The best way to immerse yourself in a culture, is to try the local food. Only problem in South Africa, the Rainbow Nation, there isn’t just one specific culture to experience. But if you are foodie fanatic, any excuse to eat as much as possible counts! Here’s the top 5 different types of food experiences you can try out in the Mother City.
#1 Cape Malay
Cape Malay cuisine is unique to the Western Cape of South Africa. Renowned for its hearty, flavourful dishes, this cuisine remains an important part of Cape Town culture. The food is a combination of South African, Malaysian, and Indonesian cuisine. With a bold blend of spices including cumin, coriander, cinnamon, cardamom, and turmeric to name a few – Cape Malay cuisine has a distinctive aromatic quality.
Bo-Kaap is arguably the best place to experience Cape Malay food in Cape Town. The bright, rainbow-colored houses were home to former Cape Malay slaves in the early 19thcentury.
Some must-try foods include curry, halfmoons, and dhaltjies. And don’t forget to try some delicious Cape Malay deserts. Koesisters and Koekisisters (yes, trust me—there’s a difference!) are a must. Koesisters are spiced syrupy donuts covered in coconut. Koeksisters are plaited, syrup covered donuts.
You can try all of these dishes and more at Biesmiellah, a traditional Cape Malay restaurant located in Bo-Kaap.
2 Wale St & Pentz St |Malay Quarter, Bo-Kaap | Monday to Saturday 12pm-10pm
#2 Fish and Chips
Cape Town is well-known for its delicious, near-legendary fish and chips. Locals and visitors alike love the mouth-watering, deep-fried meal. There are several spots to choose from, all complete with fresh food and spectacular views.
Kalky’s Fish & Chips
If you’re near Kalk Bay Harbour, the legendary Kalky’s is a must. Arguably the most popular fish and chips spot in Cape Town, they serve a variety of delicious, fresh seafood. Options include hake, snoek, and yellowtail—all caught fresh on the owner’s boat. Grab a koesister on your way out for a sweet snack, if you have space left after devouring one of their formidable meals.
Kalk Bay Harbour | Kalk Bay |Sunday to Saturday 10 am—8pm
Salty Sea Dog
Salty Sea Dog, located just down the road from Kalky’s, is another local and legendary spot in Simon’s Town harbour. The restaurant sits in a former fish market building and offers a delicious variety of seafood including hake, calamari, and their legendary fish and chip rolls. You can choose to either take your food to go or sit down and relax in their licensed restaurant with a glass of wine.
2 Wharf Street | Simon’s Town |Monday to Saturday 10 am—9pm, Sunday 10 am—4:30 pm
Fish on the Rocks
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Located between Hout Bay harbour and the West Fort Battery Naval Heritage site, Fish on the Rocks is a local favourite. The restaurant has been around for more than three decades, and has beautiful views of the infamous Chapman’s Peak in the distance. You have to try their legendary, near-perfect prawns, delicious hake, snoek, line-fish, and mouth-watering calamari.
1 Harbour Rd | Hout Bay | Sunday to Monday 9am—8pm
If you’re in the Camps Bay area, head to Ocean Blue. Known for their extensive seafood menu including crayfish, giant prawns, live oysters, and calamari, Ocean Blue is a beautiful and well-worth-it stop.
85 Victoria Rd | Camps Bay | Sunday to Monday 8:30 am—10 pm
#3 African Food
Before European colonists arrived, African cuisine consisted of a wide variety of bulbs, leaves, berries, roots, grains, fruits, vegetables, and game meat. Beef was considered to be a “status meat,” so although meat was consumed on a daily basis, it was generally limited to chicken, goats, and sheep. Popular dishes included sheep heads, called “smileys,” intestines, and even the stomach. Bread was also a staple; baked in a round pot, called “pot brood,” and dense dough grilled over the coals of a fire, called “rooster brood,” were common. While traditional South African cuisine has been affected by European influences, it still remains quite distinct from other cooking styles.
You can find traditional South African food throughout Cape Town in some of the best restaurants listed below.
Mama Africa offers a unique African dining experience. Live African music plays in the background as you enjoy dishes like Mozambican chicken livers, lamb curry, Kudu Biltong, and kebabs.
178 Long Street |Cape Town City Centre | Tuesday to Friday 12pm—3pm & 6pm—12 am, Saturday and Monday 6pm—12am
With a 14-course set menu and traditional entertainment, Gold Restaurant is hot-spot for traditional African food. Dishes range from Xhosa pot bread, Tanzanian friend fish, to Mozambican chili chicken wings. A variety of performances by traditional dancers, Mali puppets, drummers, and singers ensure guests get the complete African dining experience.
15 Bennett St | Green Point | Sunday to Saturday 6:30 pm—11pm
What is a braai? While some might say it’s like a barbecue, others might say its grilling meat, and most might say it’s just something you do when in South Africa—it’s all of the above. What makes a true braai isn’t just the meat or the food; it’s the atmosphere, the vibe, and the gathering of friends and family. Braais are one of the most popular types of Afrikaans cooking styles. For locals, having a braai is a way of life. For visitors, it’s a way to truly experience the South African culture.
Cape Town is full of great braai spots, and even restaurants that provide a place for the whole experience. We’ve listed the best (and most secret) ones here.
A trip to Mzoli’s is a must for locals and visitors to Cape Town. Located in the township of Gugulethu, Mzoli’s is a self-serve braai hot spot. You can choose from a selection of raw meats from the on-site butchery. Then, you take it over to the braai area where the staff will grill it on an open fire. There is a liquor store nearby were you can buy drinks, or you can bring your own. A local DJ plays fun music while you eat, and there’s a dance floor waiting for you when you finish.
Ny 115 | Guguletu | Cape Town | Sunday to Saturday 9am—6pm
Located on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain, Newlands Forest is a relaxing and scenic spot for a braai. Bring your own wood, charcoal, and grill to the assigned braai and picnic areas. With several hiking trails nearby and natural shade under the pine trees—this is the perfect, quiet spot for a day out.
Table Mountain National Park | Table Mountain (Nature Reserve)
Silvermine Nature Reserve
The Silvermine Nature Reserve is arguably one of the most beautiful spots for a braai in Cape Town. While you can only braai here during the winter, the relatively secluded braai areas are a perfect spot for a quiet and relaxing day out.
Table Mountain National Park | Silvermine National Reserve
Check out our post on tidal pools to find the best spot to spend a day swimming, relaxing, and having a braai.
#5 Eastern Food Bazaar
The Eastern Food Bazaar is a street-food lover’s paradise. Home to some of the best Indian food in Cape Town, the Bazaar is a bustling, canteen-style eatery. It is also a certified Halaal establishment. With flavours and foreign spices from as far as Istanbul and Bombay, and food varying from Turkish kebabs to Cape-style biryanis, creamy North Indian curries, and Tandoor dishes—the Bazaar has something for everyone. The Bombay menu is a great option for vegetarians with vegetable curries, biryanis, and rice.
Along with the wide variety of Eastern food available, the Bazaar is also popular for its great prices. You can get a tasty and filling meal from upwards of R20.
The Wellington | 96 Long Market St. | Monday to Thursday 11:00am – 10:00pm, Friday & Saturday 11:00am – 10:30pm
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