Welcome to the Definitive (but unofficial) Guide to Western Cape Restaurants

 Compiled by Carina and Yuval

We have had enough of reading other people's facile restaurant reviews which all too often turn out to be a disaster. So... we have decided to make our own restaurant review list. This is based on our OWN experience and is therefore obviously subjective. We are not associated with any of the restaurants reviewed nor do we care 2 hoots about what they think of us. We have set up this free review as a service to like-minded people and we sincerely hope you find it informative. We would love to hear from you regarding any reviews you may have or about your views regarding restaurants we have reviewed here. Please contact us at yuval@iafrica.com

A general note regarding Cape Town Restaurants:

ANDY'S BISTRO: 3/10. 5 Clarence Rd., Sea Point. 439-2470.

This has got to be one of the worst restaurants that we have ever had the misfortune to visit. First we had to wait for more than an hour and a half for the food to arrive (during which time we were repeatedly interrupted by the incredibly obtuse and badly trained waiters). When the food finally arrived it was absolutely terrible! Most of it was microwaved (badly!) and tasteless (we even had sand in our broccoli!). To top it all up it wasn't even cheap... Some amazing quotes from the staff: (upon ordering a glass of ice-cold water...) "would you like that with ice? In a glass?" Is this guy for real or what? Avoid!

ARDI'S: 7/10. Main Rd., Sea Point. 439-7322.

This take away/sit down place is renowned for it's generous and exotic sandwiches. The prices are very reasonable (about R14 for a sandwich) and they really are a mouthful! The Sea Point branch is particularly recommended while the Rondebosch branch is to be avoided at all costs!

ARIS: 8/10. Regent Rd., Sea Point. 439-6683.

Cheap, decent, honest-to-goodness Greek fare, with no frills and no fuss (one would swear one actually was in Greece...). This is home to Aris' famous souvlaki and shwarma, which are unparalleled in their tastiness. Even the desserts are good! Who could ask for more? Definitely a place for garlic lovers, this place is emphatically recommended!

BARDELI: 4/10. Longkloof Studios, Darters St., Gardens. 23-4444.

Located in the newly renovated Kloof Street Studios this chrome and glass cafe left us bitterly disappointed. We got the impression that the only qualification the management was looking for in the waiters was the way they were dressed. Also, there is no non-smoking area. The food was not of a standard that would justify its hype. (Admittedly, we did only go there for dessert.) If you decide to go there make sure you have a cell phone...

BLUE PLATE: 8/10. 35 Kloof St., Gardens. 241515.

One of the many restaurants that has appeared along Kloof street in the CBD. The decor inside is adventurous but pleasing and remarkably spacious. The service is excellent and the whole place gives the impression of professionalism. The food was received with mixed reaction. The Kudu Cajun was absolutely excellent while the fish was dry and boring. Prices are fair and be on the look out for the specials because they are a give away! Strongly recommended!

BUCCANEER: 5/10. 64 Orange St, Gardens. 24-4966.

Stepping into the Buccaneer is like stepping into the bowls of a pirate ship with wooden panels on the walls, a charming bar and many marine motifs to compliment one's dinner. Unfortunately the food (basically steaks) is not quite as good as the decor and the prices are simply too high considering that one could probably eat the same thing at the Spur down the road for half the price. Disappointing.

CHINESE JEWEL TAVERN: 8/10. Taiwanese Sailors' House, Harbour. 418-1977.

If you are looking for authentic Chinese food with no frills and at very modest prices you couldn't do better than this. This restaurant is located in the Mission for Taiwanese Seamen in the heart of the Cape Town harbour and is within easy access of the Waterfront. The decor is non-existent, but the atmosphere is welcoming. The food is simply divine. You can choose from a very large menu covering seafood, beef, chicken and pork as well as vegetarian dishes. We would gladly rate this restaurant as the best in Cape Town!

COL'CACCHIO: 8/10. Seeff House, 42 Hans Strydom Ave., Foreshore. 419-4848.

Arguably the best pizza in Cape Town (it's either this or De Vinci in the No.1 slot). The topping are extremely sophisticated and savoury with lots of taste and imagination and the base is wonderfully crispy. The service is friendly and the atmosphere is warm and inviting. There are a few drawbacks though: firstly it's pricey (about R30 for a pizza at least), secondly the venue, while very pretty, can get very smoky and very warm. But... the pizzas are definitely worth it.

DA VINCI'S: 7/10. 37 2nd Ave., Kenilworth. 683-5453.

This pizzeria has some of the best pizzas we have ever had. Thin based and crusty made from rich, delicious dough and with fantastic, creative toppings. The atmosphere is very welcoming with large paper table cloths provided along with crayons for the amusement of the patrons. A complimentary cup of gluehwein in winter and sangria in summer makes it even more welcoming. Two major disadvantages though: the service could be improved and there is a complete lack of non-smoking space. When full (which is often) the place resembles an Indian smoking tent. Take always are available and recommended. A must for all pizza lovers!

DIVA: 6/10. Lower Main Rd., Observatory.

This is one of the most talked about pizzerias in Cape Town, located in Observatory (right opposite Pancho's as a matter of fact). We found it to be disappointing and far from the favourable impression given to us by the reviewer in the Cape Times. The place is small but has great decor (it's made up to look like a little piazza) and the service is decent. Unfortunately the pizzas are non-descript and nothing to write home about. The base is far too thick and the toppings taste the same regardless of what you order. Well, at least it's cheap... Rather go across the road to Pancho's.

DOODLES: 2/10. 110 Beach Blvd., Tableview. 56-1080.

Practically next door to La Pasta on the Blaauwberg beachfront this is a puzzlingly popular restaurant. Why this is the case is beyond us. The food is simply terrible, the service is hellish and they do not seem to understand the simple concept that a "non-smoking area" actually means an area where people do not smoke. The only good thing about this restaurant is their large parrot although we suspect he will be dying of lung cancer soon. Absolutely grotesque!

EUROPA 7/10. 78 Regent Rd., Sea Point. 439-2820.

This is a place to take Auntie Rachel when she comes to visit from overseas. Although the food is somewhat unimaginative the decor is pleasing and the atmosphere is relaxing - definitely no background music! Prices are a bit high, but then again, can you put a value on making your ultra-conservative Auntie happy? Try and see if they can pick you up in their fantastic courtesy car - it's well worth it...

HAPPY WOK: 6/10. 62 Kloof St., Gardens. 24-2423.

The reason for the meteoric success of this chain of oriental eateries is beyond us. What was supposed to be the Thai/Chinese/Indonesian version of a cantina is instead a Yuppie eating place with the appropriate prices and attitude.


Tacky, tacky, tacky! The food is not bad but... it is NOT a cheap place (beware of the desserts especially!) and frankly the exorbitant prices asked for the desserts is simply unjustified. The bottomless soft drink glasses are a nice touch but then again how much soda can you actually drink? Also we were the only South Africans there (and the place was full). A nice place to go to if you are a tourist - especially if you really enjoyed Disney Land...

HUSSAR: 7/10. 10 Main Rd., Rondebosch. 689-9516.

A well established and justifiably renowned steak house with an intimate and pleasant atmosphere. The menu is not very large, but everything on it is well worth it, and tasty enough to satisfy the most discerning palate. As far as meat goes, these guys really know their steaks! Definitely for the carnivores among us, this place is worth a visit.

LA PASTA: 6/10. 107 Beach Bvld., Tableview. 56-1591.

This is a nice, unsophisticated Italian restaurant (with no Italians in sight though) which is located on the Blaauwberg beach-front. The view of the Mountain and the ocean is magnificent and makes the food seem not too bad at all. A nice place to have a pizza or pasta for lunch on a Sunday. The prices are very fair and the service is just fine. Enjoy...

LA PERLA: 6/10. Beach Rd., Sea Point. 434-2471.

This famous restaurant on the Sea Point beach front is not all it's cracked up to be. This does not stop it from being permanently full. The menu is large (with an Italian theme) and the food is not bad but disappointing for both the hype and the price. A nice touch is the complimentary salad served as a starter. Very crowded and very expensive. For unadventurous rich tourists only!

LE CHALET : 3/10. Surrey Rd., Little Mowbray. 689-3044.

Overpriced. Over-rated. Over-the-top. This pretentious restaurant with delusions of grandeur used to be an excellent, homely German Stube in Pinelands with simple yet delicious food. Since its relocation to Rondebosch something has gone terribly wrong! The service is incredibly slow and sloppy. This is OK because the poor quality of the food will soon have you forgetting about how long it took you to get it. To add insult to injury wait till you get the bill! Avoid at all costs (no pun intended...)

MAESTRO'S: 7/10. 60 Kloof St., Gardens. 24-3015.

This one's a classic. A very well established pizzeria with a warm and vibrant atmosphere. The place is large and always full so be advised and book! Apart from having very decent pizzas (a bit on the pricey side though) its main attraction is the enormous choice of beers from all over the world. Please note that this restaurant does tend to be a bit smoky and noisy at times. Highly recommended.

MARIA'S: 7/10. Dunkley Sq., Gardens. 461-8887.

Located in the trendy Dunckley Square in the heart of Gardens, this Greek taverna provides good value for money with enormous portions for very little. The food is hearty and delicious and the service is down-to-earth. Excellent for late-night hunger pangs!

MARINA: 4/10. Cnr. Camps Bay Drive and Rottingdean Rd., Camps Bay. 438-3714.

The restaurant is located where once the excellent Italian restaurant Roma Roma used to be. It is at the very top of Camps Bay and commands a magnificent view of the Atlantic with breath-taking sunsets. Unfortunately this as far as it goes. The food ranges from the bland to the down-right dreadful. As for the service: you will be in for a surprise. Too bad it isn't a pleasant one... If you want to go (for the sake of the view) then take some sandwiches with. Avoid.

MARIO'S COFFEE BAR: 9/10. Rheede Centre, Rheede St. 24-4942.

This place looks like the dingiest little Italian cantina which should belong in some train-station but we guarantee that their pizzas are simply breathtaking - by far the best we have ever eaten, anywhere! The only catch is that it's only open on weekdays and only for lunch. Also if you fancy drinking anything other than Coke and orange juice make sure you step next door to the Spar and buy your drink before. UNBELIEVABLE!!! DO NOT MISS!

MARIO'S: 8/10. 90 Main Rd., Green Point. 439-6644.

If Italian cooking means more than pizza to you than this is the place to visit. Good, honest Italian home cooking with a menu that includes everything from meat to fish to rabbit. The atmosphere is warm and inviting and the service is always good. Bellisima!

MAX-MAX: 6.5/10. 22 Kloof St., Gardens. 24-1424.

Very glitzy, very Yuppie and very smoky. The food is essentially good, but too many things distract from it (such as the in-house trendy bar and the perspex-fronted "wine cellar"). If you are into these kind of places then go - if you're looking for fine food in a quiet and smokeless atmosphere then go… somewhere else!

THE MERLION: 6/10. The Pavilion, Thibault Sq., Cape Town. 21-7144/5.

This is quite possibly the most fancy Chinese restaurant in Cape Town. The decor is impressive as is the location in the very centre of downtown Cape Town. Unfortunately the food is not as impressive as the decor. Other points to remember are that this is not a cheap restaurant, and that the service does tend to be slow. The one aspect where Merlion differs from the rest of the Chinese restaurants in Cape Town is in the dessert section of the menu. We particularly recommend the veritable mountain of ice with different syrups. Yum.

MORTON'S ON THE WHARF: 5/10. Victoria Wharf, V&A Waterfront. 418-3635.

This is one of those "theme" restaurants they brought from the States. While the decor is spectacular (New Orleans / Bayou) the food is just not up to it. The menu appears very promising with a variety of both local and Cajun dishes but all turn out to be disappointing and bland. To make things worse, the restaurant is unjustifiably pricey and very, very loud and smoky. They should have spent more time on the kitchen staff and less on the decoration...

ON THE ROCKS: One of us loved it (9/10) and the other one hated it (3/10). 45 Stadler Rd., Bloubergstrand. 56-1988.

Located in Blouberg on the very edge of stormy Table Bay with a magnificent view of Table Mountain as well as Robben Island (make sure you book a table next to the window!) this is a well established restaurant. This is an upmarket place with a well trained staff and an atmosphere to match. The clientele is a vibrant mix of local and international diners. The menu is not very extensive but is well thought-out and boasts a number of original dishes. As for the food: the beef Wellington was absolutely marvellous (juicy and tender) while the calamari steak was a disaster with far too much butter and far too little flavour. One of us would love to go there again and one of us won't hear of it!!!

PANCHO'S: 8/10. 127 Lower Main Rd., Observatory. 47-4854.

A Mexican food lover's paradise! This famous cantina sports an impressive menu of authentic Mexican delights. Each can be prepared in varying degrees of spiciness which is guaranteed to satisfy any palate. The venue (in Observatory) is a beautiful and large house with plenty of space for all, the Tamboerskloof one is much smaller and can get smoky but has plenty of parking. Prices are very reasonable and the nachos are a must. Ole!

PAPA LUKE'S: 6/10. Next to Cape Technikon.

A relatively new Mexican restaurant next to the Cape Technikon with authentic (perhaps a bit too authentic) atmosphere. The food is a bit on the expensive side (if you consider what this place looks like) although if you order wisely you can have a good meal for less. Beware of the insufferable smoke though!

RUSTICA: 7/10. 70 New Church St., Cape Town. 23-5474.

This trendy restaurant is tremendously popular with Cape Town's "in" crowd, and is always completely packed. Unfortunately, it is often a little too packed! One finds oneself squashed unceremoniously between other diners with little air space, and so it is sometimes a bit difficult to breathe. Nevertheless, the Californian/Italian (yes, you read it right) cuisine is competently and tastily prepared and caters for a wide variety of different tastes. The portions are a bit on the small side for the price, but it is not outrageously overpriced like some of the more popular Cape Town restaurants.

SAN MARCO'S (Waterfront): 7/10 (food), 9/10 (desserts). Victoria Wharf, V&A Waterfront.

A mediocre Italian establishment with decent (but hardly inspiring) traditional dishes (no pizza!). What is definitely outstanding is the choice of Italian gelate which is absolutely TO DIE FOR. You can go in and just buy the ice-cream, so the best thing to do is to eat somewhere else and then come here for the dessert. Yum!

SAUL'S SALOON & GRILL: 8/10. 162 Main Rd., Sea Point. 434-5404.

The best value-for-money burgers and steaks in town!!! Not only are the portions HUGE (we kid you not!) and delicious but it's also so cheap you will not believe your eyes! Try out the 500g steak or (for the very hungry) try out the 500g beef burger (if you can finish it you get it for free!). There is also a fully stocked bar, slot machines and NTN (digital trivial pursuit).

SEA PALACE: 6/10. 261 Victoria Wharf Centre, Waterfront. 418-4040.

The Chinese restaurant at the waterfront. Very nice decor and polite, efficient service but the food lacks Chinese character and tastes more like what Chinese people think Westerners impression of Chinese food is. Prices are very low so it's worth a try. Who knows - maybe you'll like it?

SPUR: 8/10. No addresses- you really don't need to book, and besides, you'll find them everywhere.

What can one say about the Spur? This chain of steakhouses stands for all that is South African cooking: large, generous portions of really good food at really good prices! The service is always excellent and they even have a non-smoky non-smoking section! Particularly recommended (apart from the steaks, which are absolutely excellent) are the burgers (especially the 250g Hungabuster) as well as their range of Mexican dishes (nachos, tortillas and quesadias). Particularly good branches are the Waterfront and Sea Point ones while the Hout Bay, Table View and particularly the Gardens ones are better left alone.

VILLA TAVERN: 8/10. 176 Upper Buitenkant St., Vredehoek. 45-4100.

Quite possibly the best value-for-money eating place in Cape Town. The menu is extensive and covers a wide variety of cuisines from Italian to Portuguese and German with everything from pizzas and sea-food to incredible meat dishes. A fully stocked bar is available. The service is friendly and efficient and the atmosphere is warm and cosy. A word of warning: if you wish to avoid the cigarette smoke then make sure you reserve a table next to one of the wide windows. This place is cheap (really, really cheap) and great. We loved it!!!

WANGTHAI: 6/10. 31 Heerengracht, Foreshore. 418-1858.

Set in the heart of the down town district this is a well established Thai restaurant. The decor is pleasing (with a wide, open kitchen area, often filled with alarming looking explosions of flames) and the service is impeccable but two things left bad impression on us - mainly that although the food is certainly delicious and authentic tasting the dishes are too small in size and too large in price. Let us just say that this is a place where one goes to taste and not to eat. If you've got the money to spend then go for it...

WOODEN SHOE: 9/10. Saint Johns Rd., Sea Point. 439-4435.

If you are looking for the best German/Swiss food in Cape Town look no further! This tiny stube is an exact replica of the real thing. Willi the owner/chef is a delightful host and an excellent cook. His eisbein and schnitzel (accompanied by either chips, baked kartoffel or spaetzle) will have you begging for more. This is also a cosy pub and makes for a wonderful refuge from the Cape winter. Sehr gut!

First compiled and released January 1998.

All rights reserved. Yuval and Carina.

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