Cape Town food is lekker.
And readers of international travel magazine Conde Nast Traveler agree, voting Cape Town the Third Best Food City in the World.
The city beat Rome’s cannoli and Tokyo’s sushi, but fell to Paris’ gastronomical je ne sais quoi – or, more likely, its croissants – with Spain’s San Sebastian coming out tops.
Conde Nast’s travel writer, Maria Shollenbarger, called the food scene here “smallish, casual but supremely stylish, and welcoming”, adding that those descriptors probably fit just as well for the citizens.
The overarching sentiment seemed to suggest that it’s the fresh, easy fare found in tucked-away cafes and open-air balconies that really tug at eaters’ heartstrings, and maybe the occasional waistline.
As a new resident and diner in this town, I can’t say I showed up with any expectations for the city’s cuisine, but after a month I’d have to agree.
Almost immediately I was blown away by its seemingly infinite array of restaurants, each with a thoughtfully boutique decor, but without intimidation or frippery.
For reasonable rates I’ve tasted craft beers, sipped local wines and procured shots in ways I probably shouldn’t get into – the result of which finally gave me confidence to order a boerie from a street vendor, failed pronunciation be damned.
My internship as a general reporter for the Cape Argus has tossed me into new culinary adventures as well, from schlepping across Kalk Bay Harbour to get chips and fresh snoek to roaming around the lawns of the Taste of the Cape, sampling gourmet dishes served on paper plates.
I experienced my first braai at the weekend. Gorging on savoury, sizzly, smoky grilled meats under southern hemisphere stars in a circle of friends – definitely not overrated.
The fact that it was college-age guys searing my steaks made me forget about American boys, too. They can keep their microwaved hot dogs. I’m having boerewors.
When I returned to a Japanese joint for the third time and the waitress informed me of an impossibly charming hiccup – the ramen restaurant had ran out of ramen – I simply walked downstairs to the dive bar and had a burger with brie, banging my head along to the Pixies.
I would say I felt happy, but it was more than that – I felt at home. And I think it’s that rare combination of adept but approachable food, coupled with supremely chilled vibes, that makes eaters, and anyone, really, love Cape Town.
* Emily Huizenga, from Minnesota in the US, is a final-year journalism student at Northeastern University in Boston. She is completing a three-month internship at the Cape Argus