Observatory, fondly known as Obs, is a student village filled with an eclectic mix of artists, UCT students and eccentrics. It has always had a great reputation as a multicultural spot where people from all walks of life can mix and mingle without the pretension of the Cape Town city centre. Here is a list of both new gems and institutions within the heart of the suburb.
The newest kid on the Obs block is Billy Boo’s Cakery. This small, copper-clad spot ensures that your sweet tooth and coffee craving can be satiated. Gourmet coffees range in price from R16 to R24, with the 28-hour nitro cold brew coffee coming in at R28. They also have a selection of decadent hot chocolates featuring flavours like Aero, Bar-One, Flake and Crunchie – perfect for the chilly Cape Town winter. The cake selections (R13 –R28) change daily, so there is always something new to taste. Try their scrumptious lemon meringue tart or a selection of light and delicate macarons. Pro tip: They often include gluten-free treats in their options.
This extremely laid-back spot has chilled tunes and great Ethiopian-blend coffee. Pop in for an all-day build-it-yourself English breakfast (starting at R20) and a fresh juice. Their lunch selection is a no-frills affair, with simple yet delicious sandwiches, wraps and burgers on offer. Guests can sink into their couch and take advantage of the complimentary WiFi. Pro tip: They deliver around Observatory too.
This bright and funky Victorian venue is home to adventurous pizzas, pastas and Italian fare. Ferdinando’s is well known for a moreish Aperol spritz, a refreshing zesty cocktail (R45). Try their Grizzly Pizza with beef carpaccio, rocket, parmesan shavings and balsamic reduction (R125). This might not be the place for you if you don’t like dogs: Ferdinando the hound rules the roost. Try their amazing lunch harvest table, which runs from Tuesdays to Saturdays from 12pm -3pm, where you have a choice of one main and three salads for R65. Pro tip: Be sure to try the mouthwatering garlic aioli that’s also available to take home in 200g jars for R35.
Arguably one of the most consistent of sushi places in Observatory, 1890 is a firm favourite with locals and visitors alike. The menu boasts an extensive selection of both traditional and modern sushi rolls made with the freshest fish and flavoursome, firm rice. Owner Charlie always greets with a smile, and watching the team of chefs prepare your meal is a mesmerising experience. The decor may be slightly in need of a revamp, but the food certainly makes up for it. There’s also a large selection of standard Chinese and Thai options. Pro tip: Grab a seat at the revolving bar to grab the plates as they are made up by the highly skilled sushi chefs.
This cute corner store is well known for decadent pastries, cupcakes and treats, but they also do indulgent breakfasts. Pop in for a generous portion of thick-cut French toast topped with pan-fried tomatoes, camembert and balsamic reduction, or bacon, banana and maple syrup (R55). Glasses of fresh homemade lemonade (R15) will make you feel like a kid again. For lunch they have a changing blackboard menu with options ranging from salads to sandwiches and pastas. Pro tip: Queen of Tarts has a range of pretty cookbooks for sale in the restaurant.
This quaint eatery combines honest food with local art. Peruse the exhibitions on the walls before ordering a gourmet toastie. If you’re feeing brave, try sandwich with brie, raspberry and avocado. If not, you can stick to regular chicken mayo (R45) or a classic cheese-and-tomato (R30). The food is exceptionally reasonably priced and made with a lot of love. Visit The Drawing Room on one of their doodle nights and get your creative juices flowing.
Pro tip: Make a day of your visit and play one of the board games available in the café.
Jerry’s has fast become a renowned burger spot, with delicious stuffed (or not) patties and salty shoestring fries. Tuck into a Sweet Baby Cheeses (R82) topped with slices of cheddar, Swiss cheese and spicy cheese sauce served on a melt-in-your-mouth brioche bun. If a burger isn’t what you’re after, try the hot and spicy chicken wings and wash it all down with one of their local craft beers. Pro tip: This spot is extremely popular on weekend evenings, so it’s best to book.
Just a 15-minute walk out of Observatory down the Liesbeek River is the Wild Fig Restaurant. Known by locals for its beautiful old thatch pub, Annie’s Arms, and lovely outdoor seating, this spot is hidden away from the hustle and bustle of Lower Main Road. Take a stroll along the river before or after your meal and you may spot a flock of flamingos feeding in the river. The Wild Fig has an extensive wine list with a good selection of varietals and prices. Try the fall-off-the-bone slow-cooked lamb shank in a red wine jus served on a bed of herbed mash (R155) or the wild mushroom risotto infused with lemon thyme and truffle oil (R95). All of their main courses are served with complimentary roast potatoes, creamed spinach and cinnamon butternut. They also have a very reasonably priced pub lunch menu, which changes regularly. Pro tip: Book a table inside near the fire on chillier nights.
A Touch of Madness has opened in its third incarnation, run by a husband and wife who have always loved the feeling of the old Victorian home-turned-restaurant. The new spot boasts over 40 types of local craft beer (R32 to R44) as well as 10 varieties on tap (R24 to R38). If beer is not your drink of choice, a variety of local ciders and wines is on offer at reasonable prices. Their food focus is on clever adaptations of South African and international street food. Starters include spring rolls (R5 to R8 each), chicken satay skewers (R22) and a selection of mezze (R67 for meat and R84 for veg), to name a few. Mains feature regular favourites such as seasonal pies served with hand-cut fries and aioli (R62) and a beef or mushroom burger with caramelised onion and cheese (R76 / R70). If you’re looking for something less traditional, try the crispy Brazilian chicken wings served with lemon garlic and chilli sauce (R60) or tacos with pico de gallo and avo crema (R64). A Touch of Madness definitely offers the best outdoor seating in Obs, so try your best to grab a table on the veranda or in the courtyard. Pro tip: These prices are hard to beat around Observatory, so we predict this spot will become a firm favourite for after-work drinks and snacks.