It’s a little over a year ago now that I moved to Sea Point. The promenade, with its parade of people undertaking every activity imaginable – from ultimate frisbee, yoga and capoeira to paragliding, walking a slack line, riding a unicycle and sniffing glue – is my daily theatre. The restaurants that line it, and the even more diverting Main and Regent Roads, are as diverse as the characters on the promenade. There is a sprinkling of fine dining options, bistros and coffee shops, and a host of cheaper joints that sullenly reject the gentrification taking place around them, along with, in some cases, the concept of ambience.
When I first arrived, I resolved to visit every single one of them – even the ones I suspected were a front for something else. But as time passed, I realised what an unreasonable undertaking this was: my list was growing rather than shrinking, as ever more new spots opened. I have yet to dine at the train restaurant (The Atlantic Express), Richard’s Supper Stage, Franky’s or the Duchess of Wisbeach. And next on my list is the Korean place, @Seoul (largely so I can pet the shar pei that seems to live there).
Here are my favourites so far:
This cosy bistro has been going since 2009 and has a loyal following. The special of R120 for two courses and R145 for three makes a great option for date night. Owners Faisal Khakoo and Anna Rasclosa have also extended their winning formula to La Bruixa (tapas) and Engruna Eatery (Italian fare) just a few doors down.
A pricier bistro option, NV-80 has high price tags for its simple but good quality bistro food. Located on the first floor of The Point building on Regent Road (let’s just call it the Checkers centre, shall we?), the restaurant boasts a lovely deck looking up at Lion’s Head, and well-executed steaks and seafood.
A first-time nominee for our 2014 Top 10, La Mouette is Sea Point’s answer to fine dining. The winter special on a six-course tasting menu offers some of the best value in Cape Town, and guests are cosy beside the fire in winter time.
One of those restaurants whose owners do not greatly value the concept of ambience, Andy’s benefits from rumours of some or other connection to Willoughby & Co. Having eaten the sushi, I’m not sure this connection translates to the quality of the sushi, but it certainly is cheap.
We stupidly ordered a huge sushi platter and a tiny serving of dim sum at this basic Chinese spot, and it was quickly apparent that we should’ve skewed the ratio in the other direction. The sushi is lacklustre and unappetising, while the dim sum is some of the most authentic I’ve had in Cape Town.
Bootlegger (Regent Road and kiosk at Point Mall)
Offering hipster décor, excellent artisanal roast coffee (and only R12 before 8am), and some of the best breakfast in Sea Point (Frankie Fenner meat; free-range eggs), Bootlegger is justifiably popular. It’s even buzzing at night, with Happy Hour beer and cocktail specials.
Mischu, The Coffee Showroom
Mikhael Bou Rjeily’s Isabella coffee blend is excellent, and the white interior with big windows makes this a breezier, less hipster option.
Copper, geometric wooden furniture and those oversized lightbulbs so beloved of hipster spots drew me in, but the food at this New York-style deli is also delicious. Food is not kosher, but takes inspiration from Jewish culture and cuisine. Think Nutella-filled rugellach, home-smoked pastrami (that works beautifully on the eggs Benedict with latkes), French toast made with challah and home-made bagels.
Harvey’s at Winchester Mansions
The narrow raised deck outside Harvey’s is possibly the best spot for a gin and tonic in Sea Point. For my money, I’d prefer to drink here and eat elsewhere, although I’ve heard that brunch is good.
With its raised outdoor deck, this is another wonderful place to watch the sunset over the sea across the road. Once a fine dining spot, it’s still good for seafood and sunsets, if you don’t pay too much heed to the rumours of a mafia presence.
A more relaxed sea-front option – think slops, wayfarers and burgers.
The market on the Promenade
A corral of stalls just before the Sea Point swimming pool is perhaps the most direct view of ocean. Take a seat at the benches and order the prawn curry from the Indian spot or a breakfast burrito from the Mexican one. Come armed with cash and/or Snapscan.
A warm, owner-run Italian spot with gloriously cheesy murals on the walls and fantastic pizza.
There’s a legend that if you wish to return to Cape Town, you should dine at Ari’s before you leave the city. I have a suspicion that this rumour is keeping this old faithful going, because our dolmades feel previously frozen, the moussaka is sloshy, and the baklava chewy and of questionable vintage. The schwarmas are cheap and edible, though, and the balcony overlooking Regent Road is lovely.
A pleasant interior of white, wood and clusters of photo frames make for a slightly more sedate shisa nyama experience than you’ll find at a township venue.
Craft Burger Bar
The logo and exterior might shout anything but craft, but the burgers are actually pretty great, and yours for only R49 each.
We spent an impressive R90 on our first two frozen yoghurts at Filo in the Piazza de Luz centre (the Spar centre). The problem is clearly that, like Wakaberry, Filo allows you to serve yourselves. Unlike Wakaberry, though, the flavours – from coconut to cheesecake – are delicious. They also have kosher options.
*12 January 2014: this article was edited to add Kleinsky’s Delicatessen, and will probably continue to be edited as the author gets closer to her goal of trying every restaurant in Sea Point. Keep her in your thoughts.