and exciting eateries, makes visiting Cape Town an outstandingly attractive proposition to culture vultures who thrive on art, good food and fine wine. Now sporting a vitality that has never been so evident before, Cape Town today is a dynamic city on the cultural rise awash with creative energy and an intensely artistic spirit. Visit now to soak it all in and you will almost certainly leave the Mother City thoroughly culturally satiated.
INTERIOR DESIGNER AND ART AFFICIONDO ROBERT SHERWOOD ROUNDS-UP SOME OF THE CITY’S BEST GALLERIES
Having been born in the late 60s to creative parents in Cape Town, at a time when South Africa was renowned for its politics rather than its art scene, it has been fascinating to see how the city’s artistic landscape has changed, developed and matured over the years.
More recently, it has been a pleasure to share my passion for art, with visitors from around the world, at my Bree Street showroom. Witnessing so many people descend upon the Mother City, to enjoy the burgeoning art and design scene that has proliferated in the past few decades, has been a treat.
A number of exceptionally good artists have always lived and worked in and around Cape Town and a few galleries have remained loyal in showcasing their work.
Founded in 1872 with a donation of 45 paintings from Sir Thomas Butterworth, the Iziko South African National Gallery has grown into a staple of the Cape Town art scene, where you can see a good mix of old masters and contemporary works which creates an interesting discussion between the past and present. The museum’s beautiful setting in historic Company’s Garden – originally created in 1650 to replenish ships rounding the Cape – is further reason to visit. (www.iziko.org.za)
Two major institutions have recently added hugely to Cape Town’s artistic credibility, one of which is the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art (MOCAA). Designed by multi-award-winning British architect Thomas Heatherwick, the museum is housed within the V&A Waterfront’s old grain silos and is a nothing short of a modern architectural masterpiece. Complete with a jaw-dropping entrance, Zeitz MOCAA’s 33 metre-high central atrium, cut out of towering old concrete grain silos, is truly a sight to behold. Running until 23rd March 2020, the museum’s current William Kentridge exhibition, Why Should I Hesitate: Putting Drawings to Work, showcases more than 40 years of the internationally acclaimed artist’s output. (www.zeitzmocaa.museum)
The other major Cape Town art player is Norval Foundation, housed within a striking contemporary pavilion in the southern suburb of Steenberg. The brainchild of founder Louis Norval – a South African businessman with a very keen interest in local art – the foundation is home to the Homestead Art Collection. Assembled by the Norval family over two decades, this leading collection of 20th century South African art is one of the world’s best. Presently, Norval is showcasing two decades’ worth of three-dimensional works by William Kentridge, in Why Should I Hesitate: Sculpture, which runs until 23rd March 2020 in tandem with his exhibition at Zeitz MOCAA. Both are unmissable. (www.norvalfoundation.org)
It is worthwhile mentioning that Zeitz MOCAA and Norval largely came about due to what preceded them, namely a vibrant art and gallery scene. The city is incredibly lucky to have gallerists who go to great lengths to promote work by South African artists. Not especially grouped together in one area (although Woodstock is home to many), these galleries are dispersed throughout the city and surrounding winelands.
Run by Justin Rhodes and Ashleigh McLean, WHATIFTHEWORLD recently moved into a cool, new space in Buiten Street. Recognised both within South Africa and internationally, what stands out about this gallery is its skill for displaying world-renowned artists alongside those just starting out and fortunate enough to have caught the eye of Rhodes and McLean, who are both committed to developing innovative local talent. Very active overseas, you may well have seen WHATIFTHEWORLD at The Armory Show in New York or 1-54 in London. A star of the gallery is Athi-Patra Ruga, whose tapestry and photographic pieces have been shown in most major cities. (www.whatiftheworld.com)
Pre-eminent since 1966, Goodman Gallery’s home, in a former industrial building in Woodstock, is a traditional white cube space which hosts exhibitions of some of the major players in the South African and African art scenes, including William Kentridge. (www.goodman-gallery.com)
Also located in Woodstock and founded in 2003, Stevenson’s exhibition openings are always hot ticket events, since this gallery has a unique viewpoint and showcases the work of an interesting array of diverse artists. In particular, Nandipha Mntambo’s work using cowskin is ground-breaking. Wim Botha’s fractured bronzes are just one highlight of his long career. And another heavyweight of Stevenson’s stable, Johannesburg-based Nicholas Hlobo’s large sculptural works, have attracted much attention internationally. (www.stevenson.info)
The centre of Cape Town is also home to a number of smaller galleries that play an important role in diversifying the city’s art scene. A number of great spaces along Church Street veritably burst at the seams every First Thursday – an initiative started a few years ago, which sees the city’s galleries and shops stay open until late on the first Thursday monthly. If you happen to be in Cape Town on First Thursday, do come into the CBD and see what everyone is showing. (www.first-thursdays.co.za)
If you venture out of town to the Cape Winelands – particularly to Stellenbosch and Franschhoek – you will be surprised by the amount of art on display alongside exceptional wines to be tasted. A number of wine estates have a distinctly artistic lean, including Delaire Graff, Grande Provence and Cavalli.
Given the vast assortment of art on offer, Franschhoek’s main road will almost certainly have you gallery hopping! A major force in the South African art world and the oldest commercial player on the continent, dropping into Everard Read’s Franschhoek gallery is not an option. (www.everard-read-franschhoek.co.za)
For discerning travellers, the mix of visiting Cape Town museums and galleries in the centre, and spending a few days in the winelands, makes for an unforgettable, cultural vacation experience. And, like most people who visit South Africa’s shores, you can always come back for more if you miss something! www.robertsherwooddesign.com
A pivotal part of the very beginning of the settlement of Cape Town, the Victoria & Albert Waterfront dates back to the 17th century. The discovery of gold and diamonds in South Africa in the 1880s meant that the V&A’s Alfred Basin was not large enough to accommodate the increased number of ships, and so the Victoria Basin was constructed and completed 1920. While this part of the harbour still boasts an array of heritage buildings, the V&A has developed, improved and moved with the times as the centuries have passed. It’s this progression that has kept the V&A popular for so many years, with multiple generations of tourists and locals alike, and made it an intrinsic part of life in the Mother City.
Nestled in the harbour between the basins and the cruise terminal and costing an estimated ZAR 2 billon, when the new Silo District opened in 2017 it changed the face of the V&A Waterfront and catapulted Cape Town into an exciting new artistic era, thanks in large part to the incredible Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA).
The focal point of the district (if not the whole of central Cape Town), Zeitz MOCAA and the surrounding area have completely rejuvenated this part of the city which was hitherto derelict and ignored. Today, the Silo District is the first stop for every visitor to Cape Town with a cultural or architectural lean and its hotel is the place to stay.
Filling the top six floors above Zeitz MOCAA, atop the former grain silo, sits the crowning glory of Royal Portfolio’s group of unique hotels: The Silo. To say that this hotel has redrawn Cape Town’s hospitality landscape is something of an understatement. In effect, The Silo has introduced a new layer of luxury to Cape Town’s hotel scene by adding a glamorous property the like of which Capetonians had never seen before.
Staying in one of The Silo’s 28 individually-designed rooms and suites is like looking out through the fanciful crystal-like windows of a bejewelled trinket box suspended in the sky, with all of Cape Town sparkling around you. “Unique” doesn’t do The Silo justice – the hotel is special in every way. “Showstopping” is more like it.
As one would imagine, the service is faultless. The front desk and concierge teams connect with in-house guests via WhatsApp to ensure that every whim is catered for.
Completely in sync with the building, you either love or hate Liz Biden’s interior design style, which can best be described as flamboyant yet inviting. Vibrant silks and deep velvets vie for attention with animal skins, lacquer work, Egyptian-crystal chandeliers, floral prints and gloss finishes. Every bathroom is massive and rock-star chic.
If you are a minimalist The Silo is not the place for you. If you have a zest for life, love colour and live for the moment you will adore The Silo and everything about it, especially the glass-sided rooftop pool and residents-only Sky Terrace which crown the building and provide 360-degree vistas of the surrounding area, plus quite possibly the city’s best views of Table Mountain. www.theroyalportfolio.com
Somewhat uniquely, Cape Town offers visitors a large number of privately-owned, individually styled boutique hospitality gems, that skilfully manage to combine the standards of a five-star hotel with the level of calm, relaxed intimacy and personal service of a well-staffed private house, perhaps owned by a tasteful friend. In all our years of globetrotting, The Cultured Traveller has never come across a city which offers such an array of small, high-quality hotels that cater to the needs of discerning international travellers quite so well. Some are located along the coast in Cape Town’s bays and boast water views and sea breezes, while others are positioned on the slopes of the city’s mountains and hills, offering panoramic city vistas and bucolic gardens. Kensington Place is the latter, and has been routinely voted one of Cape Town’s best boutique hotels since it opened just over two decades ago.
An inconspicuous, eight-room property in upmarket Higgovale, Kensington Place is conveniently positioned on the lower slopes of Table Mountain, seemingly off-the-beaten-track but within 10 minutes of central Cape Town’s in an Uber. Camps Bay’s beaches are about a quarter of an hour away by car in the opposite direction, making Kensington Place nice and centrally positioned to easily access all parts of the city.
A small swimming pool, deck and walled gardens surround the property, which is well secluded from the road offering guests a great deal of privacy. Inside, a multitude of tasteful design touches, a high level of finishing and general attention to detail abound. It’s obvious that Kensington Place has been thoughtfully and lovingly executed and is fastidiously maintained.
The service is warm, casual and staff are ever- present but not in your face. Having something pressed or laundered doesn’t cost the earth and nothing is too much trouble for the tight-knit team. In particular, Gillian is a diamond and Ngonie as helpful as any guest could wish for.
Akin to a junior suite in a conventional hotel, The Cultured Traveller’s second floor superior room was spacious enough, complete with an oversized sofa and private terrace with sun-loungers and patio table/chairs for two. Bedecked with the kind of features you’d expect in a five-star hotel, as well as the usual king size bed, luxe linens and huge flat screen TV, the quality toiletries in the slick shower room were full size, and the panoramic vistas of the mountains and surrounding landscape were wonderful.
What’s especially fab about Kensington Place is the lack of formality or airs and graces. Breakfast is served throughout the day and you can literally eat it anywhere – in your room, in the garden or in the dining room. And, as well as a buffet, an excellent range of à la carte options – include eggs prepared in countless ways and a variety of fresh-pressed juices – is offered for no extra charge.
Room service is very reasonably priced, making having a “night off” and staying-in financially viable without breaking the bank. Food ordered at night was readied swiftly, delivered to The Cultured Traveller’s room and tasted delicious. Offering luxury lodgings with first class service at sensible prices, Kensington Place is perfect for travellers who value privacy above all else. kensingtonplace.co.za
To stay in any city’s central business district is to be up close and personal with its daily comings-and-goings and Cape Town is no different. A menagerie of cultures, nationalities, ages, genders, personalities and styles converging in the beating heart of the Mother City results in a unique melting pot of people from all walks of life and corners of the globe.
Synonymous with having a good time and consequently brimming with bars and restaurants, bohemian Long Street is the CBD’s main artery and Cape Town’s most famous party strip. Two streets across, running parallel with Long, bustling Bree Street is home to a plethora of trendy restaurants, cool cafés, contemporary art galleries and funky shops interspersed with beautiful colonial buildings. On the other side of Long Street, Greenmarket Square was originally the site of a market selling fresh produce grown in Company’s Garden nearby, hence its name. Today, stall holders sell everything from jewellery to craft goods and toys to haggling tourists while buskers provide the soundtrack. A few minutes’ walk away, Church Square couldn’t be more different. Cobbled and bordered by historic buildings yet somewhat less busy than Greenmarket, it is a relatively quiet enclave that is still very much in the middle of it all. It is here, at 5 Church Square, that swanky Labotessa boutique hotel opened its chic doors earlier this year.
Occupying a charming five-storey Heritage Blue-painted building in the corner of the square, topped by a duplex penthouse, immaculately turned-out Labotessa wouldn’t look out of place in Europe and cuts a fine figure.
Dating back to the 16th century, the storied building once played host to Cape Town’s first congregational church while Groote Church was being erected on Adderley Street. Today, Groote Church is South Africa’s oldest formal place of worship and 5 Church Square is a deluxe urban retreat.
Boasting half a dozen overly spacious suites ranging in size from 65 sqm upwards, Labotessa offers luxurious and well-considered apartment-style living complete with the services of an attentive and friendly concierge-like team. While The Cultured Traveller was in residence, a broken watch strap was fixed quickly and without fuss and a Saturday shopping route was planned in-line with shops’ various closing times.
Crowning Labotessa is its rather special three-bedroom 300 sqm Governor Suite. Spread over two levels and providing the ultimate accommodation and entertaining space, the suite boasts multiple terraces, a private splash pool, SONOS system and a slick all-singing-all-dancing kitchen. Basically, the perfect place for a party.
Cleverly, all of Labotessa’s rooms are accessed directly from the elevator, meaning that your digi-key takes you directly to your lodgings without meeting other guests en route. Lounge windows look directly at Lion’s Head Mountain. A high-top table – with a built-in power and USB tower – is the perfect place to check emails on-the-go. A personal kitchenette means that foods can be warmed-up if you fancy having a night-in. Shower rooms are small but perfectly formed and laden with a plentiful supply of super-luxe Diptyque toiletries. The free mini-bar is well-stocked with everything from mineral waters to South African wines and local craft gins. Don’t be surprised to find a delicious mini picnic in your fridge on arrival which is refreshed daily. Turn-downs are accompanied by handmade chocolates or some other naughty sweet treat. Housekeeping staff access suites via a different door at the back of each suite so the elevator is for guests’ use only.
A refined place to rest one’s head, Labotessa has been elegantly and carefully finished to provide the highest quality stay in the epicentre of bustling Cape Town and wholly succeeds on every level. www.labotessa.com
VISIT ZEITZ MOCAA
The world’s largest museum dedicated to contemporary art from Africa and its diaspora, since opening in 2017, the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA) has catapulted South Africa onto the global art stage and the incredible building has already gained near iconic status, certainly within the continent. Housed within 9,500 sqm of custom designed space spread over nine floors, the museum was carved out of a disused grain silo complex comprising 42 tubes that densely packed the building. Now repurposed, Zeitz MOCAA stands as both a monument to Cape Town’s industrial past and a beacon of architectural and artistic creativity moving forwards into the future. Even if you’re not a fan of museums or an art aficionado, set aside a few hours to see the building – the atrium is breathtaking and the views from the rooftop sculpture garden, towards Table Mountain, are unmissable. www.zeitzmocaa.museum
HIKE LION’S HEAD MOUNTAIN
Not only can you gaze for miles around in all directions from atop Lion’s Head, but the mountain’s position, in the very centre of Cape Town, provides a unique perspective of the cityscape and surroundings suburbs. The spectacular vistas of Table Mountain and the Twelve Apostles peaks, that run along the Cape Peninsula south of Cape Town, are also mesmerising. Ascending Lion’s Head takes 60-90 minutes and doesn’t require any special equipment – just some decent trainers and sensible clothing. While the hike only requires a degree of fitness and sensibility rather than experience, it’s always best to be guided by an expert. The Cultured Traveller enlisted the assistance of Kosta Papageorgiou, who is admirably making the ascent 500 times as part of his Lion 500 challenge to raise ZAR 500k for the #beahumblehero fund in support of Cape Town charities Rape Crisis, Fallen Angels and Depression SA (www.facebook.com/pg/thelion500). A morning spent with charming Kosta, conquering Lion’s Head, is something you’re not going to forget in a hurry. email@example.com
EXPLORE DE WATERKANT
Located between the Bo Kaap neighbourhood and the city centre, this uplifting and fascinating little village is something of a cosmopolitan hub where locals, the LGBTQ community and visitors from around the world gather to drink coffee, eat, party and socialise. An area steeped in history and home to a variety of restaurants, shops, spas, yoga studios and quaint cottages, De Waterkant has a style all of its own, is one of the oldest parts of Cape Town and one of the few to have retained much of its original character. Nestled against the steep slopes of Signal Hill, the first houses were built in the late 18th century. Today, the area owes much of its innate character to its relatively domestic single storey flat-roofed architecture – some Cape Dutch, some Georgian – painted in a variety of charmingly bright and pastel colours. www.capetown.travel
RIDE FRANSCHHOEK’S WINE TRAM
Boasting one of the most beautiful wine producing regions in the world, no visit to South Africa is complete without spending some time in its Cape Winelands, and taking a ride on the Franschhoek Wine Tram is almost certainly one of the best ways to take in see the pristine scenery while at the same time visiting a selection of vineyards and sampling some fine wines produced by some of the nation’s oldest and most distinguished estates. A particularly lovely way to spend an afternoon, the vintage-style railway tram’s curated wine experiences include a tram ride to a local wine estate, a wine lecture by a knowledgeable oenophile, a guided cellar tour, three-course gourmet lunch (with wines, of course) and tastings at two more premium wine estates. Sit back and let someone else do the driving while you enjoy the delicious wines! www.winetram.co.za
MEET AFRICAN PENGUINS
Colloquially known as Boulders Bay and located 45 km southeast of Cape Town, close to Simon’s Town, Boulders Beach is punctuated by huge, ancient granite boulders which protect it from the wind and large waves, making it a very nice spot for some sheltered swimming. In 1983, a colony of African penguins obviously thought the same because they settled and have been resident ever since. Classified as an endangered species, only found on the coastlines of South Africa and Namibia and known for their distinctive donkey-like braying, the penguins wandering freely in a protected environment have become something of an attraction for local and tourists alike. Being one of only a few land-based penguin colonies in the world today, incredible conservation efforts have grown the Boulders colony to over 2,000 birds in recent years. The best time to see them is early morning or late afternoon when the penguins are at their most active and photogenic! www.sanparks.org
DRIVE TO CAPE POINT
To literally feel like you’re at the end of the earth, nothing beats visiting Cape Point. 60 km from Cape Town by road, it’s one of the most beautiful drives, so rent a topless car and feel the wind in your hair as you coast along the Cape Peninsula. Reaching out into the crashing waters like an elongated claw at the bottom of Africa, Cape Point is surrounded by tempestuous oceans and battered by gale-force winds and makes for a brutally elemental afternoon in amongst the ancient mountains, Cape fynbos and fire-dependent botanicals. 238 metres above sea level, the old (upper) lighthouse can be easily accessed courtesy of a funicular. Needless to say, the views from its perch are spectacular. Take the funicular up and walk down for the best of both worlds. The new lighthouse which replaced it, built exactly a century ago, is the most powerful light on the African continent. www.capepoint.co.za
BELLY OF THE BEAST
Utterly unmissable for a dedicated gourmand, this superb restaurant located in East City Precinct should be at the top of your Cape Town hit list. The brainchild of chefs Anouchka Horn and Neil Swart, Belly of the Beast offers a changing, seasonal tasting menu for lunch and dinner in their 20-seater modern-industrial dining room. A completely open kitchen lines one side of the restaurant opposite a bank of street-facing windows. Guests are seated in between and served every course by the chefs and friendly waiting staff, making for a very personal and involved dining experience which The Cultured Traveller adored on the evening we visited for dinner. There are no menu options or set number of courses. Dinner service starts at 7pm and if fancy a pre-dinner cocktail you may show up from 6pm. Reservations are made online, alleviating Horn and Swart from the hassle and allowing them to focus on the food which is very good indeed. Dining at Belly of the Beast is an impressive gastronomic experience from start-to-finish, which when coupled with such personal service and attention to detail, makes this restaurant stand out. www.bellyofthebeast.co.za
THE POT LUCK CLUB
One of The Cultured Traveller’s favourite restaurants in Africa, the sister restaurant to celebrated British chef Luke Dale-Roberts’ famed Test Kitchen, The Pot Luck Club, seemingly floats above Cape Town’s funky Woodstock district, on the sixth floor of a former silo presiding over the Old Biscuit Mill complex. Boasting a relaxed, New York loft feel, expansive windows around the perimeter of the spacious 120 seat dining room provide panoramic vistas of the ocean, port, city, Table Mountain and Lion’s Head. An open-plan kitchen illuminated by studio lighting gives the impression of a stage, where talented head chef Jason Kosmas (appointed this year) serves a menu which draws inspiration from South America to Southeast Asia. A number of tasty new dishes recently added reflect Kosmas’ Greek/Italian heritage. Literally everything about the Pot Luck is cool and stylish, including the affable staff. Serving world-class food in a laid-back environment is the key to this venue’s incredible success – often selling-out two sittings every night of the week, especially during high season – so reserving well in advance is a must or prepare to miss out. www.thepotluckclub.co.za
THE DUCHESS OF WISBEACH
Located in a little side street off Sea Point’s main road, this intimate Cape Town culinary institution, comprising a medley of splendidly decorated rooms adjoining a characterful and buzzing bar, recently celebrated its tenth birthday. Run by inimitable chef and hostess-with-the-mostess Theresa Beukes, a night spent with “the Duchess” can range from a quiet and refined dinner to a full-on party complete with music, sparklers, glitter, dancing and more. For this reason, the Duchess is incredibly popular with local folk and only tourists in-the-know find their way through her hallowed, decadent portals. Here you will feast on well-executed, no-nonsense fare, perhaps kicking off with mussels from South Africa’s west coast steamed in a carrot, tomato and leek broth. Follow with a roast rack of lamb served with roast potatoes, peas, gravy and homemade mint sauce. To finish on a sugary high, order the hot sticky apricot pudding with fudge sauce and ice cream. Nostalgic, discreet, a little glam and a touch romantic, the best night to visit is surely Thursday, when the post-dinner antics are at their maddest and the tequila-fuelled fun often continues past midnight. www.duchessofwisbeach.co.za
THE ATHLETIC CLUB & SOCIAL
Housed on the edge of the CBD on Buitengracht Street, within a gorgeous, brown-hued three-storey heritage building dating back to the 1900s, The Athletic Club & Social opened its doors about a year ago to much and immediate critical acclaim and has been on the rise ever since. The brainchild of co-owner and seasoned restauranteur Athos Euripidou, who has lovingly honoured the building’s heritage while simultaneously breathing new life into its labyrinth of interesting spaces, every detail has been carefully executed to reflect the grandeur of the 1920s and 1930s. The result is a venue that could be located in any fashionable world metropolis yet is intrinsically South African and proudly representative of the country’s storied past. The tapas bar and restaurant offers a moreish menu that skilfully fuses Greek, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavours, featuring many beautifully executed vegetarian and vegan dishes. All meats and fish are sustainably and ethically sourced. Staff are friendly, knowledgeable and unstuffy. The round table directly in front of the kitchen is the one to book if you like to people watch and see your food being prepared. In the basement, a warm, club-like space, reminiscent of a louche 1920s salon, comes alive at the weekends when a DJ plays disco, soul, jazz, funk and afrobeats. www.theathletic.co.za
A partnership between two of the Western Cape’s fine dining connoisseurs, Luke Dale-Roberts and Ryan Cole, Salsify opened a little over a year ago in the upper level of the historically-significant Roundhouse building, which sits in a leafy pocket of Camps Bay overlooking an exquisite stretch of the Atlantic Ocean, making it the perfect venue for a nice long lunch! Dating back to 1786 when the building served as a guardhouse then a hunting lodge for Sir Lord Charles Somerset, Salsify is bedecked with interesting art that both pays homage to the building’s history and makes some strong statements about Somerset’s naughty antics! Of note are works by Brooklyn-based Louis de Villiers AKA SKULLBOY and a striking statue by Jan Otto du Plessis. Drawing inspiration from the eatery’s name, chef Cole is gently pushing flavour and technique boundaries to produce refined, classical dishes with a modern touch. The result is an opulent yet relaxed dining experience, with first-class service lifting Salsify to Cape Town’s top ten. www.salsify.co.za
Channelling a distinctly downtown Manhattan feel, it’s not just the menu that blends South African and Japanese flavours at Cape Town’s newest designer urban eatery, FYN, its interiors are also a harmonious balance of the two contrasting cultures. Positioned five floors up on the corner of Church Square and Parliament Street in the heart of Cape Town’s CBD, the space is dominated by a show-stopping Japanese abacus-inspired art installation by German craftsman Christoph Karl, whose strings of wooden discs fill the ceiling above the dining room and kitchen. FYN’s menu follows the kaiseki, multi-course dining concept and is packed with interesting dishes courtesy of much-lauded chef Peter Tempelhoff. If you opt for the tasting menu, expect to start with an exquisite bento box of bite-sized canapés, followed by bread served with a dusting of bone marrow coal and wagyu butter. A kaiseki tray of slightly larger portions forms the main course, followed by a ramen dish and then a palate cleanser before a trio of desserts. The wine flight pairings are good, but you’d be better advised to select your own bottle from FYN’s rather fine list. www.fynrestaurant.com
THE ART OF DUPLICITY
Hidden away in a former warehouse at the back of a late 19th century storefront, you’ll need the address and a password to get into this secret speakeasy-style bar in East City Precinct. Once inside, you’d be forgiven for feeling like you’ve just been teleported back to prohibition era New York, when illegal establishments thrived on members of high society living life to the full. Dominated at one end by a huge bar, The Art of Duplicity is helmed by mixology master Brent Perremore, who is personally responsible for some of the best menus in Cape Town. Unsurprisingly therefore, the cocktails served are top notch and drinks are presented with careful attention to detail. On Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, live jazz completes the immersive experience. The Art of Duplicity is probably the best venue in Cape Town to spend a sophisticated yet low-key evening, sipping premium cocktails. www.170120.co.za
Pioneers in the South African craft gin game, hands-on husband and wife team Leigh Lisk and Lucy Beard left behind their high-powered London jobs to return to South Africa and pursue their passion for making artisanal spirits, particularly mother’s ruin. Launching in 2014 in gritty, largely industrial Salt River, at a time when premium craft spirits were relatively new and uncommon in South Africa, Hope was the first licensed small batch distillery to open in Cape Town. Five years later, Lisk and Beard have made a good name for themselves among the discerning gin-drinking community for their high-quality products and their bottles are stocked by numerous restaurants and bars across town. If you fancy a quality G&T while you’re in Cape Town, head to Hope’s experiential tasting room which offers an up-close-and-personal introduction to the brand. Alternatively, treat yourself to a gin flight, order some nibbles and spend a few hours relaxing and getting gently “ruined” South African style! www.hopedistillery.co.za
THE SILO ROOFTOP
Perched atop Cape Town’s most talked about hotel, The Silo, this chic rooftop bar is partly open to the public every day from noon until sunset, offering expertly prepared cocktails amid some of the most spectacularly panoramic views in the Mother City, from the tallest building in the V&A Waterfront. Cocktails and South African wines are complemented by a range of culinary treats including fresh oysters, pulled pork sandwiches and a variety of tasty salads and snacks. While the hotel’s stunning glass-sided rooftop pool and upper-level Sky Terrace are only accessible to guests actually staying in the hotel, you can stylishly kick-start an evening’s proceedings at this chic rooftop venue without having to book for a room for the night! www.theroyalportfolio.com/the-silo
CAUSE | EFFECT COCKTAIL KITCHEN
The brainchild of award-winning bartender and beverage consultant Kurt Schlechter and his bartending business partner James Philips, Cause Effect’s mission is to deliver unique cocktail experiences inspired by its South African surroundings, including Cape Town’s fynbos, oceans, emerging artists, the surrounding vineyards and the mountains. Winners of South Africa’s cocktail bar of the year and best bar team of the year in 2018 and 2019, Schlechter and Philips know a thing or two about making drinks, and the aforementioned elements are not only reflected in the fantastic decor of the venue but also in the spectacular cocktails created. The bar also offers one of the largest collections of award-winning Cape potstill brandies and local bitters, vermouths and tinctures. For a show-stopping cocktail, order “The Rocket” – made with Bacardi 8, passion fruit, orange, rooibos and sparkling water – served in a large rocket ship handmade out of red and white beads, complete with haze emanating from the door which opens to reveal the drink inside. www.causeandeffect.co.za
THE HOUSE OF MACHINES
The brainchild of avid motorcycle enthusiasts Brad Armitage, Paul van der Spuy and Drew Madacsi, The House of Machines is a unique urban space, located in Cape Town’s city centre, which somehow fuses a coffee shop with a bar, men’s fashion outlet and a bike workshop at the back. The bar element of the operation serves a good range of artisan beers and some excellent throwback cocktails. Staff are very well versed, friendly and keen to impress, whether with a latté or a cocktail creation. The Corpse Reviver, Side Car and Smoked Old Fashioned are all well-prepared and punchy. There’s almost certainly nowhere like The House of Machines anywhere else in the Western Cape, and while motorcycle fans will obviously love the place, the drinks and atmosphere have been designed, as a whole, to appeal to a far wider crowd. www.thehouseofmachines.com
Occupying a relatively unobtrusive Victorian townhouse in the midsection of Kloof Street, its weekly Tuesday live jazz and deep house nights are the night at ASOKA and have been a veritable institution among the Mother City’s hip after-dark crowd for some time now. Sporting an exotic design aesthetic that takes you on a journey from Turkey to Thailand, and a vibe that can best be described as elemental fusion, beyond the homely terrace out front and timber sash windows, the space is comfortable, seductive and somewhat otherworldly, making it ideal for the many purposes ASOKA has become popular: cocktail bar; sundowner spot; live music venue; late-night dance floor and dinner venue. Overall, ASOKA is a friendly warm and the service is great, so well worth dropping into a while you’re in Cape Town, especially on Tuesday nights if you fancy a little boogie! www.asoka.za.com
Established in 1998 by master weaver Stuart Holding, Mungo is a family-run business that specialises in the production of natural fibre homeware textiles, individually woven at Mungo’s own mill in Plettenberg Bay. The wide range of homeware textiles available includes everyday classics inspired by historic patterns, as well as contemporary designs influenced by African textile traditions. Behind every product is real South African people, thousands of carefully sourced natural fibre yarns, traditional tools, history and knowledge – both learned and inherited – used to manufacture well-designed products that last. At Mungo’s Hout Street store, as well as the full Mungo range you’ll find a cool experiential inner-city micro mill, where contemporary textile design meets traditional weaving on a one hundred-year-old Hattersley loom. mungo.co.za
CAPE COBRA LEATHERCRAFT
Cape Cobra Leathercraft found international acclaim in the 1990s and has since become Africa’s largest exporter of luxury exotic leather goods, manufacturing for some of the fashion industry’s top design houses. A third-generation family-run business, the brand’s name pays homage to the Cape Cobra snake which is native to Cape Town. Timeless luxury, refined designs and impeccable craftsmanship have made Cape Cobra popular around the globe for many decades and put its goods into the hands of everyone from the British Royal Family to Jennifer Lopez. At Cape Cobra’s swanky Bree Street retail store, shoppers can browse a vast array of beautifully finished goods fashioned from Nile crocodile, ostrich, python and Asian vine snake skins sourced from trusted sustainable farms in the Far East and South Africa. capecobra.com
A unique South African jeweller based in the adorable suburban Cape Town fishing village of Kalk Bay, with another outlet in Franschhoek’s winelands, ANPA’s prêt-à-porter pieces exhibit an organic, hand-finished style that highlights the precious metals and gems used in their production. A range of sculptural statement pieces – fashioned from gold, silver, black diamonds, tanzanite, African emeralds and a myriad of precious stones – distinctly echo Africa and make for excellent mementos. ANPA has also fine-tuned the art of custom made jewellery, crafting beautiful, one-of-a-kind pieces that can encapsulate a client’s personality and individual taste. Good value custom-made pieces can sometimes be made on fairly short notice by ANPA designers Andreas Betzold and Patrizia Litty, who have been collaborating for almost 20 years, striving to create high quality jewellery with significant visual appeal. anpa.co.za
MERCHANTS ON LONG
A tribute to the vast array of high quality goods available on the African continent, Merchants on Long opened in 2010 in one of the street’s most beautiful and historic buildings, complete with a gorgeous terracotta Art Nouveau facade, to showcase Pan-African design spanning everything from jewellery, clothing and shoes to homewares and gifts. Reputed to be the first concept store in Cape Town to offer such a wide variety of African fashion and designer wear under one roof, here you will find exquisite items such as Zulu-inspired sandals, the divine scents of Karen Frazer and gorgeous woven baskets handmade to exacting standards by artisans. Distinctive MaXhosa knits by Laduma explore the Xhosa culture through graphic printed knits. Ghanaian YEVU produces ethical clothing using a reinterpretation of traditional African fabrics. And owner Hanneli Rupert’s own Okapi line of bags – incorporating exotic materials like springbok horns and ostrich skins in her designs – are also worth checking-out. facebook.com/merchantscapetown
ALEXANDRA HÖJER ATELIER
Housed on the ground floor of a historic 17th century building on fashionable Bree Street, Swedish clothing designer Alexandra Höjer moved to Cape Town in 2006 to start her eponymous clothing line and her beautiful store exudes her unique sense of personal style. A seemingly effortlessly curated collection of unique props – including rusted steel cabinets and an array of vintage amber glass – sit elegantly alongside contemporary furniture and fittings that subtly defer to Höjer’s contemporary-chic womenswear which takes centre stage. Reflecting an innate femininity, all of Höjer’s locally made ready-to-wear garments fuse a touch of rock ’n’ roll with a sense of modern nostalgia, and display a grittiness that makes them bang on trend right now. Separated from the shop by glass is the studio where Höjer and her small team toil, allowing customers to witness the manufacturing process and make a connection with their garments. alexandrahojer.com
AFRAID OF MICE
Far from the dusty racks of clothes one might normally associate with a vintage store, Afraid of Mice on the corner of Long and Longmarket streets is well merchandised, bright and entirely pleasing on the eye. Filled with “the clothes you wish your mother had kept for you” is the mantra of owning-sisters Simone and Bianca Brandi, who decided to follow their passion for fashion after an inspirational trip to the States where vintage is such a big thing. Afraid of Mice is brimming with big-brand vintage and collectable pieces accessibly priced which is the key to the stores’ success. Beautiful clothing shines against a backdrop of simple white walls. Designer vintage pieces from America and Europe hang on rails. Everything is carefully and lovingly handled. There is literally something for everyone, which means that the shop is often busy on Saturdays, so try to visit during the week. afraidofmice.com
One of Cape Town’s liveliest and most historic public hubs, this bustling cobbled square in the very centre of the Central Business District was originally home to a fresh fruit and vegetable market, where the produce grown in nearby Company’s Garden was sold. Today, Greenmarket Square is filled with stalls selling everything from jewellery and beaded animal figurines, to painted ostrich eggs, wood carvings, blankets, throws and all manner of souvenirs. If you keep your expectations low, chances are that something will catch your eye and you’ll be trying to haggle down the price before you know it. Around the perimeter of the square, a number of cute cafés serve a fairly decent latté, so if you’re not in the mood to shop, just take a seat and watch the colourful characters passing by. Burg Street & Longmarket Street
CAROLE NEVIN DESIGNS
A talented Capetonian artist who started making beautiful hand-painted textiles from her garage in 1992, Carole Nevin now employs and trains previously disadvantaged South Africans from local communities to produce her designs which are retailed in Cape Town’s CBD, the V&A Waterfront and a studio/factory shop in Muizenberg. Over the years, the range of Carole Nevin items has grown to include table, kitchen and bed linens, cushions, curtains, bags and upholstery. Hand-painted and hand-printed fabrics are also available by the metre. The colourful nature and originality of Carole Nevin’s products make them sought after by tourists looking for a gift to local game lodges and the hospitality industry. carolenevin.co.za