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Neighbourhood gems in Cape Town

Ross and Rachel had Central Perk, Tony Soprano had Holsten’s Ice Cream Parlour, and Barney Stintson had McClaren’s. A true local, where the staff know your name – and your order – is a thoroughly comforting thing. The ultimate neighbourhood restaurant has consistently good food and warm, friendly service, and is not too absurdly priced. They’re often a little rough around the edges – slightly aged décor is usually a good indicator, particularly murals – but it’s usually the presence of the owner that seals the deal.

If you’ve recently moved to a new neighbourhood, or would like to expand your repertoire of tried-and-tested favourites, steal one of these locals, favoured by the Eat Out team and by our vocal audience on Facebook.

1890 (Observatory)
The sushi is excellent, but you’re welcome to wear your Uggs or your dinosaur socks (yep, we spotted you, Luke Dale-Roberts) to this establishment. Nab a spot on the sushi carousel, or find a table in one of the rooms.

Pasta at A Tavola in Claremont. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Pasta at A Tavola in Claremont. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

A Tavola (Claremont)
Fair Lady’s junior food editor, Pia-Alexa Duarte, confesses she’d have the melanzane parmigiana starter (R86) as her death-row dish. We’re also rather partial to their perfect pastas, and the gooily good torta di cioccolato (R85). (Just don’t attempt ordering all three items in one sitting – portions are huge!)

Borruso’s (Kenilworth)
On a rainy weekday winter night, we queue out the door to get a seat at this restaurant, whose entrance is tucked down a side alley off Kenilworth Main Road. Why? The warm, welcoming ambience and glorious pizzas, topped with everything under the sun.

A snoozing cat at Cafeen in Harfield Village. Photo by Linda Scarborough.

A snoozing cat at Cafeen in Harfield Village. Photo by Linda Scarborough.

Cafeen (Harfield Village)
Mismatched furniture, snoozing resident cats and a crowd-pleasing menu make this an excellent choice for a neighbourhood hangout.

Steak and chips from Cafe Roux in Noordhoek. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Steak and chips from Cafe Roux in Noordhoek. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Café Roux (Noordhoek)
There’s a real family feeling at this bistro. Children are welcome, and the Noordhoek Village offers room for them to run. Breakfast fry-ups are popular, as is the live music programme, which includes some pretty big names. Upcoming acts include Watershed, Arno Carstens and Dave Ferguson.

Carlyle's on Derry in Vredehoek. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Carlyle’s on Derry in Vredehoek. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Carlyle’s Eatery (Vredehoek)
The pizza is one of the drawcards here; the other is the atmosphere, which is part low-key bar, part neighbourhood-gathering spot.

The menu at The Drawing Room. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

The menu at The Drawing Room. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

The Drawing Room (Observatory) – recommended by Chazanne Long on Facebook
Known for great coffee and an amazing selection of cupcakes. Doodle nights and shows of local artists’ works help to create a community feeling.

A sweet treat from Four & Twenty. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

A sweet treat at Four & Twenty. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Four & Twenty (Wynberg) – recommended by Cait McWilliams on Facebook
With gloriously creative breakfasts, luscious lunches and a cute, rambling interior, it’s no wonder that a seat is hard to come by at this Little Chelsea gem.

Goloso Pizzeria (Sea Point)
There are two Goloso’s within a block of each other – sold last year to two separate owners – but both qualify as gems. The pizzeria sells gorgeous pizzas of the thin, bubbly-based persuasion, and has a gloriously kitsch mural. There are also wheat-free bases for the wheat-intolerant.

Goloso Italian Trattoria (Sea Point)
This half of the Goloso pairing focuses on pasta and grills, although you can also order the pizza from across the road for a small surcharge. The lasagna has a loyal following, as does the gnocchi – the featherlight pillows work beautifully with the bolognaise sauce – and the creamy, garlicky, wine-enriched alfredo con pollo is also pretty special. There’s wheat-free pasta available, and the restaurant looks particularly tempting during loadshedding, when candles flicker inside.

Hard Pressed Cafe. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Hard Pressed Cafe. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Hard Pressed (City bowl)
The coffee, muesli, bagels and baked goods are excellent, but it’s the hands-on management and the friendliness of the staff that transforms this Bree Street coffee shop into a local. Reggae Thursdays see the entire team don their Bob Marley garb while the blackboard outside draws passing office-workers in with cheesy or naughty jokes.

Jerry’s Burger Bar (Observatory)
Yes, they’re hip, but the staff also go out of the way to make you feel welcome, and the burgers on their brioche buns are out of this world.

Lighthouse Café (Simonsown) – nominated by Rene Van Eck on Facebook
An intimate setting and hands-on management makes this charming café a great option for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Magica Roma (Pinelands)
With old-school décor and excellent Italian food at mid-range prices, Magica Roma is still going strong decades later.

A pizza at Massimo's in Hout Bay. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

A pizza at Massimo’s in Hout Bay. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Massimo’s (Hout Bay)
Charismatic owners, great pizzas and a casual ambience keep southern suburbians coming back for more. The wood-fired oven in the front corner churns out the popular pizzas, while the kitchen in the back produces the more serious Italian fare.

Olive Bistro (Durbanville) – recommended by Niel De Beer on Facebook
There’s authentic pizza and craft beer on tap. Summer evenings are lovely on the deck, and in winter, a new tent keeps things cosy. They’re also open during loadshedding.

A busy night at Posticino in Sea Point. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

A busy night at Posticino in Sea Point. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Posticino (Sea Point)
Ever-present owners and a fabulous mural complemented by magnificent pizzas and pastas make this a homey, welcoming spot for Italian food and hospitality.

Salathai (Green Point)
A small restaurant with above-average Thai food, Salathai has warm personal service and a sufficiently large menu to warrant multiple return trips.

The garden at Starlings. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

The garden at Starlings. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Starlings (Claremont)
The wait for made-from-scratch food doesn’t seem to deter locals from this lunch and breakfast spot – and one visit is enough to understand why. There are few restaurants in this area with such a lovely quaint atmosphere and such delicious, inventive food.

Woodlands Eatery (Vredehoek) – nominated by Bernadine Van Zyl on Facebook
A wonderfully hands-on owner plus artsy, cosy décor makes this a great spot for a weeknight dinner. Vegetarian burgers and the slow-roasted lamb pizza have drawn fans since the restaurant’s opening.

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