Africa, South Africa

Cape Town: A Hip, Healthy and Conscious Guide

Africa South Africa

I count myself extremely lucky to have married a born and bred Capetonian, as South Africa has come to be my favourite world destination and Cape Town now my beloved second home. Each trip is always totally different and Cape Town is unique with its proximity to everything you could want from a holiday destination. Exquisite beaches, breathtaking vineyards and mountains, divine food and a hop skip and jump to a safari spot where you can even take in the big five. There was no doubt that Cape Town was to be the backdrop for my wedding last year and I was fortunate enough to find one of the most beautiful vineyards in Stellenbosch to host my special day. The majestic Molenvliet Estate , which is flanked by a huge mountain, winding fairy-tale roads through the vineyards, a river and a luxury residence overlooking the valley. It was a job seriously well done and I couldn’t have asked for a more stunning location. The magnificent pictures justly show the scenery and if you get a chance to explore Stellenbosch, this place is an absolute must see.

This trip to Cape Town was a little more relaxed given that I didn’t have the impending wedding upon me with all those last minute errands and panics but I was busy as always. My husband and I were running several events but I managed to schedule in as much as I could during the week as there is always a myriad of places I want to visit on each trip in between catching up with friends and family. We usually stay in Durbanville, which is the town my husband grew up in on the outskirts of the city up towards the wine lands.

I have put together my hit list from this last trip of where to eat, drink and be jolly. A hip, healthy and conscious guide if you like with a cocktail or two thrown in for good measure. Well, you can take the girl out of Ireland…

The Victoria and Alfred Hotel – I absolutely love coming to the VnA waterfront when I am in Cape Town and my husband and I quite often spend the morning or afternoon working from one of the cafes overlooking the harbour. The Victoria and Albert Hotel is an elegant edition and prominently takes up much of the corner space of the waterfront promenades. It faces table mountain and the Alfred basin which is abundant with beautiful boats. The view is picture postcard material and almost looks otherworldly in its beauty and majestic juxtaposition. The hotel is clean and modern, all greys, whites and neutral tones and the breakfast in the Ginja restaurant is fabulous. The far end of the restaurant flanks the cobbled square, which usually plays host to many a musical ensemble, which means you can earwig some of the delightful and often unusual sounds while you are having your mid morning coffee.

The last time I was here, an all singing, rapping and digeredoo playing chap was entertaining the crowds. Certainly not your average busker but then nothing here in Cape Town appears to be average. I always take note that the service at the hotel is really good, attentive and friendly. The staff make you feel likes you are their most important guests and are extremely good at checking all is taken care of for you. The management in the hotel is such that many of the staff do not come from hospitality backgrounds and I think it is this diversity that gives the staff here a dynamic and humble flair which always makes them memorable to me. Small things like them going out of their way to locate me an english adaptor plug which I had scattily left at home go along away for me.  You can sit inside or outside and the hotel makes a serene and magical spot to have sundowners.

The Mondiall Kitchen and Bar  – This is another beauty just a few doors down from The Victoria and Alfred Hotel. One of the things I love about it is the fact their receipts always have the words love and gratitude printed on them. It’s small things like that which make you remember a place. They do a great cappuccino and have good wifi, making it a hot spot for any laptop based entrepreneurs like my husband and I. They have daily specials on the menu and are best known for doing refined comfort food but have a delicious selection of vegetarian dishes such as aubergine served with grilled baby leeks, mushrooms, baba ganoush and vegetable jus, so my kind of lunch. The spacious but cosy brasserie style restaurant overlooks the harbour and has been a pinnacle to the VnA harbour’s dining scene since it opened three years ago.

Plant Cafe – Best for Vegans and Veggies -Billed as Cape Towns most established vegan restaurant. I first went to the original cafe, which to be honest, was pretty basic and only had a few options to choose from. It sits in the rather bohemian and arty observatory area of Cape Town, which has a pretty chilled and hippy vibe. The food was amazing though, I had vegan nachos which were the best I have ever had and my husband had the Mexican quesadilla. I haven’t that much experience of vegan cheese but I was very pleasantly surprised by the flavour of the cheese on my nachos. The cafe was very quiet and peaceful on a Saturday but I imagine much busier during the week and although there wasn’t much on offer, you could tell what was made was infused with care and love. The vegan cakes and brownies looked amazing but I was way too full unfortunately after the nachos. Next time! The more upmarket and recent Plant Cafe sits in Buiten street and has a full sit down menu which promises to delight.

The Mount Nelson hotel -Best for high tea and old school glamour. This dreamy colonial building swathed in pink is an impressive residence regarded as one of the best hotels in Cape Town. It is known for it’s traditional high tea which sits within their classically elegant tea room and has the most wonderful selection of cakes and sandwiches. I particularly love the typical South African milk tart, called “melktert” in Afrikaans and of course a refreshing cup of earl grey in the sort of china that makes you sit up nice and straight, shoulders back.

Cheynes in Hout Bay – This is a must do for any foodies out there. This Asian fusion restaurant does tapas style plates with intricately fused flavours. The duck fat truffle chips were delicious, and we ordered the entire veggie menu which was amazing. The combination of flavours and foods on the menu was quite baffling on paper but on arrival all made perfect sense. The menu has been very well thought out and I’m a big fan of tapas style sharing plates as you get a chance to try a bit of everything which satisfies my cravings and food envy to the max. The menu here is divided into four self-explanatory sections, namely sea, land, earth and the amusingly-titled happy endings. For the veggies there was ping pong pickles, peppered strawberry, holy basil, pickled quails egg and smoked tofu. For the meatier folk try the fried octo chicken, garlic, mirin, soy, ginger, peanut and chilli cream. I’m salivating just thinking about them, take me back! Booking here is advisable.

Shimmy beach club – So I went here on a Wednesday lunchtime in what I thought was high season and expected full on day time party vibes but not so. We arrived to a tranquil setting of a vast wooden deck, large restaurant and bar area two mini pools but no beach on site. The ‘Beach’ club is at the end of an industrial estate which was not what I expected at all but the space is pretty cool and overlooks the ocean so tick to that!  There were sun loungers on deck but If you want to come and lounge for the day; it’s a bring your own towel kind of vibe. We sat out in a four poster sofa style set up and had a cocktail or two. I ordered the crushed ice strawberry and rose wine cocktail which tasted less slushy puppy than I had hoped but hit the spot all the same. For lunch, we moved inside the restaurant, they had a large sushi menu and plenty of fish as to be expected.

We started with the calamari which was very light and for main I had a pizza but the guilt free kind. I was delighted to see they had cauliflower as a base as opposed to dough which I don’t think I have seen out in a restaurant before. I was keen to see the result as all my own attempts at this have come to a crumbly mess. The pizza arrived and was thin no doubt but super tasty topped in butternut and beetroot purée as well as  creamed goats cheese. As the day progressed the music became a little louder but I don’t think this place kicks off until late and for day time party dance your socks off vibes, Sunday is the day.

Cafe Caprice – I have only ever been here on a Sunday which is not for the faint-hearted as its heavy on the crowds. It’s a dressed down glam vibe and plays host to the beautiful people and model tribe of Cape Town.

Best for a Conscious Coffee – Expresso Durbanville  – I love this local cafe in Durbanville xpresso where everything is R10 rand (about 70p) and the coffee is amazing. Even better, this unique cafe has a pay it forward concept where you can buy vouchers to buy food for the homeless. The secret to living is giving.

Giving Back – My mother in law volunteers as part of a local church group that provides a soup kitchen every day for the homeless. I was lucky enough to be able to volunteer with them while I was visiting and I was amazed to hear that this happens every morning with different church groups and their volunteers. There are many organisations you can volunteer with in South Africa. Check out this link which gives you a variety of registered charities you can choose from including animal and wildlife conservation projects to immigrant and domestic abuse relief organisations.

Wine tasting – Durbanville Hills – Outside of my wedding, I had yet to experience a South African wine tasting so I made it my mission on my last day here. We visited two local vineyards which were amazingly within ten minutes from where we were staying. With hindsight, its probably a good thing I hadn’t known this especially as a 6 bottle wine tasting only cost about £3! We first went to Diemersdal, which is a beautiful small and understated vineyard with table mountain in view. We sat in their bar area for the wine tasting, a plate of divine local cheeses and were entertained by the very friendly hostess. There is definitely a very strong family and heritage feeling here and it was amazing to hear that wine has been made here for over three centuries. The wine was dreamy and the pinotage with notes of chocolate had my no 1 vote.

Meerandal Wine Estate – We followed on to Meeradal, which is a much bigger estate with several venues and restaurants. We took a stroll around the grounds and then settled on the Carlucci deli for coffee and a cake to wind up our day of treats. The cafe overlooks the grounds, which provide an extensive network of trails, for mountain biking, running and walking. The deli here has a full blown pizza oven; the whiffs of freshly cooked dough blowing my way were very welcome and I look forward to coming back for one. This is a great venue for families with recreational areas for kids and would make a beautiful and functional wedding venue. I was thrilled to find out that Meerandal supports many charities and has predominantly donated funds to anti poaching elephant charities. Its nice to know that for every wine bottle purchase here a percentage is going to a noble cause. Meerandal is a great place to spend an afternoon and there are plenty of higher octane activities you can take part in before you hit the vino of course.

Best for Beach days – If you don’t have time to head too far out of the city, then head to Clifton 4th beach. It’s so pretty  that I decided to use it for my jewellery shoot.

Cape Town – You have my heart!