With a great collection of spectacular – and very expensive – apartment buildings reaching high into the sky, Strand has long ago cast off its mantle of a sleepy seaside village for retirees. Oh, the retirees are still there, but they are a whole lot more well-heeled than before. Strand could well be called the Miami of False Bay, so glamorous are parts of the area. Neighbouring Somerset West also has some excellent places to eat, and both are a close drive from Cape Town.
Ben’s on the Beach
Ben’s has a stylish interior with a mural of aluminium sculptured sea creatures dominating the room. On the hot days for which Strand is noted, Ben’s is a delightful retreat from all that sun. The enclosed veranda right on the beach road has sea views across the bay. Generous portions feature on the large menu, with dishes ranging from red meat to fish to fowl. The beer-battered hake and chips, excellent steaks and burgers, and the lamb moussaka are well-established favourites. An award-winning wine list showcasing some greats from the area rounds off the experience.
Casa Del Sol
A vast menu of sushi, tapas, steaks, burgers, and pasta is popular with the young hip crowd here. In the summer months, the fabulous sunsets encourage you to linger into the evening. The sushi is about as fresh as you can get and the tapas, featuring items like mussels, tempura prawns, crisp potato skins, and a fondue platter for four, is an irresistible option. Fish and chips and the catch of the day are well priced, as are the delicious pastas; and the burger made with smoked cheddar and red onion marmalade is a knockout. Steaks and three kinds of seafood platters take up the slack. Fabulous cocktails will get you in the swing of things.
A distinctly European ambience prevails here, with very good Belgian and Dutch specialities available and, strangely enough in this context, great sushi. The interior is elegant but relaxed; when the wind isn’t pumping, the exterior with its great yellow umbrellas is the perfect place to be to soak up the beachy atmosphere. Nights are a lot more glamorous, but still relaxed. The owners are the Almenkerk family, who make wine up in Elgin. Their bottles are featured, as are some excellent Belgian beers. Starters include very good steak tartare, fabulous mussels in garlic and white wine, and delicious cheese croquettes. The steaks are particularly good, with great sauces, and the chocolate mousse with vanilla ice cream is a superbly rich finish.
Pajamas and Jam Eatery
You get the feeling that the Mad Hatter or some other Alice in Wonderland characters might be lurking around when you approach this decidedly offbeat place. Seeing an old military helicopter on its platform is a sign that you’ve arrived, and the aroma of delicious homemade goodies welcomes you inside. Situated in an industrial area, Pajamas and Jam is cluttered with a collection of antiques and old bric-à-brac, as well as a section where you can hire fancy dress. It’s very popular with locals for breakfasts of eggs done in various ways with beef or pork sausage, and maybe even chicken livers on toast. Lunch features gourmet sandwiches with fillings like curried chicken with bacon and onion marmalade, or generous salads with tuna or chicken mayo.
95 at Morgenster
Cape Town restaurateur Giorgio Nava (of Carne and 95 on Keerom) has opened a country branch to add to his ever-expanding empire. Casually elegant in the Italian manner, this eatery has an idyllic setting with great views of the surrounding mountain. Giorgio’s signature dishes are there: the thinnest sliced beef carpaccio which you can almost see through, anointed with homemade mayonnaise; fresh raw salmon with avocado and capers; and superb hand-chopped prime fillet steak tartare dressed with Morgenster olive oil. The ravioli, either filled with slow-baked Karoo lamb shoulder or butternut and spinach, are alone worth the trip.
The Belgian Waffle House
Who would have thought there was so much you could do with a waffle? Forget those frozen ones you get at the supermarket and pop into the toaster – here there are 22 versions of freshly made sweet waffles, with toppings ranging from plain honey or cinnamon, apple and raisins to Nutella, all served with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. There are others with scrambled eggs and bacon or smoked ham and cheese, and even one with Malay mince and coconut. They also make pancakes filled with the same sort of ingredients. The setting is down to earth and the prices are more than friendly.
Camphors at Vergelegen
The historic estate of Vergelegen is home to some magnificent ancient camphor trees planted, they say, by Simon van der Stel. Camphors restaurant is beautifully furnished with plush seating, gorgeous furniture, and plenty of shiny surfaces to add to the bling factor. Sitting on the terrace overlooking the manicured lawns is first prize, while you indulge in excellent food and famous wines of the estate. The cuisine is top-notch without being precious, delivering maximum flavours in manageable portions. Starters include things like trout with parsnip yoghurt, and venison with fennel and buttermilk. Mains of duck with beetroot, plum and butternut, and pork with guava and artichoke, showcase an imaginative flair in the kitchen. The sister restaurant, Stables, is a more relaxed affair.
This elegant little place has been a hit right from the start. There’s a small terrace on Bright Street, and a light and airy interior housing the deli and its top-quality products. Try the seared beef carpaccio with baby beets; the twice-baked cheese soufflé with chive cream; or the prawn-and-fish cakes with marinated marrows. The duck-and-cherry pie and slow-roasted pork belly with fresh ginger, chilli and caramel sauce give a whole new meaning to the term ‘Cape comfort food’. The fabulous wine list reflects the interests of the Rupert family, with Gaynor Rupert’s Imibala Trust benefitting from proceeds at the restaurant.
The Millhouse Kitchen
Here a deck overlooks the lawns and trees of the Lourensford estate, and the atmosphere beckons you to relax under the umbrellas or, if the weather gets too hot or too cold, inside the delightful interior. The cuisine is in the Italian theme, with excellent pizzas and pastas leading the way with robust flavours and generous portions. The seafood risotto with squid, prawns, mussels, tomato, cream and peas is a good way to go and, if you’re feeling carnivorous, there are excellent options like lamb shank, springbok, and pork belly with sweet potato. The bread-and-butter pudding is delicious, as is the poached pear with vanilla mascarpone. The wines of the estate are an added plus.
There are many reasons why Steffanie’s has continued to attract loyal customers. First of all, there’s the spectacular view; then there’s the consistent service, the wine list, and, of course the food. The ambience is casually elegant, but very much the kind of place where you can take off your tie, let out your belt a few notches and unwind. Lunching on the terrace is a very special pleasure. The cuisine is continental, with starters like excellent duck liver pâté with cranberry chutney; mussels in saffron-and-lemon sauce; and sesame-crusted camembert. Very good meat cuts done to perfection and superb free-range chicken schnitzels keep carnivores happy. An excellent wine list has offerings from this famous wine area and further afield.