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Where the locals eat: 9 great restaurants in Gardens, Cape Town

There are many perks to living in the cluster of suburbs that make up Cape Town’s City Bowl, an amphitheatre formed by the mountains and filled to the brim with restaurants. Eat Out critic Amelia Brown has lived in the bowl for 10 years now, so her local go-tos are truly tried and tested. Here are some of her favourite affordable spots within 2km from her front door.

For great coffee…

Deluxe
These are the kings of Cape Town coffee – ask any local. Deluxe has moved from its den in Roodehek into shiny new premises (with rad wallpaper) just up the road in Buitenkant. With more seating, it’s friendlier for coffee dates and freelancers. It can be tricky to find parking, so it’s best to walk. Its location near the Mill Street slipway, going onto the freeway, also makes it great for grabbing a cortado and stocking up on coffee beans before a road trip.

For a great breakfast…

Lazari
This one is a special favourite: 10 years ago a brunch at Lazari was my first date with my now-husband. Lasting a decade in Cape Town’s competitive foodie climate is a testament to Lazari’s consistency and loyal following. Many of the staff are still there and, after all this time, you can still get a vanilla fairy cake with pretty pink icing and sprinkles behind the glass counter. In a world gone mad, I find that supremely reassuring. (Also, they welcome pets. I love a place where the chances of petting a furry are high.)

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For great baked goods…

Cassis
Find beautiful French breads, quiches, savoury tarts and confectionery at this boulangerie and patisserie. The chocolate éclairs with chocolate ganache filling are outstanding, and a box of the colourful macarons makes for a wonderful gift. If it isn’t already sold out, buy the popular plaited pain d’epi, a pull-apart baguette intended to mimic the appearance of a wheat stalk. It’s perfect for a picnic with mates.

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For great cocktails…

Planet Bar at the Mount Nelson
I have toasted birthdays, job offers, anniversaries and more here. I love the whole experience. As soon as you enter, you’re greeted by staff in the same manner as they greet the movie stars who actually stay there. Then there’s the ornate bouquet of flowers in the entrance, the pianist tinkling away, and the décor that has remained unchanged for as long as I’ve been a patron. The cocktails are expensive but worth it; try the classic martini. This is one of Cape Town’s bucket-list bars.

Inside Planet Bar. Photo supplied.

For a great date night…

Black Sheep
A favourite that never fails to impress. There’s good reason you’ll struggle to get a table here. The ample options on the ever-changing chalkboard keep things interesting, but it’s worth ordering the hangar steak (if it’s on the menu), and they do a mean pork belly. Black Sheep is very accommodating of big tables booked in advance, and the service is excellent. You’re more likely to get a table without a booking in summer, when you can have a lazy lunch with the large windows open to let in the breeze and views of Table Mountain.

For great Indian food…

Vintage India
Never judge a book by its cover – or, in this case, the pictures of the curries in the window. This is the City Bowl’s sleeper restaurant: you tend to forget about it because it’s not trendy or flashy, and once you’ve been, you always ask yourself why you don’t go more often. From the warm welcome from the owner to the atmosphere, décor, charming menu and flavourful cuisine produced by Indian chefs, it feels like you’ve been transported to India, particularly when you’re surrounded by the lilting accents of the daily tour groups. Go as a couple or with a big group, and definitely try the ‘Loveable Paneer’.

For great Greek food…

Marika’s
Though located above a now-deserted 7/11, Marika’s should not be underestimated. Beloved by locals and foreigners alike, it has beautiful views of Table Mountain. Dining here you simultaneously feel as if you’re in the heart of the city and in a back street on a Greek island. The warm welcome, intimate taverna feel and authentic Greek menu with simple food done well is reponsible for that. Try (and fail) not to order too much of the meze.

Marikas

The deck at Marika’s. Photo supplied.

For great Asian food…

Chef Pon’s Asian Kitchen
This is the restaurant you think of when you’re in the mood for something flavour-packed and satisfying. No matter which corner of Asia you’re looking to taste, you’re sure to find something that suits your craving. Their takeaways are just as good and make for fantastic Sunday nights in with Netflix.

The duck pancake at Chef Pon’s. Photo supplied.

For great Italian food…

Nonna Lina
This is another firmly established and much-loved local restaurant serving authentic Italian. It’s the spot that local hotels recommend to Italians. From the aperitivo, salads and antipasti to the pastas and delicious thin-based pizzas, this is simple food prepared traditionally to hero good ingredients. It’s worth booking a table. They also do takeaways and are available on Uber Eats.

The Estate Pizza at Nonna Lina. Photo by Nikita Buxton.

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