Cape Town Cairns: Restaurants to Get Your Nom On

Cairns: The word “Cairns” is a hiking reference to stacks of stones on trails that help guide your way. When I see them on a hike, I instantly think, Phew. I’m not lost. Traveling the world can be overwhelming. You’re in a foreign place, far from home. My hope is that cairns can be used to guide your way, so that when you visit one of these places, you feel at home, and know that you’re in good company. You’re on the right path.

It won’t be a comprehensive list, but it’ll be my favorites at least 🙂

More and more, I’ve realized favorite restaurants have less to do with the food, and more to do with the ambience, the service, and the people you’re with. An amazing restaurant can just have an off night. As hard as it is to pick favorite restaurants it a city with amazing food, I’ll go by the incredible experiences I had, and the people with whom I shared those experiences.

The Potluck Club

Hands down my favorite meal in Cape Town, and also I got to eat there with one of my best friends. Credit goes all to my parents who gave me a gift card to this restaurant as a going away gift for leaving them to travel the world (Thanks Ma and Padre!)

Everything about this night was pretty awesome. The Potluck Club is located in the Old Biscuit Mill area, which is essentially a trendy, revitalized area, on the sixth floor of a building overlooking all of cape town. Our reservation was early in the evening which was perfect, because we got to enjoy the sunset while dining. Which by the way, Cape Town has hands down the best sunsets.

Anyway, the food is trendy, small plates, style and everything was amazing from the beef tataki with hoisin dressing, coriander pesto and ponzu mayo to the raspberry, earl grey, & chocolate clafoutis with mascarpone ice cream and amaretti crumb (UGH NOM). Our waiter (Sean/Shawn, or whatever variation) was wonderful to us and came back after 8 dishes to say, please you must get the special. And after how delicious everything was, how could we resist him?

For a moment, I forgot about the crazy life I’ve signed up for and just enjoyed a meal. My friend and I talked about our goals and dreams for the year, checked in with how we were doing so far into the process (it had been a crazy first couple weeks, after all), and vowed to keep having check in meals.

All in all, a great night at the Potluck Club. They even called your uber for you when it was sadly time for you to head home.

(View from Potluck Club)

Kloof Street House

This restaurant hosted 28 of us, so everyone should probably stand up and give them a round of applause. It only took us about a week after to figure the bill, but we’re all settled and still friends so I’d say it all worked out.

Kloof Street House is an adorable restaurant with lights outside in the yard and a cozy living room feel inside. You’d think they couldn’t host 28 people, but the house is deceptively large, and we fit along one long corridor. Great selection of cocktails, but the food was pretty outstanding, especially when considering how many people they had.

Favorites amongst the table: the Ostrich, the steaks, etc. All meats typical to a South African diet. Me? Another Cape Town classis – Kingclip – a white fish, which came with truffle cauliflower mash and was NOM.

We as a group toasted to an amazing first month together, and as we cheered, I made a wish that we would always continue to do dinners as messy as this one was with 28 (and plus!) people. It had been 3.5 weeks, but already felt like this was my family. We were certainly at home in Kloof Street House.

The Cousins

This was my first small group dinner with two brand new friends who came together randomly and decided to go to dinner because it was that time where people generally say to themselves and each other, hey, we should probably eat dinner. Interestingly enough, by the end of this dinner, I knew I had just made two life friends (whoops there I go getting emotional again).

The Cousins is one of those restaurants you’d likely miss walking around Cape Town. It’s not in a heavily populated area – in fact, it’s on a walk seemingly to nowhere. It had caught the eye of one of the guys, and we decided to give it a go.

We walked in and asked for a table for three, to which they replied Do you have a reservation? Ah, no. Oh, I’m sorry, we’re fully booked tonight.

As much of a bummer this is, this generally means the food is good if it’s packed on a random work night. Regardless, the hostess wouldn’t budge, but eventually a manager or owner came over and said would you like to sit at the bar and eat? To which we responded, of course, but after a quick moment, they magically found a table available for three, and they moved us swiftly there.

We shared a bottle of red wine. I ate amazing gnocchi as my new friends told me about their lives and careers, and, for a second, we all felt like we were chatting away somewhere in Italy in South Africa.

Definitely worth swinging by if you’re craving some good ol’ fashioned Italian food.

Saigon

While it may seem strange to you to call out some Vietnamese food in Cape Town, it was great and that’s all I have to say about that. A small group of us showed up super late, and they were willing to seat us and get our order in just before the kitchen closed. Definitely recommend the spicy Chicken thai basil, but mostly everyone got pho and thought it was great.

Lelapa Restaurant

This is a non-touristy, challenging but incredible, experience you must do when going to Cape Town. Lelapa is a family-style restaurant run by Shelia and her daughter Monica in the oldest township in Cape Town, Langa. As the women cook, they will tell you stories, including the one of how their restaurant came to be, an incredible tale of perseverance and dedication. And while you eat mountains of home-style, delicious food, you’ll listen to a band playing and think of what a gift it is to be alive and how much love there is in the world, despite all odds. Get a hug on the way out.

 

Notable Shout-outs: Fork (which also hosted 20 of us for tapas one night), Churango (Peruvian tapas hello.), Doppio Zero (This place is in a tourist-y spot, but we went twice and it hit the spot both times. Waiters were very kind, get the spicy chicken pizza with avocado), The Roundhouse Restaurant (mostly for the incredible views of the Twelve Apostles than the food, go at sunset)

Pics below from Fork: