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Blog, Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Grace, Cape Town – STAY

January 23, 2016
Cape Grace, Cape Town

The Cape Grace is one of the premium addresses in Cape Town.  Located right on the V&A Waterfront, with Table Mountain in the background, you could not be more central if you tried.  Yes, the waterfront is touristy.  But it is still lovely to walk around, especially for families.  Seals entertain crowds in the harbour, and there are a few charming little bars you can sit at and watch Cape Town go by.  We also walked all the way down Bree Straat from the Cape Grace, and checked out some of wonderful bars there (read more here).

Cape Grace, Cape Town

Cape Grace is an elegant red-brick building, which I first recognised from the film Blood Diamond.  The service is second to none.  The staff are so friendly and go out of their way to make you feel looked after and happy.   The nautical theme throughout the hotel might not be to everyones taste, but it does feel grand and it is undeniably one of the best hotel options in Cape Town (along with neighbouring One & Only, Ellerman House and 12 Apostles).

Cape Grace, Cape Town

We had a wonderful room with Table Mountain and harbour views.  The windows were huge and opened wide, so you can sit by the window and it feels like your outside.  Many of the rooms also have terraces.  The rooms are very spacious, with palatial beds, the softest sheets and wonderful marble bathrooms.

Cape Grace, Cape Town

Cape Grace, Cape Town

We went for dinner at the wonderful Test Kitchen while staying here, so didn’t get to try their fine dining restaurant Signal (meant to be very good).  But the breakfast here was incredible.  I loved the corn fritters with bacon and avocado.  A lot of locals also come for the excellent Afternoon tea. I was just in a permanent food coma throughout my holiday in South Africa.

Cape Grace, Cape Town

While there is so much to do in and around Cape Town, should you wish to just relax at the hotel you can hang out in the beautiful library, or lounge around the (small) pool.  In the evening their famous whiskey bar fills up and stays open until late, with a really good vibe.  In short, if you can, spend at least a night here on your first visit to Cape Town.  You won’t regret it.

Cape Grace, Cape TownCape Grace, Cape Town

Cape Grace

W Quay Rd,

V & A Waterfront,

Cape Town

Photo credit: Cape Grace

Blog, Cape Town, South Africa

La Colombe, Cape Town – EAT

January 20, 2016
La Colombe, Cape Town

La Colombe.  It just has that wonderful ring to it.  It sounds French.  It sounds like fine dining.  It sounds like you can’t miss this restaurant when you’re in Cape Town.  Which you most definitely can’t.  

La Colombe and the Test Kitchen have been constantly battling for the number one restaurant in South Africa.  So far (according to the critics/awards), the Test Kitchen is winning.  But I was curious to see which one would win for me.  We went to the Test Kitchen for dinner on the Saturday, and then La Colombe for lunch on the Sunday.  Talk about how to stuff as many good restaurants into 72 hours in Cape Town.

La Colombe, Cape Town

I wish we’d had more time at La Colombe, so we could have properly taken advantage of the Lunch Tasting Menu, which not only looks phenomenal, but is also very nicely priced (9 courses for £36).  Sadly we had to return our rental car, and so had a time limit.  Which meant a starter and a main, and all the little tasters in between.  It was so worth it, despite the rush.

Location wise it’s quite special.  It moved to Silvermist fairly recently, and now it is truly a restaurant with a view.  Located quite high up, you have views of the valley and the vineyards.  It’s not a completely open view, but it’s beautiful.  While initially I was disappointed not to be sitting outside (it can get quite windy, they warned), if you sit right by the large windows, you can still enjoy the views no matter what.

La Colombe, Cape Town

It is a wonderful, airy and light restaurant, with a much more ‘fine dining’ feel than the Test Kitchen, but without being stuffy or stiff.  The service was very professional but incredibly friendly; they were clearly proud of where they worked.

And the food?  Out of this world.  From the beautifully presented tuna with mirin in a can (see the photo below before you turn your nose up), to the stunning lamb (which we both had as a main course) – I was blown away.

La Colombe, Cape Town

For starters Rob had the scallops with the pork belly and I had the beef.  They were exquisitely cooked, every mouthful a different flavour.  So much care and expertise was clearly put into every dish.

La Colombe, Cape TownLa Colombe, Cape Town

Verdict?  You can’t really compare La Colombe and the Test Kitchen.  They are both unique, and both a must do when in Cape Town (though getting a booking is easier at La Colombe).  But perhaps La Colombe is best for lunch, so you can enjoy the beautiful views.  And the restaurant seems at its best with the sun pouring in.  This is a restaurant I will return to  – given the chance – time after time (and yes, that means I am 100% returning to Cape Town).

La Colombe

Silvermist Wine Estate,

Constantia Main Rd,

Constantia, Cape Town, 7848

Booking essential

Photo credit: La Colombe & City Turtle

Blog, Cape Town, South Africa

Bree Street’s best cocktail bars, Cape Town

January 17, 2016
Bree Street, Cape Town

Bree Street has transformed over the past decade, and is now, along with Kloof Street, one of Cape Town’s hottest culinary streets.  I found the further down the street you walked (away from the Waterfront), the more restaurants, bars and cafes popped up.  They all looked super appealing, but we settled for a little stretch with a number of cocktail bars all in a row, in different coloured houses.  So cute.  It’s as hipster as Cape Town gets here.

Bree Street, Cape Town

These were my favourite bars on Bree:

DOOR 221

This tiny bar is relatively new on Bree street, and it’s where we spent most of our afternoon, sitting in the warm sun at one of their few tables on the street, watching Cape Town go by.  Their whisky sours are wonderful (and about £2 a pop), and Rob enjoyed their various beers.  Apparently they serve great tacos too.

Door 221, Cape TownDoor 221, Cape Town

GIN BAR MOTHER’S RUIN

If you’re a gin lover this is the place for you.  Serving various types of gin and tonics, with fun interiors and a friendly vibe, this is one of the most populars bars on Bree Street.

Mother's Ruin, Cape Town

ORPHANAGE COCKTAIL EMPORIUM

Annoyingly this was shut when we went (but it was the reason we discovered Door 221 and Mother’s Ruin).  This speakeasy bar apparently mixes some of the best cocktails in town.  The interiors are vintage in style, and they offer sharing platters too if you get hungry.

Orphanage Cocktail Emporium, Cape Town

In terms of restaurants, for coffee I’d recommend the Hard Pressed Cafe, for breakfast Jason Bakery (incredibly pastries) and Clarke’s Bar and Dining Room (I love the look of the interiors here), for lunch Chefs Warehouse (with a wonderful tapas menu), for dinner Bistro Bizerca (blog to follow).  For beer lovers the Brewers & Union, with a lovely outside terrace, is the place to be.

For a comprehensive list of all the incredible dining and drinking venues on Bree Street, Eat Out have written a fantastic article.

Blog, Cape Town, South Africa

The Test Kitchen, Cape Town – EAT

January 17, 2016
Test Kitchen, Cape Town

If there was one restaurant I was particularly excited about going to in South Africa, it was the Test Kitchen.  Almost everyone who had been to South Africa recommended it, even if they hadn’t manage to get a booking here themselves.  It was voted the best restaurant in Africa, let alone South Africa.  A big title.

Getting a booking is thus close to impossible, unless you book about 6 months in advance.  Or, if you get lucky.  We got ridiculously lucky as met the wonderful South African Jo in London during the summer, who knew one of the chefs there and managed to get us a table at 8:30 on a Saturday night. I think she surprised herself.

The Test Kitchen, Cape Town

Did it live up to expectations?  Yes.  Which was my favourite dish?  I can’t choose.  It’s easier for me to just show you photos of the ten-course tasting menu (more with the amuse bouche) than even try and describe it.

Test Kitchen, Cape TownTest Kitchen, Cape TownTest Kitchen, Cape TownTest Kitchen, Cape TownTest Kitchen, Cape TownTest Kitchen, Cape TownTest Kitchen, Cape TownTest Kitchen, Cape TownTest Kitchen, Cape TownTest Kitchen, Cape Town

Top tip?  Book seats at the kitchen bar rather than an actual table.  That way you get to see the chefs preparing the food.  The insight to ‘behind the scenes’ was perhaps the most priceless part of it all.

Test Kitchen, Cape Town

Good news for Johannesburgers – the owner Dale-Roberts is set to launch a pop up restaurant at the Saxon Hotel in Johannesburg at the end of the month.  Get booking now!  And if you can’t get a table at the Test Kitchen then try the equally fabulous Pot Luck Club sister restaurant next door!

The Test Kitchen

Shop 105a

The Old Biscuit Mill

375 Albert Road

Woodstock

Cape Town

 

Blog, Cape Town, South Africa

The Pot Luck Club, Cape Town – EAT + DRINK

January 5, 2016
The Pot Luck Club, Cape Town

I often find the Potluck Club somewhat overshadowed by its more prominent and more famous sister restaurant, the Test Kitchen.  They sit side by side within the the Old Biscuit Mill, a complex filled with charming boutiques, restaurants and bars, in an otherwise fairly dodgy part of Cape Town.  Side by side isn’t perhaps so accurate – while the Test Kitchen is on ground level, part of the unique charm of the Potluck Club is that it is elevated, on the 6th floor of the factory tower.  This means wonderful views of Cape Town, Table Mountain and beyond.

Potluck Club, Cape Town

We came here for a cocktail before dinner at the Test Kitchen, and even if you can’t get a table booking at either of them (the Potluck club is also notoriously difficult), I would recommend coming here for a drink.  Arrive early and getting a seat at the bar shouldn’t be a problem.  For me there were three highlights:

  1. The aforementioned views (the city looks so beautiful at sunset, but also very cool in the dark) and aesthetics of the place itself.  I preferred the interiors and the setting here to the Test Kitchen.  It’s a little more casual here but still is clearly a place to come for a special occasion. It had a great buzz.
  2. The bar staff were phenomenal. So friendly, so skilled and so enthusiastic.  They gave us tasters to help us make our choices, they explained how they been through proper training courses and how much they loved working there.
  3. The cocktails. Until arriving in Cape Town I’d struggled to find a bar in South Africa which served good cocktails, even at some of the five star hotels we stayed. So I stuck to wine.  At the Potluck Club the Martini menu was so good I wanted to try a whole range of them. I struck gold with the rosemary and elderflower vodka martini, and then was recommended the thai curry martini. I was hesitant but loved it – the chilli and the lemongrass were a wonderful addition to the citrus and vodka. And the best bit?  They were no more than £2.50 a cocktail. Too good to be true.

The Pot Luck Club, Cape Town

We could have sat by the bar all evening, sipping martinis and talking about Cape Town, but had to head down to the Test Kitchen for dinner (it’s a tough life).  So this is a place I have to return to, because the food that came by looked wonderful.  And I really need to have one of their rosemary elderflower martinis again.

The Pot Luck Club, Cape Town

The Potluck Club

6, The Silo,

The Old Biscuit Mill,

373-375 Albert Rd,

Woodstock, Cape Town, 7915,

Photo credit: the Potluck Club

Blog, Cape Town, South Africa

South Africa: Best of

December 5, 2015
South Africa

VIEW – From the lovely winery Newton Johnson: of the Hemel en Aarde (meaning heaven and earth) vineyards, mountains and the sea.  Highly recommend it, and it’s only a 15 minute drive from Hermanus.  Shame the weather wasn’t a bit better!

Newton & Johnson, Hemel en AardeNewton & Johnson

SUNSET – From the top of Table Mountain.  Take the cable cart up, or, if you’re up for it, hike up (takes about 2 hours)!  But don’t underestimate how steep it is.  On a calm day it is still remarkably windy up on the mountain, but so worth it.  Watch the sun set and turn Cape Town a brilliant pink.

Table Mountain, Cape TownTable Mountain, Cape Town

WILDLIFE SIGHTING – A leopard trying to kill an impala at Rattray’s in Sabi Sands.  Sadly she failed, but it was thrilling watching her pounce.

IMG_3768

TOWN – Franschoek.  I loved the Cape Dutch architecture here: the white-washed cottages and the pretty churches.  Franschoek is filled with charm and lots of cosy restaurants, cafes and bars.  Grab the wine tram and stop off at all the wonderful surrounding vineyards (Mont Rochelle, Maison Estate).  Stay just out of town (15 minutes) at Babylonstoren, the most wonderful farm with the most beautiful gardens.

Babylonstoren, Franschoek

CITYCape Town.  It simply has it all.  Incredible restaurants and bar (from Kloof Street to Bree Street), the most phenomenal setting (surrounded by white beaches, Table Mountain and Constantia’s beautiful vineyards), lovely people, amazing wildlife (seals at the Waterfront, penguins at Boulders Beach, dolphins in front of 12 Apostles), so many outward bound activities on offer (hiking, surfing, horse riding) and super affordable.

Cape Town

COCKTAIL – Thai Green Curry Martini at the Pot Luck Club.  After a fairly disappointing run of cocktails during our holiday, I regained my confidence in South African cocktails.  I also tried their rosemary and elderflower Martini (equally good).  If you’re looking for a more casual bar, then 210 on Bree Street makes a fab Whiskey Sour for £2.

Potluck Club, Cape Town

BREAKFAST 12 Apostles Hotel & Spa. A combination of fantastic views (dolphins and seals playing in the beautiful ocean in front of you) and an array of treats like oysters and champagne.  Not a bad way to start your day.

12 Apostles, Cape Town

EXPERIENCE – Chasing lightening at Rattray’s on Mala Mala in Sabi Sands.  Super thrilling as well as just a tiny bit frightening.  I’ve never seen a sunset quite like it or lightning quite so constant and brilliant.

Rattray's Mala Mala

RESTAURANT – A toss up between the 10 course tasting menu at the Test Kitchen (awarded the number one restaurant in South Africa 3 years in a row) and lunch at the beautiful, elegant La Colombe (second photo).  Both meals I will never forget.

Test Kitchen, Cape Town

La Colombe, Cape Town

AUTHENTIC MEAL – Lunch at Mariana’s, in the tiny town of Stanford, down the road from Hermanus, is as authentic as it gets. Peter and Mariana run a small restaurant at their home (the Owls Barn): Mariana cooks, Peter hosts. It is so unpretentious, such a warm experience, with lovely countryside views from their garden and truly excellent home cooking.

Mariana's, Stanford

BEACHPlettenberg Bay and the surrounding beaches.  Too stunning for words.

Plettenberg Bay
CITY BEACH – Camps Bay.  It does not get more glamorous or beautiful than Camps Bay.  And to think it’s basically a ‘city beach’, a 15 minute drive from downtown.  The combination of the deep blue sea, lovely white sandy beach and the mountains as the backdrop is magical.

Camps BayCamps Bay

CAFEFournil de Plett in Plettenberg Bay.  Sip a homemade lemonade in the shade of a tree in their leafy courtyard, and enjoy a healthy brunch.

Fournil de Plett, Plettenberg BayFournil de Plett, Plettenberg Bay

SEAFOOD – The Look Out Deck, Plettenberg Bay.  I thin we just hadn’t expected the food to be so good, as the setting is impressive enough (stunning views of the – empty – Look Out beach).  The Look Out is not a fancy restaurant, it’s down to earth and a great day hang out, and that’s why when our food arrived we were somewhat taken aback.  Rob’s tuna steak was perfectly cooked and so fresh, with wasabi and soya sauce.  You’d pay a fortune for that in London, but here it was £8.

The Look Out Deck, PLettenberg BayThe Look Out Deck, PLettenberg Bay

HIKE The Robberg Peninsula. Wow.  There are three hiking options, one is an hour hike, one 2 hours and one 3 – 5 hours.  We chose for the middle option.  The hiking is easy enough, but is still a bit of work out.  You will see a huge colony of seals from above (and smell them – less pleasant!), as well as lizards, snakes and beautiful birds.  The beach you come to is deserted and breathtaking.

Robberg Peninsula South AfricaRobberg Peninsula South Africa

HOTEL –  A really tough one because all the hotels we stayed at were fantastic.  But I think Hunter’s Country House wins this one because it is just one of the most charming, prettiest places.  The gardens were incredible, and I loved all the cottages scattered around the estate.  It is such a peaceful place.  You’re 10 minutes drive from Plettenberg Bay, so it’s the perfect location.  Their main sitting room with huge fireplace was so cosy, the perfect place for pre-dinner drinks.

Hunters

SPAThe Marine Hermanus.  A Relais & Chateaux which unsurprisingly gets its spa right.  We enjoyed a grey afternoon being pampered in the spa – they offer couple treatment rooms, so while I enjoyed a facial, Rob had a Swedish massage.  Later we enjoyed the steam room.  It’s about £26 for an hour’s massage.  Too good to be true!  The spa at the 12 Apostles was also brilliant.The Marine Hermanus

VINEYARDMaison Estate, Franschoek.  All the vineyards around Franschoek are incredible, but we especially loved Maison, which have a fantastic restaurant ‘Kitchen’ and beautiful views of their vineyard.  The interiors have a Scandi/minimalist feel to them. Apart from that another wine we kept seeing in top restaurant’s was Paul Cluver.  The vineyard is in the Elgin Valley, on the way from Hermanus to Franschoek and Stellenbosch, and is also meant to serve very good food to accompany top notch wines in a beautiful garden setting.

Maison Estate, FranschoekMaison Estate, Franschoek

POOL – The Rock Pool at 12 Apostles. While their other pool is heated and has the view of the ocean, I loved the originality of the Rock Pool, and you really feel completely in nature here.  There are a number of hiking trails you can take or you can just relax on a sun lounger in complete peace and quiet here.

12 apostles

HOLIDAY READI am Pilgrim, by Terry Hayes.  You just can’t put it down, from the first page you’re gripped.  It’s ideal for lying on the beach, or waiting at the airport, or relaxing by the pool.  My problem was I was so into it that I forgot to put suncream on (not recommended)…

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