There is no need to remind the world that Cape Town is a majestic city, hugged between Table Mountain and the Atlantic Ocean, with perfect weather and the Cape Doctor, a wind that will blow you away but also sweeps all of the pollution out of the city. We loved our visit, and though it would have been nice to have extended our stay, our 3 year old was ready to come home to her friends and to her toys. She was coddled by the hotel, finding toys for her to play with in the bathroom, living room and a special set of Hello Kitty dishes for her at our breakfast table. What more could a girl ask for?
We ate well while we were there, I wasn’t “esaltata” (exalted) by some of our meals, since living in Italy I always want to eat what is typical, native, local and seasonal. I have been spoiled. The lovely concierge at the hotel sent us to restaurants that they liked, which reflected a lot of the food that we were already familiar with, French, Italian and almost American in style. Delicious, yes, no doubt, but lacking in the authenticity that we had traveled over the equator to find. We did try several meats that we had never had before, ostrich, springbok, crocodile and kudo, all done in different ways. My favorite was the springbok carpaccio.
Our first lunch was at a restaurant called Mama Africa, recommended by the hotel and several guide books. It was delicious. We tried the game kebab, with springbok, crocodile and kudo, vegetable samosas, a Cape Malay chicken curry and stuffed butternut squash. My favorite meal was at a little cafe in Noordhoek called Franieba’s, when we took a day trip to the Cape of Good Hope. It didn’t look like anything from the outside, but was the hard work of two women who put all of their pennies together to open it, making Cape Malay specialties. I had a prawn salad, which had no other description, other than being a salad with prawns, but was out of this world. The prawns were marinated with some spices and cooked to perfection, I was sucking every ounce of meat our of their heads and shells, licking my fingers and humming with delight over my tasty lunch.
After our tasty meal on the Cape Peninsula we asked the hotel if they could recommend any places in Cape Town that served Cape Malay cuisine, I had fallen in love. It has the burst of flavor of India and the South Pacific, but without the heat, perfect for the whole family. She sent us to Gold, Opulent African Cuisine. A shuttle from the restaurant picked us up and we were taken into an old warehouse that was beautiful renovated with a modern African style. They offered a fixed menu and there were three shows throughout the evening with drumming, dancing and singing. The food was was wonderful, but unfortunately most of it ended up on my plate since my husband was allergic to the shrimp in the seafood curry, the peanuts in the fritters and the chicken satay, and the walnuts in the spice cake.
We had bobotije, which is a baked dish made of minced meat with an egg topping, a sausage with pap, which is a lot like polenta or grits, a delicious spinach salad and a broccoli tabouleh. Too much food, but so much fun. My daughter, who was being a pill at the beginning of dinner, enjoyed the bobotjie and the satay and was dancing with the ladies by the end of the night. Our waitress carried her into the kitchen to meet the chefs and was passed around getting kisses and hugs from everyone, all ladies, of course. She was disappointed the next evening that there were no dancers and no kisses from the chefs.
One of our last meals was at a new restaurant in Woodstock called the Potluck Club and Gallery. Tapas style, in an amazing space overlooking the neighborhood and with an incredible view of Table Mountain. An old friend who lives in Cape Town brought us to the Saturday market and urged us to try this restaurant, which luckily had a free table at lunch, since you needed to book dinner months in advance. It was a delicious fusion cuisine, with a lot of Asian influences, but flavors that really popped. We started with duck springrolls and a fish taco, had korean bbq spareribs, which were the most delicious thing that we ate, ordering more for all three of us, a Cape Malay fish curry and roasted potatoes. For dessert we had a cheesecake with citrus flavors and candied ginger and an almond and nectarine torte with popcorn!
I would return to Cape Town in a heartbeat, maybe the next time without small children, spending more time in the winelands, later evenings out listening to live music and certainly exploring all of the Cape Malay restaurants that the city has to offer. Now I just need to find some recipes and the right ingredients and I will be a happy lady.
Three Years Ago: Chili and Honey Chicken Legs with Braised Collards