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StephanieL

Cape Town and general environs

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N and I had a wonderful time in Cape Town and the surrounding areas over the Christmas-New Year's holidays. We went to 2 wineries and 1 brandy distillery, and spent lots of time touring around the beaches, including Cape Point where the penguins are. I highly recommend Biesmiellah in the Bo-Kapp neighborhood for authentic Cape Malay Muslim food. It's very similar to Indian cuisine, but with more sweetness and other distinct touches. Don't go to the V&A Waterfront except to see the seals, even though they're somewhat stinky.

 

We stayed a couple of nights at a sleepy town called Langebaan, situated on the lagoon by Saldanha Bay. We went mostly to have a New Year's Eve dinner at Die Strandloper, a restaurant literally on the beach. It's an all-you-can-eat affair (except for the crayfish) and while they do have a bar you can BYO all your drinks for no corkage fee. The menu is generally the same whenever you go--we just got champagne as part of the NYE package.

 

--Homemade bread baked in their bread oven, with butter and jam

--Steamed mussels and shelled mussel stew with garlic

--Braai'd (grilled) harders, which are like sardines

--Fish curry and garlic bread

--Braai'd snoek with potatoes, "patats" (like turnips), and rolls cooked on the braai. Snoek is a uniquely Western Cape fish that's similar to a mackerel--more here

--Lamb and waterblommetjies bredie (stew). I know it may be unusual to have lamb stew at a seafood restaurant, but the main ingredient really isn't the meat but rather the waterblommetjies, an aquatic plant that's also only really found in the Cape.

--Braai'd Hottentots (a type of sea bream) and smoked angelfish (Atlantic pomfret)

--Half a crayfish. These are local crayfish which are harder and harder to get these days. They're smaller than lobsters but much larger than Louisiana "crawfish"

--Strong coffee brewed on the fire, rooibos tea, and koeksisters (fried dough braids soaked in sugar syrup)

 

The only drawback is that all of this is cooked over wood fires, so you and your clothes are completely infused with wood smoke by the end.

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So I should probably post about Biesmiellah. It regularly gets accolades as some of the best Cape Malay food in the city. The Cape coloured population has been in the area for hundreds of years, and the people are a mélange of white, black, Malaysian, Indian, and everyone else who's passed through the Cape. They are largely Muslim and speak both English and Afrikaans. Bo-Kaap is the last Cape coloured neighborhood in central Cape Town; during apartheid, most of the Cape coloureds were relocated out of their neighborhoods (District Six being the most famous) into the Cape Flats, which remains a depressed area to this day. On January 2nd, they have a huge carnival celebration called Kaapse Klopse. Unfortunately, due to various reasons, it was held this year on January 5th, which means we didn't get to see it.

 

Biesmiellah started out in a private house and has now fully taken over its corner building, with an associated takeaway on one side of the restaurant and a butcher shop on the other. When we went, the clientele was split between locals and tourists. It's strictly halal and no alcohol is served.

 

We had a couple of mince samoosas to start. Samoosas are served all over the country and are smaller and use thinner pastry than the samosas we get here. These were a couple of bites each & were priced accordingly. For our mains, I had the kingklip curry and N had denningvleis; the latter is a lamb stew/curry that is very hard to find outside the Cape (a good recipe can be found here). Kingklip is a local, firm white fish. Both dishes came with rice and freshly baked rotis; the latter were hot and a little flaky and I think were the best rotis I'd ever had. Each dish had the mixture of spice/heat, sweet, and sour that Cape Malay cuisine is known for. Dessert was a simple tapioca pudding topped with stewed fruit.

 

The service was generally efficient by South African standards, though it took nearly 25 minutes for dessert to arrive. If you're in Cape Town, I highly recommend going. Bo-Kaap is right by the city center and is easy to get to by car.

 

Sample menu

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Don't know--I have to ask her. ;) N's parents have an apartment in a suburb of Durban, right on the beach, so N has been going there for a long time. We went on my first trip to SA 4 years ago and were there for NYE. The Indian dining and shopping scene is quite lively--the area has the largest Indian population in the country--and there are plenty of things to see, including an aquarium and bird sanctuary. I can only hope the city center has gotten a bit safer.

 

While it's true that it's warm there year-round, the author of the article doesn't mention that it gets brutally hot and humid in January/February, during the middle of their summer.

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So i was in SA for work last week. I spent most of my time around Polokwane and Rustenberg in the north of the country but i did spend two nights in CPT. One night was a dinner at the water front that was what you would expect. The second night however we were able to get out on our own. We were unable to get a booking at the high end places that take bookings (La Colombe, The Tasting Room, The Pot Luck Club) and instead ended up at Chef's Warehouse Canteen which is a highly regarded no booking small plates place. It was quite solid. Nice to get good veg in what is winter to me. The non-meat ingredient quality was very strong. Hideously cheap at 600 zar for two with a glass of wine each. I would go again. Probably not as good as the locals tell you it is however. Weird operating hours.

 

I also found the one hipster wine bar in town - Publik. Highly recommended for the opportunity to taste some ZA wines that actually taste good. Can't tell you how many times in the trip I had insanely bad modern wines that werent cheap. I did a lot of switching to beer after a polite first glass. Let me be clear. A lot of ZA wine is undrinkable. But these guys had some nice things. I guess Swartland is where all the cool kids are producing these day - and i just saw a mailing from Chambers touting something from there. Again insanely cheap. Three glasses of wine for less than ten bucks.

 

With the ZAR at 16 pretty much everything is insanely cheap.

 

Service is generally hysterically bad but whatever.

 

Capetown was beautiful but i just couldnt get any time to explore. When I got home yesterday i looked at flights for the family at thanksgiving but from NYC it's almost 20 hours of travel with a flight change which is just pushing it with the kinder.

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Just back from 10 days in South Africa and this was one of our best eating vacations ever. 3 days on luxury safari at Richard Branson's Ulusaba Lodge followed by a week in Cape Town. If not for the crime problem Cape Town might be my favorite city to visit. One awesome meal after another including The Pot Luck Club, FYN, Overture at Hidden Valley Wines, Sevruga at The Waterfront, Cookery also at The Waterfront and Chef's Warehouse. Food at the lodge was also excellent. Springbok Tartare with some Sparkling wine before heading out on safari? Why not. 

 

It is genuinely hard to comprehend how cheap the food and wine is and how high the quality of the food and service was. I kept doing math in my head: is that dish really only the equivalent of $8? At FYN I think there was a caviar supplement of $7. A number of fish I had never heard of including Kingklip and Yellowtail Kingfish were exemplary. Lots of head on shrimp/prawns that were literally finger licking good.

 

Dish of the week was probably from Overture. Ceviche served at the bottom of an avocado shell covered with an avocado puree so smooth that the word silk doesn't do it justice.

 

I'm not as sophisticated as others here with wine but I thought most everything we drank was quite good, and inexpensive. Can't remember the last time I was in a real restaurant in the US and saw so many bottles of wine priced around $20. We found the service to be excellent as well. Wish it was closer......

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On a PPP basis the ZAR is the cheapest major currency in the world. Basically you are benefitting from people being terrified the SARB has neither the means or the will to control inflation.

 

I agree though Kingklip is pretty delicious. It's a weird fish.

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And when you do find a really good wine, one that's not imported into the US, you can get a bottle or two to bring back home for a very cheap price.

 

Bonner, did you get to have any snoek?  Now that's an interesting fish.

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