Best of… Global restaurants in Cape Town

We’ve just sent our first-ever International issue off to the printers, and it’s given us the travel bug – bad. But since it doesn’t look like we’ll be jumping on a plane anytime soon, we’ve been doing a little globe-trotting with our tastebuds instead. For the next three weeks, look out for our pick of the best global restaurants across South Africa – whether it’s Mexican food in Cape Town, Indian food in Durban or Italian food in Joburg.

Plus, don’t miss our meal giveaway at the end of each post (this week we’ve got two restaurant giveaways up for grabs!)

BEST OF… MEXICAN

El Burro
The latest venture from Sascha and Hugo Berolsky is a fun and festive Mexican eatery on the Green Point strip.  Featuring custom-made wooden lights, splashes of colour and bright cactus pots, the contemporary space buzzes with the kind of happy energy you’d expect from a place that stocks over 20 different brands of tequila. The menu is 100% authentic: hearty, non-fatty Mexican dishes with nary an oily chili popper in sight. 81 Main Rd, Green Point, Cape Town. 021 433 2364

San Julian Taco & Tequila
We are oh-so grateful that the Garcia family left Mexico in 2010 to open up their taqueria (taco café) in the Bo-Kaap. Try the Taco De Carne Asada, a mix of tender barbecued meat, guacamole and coriander, or the Tacos Dorados filled with feta and beans if you’re vegetarian. Don’t miss out on the potent margaritas, or (if you’re driving), a glass of the traditional rice-milk Agua de Horchata. 3 Rose Street, Green Point. 021 419 4233

BEST OF… PERUVIAN

Keenwä
Quinoa (pronounced Keenwä, hence the name) features prominently at this Peruvian restaurant – the only restaurant serving Peruvian cuisine in the Cape. On the menu you’ll find ceviche (fish marinated in lime juice and chillies) and pecan-stuffed chicken breast served with quinoa tortillas. To finish, give the sponge cake drenched in Pisco (grape brandy) a whirl. 50 Waterkant Street, Cape Town. 021 419 2633

BEST OF… ITALIAN

Mezzaluna Trattoria Italiana
For an authentic Italian experience, head to Mezzaluna on Loop Street, which feels like an Italian Trattoria from the moment you walk in. Add to that the loud snatches of conversation that fly between Jimmy and some of his colleagues in the kitchen and you are in Rome. (Ok, you might need to close your eyes for a second or two). Highlights include smoked tuna carpaccio, Parma ham and melon, and sea urchin spaghetti. 16 Loop Street, Cape Town. 021 421 6391

Magica Roma
At Magica Roma in Pinelands, owners Ezio and Franco prowl the floor restlessly, ensuring that the waitstaff keep up a solid flow of service to all the tables. Customers are encouraged to be adventurous and go off the menu, letting the chef decide what you’ll eat. If you’re staying on-menu, make sure you order the superb beef carpaccio and Linguini Montanara, a veal ragu bursting with flavour. 8 Central Sq, Pinelands, Cape Town. 021 531 1489

Il Cappero
‘The Caper’ – run by husband-and-wife team Aldo Bezzicheri and Cetti Romano  – is adding much-needed culinary flair to Barrack Street. The decor is terrible, but then you’re not there for that. The menu is extensive and offers both the expected and the unexpected: the Parmesan-cake starter with balsamic vinegar and pink pepper is delicious. Follow with penne served with prawns cooked in dry Martini, or veal rolls stuffed with pine nuts. And don’t deprive yourself of the tiramisu, made with strong Sicilian Marsala. 3 Barrack Street, Cape Town. 021 461 3168

Harlequin
No surprises why regulars return again and again to this cosy ‘trattoria’ in the unlikely location of Voortrekker Road. While the painted seascapes and flowers in urns may be faux, the food is as authentic as it comes. Take a seat at the fireside and order fresh swordfish if it’s available. If not, there’s gnocchi with burnt sage butter, or Rigatoni al Forno, baked in a creamy mushroom sauce with slices of mozzarella. 281 Voortrekker Road, Parow. 021 939 1993

BEST OF… KOREAN

Galbi
Galbi brings the concept of an Asian barbecue – with an SA twist – to your table, where you can cook your choice of marinated meat (including kudu) at a small grill. Sides include baked tofu and more-ish sweet-potato fries with jalapeno dipping sauce. Then there are the chocolate quesadillas served with raspberry coulis. You’ll roll out of there already planning your next visit. 210 Long Street, Cape Town. 021 424 3030

Naksaeng Korean Happy Kitchen
If ‘happy food is the starting point of a healthy life’, as is proclaimed on this extensive menu, you’ll be overjoyed with the selection at Naksaeng. Start with the gimbap, a Korean version of the California roll. For mains, groups (two or more) should consider the shabu shabu (hot pot). You’ll cook thin strips of meat and veg in a boiling broth at your table. Wash it all down with a cup of lotus-leaf or ginseng tea. 77 Regent Road, Sea Point. 021 439 3373

BEST OF… JAPANESE

Takumi
After a short-lived retirement in his home country of Japan, Papa San (he of ex-Minato fame) has returned to the Mother City to open Takumi, a beautiful new sushi restaurant featuring clean lines, raw wood and low lighting courtesy of felt lampshades. Takumi is Japanese for ‘artisan’, and you can expect exactly that: artisanal, top-notch sushi and noodle dishes that Papa San is renowned for. 3 Park St, Cape Town. 021 424 8879

BEST OF… ASIAN FUSION

O’ways Tea Café
On the ever-changing menu at O’ways, you’ll find light meals for breakfast (Taiwanese pancake omelette with roasted chilli dip), or lunch (creamy pea and lemon verbena soup), as well as sweet treats aplenty. Take your pick from the 64 teas and expertly brewed artisan-roasted coffees offered. And for something quite different, book the ceremonial table for a tea ceremony led by master tea merchant Mingwei Tsai. Heritage House, 20 Dreyer Street, Claremont. 021 671 2850

BEST OF… TAPAS

French Toast
Old-fashioned luxury meets hip urban style at Cape Town’s latest wine and tapas bar, French Toast. The double-storey building has generous windows overlooking trendy Bree Street, beautiful raw-brick walls and pendulous metal-and-leather lights. Add to that an inventive and ever-changing tapas menu and impressive Champagne and wine list, and it’s not hard to see why this establishment is the new toast of the town. 199 Bree St, Cape Town. 021 422 3839

Fork
If tiger prawns wrapped in pancetta and kudu with potato puree and citrus dressing tickle your fancy, then stop by Fork Restaurant in Long Street. This innovative, trend-setting restaurant attracts an eclectic crowd with its flavour-packed tapas, perfect for sharing with friends. Décor is 1930s minimalism: simple, understated and warm, with exposed brick walls, copper-banded wooden tables soft-glow lighting. 84 Long Street, Cape Town. 021 424 6334

WIN!

Two lucky readers stand to win a meal for two at either El Burro or O’ways Tea Cafe. To enter, simply tell us the most exotic thing you’ve ever eaten in the comment section below… For more global inspiration, don’t miss our whopper of an International issue, on sale 21 July! 

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  • I used to work in a kindergarten in Taiwan, where the cook was not the best. So i used to look forward to the delicious chicken dish that was on the menu every 2 weeks… until i found out (after almost 2 years) that it was shark!

  • The most exotic thing I have ever consumed is while in Thailand where our guide insisted we taste something “different” from one of the local Bangkok food stalls – I’m pretty sure it was related to a cricket. I did however enjoy the equally exotic Dragon Fruit, it looks just like sesame seed sushi rice when cut!

  • I mistakenly ordered swan from a traditional hawker food stall in Singapore. It was served with a lovely plum sauce, and tasted similar to duck, just gamier.
    Thanks to the iPhone translator app, I now know exactly what I’m eating!

  • Just to let you know: Naksaeng Korean Happy Kitchen is closed but apparently there’s a new restaurant – Korea. Also specialized in Korean cuisine too!
    Oh I love Takumi’s Tempura roll and their green tea tiramisu!
    My most exotic food I’ve tried is the various fruit in Asia – Durian (worst smelling fruit), dragon fruit (love it!), custard apple, rose apple (love it!) and rambutan.

  • When I was eight I was a bit of a nerd. I read nature and science magazines and one of them ran an article on edible bugs. I got so excited that I made my dad drive around to three different pet stores until they sold me a bag of mealworms, a bag of crickets, and a bag of grubs. All live, of course. I fried them up in butter just like the magazine said, but no one would try my culinary masterpiece so I had to sit by myself at the table and force myself to try one of each… I wouldn’t eat anything but McDonald’s for a week after that.

  • I had frog’s legs in France, crocodile and zebra in South Africa, in Botswana I stuck with canned spaghetti and Jungle bars due to camping in the middle of nowhere and shopping for groceries at the local Choppies supermarket. But the most exotic thing I’ve eaten was in Barcelona, Spain. No, it was the paella. We went to a VERY rustic restaurant and I ordered a rabbit. I’d had rabbit a few nights before at a fancy restaurant in the city. This time I got an entire rabbit, on the bone!. Not the appealing fillet from a few nights before. The rabbit was quite delicious but not really that exotic. But it was a whole rabbit. At some point I noticed a piece flesh that I hadn’t devoured yet and promptly popped it into my mouth. It was only after chewing and swallowing that I noticed the distinctly different texture and taste. I had eaten the brain that had fallen out of the head! By far the most exotic thing I’ve eaten.

  • Dragon fruit is flipping incredible! My top exotic, though, is fire-roasted n/abba (Kalahari truffle), while camping in the central kalahari game reserve…bush meets bourgeoisie!

  • The most exotic thing I’ve tucked into is a scorpion in Beijing. Just like a crispy chip! And the most exotically disgusting was hakarl in Iceland – shark that is fermented and dried. I can only describe it as a little block of ammonia – couldn’t get rid of the taste all day!!
    By the way, Mezzaluna has closed down. Alas.

  • I dont consider the type of food to be exotic but rather the pairing of food with the perfect spice, herb and other combinations whether is includes food or drink.

    This very week I has fresh oysters with JC Le Roux La Vallee servered only slighty chilled and it was exotic and delightful. Previously I had it very cold and the pairing was normal. Its the small touches that makes the difference.

    Meat wise a ladies portion fillet served on a bed of lumpy smoked mash and a steak mushroom with caramelized union and well matured cheddar on top with some rocket is an exotic explosion of tastes.

    Oh and yea, mompani worms, kudu, eland, zebra, oryx, steenbokkie, crocodile, rabbit, reb bait, white bait, ocotopus (raw). I have had my fair share. But if I really want to live dangerously I get fish and chips at the local fish shop, now that is dangerous living.

  • The most exotic would have to be a fish eye, straight out of a whole baked fish. Can’t say it was terrible – the whole dish was gingery & garlicky and was delicious!

  • My parents told me when I was about 3 years old – I came running in the house with mud around my mouth and taking a bite of a huge garden snail…. probably the same as French snails I suppose (;

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