Dining Out Vegan & Alcohol Free in Cape Town: 15 places I visited

I gained weight and I’m so sure of it. Not the kind of weight gain that will make me have to go to the doctor and start the conversation with the sentence “I can explain”. No.

Just enough weight to make your least favourite auntie at the family reunion comment about your belly as though you do not see it trying to breath out of your high waist jeans.

Anyways I haven’t stepped on a scale in years but I can assure you from all the three course meals, sugar filled mock tails and chocnut gelatos that I dived head first in, that I would probably think the scale is broken. I should be feeling guilty enough to gulp down apple cider vinegar and lemon water every morning for the next 6 months but of course, I will not, because I do not work with guilt when it comes to food. So, TAKE THAT body-shaming auntie! Thing is, when I was in the Cape, I put my potbelly expandable pants on and ventured into all the yummy treats that I had been so ready to feast on.

Here is the list of all the restaurants, bars, cafes and hotels I went to for vegan options, drinks and mock tails. Let us start with all he places I went for drinks, treats, and end off with the food.

MOCKTAILS, DRINKS AND GELATOS

Number 8: Coco Safar

My sister Nomfundo and I saw a Nitrogen smoking hot chocolate pop up in my feed and we frantically went on their IG to check their food gallery. Everything looked so well curated and beautifully presented, so we called to enquire about their vegan options and if their smoking hot chocolate was available and vegan friendly. They replied yes, we made reservations and we left home ready for a meal filled with theatrics. Seated at the bar and excited about our MasterChef Australia’s-like-food we were about to experience, we were told that unfortunately certain drinks and food aren’t available on their menu and are only served once a week on their themed suppers. We were more than disappointed. I had already prepared so many Gary, George and Matt jokes but the place is beautifully nostalgic and reminds me of a jazzy music scene from the movie Chicago. I’d suggest you definitely try out their highly exclusive suppers and check out their 0% alcohol Safer journey menu as their “liquid alchemist” Marshall Siavash came in second at the Inverroche Distillery awards for the Pioneers Cocktail Competition and won the Public Choice Awards. I had a Red Rocks Mock tail, which was a negroni- inspired red rooibos cold brew with hints of thyme and buchu.

Number 7: Radisson Red Roof

If the punk inspired art and flow of creativity does not get to you first then the killer views will be end of you. Located in the Silo district featuring the incredible view of Table Mountain and the V&A Waterfront harbour, it is the perfect place to grab a sundowner and have a swim at their rooftop pool. If you do not fancy a swim then you can head to their trendy and fiery red food truck. We went there with my brother Sizwe and Candice after our heavy Christmas lunch in Stellenbosch and we were feeling too tired to start our bar hopping night. Therefore, I figured a café mocha would do but unfortunately, the winds were hitting so hard that we had to change location and head off to our next venture. If you are into edge with a view then make your way there.

Number 6: Magnifico

Lulama and I needed a bonding session because throughout the entire holiday we were spending time with everybody else doing every other thing. We needed our own moment and to do something he specifically enjoys. Therefore, after we hit HoutBay we decided to head out to Canal Walk and check out the gaming arcade. Boy was it over crowded. HOW OVER CROWDED WAS IT? So overcrowded I had to take breaks in-between and walk around the mall just to be able to breathe. On one of my breaks, I walked past a gelato stand and paused when I saw the word VEGAN. I tried out their Simple Dark Chocolate just to be safe and I instantly felt the richness and creaminess rush into my veins. I decided to sit in their bistro the second time round and have a cup of tea. Usually I am not for relaxing at restaurants in malls because of the busyness but this was a quiet place that seemed to flush out the noise. I went back to catch up with Lu and on our way out we went past for round number 2. They have so many vegan options from Lemon sorbet, passion fruit, sweet strawberry and mango sorbet. I suggest you try them all.

Number 5: La Parada

A life hack: stay home on public holidays but if you must leave then please understand the words ‘overcrowded’ and ‘limited seating’. Those are the words I should have been told before we decided to walk around V&A Waterfront in hopes of finding something lively but exclusive. We might not have gotten exactly what I envisioned but La Parada is a unique location inspired by Spanish heritage that offers tapas and drinks suited for the modern African. I enjoyed a Mint Mojito and the African Elephant with elderflower, cucumber, mint and lime. We nibbled on some Patatas Bravas, Marinated Olives in paprika, garlic and parsley as well as Truffle Potato Crips. It is a proper chilled environment and the design and décor truly turn the restaurant into a gallery boasting with Spanish pride.

Number: 4 Surfshack

Always bring a jacket or a scarf. Listen maybe even a blanket because the Cape weather is so unpredictable, especially if you are considering spending the day sipping on icy mock tails near the beach. This was our last spot for the day after hopping from one place to the next; fully enjoying the buzz and liveliness each place offered us. Wherever we went though I had to tell the barristers and waiters to “please bring me something other than a virgin mojito and strawberry daiquiri”. Surfshack is located in Camps Bay on The Promenade and features an expansive terrace for the breath-taking ocean view and palm trees. My shazam was working overtime because of the soothing sounds that played in the background and as we toasted to a great night I had a Birds of Paradise cocktail. It had raspberry puree, coconut, orange blossom water, limejuice and soda. By the time, we had our second round I just knew I am ageing and can no longer keep up with these kids. Imagine me drinking hot tea, wearing a vintage denim jacket, wrapped in a polar fleece blanket while the youngens are enjoying their third cocktail.

Number 3: Mantra Café

You ever been restaurant catfished. You know like when you see a place online, it just looks so beautiful but only to arrive there, and you are betrayed, actually scammed. Scammed by the good photography, lighting, fancy words they use to describe the food, décor, deceitful food styling and and and. Yes, I have but No it was not at Mantra. This place is sophisticated earthy and has notes of raw textures as well as a panoramic view of the ocean. Not at all pretentious and not at all deceitful. I had chosen the Jamaican Breeze cocktail, which has to be the best ginger beer I have tasted in forever and always. In fact, Sizwe and I agreed to call it gemeer, because of just how strong the kick is. It also includes grapefruit and apple juice. Mantra is unique in how authentic it is in a location crowded with bars and restaurants that seem too gimmicky and strictly for tourists.

Number 2: Moro Gelato

Five times.

As in 1.2.3.4.5. FIVE.

I had Moro Gelato 5 times. Please do not ask how I survived the sugar rush because all I can tell you is that it was worth it. Before I even tell you about the flavours, I have to tell you just how friendly the staff is. It’s so rare to be greeted with a smile and have easy conversation while being served these days. In addition, it was not at just one of their chain stores but both at Sea Point and Long Street. What also struck me is the beautiful set up. Fresh pastel pallets that already have you imagining the deliciously smooth gelatos and the hints of gold just tell you that this is the ultimate luxury. Now we can get to the flavours (holds back tears). Fresh and pure ingredients that whisk you away to Italy. Flavours that take you right out your taste buds comfort zone and make you question how you will consume any other gelato again. Belgian chocolate, Pesca Noce, tropical flavour bombs, slightly tart raspberries, sub-tropical sorbets and rich bursts of summer. I cannot properly describe to you what my taste buds experienced but maybe if I had my sixth round, more words might flow. I had the Fragola, Pesca, Hazelnut Sorbetto, Chocolate Sorbetto and Peanut Paradiso.

Number 1: Grand Africa Beach Club

“Where grand chic meets retro-romance”. What a unique experience. Five bars, nine private function areas, ocean view decks with excellent views of the Atlantic Ocean and beach chic dining. This is the ultimate vibe. We had come from sailing on the Tigresse catamaran with my family and I thought there is no better water experience I could possibly get after that. Oh but of course this is Cape Town after all, everything keeps getting better but on a low-key chilled vibe. Nomfundo and I made reservations and asked for a seating at the ocean deck so we left home playing Burna Boy and ready to catch the sunset on the beach and toast to the start of a great family vacation. Unfortunately, we arrived and our booking had not been sorted yet and it was packed full. I tend to get crowd anxious especially if I do not mentally prepare myself but the energy was such a natural, easy and mellow high. It just did not feel at all like there were more than 20 people. It also helped that you can take off your shoes and let your feet touch the sand while gazing at the ocean and catching a glimpse of their trademark gigantic disco ball on the rocks of the beach. Nomfundo joined me for a virgin mojito and later decided to try out their watermelon martini while I had their strawberry daiquiri. Now I know I have had more than enough of my fair share of mojitos and daiquiris but the icy, slushy, sorbet-like version is definitely a winner in my eyes.

VEGAN FOOD (STARTERS, MAINS, DESSERTS AND SALADS)

Number 7: Royal Cape Yacht Club

We spent our last morning in Cape Town at brunch with Lu, Nomfundo and my nephew Luvuyo. The wind was reminding us that we are in the Mother City as our kimonos started taking lives of their own. Located in the port of Cape Town, we arrived at the clubs front desk greeted by a wall covered in the history of all the members since its inception. The feminist in me thought “of course, all men” but instead of asking about political views, I figured I would rather enjoy the harbour views.

We took a seat right on the balcony overlooking the yacht marina and had our first round of drinks. The menu unfortunately did not cater for vegans so I had to ask that the chef to prepare something for me specifically. I had veggies, hash browns, toast, and guacamole then washed it down with a strawberry smoothie. I really thought that the food wold be overpriced considering the venue and the location but it was all quite affordable. The coolest moment was when Nomfundo asked for a bottle Krone and the waiter said, “That’s such a coincidence, the guy who makes the wine is actually docked here”

Number 6: Maestros on Beach

For the great combination of views, vibes and food, the entire family went for lunch at Maestros. What we had not anticipated is just how packed it would be, so the service was slow. By the time the food arrived, Lu and I had already gotten into a bit of a tiff and half the table was FUNGRY!

The restaurant has undergone some renovations to attract a wider market but it was different from what I imagined a place that overlooks the ocean would be. I did not feel the ambience of a beach restaurant or an easy going, friendly atmosphere. However, the menu is broad and has pizzas, pastas, seafood and grills. I first had veggie wrap but I was not satisfied so I ordered their Rocket, artichoke and mushroom pizza with vegan cheese. Absolutely made up for all the hunger mood swings as it was fresh, adventurous and all still homey. Can food be homey? What I mean is it made me feel like I am at home. We went for a walk down the beach after our meal as we watched Luvuyo swim in the beach.

Number 5: Cloud 9 Rooftop

The first time I had finally been able to wear a bikini and actually get in the water for a swim. With a 360-degree view of the city, Table Mountain and Lions Head, it is no wonder Cloud 9 was voted No 1 rooftop bar by Cape Town Magazine. It is not just the views and their open-air ambience that makes the experience worthy but the cocktails are a winner. I had their strawberry Daiquiri as well as the Basil Smash that had fresh lime, basil leaves and syrup; this is one of the most memorable mock tail for me. The environment is laid back and easy and you can read your book, share laughs with friends or soak up the sun and enjoy a bite. I indulged in a Crumbed Zucchini patty burger and it was so crispy and crunchy on the outside and incredibly soft and flavoursome on the inside. It is the ideal place to catch the sunset, sip on your drink and go for a swim.

Number 4: The Bay Harbour market

Seagulls, the harbour, boats, the diversity of South Africa, eclectic styles, live performances, arts and craft and most importantly – FOOD! This is what we got and a whole lot more when we took a Sunday off from cooking and headed to Houtbay. Henry kept his surprise a secret throughout the entire drive when I asked where we are going for lunch. The whole time I thought what I could be possibly missing since I had received most of what I had wanted from my checklist but I had actually forgotten about visiting a food market. I was so excited when I got off the car and walked into the first stall selling cutlery and plates (I blame my mother for my new interest in cutlery and Nomfundo’s love of Carol Boyes) that by the time, I saw handmade bags and accessories, all I saw was confusion. This market reminds me of Arts on Main that used to run in Joburg that my sister Thandeka would take me to. Food, art and clothing everywhere.

I made my first stop at Vegan Street Food ZA and had their scrumptious plant-based gourmet vegan pie. I loved their variation on the menu and that it is not all dependant on soy products but displays the variation of veggies. I had my second offering at the Tunisian Delights stall and if you know me then you would know my dream destination is in Morocco and I got a taste of it from their Middle Eastern influenced menu. They are 80% organic and their chickpea and potato wrap was such a perfect balance between the cultures of South Africa and the Middle East. Their homemade lemonade went down so well too with the live performance by Purple Cry on the KWV Sound stage. Listening to the local talent, I made my way down to grab a smoothie from the DR Juice stall. Yes, I love to eat sweet treats and carbs but I do love me my green smoothies. This unforgettable blend between avocado, spinach and pineapple was more than what I needed to convince me that I am balancing my health between all those gelatos (yeah right). I managed to get myself a kimono, a cheeseboard for mum and Nomfundo, a diary for my friend Sammy Vundla and found myself at the next food stall called ZA Café for their iced coffee and vegan homemade biscuits. They have a perfect roast selection of organic beans from Central America and Africa. Before I knew it, I was in the car, we were making our way through Chapmans Peak, and I remembered that smoky quartz crystal I had forgotten to buy from the stall at the corner. I guess that is another reason to spend my next visit at Houtbay.

Number 3: Gigi Rooftop

If there were a place that captured my essence, it would truly visually play itself out in the tranquillity and buzz of Gigi Rooftop. Located on the sixth floor of the Gorgeous George hotel in the Georges Mall precinct, it is the ultimate exclusive sky-high fun. Accompanied by an emerald green glass panelled poolside and views of the heritage buildings surrounding you, it is easily an unforgettable space… Their menu is a fresh take on modern classics inspired by their executive chef Guy Bennett; you can easily taste the passion in the food. Fresh and simplistic but guaranteed to haunt your taste buds long after you leave.Their in-house “mixologist” Jody Rahms creates the cocktails. They make for the perfect sundowners while easing into your seat and breathing in the green plants while appreciating the hanging basket lights that transport you to some place tropical. It is hard to believe this place opened only in May 2019 but after all, the award-winning designer Tristan du Plessis is responsible for the interior design.I enjoyed the Stoned fruit salad with red onion and Rozendal botanical vinaigrette, walnuts and strawberries. I sipped on a LEGEN-wait for it-DARY mock tail called the Pea-sed to meet you, which had seed lip Garden, Juniper raspberry syrup and fresh lemon topped with tonic water. The last drink was the Zorrita, which was Seedlip spice, Cold brew syrup, espresso and almond orgeat syrup. A cosy atmosphere and a great ambiance, it truly is a gorgeous place.

Number 2: Table @ De Meye

This was the best Christmas lunch ever. No grocery shopping mayhem done at the over packed supermarket, no stress of not finding an ingredient so that means having to change an entire dish and spontaneously think up a recipe on the spot. No slaving away at the kitchen from the early morning and being too tired to enjoy your lunch when it is finally time to eat. No setting the table, tidying up, doing the dishes, sweeping and mopping. None of that! For once, the only baking I did was my face.

We arrived in the Stellenbosch wine lands and took a turn in to the lavender fields that led us straight to the wine farm where our 17 seater long table awaited us. We are a huge family: The Nkambules, the Umetors, the Malobas and the Websters. The garden was breath taking to walk into and the excitement filled between the trees pours out right into the vineyard that stretches as far as we could see. This was the Christmas I knew I would never forget. The ideal farm-to-table restaurant is honest and genuine with their food as their ingredients come straight from their garden and supplementary veggies come from Boschendal. I had the Beet and radish salad with hazelnuts. My main was Cauliflower with bulgur wheat and lentils, crispy green beans, baked potatoes with sea salt and their home grown lettuce that had all of us asking what lettuce have we been eating all our lives. My dessert was mango sorbet and I could not believe we did not record receiving an explanation of the food sourcing and preparation as we were served. We stretched out our experience by taking walks in-between the gardens and right after my dessert I took one of their blankets, laid it on the grass and took a quick 10m minute rest. The birds were singing in the trees and I could hear the laughter of all our children while playing in the background as the wind whispers gently caressed to sleep. Truly, a memorable experience.

Number 1: The Granary Café

What more could I possibly say about the Silo hotel that wasn’t mentioned on the BBC channel on a show called ‘amazing Hotels’ featuring the legendary award winning food writer and presenter Giles Coren? Personally, it is the ultimate experience in fine dining and the decor, the staff, the art and the interesting history behind the building, easily makes this my favourite spot in Cape Town. Before we arrived at the Granary Café, we were greeted by the friendliest smiles by every single staff member and the extra effort put in for us to ensure we are assisted and satisfied. The walls, the furniture, the lights and every single aspect of the building is eclectic and raw with a distinct presence of Africa. As we continued up to level six at the Wilerston Bar, the contemporary African art continued with garments, accessories, sculptures and an actual machine head of what was once the distribution floor of the grain silo working house.

The Silo was the tallest building in the Sub-Saharan Africa at 57 m; it was once a grain silo until it was redesigned by UK industrial designer Thomas Heatherwick. It has since turned into a R20 000 stay per night hotel.

The food is theatrical and glamorous in its presentation but simple and authentic in its flavour. Executive chef Veronica Canha-Hibbert excellently captured the diversity of Africa with the contemporary creations. My starters was a Smoked tomatoes and Avo salad with hummus, Egyptian dukkah and a lemon vinaigrette. My main dish was a Roast Aubergine with ras-el-hanout, lentil tagine, lemon puree, crispy courgette. For dessert, I ventured into The Orange and Coconut, which was a speculoos sable, rooibos butterscotch and coconut ice cream.I washed it down with Sencha, which is a green tea from Shizouka on the slopes of Mount Fuji, a smoothest blend that washed down the fullness in my stomach so well. This definitely makes it my number 1 favourite fine dining.

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