From almost all vantage points in Bloubergstrand, and certainly from the beach, Table Mountain is the feature that dominates in the distance. Approaching Bloubergstrand from Cape Town, with a nature reserve to your right and ocean dunes to your left, you may be lucky enough to spot flocks of flamingoes gathering in shallow waters, or flying in formation to their nesting grounds in the reserve.
The Bloubergstrand beach attracts kite surfers and other aquatic sports aficionados from all over the world and the sky is often filled with hundreds of colourful sails. Sunsets are spectacular. Clustered along the shore, taking full advantage of the sea views and the beach vibe, are numerous restaurants. A good number cater for the many visitors who descend on the area over weekends and during holidays, but in among these are some gems the locals keep to themselves.
1. Café Orca, Melkbosstrand
This quaint little house situated on Beach Road in Melkbosstrand is wildly popular with the locals. The crisp blue-and-white structure is crammed with nautical paraphernalia, lending it a somewhat Greek ambience. In good weather, the outside deck is the place to be to enjoy spectacular sunsets over the seemingly endless beach. Café Orca is the go-to place for seafood – I would rate it the best on the West Coast. The food is always fresh and fabulously prepared. Try the mussels with bacon bits and line fish done Moroccan style – both are knockouts. The service is impeccable and friendly, with the owners always in attendance. They do not take bookings for lunch, so arrive early, especially at weekends.
2. Catch 22
Sitting upstairs in Catch 22 on Marine Circle in Blouberg, you feel like you’re right in the hub and bustle of things. This is a favourite hangout for a boisterous young crowd sipping exotic cocktails as they watch the sun go down. The menu is vast and features a wide range of seafood, meat and poultry. They also serve excellent sushi. Try the Beach Buoy – six prawns “beached alongside a 150gm sirloin”, or the So-Shell-Lite, six prawns “just hanging out with tender calamari tubes”. Steaks and burgers are excellent, as are the fish and chips. The food is well priced and service is friendly and relaxed. The fine fare and humorous approach make a great pairing.
If it’s authentic curry you’re after, Prim Reddy’s Indian Chapter is the place to get it. With simple and unpretentious ambience and attentive service, Prim has made this place her own. The naan breads alone are worth the effort of visiting regularly. Baked in the traditional tandoor oven, the naan is an irresistible accompaniment to this kind of cooking. The menu is formidable with plenty of vegetarian options, along with the regular lamb, chicken and seafood curries. The food can be spiced to a degree that will bring a tear to your eye, or toned down to heat levels that will suit your palate. The prawn biryani is a masterpiece of spicy fragrance and succulent prawns.
The position of Blowfish in Table View takes full advantage of the view across the bay, with large floor-to-ceiling windows and doors that open up completely when the wind isn’t howling. The venue is large and airy with a sushi belt at the counter and tables and chairs for those who prefer conventional dining. Seafood is the order of the day, with a formidable sushi menu that offers everything from sashimi to tempura. The fish cakes, lightly spiced, and the mussel pot done in white wine are great seafood starters. If it is meat you crave, try the spicy chicken livers or the Springbok carpaccio. Both are equally delicious. For mains, try the seared tuna done teriyaki style with tomato mash, or the penne prawn pasta with a touch of chili and garlic – simple yet delectable. Look out for specials like the half-price sushi on Wednesdays and Sunday afternoons.
You know you’re in the right place when you go into an Italian restaurant and you’re met by the aromas of good olive oil and garlic. Forneria Italia is small, has no view of the ocean and is almost hidden behind Bayside Shopping Centre, but it is always packed with locals who know when they’re onto a good thing. The pizza bases are deliciously thin with 30 topping options, ranging from Italian sausage with chili to smoked salmon. If none appeals, you can make up your own. The pasta is homemade, and one of the favourites among the 18-pasta-item menu is the gnocchi in homemade pesto, which is about as far away from the chewy, store-bought kind as you can get. The tiny cream-, chocolate- or custard-filled profiteroles are not to be missed. The restaurant does not accept credit or debit cards, so take cash – you will not need all that much of it.
6. Blue Peter
Right on the edge of the sea, the lawns of the famous Blue Peter are packed with the young and beautiful on weekend summer afternoons. Bonhomie is the order of the day with plenty of beer and wine, and a menu of hamburgers, pizzas, grills, seafood and light starters. The restaurant upstairs in the hotel, called The Lighthouse, serves more serious cuisine, including excellent curry. Here, you can enjoy live music at the weekends. Don’t miss their popular Sunday lunch.
Petiscos means “tasty small dishes” in Portuguese. You could say it’s the equivalent of “tapas”. Housed on the first floor in a shopping centre overlooking a car park, the ambience is far removed from that of a seaside establishment but, here, food is king. This is attested to by the number of cognoscenti who keep the place busy. Rich chicken livers, served with bread to mop up the sauce, and crunchy prawn cakes are great options to start with. You can also have the chicken livers grilled and basted in lemon butter – a different yet equally delicious option. Main courses include superb trinchado, succulent cubes of steak done to perfection in the trinchado sauce and served with baby potatoes. Alternatively, try the steak done in their popular Xai Xai sauce – spicy, creamy and irresistible. Portuguese beer and liquors, including 1920 Aquardente – a well-known Portuguese brandy – enhance the experience, as does the excellent service.
8. Ons Huisie
Nestled on its own little patch of beach, Ons Huisie has long been a favourite Blouberg landmark, first as an upmarket restaurant and now as a family-friendly, laid-back, get-away-from-it-all eatery. With its thatched roof, the cottage still retains its old charm, but the place to be is outside, soaking up the sun and gazing across the beach. Try the fish cakes on tomato reduction or the green salad with flaked snoek, fries, egg rings and mayo – a taste sensation with a difference. Or opt for the pan-fried prawns in lemon cream or the West Coast potjie, loaded with ocean fare in a creamy curry sauce. Finish up with yummy bread pudding smothered in custard. Then loosen your belt and sit back.
How often do you get to enjoy your cocktails while sitting in a pool at a restaurant? Well, this is one of the many treats on offer at Moyo. Another is sitting at a counter made out of a surfboard while dangling your feet in the water. The outside area, which offers one of the best views of Robben Island, has cosy sofas and chairs where you can lounge about while staff come around to paint your and your children’s faces in the African style. The cuisine showcases some of Africa’s delicacies, from fried mopane worms to Springbok carpaccio. Look out for the creamy Free State sweet potato and biltong soup, and the Egyptian vegetarian platter with mutabal dip (brinjal). Crocodile-tail pies have their devotees, but you may prefer to stick to the oxtail with butter beans or the chicken tagine with preserved lemons and couscous.
10. Petits Fours
This tiny bistro is also right on the beach. The outside area, small as it is, is much vied for, especially by overseas visitors. Locals prefer the cosy interior with its heavenly aromas of baked goodies. Breakfasts are popular, the Croque Madame with ham, mustard, Gruyère cheese and béchamel sauce, baked and topped with poached eggs being a firm favourite, especially with a glass of bubbly. At Petits Fours you will always find superb pastries and quiches, beautifully displayed in the French manner. Lunch brings out fresh, crunchy salads like the Chicken Waldorf with apple and pecan nut dressing, as well as pastas, burgers and even rump steak.