Our round-up of tip-top dining offers you’d never expect to be so remarkably reasonable
When you think of exceptional culinary offerings, like pop-up dinners, six-course lunches and generous buffets, it’s natural to associate them with hefty costs. And it’s accurate to do so too: in a Cape Town where chefs are almost considered gods and ‘foodies’ are rife, great fare tends to come at even greater prices and, generally, if you can’t shell out heaps of cash, you can’t enjoy really memorable restaurant meals.
But, you’ll be glad to know, there are a few rare surprises that promise a whole lot of bang without asking for much buck. We’re talking about food experiences that are extraordinary, be it because of an exclusive fine dining venue or a top-notch, one-of-a-kind menu, but also much more affordable than you’d expect them to be given normal trends. In some cases, prices are downright cheap, in others, they just reflect great value for money, but in all instances below, both the fare and the bill will undoubtedly wow you.
10 AWESOME CAPE TOWN FOOD EXPERIENCES THAT ARE SURPRISINGLY AFFORDABLE
The Table of Love at Café Mozart
Sitting pretty amidst an antique market on Church Street, Café Mozart, which is part of the famed Madame Zingara restaurant group, treats worker bees from the area to an incredibly affordable feast daily in the form of an overflowing harvest table that’s aptly named the Table of Love. For only R40p/p, diners can fill up their plates with an assortment of salads, freshly baked bread, hearty bakes (like melanzane, macaroni cheese or bobotie, for example) and meaty treats (think chicken wings and ribs). The spread changes daily and the offer also always includes a soup of the day and a complimentary glass of house wine.
Surprise factor: You can pile that dish with as much as you want for the sort of small change that usually gets lost in that wallet.
Tip: Arrive early enough to get a table – this small eatery is very popular with Cape Town’s working crowd and it fills up quickly.
Hours: Monday – Friday: 12pm – 2pm.
37 Church Street | City Centre | Cape Town | +27 (0)21 424 3774
Five-course Tasting Menu at The Royal Hotel
The Royal Hotel, a grand, colonial property in the charming town of Riebeek Kasteel (an hour’s drive from Cape Town) is arguably the only place in South Africa that offers a delicious multi-course meal for the same price that you’d get a single dish at most other venues. Every evening from 7pm onwards, the historical on-site restaurant, which channels a relaxed yet upmarket country feel, dishes up a five-course set menu that generally features starters like butternut soup and tomato tartlets, mains like chicken ballotine and kingklip and a dessert like a chocolate brownie or a slice of cake – and all of this goes for an absolute steal at justR125p/p.
Surprise factor: It’s a meal fit for royalty served up at a price fit for peasants.
Tip: Book before 5pm on the day you wish to dine to ensure you secure a table.
Hours: Monday – Sunday: 7pm – late (guests must be seated by 6.45pm).
33 Main Street | Riebeek Kasteel | +27 (0)22 4481 378
Seafood Buffet at Die Strandloper
At Die Strandloper restaurant on the shores of Langebaan, you can tuck into more fresh seafood than is imaginable for a whole lot less than the feast is actually worth. The informal eatery, which rests right on the sandy base of the beach, dishes up 10 courses of traditional West Coast grub – think garlic butter mussels, fish curry, braaied snoek, smoked angelfish, crayfish, fresh bread with jam and more – for only R260p/p (R60p/p for kids under 12). The nosh comes straight out of the ocean and then fresh off the fire, and diners can help themselves to as much as they want (with exception of the crayfish) while enjoying spectacular views of the very sea that bore their fare. Booking is essential.
Surprise factor: If you do the maths, the meal works out to around R26 per portion of seafood, which is a notoriously expensive type of fare, so you’re really winning here.
Tip: Bring your own booze – the restaurant doesn’t charge corkage – and plan to spend at least three or four hours here as this is the sort of dining experience that stretches out all afternoon.
Hours: Wednesday and Sunday: 12pm – 4pm (lunch); Friday and Saturday: 12pm – 4pm (lunch) and 6pm – 10pm (dinner) (note: the restaurant is open daily for lunch and dinner during peak seasons).
Beach | Langebaan | West Coast | +27 (0)22 77 22 490
2-for-1 Monday Steak Special at Headquarters (HQ)
While on most days HQ restaurant’s renowned sirloin steak goes for a pretty standard price, on Monday evenings, thanks to a great 2-for-1 special, the fine, free-range cut of meat is available for less than you’ll likely find anywhere else, especially considering its quality. The buy-one-get-one-deal entitles diners to two steaks – they’re cooked to perfection and served with Café de Paris, thin-cut fries and a green salad – for just R179 (that’s R89.50 each), and the food experience is made that much more special by the elegant ambience of this Parisian-inspired CBD spot and the presence of live music performed by up-and-coming local artists.
Surprise factor: You’d never expect a top-cut, succulent, wet-aged steak of such quality to make such a small dent in the bank balance.
Tip: There is a huge demand for this special, so be sure to book a table at least four days in advance.
Hours: Monday: 6pm – 8pm (seating 1) or 8:30pm – 10:30pm (seating 2).
Heritage Square | 100 Shortmarket Street | City Centre | Cape Town | +27 (0)21 424 6373
Green House Lunch at Babylonstoren
Dining at historic Cape Dutch farm Babylonstoren isn’t just about filling the tummy; it’s a whole, unforgettable experience. All of the salads and sandwiches on offer at the Simondium property’s magical Green House restaurant (it’s actually situated in a striking glass greenhouse) are made with ingredients plucked straight from the farm’s spectacular garden, and visitors must actually walk through this majestic eight-acre oasis to reach the eatery. So, guests get to meander amidst the source of their fare before even ordering. For such a one-of-a-kind eating adventure and such a level of freshness, you’d expect rather exorbitant prices; yet, diners can enjoy a gourmet sandwich – you can choose to add decadent cheese or charcuterie items – for as little as R65 or a generous garden salad for R75.
Surprise factor: A Green House lunch is far from an ordinary dining experience and yet when you leave the property hours later, you’ll have spent no more than R100.
Tip: Take time to explore the Babylonstoren garden – it features over 300 edible plant varieties and is carefully divided into 15 focus areas: one for vegetables, one for berries, one for bees and so on.
Hours: Monday – Sunday:10am – 4pm (breakfast is from 8.30am – 10pm)
R45 | Simondium (near Franschhoek) | +27 (0)21 863 3852
Pizza on The Roundhouse’s Lawns
The Roundhouse in Camps Bay is the sort of restaurant that most would only dare to visit on a special occasion post months and months of saving. But what many don’t know is that, thanks to the venues outdoor section, which has been dubbed The Rumbullion for centuries, it is possible to dine here without breaking the bank. The gourmet pizzas available on the alfresco lawns – they look out at the majestic Twelve Apostles mountain range – boast to-die-for toppings like Black Forest ham and rocket or Gorgonzola and green figs and cost between R98 and R120, prices that are comparable to those at far less prestigious restaurants. So essentially, you can feel like a million bucks for not much more than one buffalo randela.
Surprise factor: You can actually quite easily afford something on the menu of an institution that’s synonymous with exclusivity and extravagance.
Tip: Opt for the daily Sundowner Double Trouble Special, which includes two pizzas and two bottles of wine for R330 (R165p/p sharing).
Hours: Tuesday – Saturday:12pm – sunset; Sunday: 12pm – 6pm (note: The Rumbullion lawns are only open during the summer months from 1 October to 30 April, so pizzas are only on offer during this period too).
Round House Road (off Kloof Road) | The Glen | Camps Bay | Cape Town | +27 (0)21 438 4347
Movie Meal Specials at The Labia Theatre
Considering the exorbitant prices at most cinemas these days, The Labia Theatre’s movie meal specials are a veritable steal. Every day, the retro art-focused film house – it’s the oldest of its kind in South Africa – offers keen viewers two meals from nearby restaurants and two movie tickets for between R90 and R99 (that converts to between R45 and R49.50 per person for a flick AND food). The eateries that partner with the cinema are Societi Bistro, Ocean Basket on Kloof Street, Diva Caffé Ristorante and Kauai and so the dishes available include anything from pasta or fish and chips to pizza or health sandwiches, depending on the day (different days are dedicated to different restaurants). Patrons should visit the eatery in question first and then show their till slip at the theatre.
Surprise factor: In light of the fact that normal shows at The Labia cost R40 (and around R60 at commercial cinemas), this special renders the food practically free.
Tip: Arrive at the restaurant early enough to give yourself sufficient time to eat before the show starts.
Hours: Monday – Sunday: times depend on the opening hours of the respective restaurants (on Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays, the special is only valid from 4pm onwards).
68 Orange Street | Gardens | Cape Town | +27 (0)21 424 5927
Supper Club at Borage Bistro
Every last Tuesday of the month, this urban-chic eatery puts together an incredible casual dining experience aimed at making premium quality food available to a broad audience of budget-conscious individuals. The communal pop-up dinner encourages strangers to share a meal at one long table and it always features three delicious courses for a surprisingly minimal R140p/p. The menu changes every event according to specific themes (for example, Hungarian or Mexican culinary tradiitons), but supper clubbers can reliably expect lovingly prepared fare that sings of freshness and bursts with flavour. Do note: it’s essential to book for these dinners at least 48 hours in advance, and you can do so by mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Surprise factor: You’d expect a once-off feast of such stature to ring up a much higher bill; plus, it’s an extra bonus that the menu itself is a surprise every time.
Tip: Sign up to Borage’s mailing list to receive updates about upcoming supper clubs.
Hours: Every last Tuesday of the month: 7pm – 10pm.
Ground Floor | Portside Tower | Cnr. of Buitengracht Street and Hans Strydom Avenue | City Centre | Cape Town | +27 (0)21 418 0992
Set Menu Dinner at La Boheme Wine Bar and Bistro
Hands-down one of the finest restaurants in Sea Point, the elegant, cosy La Boheme crafts food that’s heavenly enough to warrant a sizeable bill. And yet the restaurant’s set dinner menu gives the hungry a chance to enjoy its beautifully crafted dishes for an unexpectedly reasonable price. Visitors can opt to enjoy two courses for R125p/p or three courses for just R150p/p and the options, though they change regularly, usually include choice items like springbok carpaccio for starters, balsamic beef fillet with mushroom risotto for mains and a trio of sorbet for dessert (there are vegetarian options too).
Surprise factor: Such an intimate atmosphere and high standard of quality usually comes along a much weightier price tag.
Tip: Match your meal with a glass or two of vino – La Boheme is renowned for its diverse and impressively comprehensive wine list.
Hours: Monday – Saturday:6pm – 10:30pm (the restaurant is open for lunch too, but the set menu is only available in the evenings).
341 Main Road | Sea Point | Cape Town | +27 (0)21 434 8797
First Friday at Castella Amare
In a Cape Town that specialises in excessiveness, you’d expect a full four-course dinner with complimentary wine pairings to cost in the region of R600, but at Castella Amare, a laidback Portuguese restaurant in Melkbosstrand, it rings in at no more than R245p/p (R195p/p without wine). This value-for-money offer is available every first Friday of the month when the restaurant hosts a live cooking event that sees an assortment of full-flavoured dishes being prepared outside on open fires. The monthly menu is never the same, but for some insight, previous First Fridays have featured starters like Norwegian salmon macaroni cheese, first mains like coconut chicken chimichangas, second mains like BBQ pulled pork sliders and desserts like dark chocolate tart. Guests can also opt for a three-course menu (R210p/p with wine or R175p/p without) or a two-course option (R185p/p with wine or R155p/p without).
Surprise factor: Though the price alone is not objectively cheap, it becomes wonderfully reasonable when you realise just how much you are getting for it.
Tip: We recommend you go for the wine pairing option – the difference in price is minimal and the vino is carefully chosen to match each dish.
Hours: First Friday of the month: 6pm – 9pm (the restaurant has to close by 9pm so be sure to get there early).
47 Fifth Avenue | Melkbosstrand | +27 (0)21 553 3827
On the hunt for a really cheap meal? Consult our guide to budget restaurants in Cape Town.