15 Specialised restaurants and bars in SA that focus on a single food item or drink
(On left Max Bagels, on right Hokey Poké)
The Gin Bar, CBD
One of Cape Town’s favourite inner city bars, with its now not-so-secret courtyard, a quaint and cosy place to chat with friends over good quality gin cocktails. The charming heritage building makes an ideal space for the ornate wooden bar, situated off the courtyard in a tiny room. Order one of their artisanal cocktails themed on old healing potions for the head, heart and soul and also look out for special cocktails each week. There is a spacious upstairs section too with its own bar, which is prefect for bigger groups and events.
This broth bar featured on our new restaurants guide last week, opening recently, which naturally aroused much intrigue. With a handful of seats, all lined up along two counters, the team behind Honest Chocolate and the Gin Bar have successfully created a space reminiscent of an edgy, underground China Town compact restaurant. As always, quality and ethical sourcing and farming is an integral part of their philosophy with bones and meat being sourced from Frankie Fenner Meat Merchants.
This dedicated crêpe bar is a dream come true, and one that postulates the impact of a viral food trend. The Mille crêpe cake is one of these, a traditional French concoction that suddenly sparked an online revival and fascination a couple of years ago, and now it’s been embraced by this CBD café, which has dedicated itself to the art of crêpe-making. Now we don’t have to travel vast distances for those traditional Parisian crêpes, we can simply pop in at Localli. Mille crêpe varieties include crème brûlée, rooibos Masala chai, strawberry and chocolate.
Bacon on Bree, CBD
This spot, along with its neighbour, Culture Club Cheese, was one of the first to start the speciality trend in Cape Town. The café is owned by Richard Bosman and is an extension of his cured meats business which makes high-quality Italian and Spanish cured meats. The pigs are farmed in the Hemel and Aarde Valley where they roam freely in pastures and are given no hormones or antibiotics. The attention to quality gives the bacon at Bacon on Bree a distinctive flavour, that is rich and salty. They offer a small menu including breakfast, burgers and filled rolls and there is also a deli section to purchase Richard Bosman’s cured meats. They’ve recently started stocking local Striped Horse craft beer by the bottle, which pairs fantastically with the salty bacon.
Culture Club Cheese, CBD
Right next to Bacon and Bree, and suitably so, is Culture Club Cheese, beaming through its bright yellow exterior. Many will tell you that if you want good cheese, you head here, where the choice of local and imported cheese is seriously extensive. The owner, Luke, shares good relationships with local farmers, making sure he knows the ins and outs of the cheese-making processes, making his depth of knowledge on all things cheese really impressive. The menu has glorious cheese-filled dishes from macaroni, labneh salad and toasties. ALSO READ: Culture Club Cheese: the epicentre of Cape Town’s cheese culture
Davy Croquettes, Gardens
This brand new croquette bar also featured on our new restaurants guide last week, and yes, they focus solely on croquettes! Croquettes are always limited to a few at a time, shared with others, but now there’s finally enough to go around and in a variety of flavours. Davy Croquettes offers both sit-downs or takeaways, with flavours like butternut, blue cheese and cashews, and caramelised onion and prosciutto.
Max Bagels, CBD
This hole in the wall on Bree serves some mega tasty bagels, stacked with quality ingredients. Max Bagels know how it’s done, serving up the bagel classics like Richard Bosman’s oak smoked trout, cream cheese and capers, and salt beef with gherkins and mustard, but they get pretty creative with their fillings, always adding specials to the menu. Also try the breakfast bagel, the pizza bagel and the Caprese. Bagels also come in their own variety, so choose between different seed coatings or have without.
New York Bagels, East City
Another bagel joint, but on the other side of town, New York Bagels has a long history of bagel-making, spanning four generations and two countries. Years ago they were situated in Sea Point, but today find themselves on Harrington Street, making bagels on site and offering a small, cosy seating area. The menu sticks to classic New York-style bagels like the smoked salmon trout and the beef brisket or roast beef. Look out for daily specials like the beef burger bagel and the hake fish cake bagel. There’s also their famous New York cheesecake that should not be missed.
Hokey Poké, CBD and Mojo Market
This was the first of its kind in SA when it opened up at the beginning of this year and Cape Town is certainly still in a poké buzz, which we hope will never end. The bowls of goodness excel on quality fresh ingredients which is evident every time we visit, and what’s great is you can make-it-up yourself if you so wish. The Church Street space has been carefully designed with a down town LA aesthetic in mind, with hints of the 80s, and a minimal light brick facade, with alluring neon pink lighting outside. It’s one of the city’s coolest spots with food to match, and more recently, owner Max opened a stall at the Mojo Market in Sea Point. ALSO READ: Exciting and interesting food options at the Mojo Market in Sea Point
Pablo Eggs-Go-Bar, Melville
This trendy spot has been reinventing eggs for over a year now. Focusing on brunch and lunch, they serve up various dishes that focus or integrate the wonderfully humble egg. Anything you think can be done to an egg, they’ve done it: steamed, boiled, crispy fried and more. You don’t have to have eggs, but it is highly recommended. Dishes include shakshouka, omelettes, a beef burger and toasties. Sound good?
These guys are getting it right with proper Neapolitan pizzas, despite being far from Naples. They have cracked the formula to that doughy, charred base, topped with Mozzarella that could stretch for a mile. The pizzas stick to classic Italian ingredients like artichokes and salami and only offer eight types on the menu along with three types of salad. Fresh ingredients, a simple concept and relaxed, unpretentious setting make Coalition a genuine and excellent pizzeria.
Yswara Tea Room, Maboneng
Yswara is a local brand that promotes the unique and luxurious essence of specialised African commodities, within their main products focused on teas and candles. This Maboneng outlet is a beautiful dusty pink tea room in the refurbished Cosmopolitan complex. The incredibly tranquil and uplifting space allows you to sample teas that have travelled across Africa, embodying complex yet refined blends. It’s a plush space for a super luxe brand.
Plan B, Durban North
Dedicated to exciting desserts, which are stealing the hearts of Durbanites with a sweet tooth, their most famous dessert item is the bubble waffle, served as a cone-like wrap filled with ice cream and toppings. This trending dessert hails from Hong Kong and Plan B was the first to bring it to Durban shores. They also serve ice cream scoops, dessert tacos, shakes and churros.
Falafel Fundi, Berea
The name says it all. The owner knows a thing or two about how to make a good falafel and all that goes with it. With an embedded Middle Eastern culture, owner and chef, Saar, brings to life the bold flavours of his heritage. Falafels are freshly prepared along with all the salad trimmings, flatbreads and hummus and other dips. The space is lovely, set outside in a courtyard, just off Durban’s Florida Road.
Afro Chicken Shop
This proudly South African chicken joint has grown from humble beginnings serving one of South Africa’s favourite foods. They know how it’s done, with a simple takeaway menu focused on grilled and fried chicken. They’ve earned their reputation by moving around Durban in a food truck which still features at big events. Today they have a number of permanent outlets serving simple, quality driven chicken dishes that are full of flavour. On the short menu, you’ll find a chicken burger, wrap, salad or crispy chicken strips. Some outlets also offer a sit-down area.