Culinary R&D in Cape Town (any excuse …)

Last month we bid farewell to soggy Livingstone and flew into the brilliance of Africa’s culinary capital, Cape Town. It was a perfect time of year to visit. A sky of police-strobe-blue, reflecting a light so bright it cut deep into our pupils. A breeze mostly gentle, bar the one day 35,000 cyclists were forbidden to cycle the  annual 104-kilometer Cape Town Cycle Tour because of severe winds roaring around the Cape peninsula. And 260-million-year-old Table Mountain, in whose noble, mystical embrace we were nurtured and spoiled by our friends, the Murgatroyds.

That said, we really traveled to Cape Town to taste its food among good company. Last year Condé Nast Traveler named Cape Town the best food city in the world in its Readers’ Choice Awards survey, while friend after friend talked to me of the innovations, the test menus, the food markets, and most importantly, at least to me, the foraging. So while we did much more than just eat on our eight-day holiday, it’s to the food I turn in this blogpost. We ate up Cape Town’s recommended, award-winning, mostly-perfect plates with mixed results. In amongst myriad dishes, we tried wild edibles like soutslaai and numnums; deep fried pigs’ tails and grilled ox heart; just-schucked oysters and fish tartare; and a dessert that included maple-glazed bacon. We adored some and loathed others. The photographs below represent a selection of what we ate. They are posted according to date and quality, not preference.

Thali. An Indian Tapas restaurant recently opened by Liam Morris from The Chef’s Warehouse. Here I found the food to be innovative and flavorful.
Liam Tomlin’s Chef’s Warehouse in Bree Street. Although beautifully plated, the tapas they served, did not, on the whole, meet my expectations.
Liam Tomlin’s Chef’s Warehouse in Bree Street.
Liam Tomlin’s Chef’s Warehouse in Bree Street.
Liam Tomlin’s Chef’s Warehouse in Bree Street.
Luke Dale-Roberts’ The Pot Luck Club, positioned on top of a silo in Woodstock. Here is his shredded confit duck leg, plum vinaigrette, plum hoisin & Chinese 5 spice crisp. We loved our experience at The Pot Luck Club, and thank Margie Murgatroyd for calling reservations about twenty-eight times at the beginning of March, to make sure we got a table.
The Pot Luck Club.
Fresh fish tartare, pickled kombu, egg dashi & miso tuile @ The Pot Luck Club.
Heaven’s Bacon: almond & apple tart, burnt peanut butter, popcorn ice cream, apple gummies & maple glazed bacon @ The Pot Luck Club.
Breakfast at Manna in Kloof Street: the best Flat White coffee, served with a freshly-baked croissant & farm butter.
We spent a terrific morning eating brunch with our good friend, Vanessa Burditt, in her café, The Tuck Shop.

I was floored by how spoiled for choice Capetonians were when it came to fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables, artisanal food, and innovative homemade products. We visited the Oranjezicht Food Market at the V&A Waterfront and were overwhelmed by the sheer volume of produce (and people AND dogs), all beautiful and all perfectly turned out.

Oranjezicht Food Market at the V&A Waterfront, which we visited before driving to our friends’ farm outside Cape Town.
Dried fruit and nuts in Oranjezicht Market.
Artisanal bread in Oranjezicht Market.
Paying homage to Rick Stein and Yotam Ottolenghi at the Murgatroyds’ farm in Olifantsberg. Most of the ingredients were bought at the Oranjezicht Food Market the Saturday morning before we left the city.
Ottolenghi’s Roasted Butternut with Fresh Figs, made by Margie Murgatroyd.
Ottolenghi’s Charred Aubergines with Tahini Yoghurt & Pomegranates, made by me.
Umami: the sea south atlantic oysters, harvested sea lettuce, smoked ocean trout, cauliflower mousseline & brandade fritter @Franck Dangereux’s The Food Barn in Noordhoek. Apologies for the poor quality of the pictures; they were taken in low light. The Food Barn was a restaurant recommended to us by a couple of different friends, and while we really enjoyed ourselves, I felt somewhat overwhelmed by the number of flavors presented in each dish.
Swartland figs gratinated in almond sabayon, berries, pistachio ice cream & crunchy granola @ The Food Barn in Noordhoek.
Executive Chef of The Table Bay Hotel, Jocelyn Myers-Adams, who took Chris and me foraging before making our lunch. Much gratitude to Joanne Selby, general manager of the hotel, and to Jocelyn for taking the time out of her hectic schedule to spend  the morning with us.
Crispy paprika-dusted calamari on sea urchin mayo with Asian seaweed salad, garnished with spekboom and amarynth @ The Table Bay Hotel. We LOVED eating the food we’d foraged in the morning with Jocelyn, and agreed that of all the dishes we ate, this was the tastiest. We loved its simplicity, depth of flavor, and use of wild ingredients. Soutslaai, or salt lettuce, a wild edible growing on the verges along the Waterfront, seen above as a garnish at the top of the plate, was especially delicious.
Wild sage and wild garlic sous vide, hibiscus cream cheese, chicken supreme with sautéed wild and dune spinach, sweet potato puree, num num puree, and searsia jus @ The Table Bay Hotel.

M.F.K. Fisher, the preeminent American food writer, once wrote that “dining partners, regardless of gender, social standing, or the years they’ve lived, should be chosen for their ability to eat – and drink! – with the right mixture of abandon and restraint. They should enjoy food, and look upon its preparation and its degustation as one of the human arts.” On this recent trip to Cape Town, we were spoilt for choice when it came to dining partners. So much gratitude to all our friends, especially the Murgatroyds and the Elliotts, who went out of their way to ensure we had a fattening, happy time!

Annabel Hughes is an award-winning chef and blogger, and the creator of “bush gourmet” cuisine.

10 Comments

  • Oh you do make me hungry! I don’t suppose you could add to the captions of the tapas pictures from Chef’s Warehouse, so we could know what interesting edible combinations are reflected in your lovely photos?

    Reply
    • Cynthia, I wish I could have captioned The Chef’s Warehouse plates! I never photographed the menu, and I couldn’t find a copy on-line. The pictures show a white fish dish, a salad, duck and parsnips, and a tuna tartare. That’s the best I can do. Sorry! 🙂

      Reply
  • I have just had dinner, and I am hungry all over again – proving that “you eat with your eyes”! All sounds and looks so delicious!

    Reply
    • It was, Kevin! Thank you for stopping by the blog. All the best to you, Annabel

      Reply
  • Hi Annabel,
    Fab Post.
    You and Chris certainly really got around.
    Will be seeing you in May.
    Mike.P.

    Reply
    • Oh, excellent! I look forward to seeing you again. Much gratitude, as always, for your interest and support, Mike!

      Reply
  • Hi Annabel. A really interesting blog on the culinary delights of Cape Town. Although the food looks fantastic I still think the dishes made by you and your friend are much better. Well done.

    Reply
    • Awww, what a kind comment, thank you, Fiona. 🙂 We so enjoyed feeding you!

      Reply
  • Annabel, what beautiful photos. I don’t want to eat a plain chop and mash any more! You and Chris did us proud in Cape Town with your tasting and restaurant praises. Yes, we are spoilt for choice but you highlighted some divine looking places that we haven’t been to. Thanks again for your inspiration. So sorry I wasn’t in town this time…will make sure I am on your next visit. Lots of love xx PS I agree with Fiona above though!

    Reply
    • Thank you, Hellie! We really loved every minute in CT, although we were sorry to have missed you. Lots of love to you … xo

      Reply

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