Why a taste of the Cape is just the ticket

Katie Wright in front of the 12 Apostles mountain range
Katie Wright in front of the 12 Apostles mountain range

Awards aren’t the be all and end all, of course, but when it comes to gourmet gongs, the metropolis that lies at the foot of Table Mountain sure has garnered a lot recently.

The readers of Conde Nast Traveller voted Cape Town the number one food destination in the world this year; the revered annual Eat Out rankings state that 17 of the country’s 20 best restaurants are found within the city limits; and it’s home to the best coffee shop on the planet, bar none.

And with BA’s new direct overnight flight from Gatwick, a long weekend of non-stop scoffing is now a viable option.

In need of a quick post-flight pick-me-up, I make the aforementioned coffee mecca my first port of call when I land.

Truth Coffee Roasting on Buitenkant Street was declared the world’s number one coffee shop by the Telegraph last year, testament not only to the anything-but-average cup of Joe it peddles, but also its expansive industrial-chic cafe.

The open-front space, peppered with quirky curios, is ridiculously cool. When I stop by, actor Johnny Knoxville is chatting with a friend at the ornate chrome bar. Yet it’s not at all pretentious - and the house Resurrection blend is extraordinarily smooth and satisfying.

Unbeatable bean juice is just one of many reasons foodies are flocking to the city.

“We have a lot of talented chefs. It’s where people come if they want to establish themselves,” Truth’s assistant general manager Samantha Long tells me.

“And we all support each other,” she says of the burgeoning scene, citing toasted sandwich shop Melt on Long Street as her current favourite hotspot.

A couple of blocks away, where Bree and Shortmarket Streets intersect, is the epicurean epicentre, where new eateries are springing up at such a rate, even those in the know are struggling to keep up.

Want to lunch like a local? Take a stroll along Bree to pick up the ingredients for a DIY feast.

“Get your bread from Jason’s, your cheese from Culture Club, and your meat from Bacon on Bree, then go and have a picnic in Kirstenbosch gardens,” recommends Matt Fuller, who leads food-themed tours around the tastiest suburbs.

Over on Shortmarket Street, the third opening from celebrated chef Luke Dale-Roberts is one of the latest jewels in the city’s culinary crown.

Capetonians flock to the Shortmarket Club for tart crispy octopus, daily changing fish specials and orgasmic desserts (as a pudding-worshipper, the gooey chocolate souffle is nothing short of a religious experience).

Brit Dale-Roberts isn’t the only out-of-towner who recognises the Cape’s potential.

“A lot of people are watching the city,” Chef Nobu Matsuhisa tells me over lunch. “Since I’ve been here, people are looking for good food, the city is growing.”

The Godfather of sushi is visiting Africa’s only outpost of his wildly successful upscale Japanese chain, housed in the plush One&Only resort.

Nobu’s sushi is second to none, which is why his two starry London branches command a pretty penny. But a visit here, thanks to the favourable exchange rate, costs about a third of what it would back in Blighty.

It’s not all high-end and haute, however, in this urban jungle.

I’m treated to a taste of home-cooked Cape Town when I venture into the Nyanga township to experience Theatre In The Backyard, which takes place in a house borrowed from a local dweller.

I’m ashamed to admit the only South African delicacy I could name before my trip was billtong, but there’s far more to the nation’s repertoire than that leathery dried meat.

Truth be told, if you’re serious about hunting down the best eats South Africa has to offer, you’d do better to skip the Table Mountain tour and take your place at one of the city’s fine-dining tables instead.

Trust me, your taste buds will thank you.