Cape Town conjures visions of majestic Table Mountain, looming over the Mother City, and also of Nelson Mandela, who, upon release from prison in 1990, addressed the public as a free man from the City Hall balcony. Indeed, mountain and man maketh the character of this place. So, too, does the sweeping beauty of the Atlantic coast, the fynbos-rich Cape Floral Kingdom, and the fertile soil that nurtures pastures and influences terroir. Little wonder that there are myriad opportunities here to savor local curds paired with some of the finest New World wines around. “We are fortunate to be located near many of the producers and farmers who make such high-quality cheese,” says Ann Dalton, manager of the annual South African Cheese Festival.
There’s never been a better time for turophiles and oenophiles to tour South Africa’s easygoing food capital. Most of Cape Town’s restaurants and markets are located either in the Central Business District’s (CBD)—namely Bree and Kloof streets—or a breezy, 30- to 50-mile drive into the Stellenbosch or Franschhoek winelands. Quaint estates steeped in history, striking landscapes, and contemporary eateries unite to create a quirky yet approachable gustatory destination.
Sharing its name with Boy George’s ’80s band, Culture Club Cheese is a sunflower-yellow deli and restaurant opened in 2015 by cheesemaker and monger Luke Williams and his wife, Jessica Merton. The only dedicated cheese shop in the CBD, it was instrumental in helping make Bree Street a foodie hotspot. The store stocks inventive local goat’s, sheep’s, and cow’s milk cheeses and dairy products, including Williams’ homemade, probiotic-packed kefir and lacto-fermented kombucha, kimchi, and kraut. Spilling onto the sidewalk is an eatery serving fondue, raclette, and salads galore (try a mélange of roasted vegetables, apples, Foxenburg Estate chèvre, and bean sprouts dolloped with creamy, housemade labneh). Planning a celebration? Order a cake made from stacked cheese wheels and crowned with figs and nuts.
215 Bree St.
0027 (0)21 422 3515
In 2010, just as the gentrified suburb of Woodstock was emerging as a culinary and design hub, well-traveled chef Amanda Lewis opened a European-style deli and bistro at the Old Biscuit Mill. (She’s in good company: Chef Luke Dale-Roberts established the world-famous Test Kitchen in the same complex.) A local produce champion, Lewis scours the Western Cape for offbeat artisan cheeses, charcuterie, and accompaniments, such as outstanding handmade brie, camembert, and manchego from Anura Vineyards Forest Hill Cheesery. Her family-run deli—Lewis’ father, Derrick, often greets diners—is also earth-friendly, packaging to-go cheese-and-charcuterie assortments in recyclable boxes.
373/375 Albert Rd., Woodstock
0027 (0)21 447 7177
Cheesemaker and second-generation farmer Rob Visser is exceptionally proud of his doe-eyed Jersey cows—the result of carefully controlled breeding. The animals graze on pasture at Dalewood, Visser’s dairy farm in the hamlet of Simondium. There he produces an oozing, high-end statement wheel, Brie Superlatif (served at many posh weddings in the winelands); camembert; a selection of blues; and other French-style cheeses, as well as original creation Huguenot. Aged at least six months, the nutty, deeply savory cheese has racked up a dizzying array of awards—and, at roughly 55 pounds, it’s the largest wheel produced in South Africa. Thankfully, versatile Huguenot is available in much smaller quantities at the Dalewood Fromage shop.
R45 Klapmuts-Simondium Rd., Simondium
0027 (0)21 200 2580
Inspired by the three-story torre das cabras on the magical grounds of Quinta da Aveleda—a Vinho Verde–producing wine estate close to Porto in Portugal—wine pioneer Charles Back fashioned Fairview’s iconic goat tower in 1981. It overlooks the farm, which turns out cow’s and goat’s milk cheeses; mild chèvres in the White Rock range are studded with dried fruit (even mango and ginger) and nuts. Fairview’s luxuriant, full-fat cow’s milk yogurt is available in select stores around the country. Turophiles can shop at the deli or sample overflowing platters of cheese paired with Fairview wines at the popular on-site restaurant, the Goatshed. Don’t pass on black pepper–cream cheese risotto cakes or the “Brunch Tray”—a sampling of fine estate-made treats, including the stellar yogurt—available all day.
Suid-Agter-Paarl Rd., Suider-Paarl
0027 (0)21 863 2450
Crafted from a 150-year-old recipe, Healey’s internationally lauded clothbound cheddar is matured up to a year at Waterkloof Wine Estate, a biodynamic farm in Somerset West cradled by the Hottentots Holland and Helderberg mountains. Thrice weekly, French-trained cheesemaker Desiree Stuart sources raw milk from grass-fed Holstein cows in Stellenbosch. Depending on the climate and time of year, Stuart and her team produce one of three mainstay cheddars: rich Noble, texturally similar to Gruyère; limited-edition, blue-veined Waterkloof; and Single Release, only made during the rainy season, when pastures are lush. All are nutty, savory, and play well with any of the estate’s crisp white wines (we like Circumstance Chenin Blanc). Additionally, the estate boutique sells local charcuterie, preserves, and sourdough bread arranged conveniently in picnic hampers.
Sir Lowry’s Pass Rd., Somerset West
0027 (0)21 200 2661
Founded eight years ago in Cape Town’s southern suburbs, Earth Fair Food Market caters to a mainly local crowd on Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings. (City-dwellers pick up healthful lunch and dinner supplies at the market’s St Georges Mall outpost, open Thursdays.) Sheltered in a large warehouse, the Tokai location features rows of vendors hawking fresh produce. While Jane Selander’s famed Constantia Cheesery stand is no more, Robin’s (run by Robin van den Berg, a market founding father) is still kicking. Van den Berg produces a range of seasonal cheeses and handpicks weekly offerings from Anura Vineyards (Forest Hill Camembert, Brie, and more) and Gay’s Guernsey Dairy. Gay’s Prince Albert Royal, a mild cheddar, and Prince Albert Regal, a cheddar matured up to eight months, have garnered international acclaim—van den Berg says it’s tough to keep either cheese in stock. Also perennially hot: Gay’s full-cream mozzarella.
333 Main Rd., Tokai
This Somerset West market, located on the immaculate, circa-1700 Cape Dutch Lourensford Wine Estate and fruit farm just 30 miles from the city center, has long, communal tables and a combination of permanent and pop-up stores (plus wine tastings and guided hikes). Be sure to stop by chef GhenwaSteingaszner’s stall for tempting Lebanese, Levantine, and North African dishes. Her cold lunch spreads often include tzatziki and labneh served with salad or crisp falafel rolled in flatbread. Steingaszner leads classes and demos, too, where you can learn to make her excellent kanafeh—a baked dessert stuffed with mozzarella and drenched in sugar syrup scented with orange-blossom and rose waters. Bonus: Lourensford is one of a few farmers’ markets open on Sundays.
Lourensford Rd., Somerset West
0027 (0)72 284 1654
Restaurants, Cafés, and Bars
Interior designer Sandalene Dale-Roberts fashioned the Shortmarket Club—the newest venture from her restaurateur-chef husband, Luke—after British members-only bars. Located in a narrow alley and up a single flight of stairs, the softly lit space is outfitted with leather booths, antique lamps, stained-glass doors, and a long wall display of paper butterflies. A standout on the brief breakfast menu is a gratinated smoked hake Arnold Bennett—a creamy omelet invented by London’s Savoy Hotel—accented with luscious béchamel sauce. Flag down the fancy cheese cart for Bouchette, a goat cheese from Kommetjie producer Pépé Charlot; fudgy, flaky Langbaken Karoo Blue, produced in arid Williston from raw Jersey’s milk; and Belnori Boutique Cheesery Phantom Forest, an ash-covered chèvre. Meadlike late-harvest wines—Mullineux Straw Wine, for one—should satisfy all your pairing needs.
88 Shortmarket St.
0027 (0)21 447 2874
Immigrant cousins Andrea Biondi, Simone Briganti, and Luca Pantani learned the tricks of the trade from their Nonna in northeast Italy’s Romagna region. When the trio opened this restaurant in 2012 among dreary office buildings on Barrack Street, they increased foot traffic to an area that was once dead after dark. The cousins’ signature dish is homemade tagliolini with mushrooms, cream, and thyme, stirred and served tableside from a brawny wheel of Italian Grana Padano. Equally divine is a simple starter of burrata from Puglia Cheese plated with tomato-balsamic reduction and fresh basil pesto.
3B Barrack St.
0027 (0)83 273 9604
Ten miles from the city center in the upmarket suburb of Constantia, Greenhouse offers impeccable fine dining at the refined Cellars-Hohenhort Hotel. Relais&Châteaux grand chef Peter Tempelhoff and head chef Ashley Moss labor over seasonal and hyperlocal ingredients and have a way with dairy. Take their “Four Degrees of Cheese” course. It’s essentially Dalewood Huguenot served in a quartet of vastly different preparations and temperatures: soufflé (132°F), cheese sauce (68°F), panna cotta (46°F), and ice cream (28°F). “Simple but brilliant” is how Culture Club Cheese owner Luke Williams describes it. Book a room and make a night of it: Take an après-dinner stroll on nearly ten acres of gardens then sleep off the feast in style.
93 Brommersvlei Rd., Constantia Heights
0027 (0)21 795 6226
All five locations of this laidback eatery boast a vintage-biker-meets-Brooklyn-hipster aesthetic. The Blouberg branch overlooks the wild, frothy waves of the Atlantic—surfers often drop their gear on the beach and run upstairs with sandy feet to grab grub. Come for the burgers, but stay for the drool-inducing Cheese Bombs: cheddar, mozzarella, and feta squished into phyllo pastry, deep-fried, and served with a mustard-mayo dipping sauce. Saucisse Boutique Deli owner Amanda Lewis claims that these melty snacks, coupled with an ice-cold craft beer, “will change your life.” Yum.
One Athens Rd., Blouberg
0027 (0) 21 556 0852; and other locations
Named after the French word for seagull—a nod to the birds that circle the bay in Sea Point—La Mouette, housed in a grand Victorian residence with a splendid courtyard, hits the sweet spot between pub fare and upmarket cuisine. While the restaurant’s legendary cheese-and-truffle croquettes are no longer on the menu—sad!—the cheese picnic delivered in a basket to the table is the new must-order. Contents vary per season, but a recent lineup included ash-dusted goat cheese, mature cheddar, and ripe brie served with buckwheat crispbread, pickled onions, and a jar of sweet tomato chutney. Insider tip: Book a private party for six or more and sit upstairs, away from the crowds.
78 Regent Rd., Sea Point
0027 (0)21 433 0856
This isn’t your average cheap-and-cheerful corner taco joint. Based on extensive research and travel, Nic Haarhoff and partners opened El Burro seven years ago to bring authentic Mexican cuisine to Cape Town. El Burro’s deep-fried chile rellenos—smoked jalapeños filled with creamy queso fresco—are a top vegetarian starter. (They’re also available at El Burro’s sister cantinas Cabrito downstairs and Taqueria on Kloof Nek Road). Other must-orders in rotation include famous street foods elote and esquites, both made with freshly charred corn, garlic-spiked sour cream sauce, and grated parmesan cheese. Wash it all down with a frozen house margarita or a Devil’s Peak Brewing Company IPA from a balcony seat overlooking Green Point’s buzziest drag.
37A Dean St., Newlands
0027 (0)21 201 1421
Tucked inside the Vineyard Hotel & Spa in the leafy southern suburb of Newlands, Mike Bassett’s Myoga (“ginger blossom” in Japanese) boasts a most serene setting: six acres of garden, crisscrossed by the occasional tortoise. A fine-dining stalwart, Myoga is casual during the day with a bistro-style menu; at night, corporate regulars and glammed-up date-night crowds descend. Save room for the Savory Dessert, a deconstructed cheese plate of sorts that starts with Culture Club Cheese goat’s milk ricotta and Renosterbos, a hard goat’s milk cheese with maple and pecan notes from Foxenburg. Cornbread, apricot gel and sorbet, cannoli shards, chèvre-apricot cream, pickled red onion, cumin-dusted nuts, goat’s whey foam, grilled nectarines, and more round out the heavenly plate. This veritable explosion of flavors has earned a slew of devotees— just don’t ask any of them to recite the ingredient list!
60 Colinton Rd., Newlands
0027 (0)21 657 4545
Indian-South African chef Vanie Padayachee and billionaire businessman Analjit Singh launched Marigold in the wine village of Franschhoek. Contemporary and pared-down, the menu includes north Indian classics such as rogan josh (lamb curry with chiles and yogurt) and dal makhni (spiced black lentils). Padayachee orders paneer from Buffalo Ridge in Wellington, the only Italian water buffalo farm and dairy in the country. She marinates fat blocks of the cheese for 24 hours in cream, yogurt, and her own tikka spice blend, then grills it in a tandoor oven. The paneer emerges gently charred on the outside and silky on the inside, ready for dunking in cilantro-mint chutney. Though pistachio-dipped kulfi is dreamy here, consider an ice-cream flight at De Villiers Chocolate Café nearby.
9 Huguenot St., Franschhoek
0027 (0)21 876 8971
You have an important choice at this upscale-dining standout, situated on family-owned Kleine Zalze Wine Estate in Stellenbosch: Either sit outside beneath oak trees overlooking the golf course and vineyards or cozy up beside the indoor fireplace. Decisions, decisions. Head chef Michael Broughton is known for iconic, simple French cookery, including sublime sauces; he whips together Gorgonzola and cream to drizzle over duck breast and leg flanked by parsnip puree, pear, sultanas, and Parma ham. Kleine Zalze Cabernet Sauvignon makes a mighty partner.
Strand Road, Stellenbosch
0027 (0)21 880 0717