South Africa has hit its culinary stride with chefs who have fully embraced the country’s fine produce and excellent wine. Cape Town in particular has become one of the world's great food cities, with a wide choice of distinctive restaurants. Here are six that Mr. Harper highly recommends.
With a charming setting in a 19th-century house near Company’s Garden (founded by the Dutch East India Company to supply its passing ships with produce), Aubergine is one of the most reliable restaurants in Cape Town. Try dishes such as whole roasted lamb rump served with black garlic, coconut purée, potato tuile and braised leek.
39 Barnet Street. Tel. 21-465-0000
Many restaurants are closed on Sunday, but this seaside establishment in the lively Victoria & Alfred Waterfront is open. The atmosphere is relaxed and informal, and the service is attentive. The specialty is fish, and while the offerings may not reach the pinnacle of culinary innovation, the raw materials are fresh and beautifully prepared. Try the superb oysters, then look for the line-caught fish en papillote with tomato, zucchini, fennel, thyme and extra-virgin olive oil.
Upper Level Victoria Wharf, V&A Waterfront. Tel. 21-421-0935.
Come to this very popular restaurant downtown for outstanding Indian food, excellent service and an appealing contemporary setting. The tandoori starters are particularly good, as are the seafood main courses such as the prawn curry.
33 Church Street. Tel. 21-424-0000.
Located on the Silvermist organic wine estate, La Colombe is widely regarded as one of the finest restaurants in South Africa. Chef Scot Kirton’s cooking is as inventive as ever. His menus follow the seasons but run to dishes such as bavette steak with chipotle, anchovy, bone marrow and chimichurri; miso-seared scallop with quail, parsnip, barbecue grilled corn, bok choy and a teriyaki sauce; and lamb loin, tongue and sweetbreads with asparagus, peas, kohlrabi and a smoked garlic velouté.
Main Road, Constantia Nek. Tel. 21-794-2390.
This restaurant in the staid Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel is fresh and exciting. Chef Rudi Liebenberg’s imaginative food is locally sourced, so the menu changes regularly. Look for dishes such as Argentinean pink prawn curry with coconut rice, green mango atchar (a spicy Indian condiment), buffalo milk curd and a curry leaf dressing; and grilled grass-fed beef fillet with hand-cut fries, Béarnaise sauce, crumbed bone marrow and a chef’s salad.
76 Orange Street. Tel. 21-483-1000.
Luke Dale-Roberts served as the much-heralded executive chef of La Colombe (see above) and now has a 65-seat restaurant in The Old Biscuit Mill, home to an eclectic range of markets, designer stores, studios and galleries. Representative dishes might include a starter of 12-hour smoked trout tartare with homemade sour cream, a jasmine tea “snow” and sourdough wafers, while a main course could be smoked lamb with barley and a toasted ginger wafer. Reservations are essential.
The Test Kitchen
375 Albert Road, Woodstock. Tel. 21-447-2337.