Cape Town owns a decent share of South Africa’s tourism industry. It is a city with everything – natural beauty, colourful cultures, vibrant politics and spectacular beaches. The other asset that helps it captivate tourists is its restaurants.
I was recently given an interesting opportunity – to participate in a review of Cape Town restaurants. It was by no means thorough when judged by the number I reviewed. There are hundreds of restaurants in Cape Town, and my review covered a mere eighteen. My focus was on one of many areas frequented by tourists – the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront.
This post is not going to report on the restaurants themselves – I might get into trouble doing that – but what struck me was the variety of eateries available at the V&A Waterfront. Most tourists prefer a sit-down meal so they can watch the passing parade, soak up the culture or whatever they prefer doing when touring. There are also locals who want to grab a takeaway before they check in at their workplace in the huge shopping centre itself or somewhere in the harbour. A string of takeaway places, where they can sit down anyway if they have time, caters for their needs.
Next are the big old favourites that specialize in burgers, fish, chicken or just coffee. These offer ample seating and one even occupies a prime spot where a very upmarket restaurant previously used to boast about the view over the harbour. (That story confirms my suspicion that a restaurant cannot survive on its position only – other factors like service and food are key to success.)
Now we come to the heavyweights that mostly survive on tourists, judging by the prices they charge. Locals seldom frequent these, as the same quality food can be had at half the price at decent restaurants in the centre of town or any of the suburbs in Cape Town. Some of them do run loyalty schemes to help them survive the lean months of winter. These schemes fill empty tourist seats with locals by allowing credits to be accumulated toward the next meal. They often give ad-hoc credits during a birthday month.
Hard work and planning
Reviewing restaurants is hard work, not always good for the figure and it needs careful planning, especially if you want to fit in a few on the same day. Start with one or two coffees in the morning, which takes care of some places that specialize in coffee. (No cake at this hour – that is fatal!). Next in line is a pre-breakfast juice, which takes care of the coffee/tea/juice places. (Still no cake, I’m afraid!) When lunch approaches, you may be able to sneak in a visit with just a beer of glass of wine needed to review the essentials at a “proper” restaurant. Next, lunch can be at one of the heavyweights. Interestingly, one of these did not allow me to take the required inside photograph as part of the survey, unless I phone the manager, who was not present. This did not phase me, as there are plenty of heavyweights that love the idea of a photo as part of a survey. An after-lunch coffee can take care of another one or two coffee places and this time it can include cake!
Restaurant surveying can be fun, but without careful planning, you can easily ruin your figure or your fuel bill. The aim is to keep it in the same area where there are many within walking distance. This is where the V&A Waterfront is ideal – many restaurants of all types are concentrated in one of the best spots in South Africa. Don’t miss it when you come to Cape Town.