One of the best ways of appreciating the changing moods of the mountain is to sit, with a glass of wine or over a gourmet meal, in one of the restaurants on its flanks.
Words by Fiona McIntosh
Photographs by Shaen Adey
Siyabona Africa recommended book on Table Mountain:
Table Mountain Activities
Authors: Shaen Adey and Fiona McIntosh.
Copyright © 2004 Struik Publishers Cape Town.
If all this talk of activities has led you to believe that enjoying Table Mountain is the sole preserve of the energetic, relax. One of the best ways of appreciating the changing moods of the mountain is to sit, with a glass of wine or over a gourmet meal, in one of the restaurants on its flanks. Some of the best restaurants in the whole of the Western Cape are to be found on the Constantia wine estates, all offering magnificent views in a tranquil setting. Whether you seek a romantic dinner, a picnic basket under a shady oak, an afternoon of lazy jazz or a quick drink or snack after a hike or ride, one of the restaurants or cafés below should fit the bill.
Buitenverwachting is nestled in a truly magnificent setting on Klein Constantia Road in the Constantia Valley, with awesome views onto the surrounding mountains of the Steenberg range and Constantiaberg. The restaurant certainly lives up to the English translation of Buitenverwachting, 'beyond expectations'. Wine magazine rated it as one of the ten top restaurants in South Africa in 2003, giving five star ratings for the food, wine list, ambience and value for money. It has also been a frequent winner of Business Day's Restaurant of the Year award.
Apart from the estate's own award-winning wines, the restaurant also offers diners a superb international wine list to complement a wide variety of mouth-watering specialities, from exotic Continental dishes to traditional South African flavours.
The outdoor café is open in summer only and offers a variety of light lunches and salads. For those searching for something less formal, ordering a picnic basket is a grand option. Whilst indulging your taste buds in the exquisite gardens you are bound to be greeted by Finny, the friendly fat garden pig.
Open for lunch 11:30-16:30, dinner from 19:00. Wine tasting weekdays 9:00-17:00 and Saturdays 9:00-13:00.
Catharina's restaurant is located in the original winery on the grounds of the Steenberg Hotel. Surrounded by English country gardens and a modern golf estate situated on Steenberg Road in Tokai, it offers a gourmet selection of Cape Colonial dishes with a unique Asian influence. On a sunny day you can sit outside beneath white garden umbrellas, admiring the superb Cape Dutch architecture and watching the antics of squirrels in the oak trees.
The restaurant was previously the wine cellar and this cellar ambience is maintained by having the wine collections displayed in the old vaults, visible through wrought iron doors. The cigar bar has large leather sofas for a relaxed pre-dinner drink and on Sunday afternoons diners can enjoy live jazz.
The restaurant is open daily from 7:30 for breakfast, lunch and dinner. If you wish to delve a little deeper into the wines of the estate, head to the wine sales section for tastings. Steenberg's Sauvignon Blanc won a Double Gold Veritas award in 2003.
Open weekdays 8:30-16:00 and Saturdays 8:30-12:30. A cellar tour runs twice a day during the week at 10:00 and 16:00, and only once on Saturdays at 10:00.
As you drive over the pass above Llandudno towards Hout Bay, it is well worth turning left into the Suikerbossie Restaurant for lunch or tea, or to sample their famous farmhouse breakfast (a buffet breakfast at weekends).
On Sundays there is a mouthwatering carvery with everything from roast lamb and mint sauce to home-made apple pie. It's particularly recommended that you sit out in the sun overlooking Hout Bay and the surrounding mountains. Take a moment to inspect the historical black-and-white photos of Hout Bay on the wall, or the letter written by Vice-Admiral Sir Peter Ashmore declining Suikerbossie's offer to host the wedding reception for Lady Diana Spencer and the Prince of Wales. Buckingham Palace's response was typically formal: 'It is most thoughtful of you to offer the services of your restaurant for the Royal wedding reception but it will be held at the Buckingham Palace and the catering undertaken by the royal household kitchen staff.'
Open for breakfast 9:00-11:00 and lunch 12:30-14:30. Tea and coffee until 16:30.
The Twelve Apostles Hotel
The Twelve Apostles Hotel, situated on the edge of the Atlantic on Victoria Road at Oudekraal, has several elegant venues to meet the varying needs of hotel guests and visitors.
The Café, open 24 hours a day, offers tea, coffee, wines, breakfasts and an antipasto buffet. A special treat is the ice-cream menu with cones, sundaes and specialities like Alluring Poached Apricots and Apple Sourz Sorbet. Settle into a comfortable cane chair or sit beside the pool and observe the changing moods of the Twelve Apostles and the clouds dancing above the mountain tops.
Azure is the hotel's comfortably stylish terrace restaurant. A buffet breakfast is followed by an à la carte lunch and dinner menu, comprising South African cuisine, international grills and salads.
The Leopard Room Lounge and Bar specialises in martinis and designer cocktails, which can be sipped while listening to live music every evening. A picnic basket may be ordered by special arrangement from reception to enjoy on the mountain paths above the hotel.
Open for breakfast at 7:00, then from 12:30 to close.
Two Oceans Restaurant
A perfect way to break a journey to the most southwestern point of Africa is to have a meal or drink at the popular Two Oceans Restaurant located near the lighthouse at the very tip of the Cape of Good Hope section of the Table Mountain National Park. The menu is comprehensive, offering almost anything your taste buds could desire, with a special focus on seafood. Sit indoors or, if it is not too windy, on the terrace overlooking the cliff face down towards Smitswinkel Bay and across False Bay.
Open from 9:30-17:30.
Constantia Nek Restaurant
Constantia Nek is one of the oldest restaurants in Cape Town. Established in 1923 as a farm stall and a tearoom by Sydney Vincent Halls, it has always been a popular spot for tea and scones during the day and a drink around the cosy pub's fireplace on winter evenings. It is also a well-known refreshment stop for hikers (see p52 for information on the walk from Constantia Nek to Kirstenbosch). Constantia Nek serves up traditional fare and good seafood and is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. For a special treat you can even have a champagne breakfast on a Sunday morning. If you're in the mood for a dinner dance, book for a Saturday night.
Open weekdays 10:00 until diners leave and on weekends from 9:00 until close.
Groot Constantia Estate
The very first vines in the Cape were planted on the Groot Constantia Estate around 1685 by Simon van der Stel, the governor of the day. With over 300 years of wine-making experience under the supervision of the finest wine masters, the Groot Constantia wines are legendary all over the world.
The estate has two restaurants and offers wine tastings and tours to the public. The 'Jonkershuisie' restaurant has a menu of Cape Malay, classical and contemporary cuisine in an authentic Cape Dutch setting. The interior has an old-world feel, whilst the exterior section offers an opportunity to bask in the sun between vine-draped walls whilst sipping on the flagship wine, Governor's Reserve. Picnic baskets can be ordered from the restaurant and enjoyed at a number of viewpoints on the estate reached by short walks through idyllic scenery.
'Simon's at Groot Constantia' is housed in what was once a cellar. It is now a very chic, contemporary restaurant dominated by steel and glass. The décor is simple, stylish and comfortable, and the large fireplace is bound to be an attraction in winter. The menu is comprehensive with wide ranging cuisine and on those perfect summer days you can dine alfresco
Simon's open for lunch 12:00-18:00 and dinner 18:00-22.30. Jonkershuisie open from 10:00 for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The estate offers wine tasting and cellar tours. Wine tasting and sales open seven days a week 10:00-17:00.
There are no dining facilities at Klein Constantia, which is about 15 minutes from Cape Town on Klein Constantia Road, but the drive through the avenue of old oak trees to the beautiful estate is magnificent and the wine tasting is enlivened by wall charts giving historical background information on the farm. The Kramat that stands in the grounds is one of the five forming the circle of Islam.
Open for tastings and sales on weekdays 9:00-17:00, Saturdays 9:00-13:00.
Constantia Uitsig Estate
The Constantia Uitsig Estate, on the Spaanschemat River Road in Constantia, boasts two superb restaurants and a café. The Constantia Uitsig Restaurant offers delicious meals and breathtaking scenery. Chef, Frank Swainston, delivers a fine range of Mediterranean Provençal cuisine using the best and freshest ingredients, and the restaurant has consistently been amongst the top ten restaurants in South Africa. Choose between sitting indoors or at a table on the veranda under the oak trees where you can take in the inspiring view of the Constantiaberg.
La Colombe serves innovative cuisine inspired by the food of southern France. If you regard the preparation of food as an art form, this restaurant will not disappoint. Crisp white linen, fine wines and a stylish ambience combine to make this an unbeatable choice. This is one restaurant where you may well end up rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous. Take a moment to read the framed comments scribbled by Oprah Winfrey and Juliette Binoche (who sums up the restaurant's charms as 'full of surprises, tastes, colours, shapes, smells') on the restaurant's walls.
Spaanschemat River Café is situated at the entrance to the estate. This popular café is open for breakfast, lunch and tea. As one would expect from a country type café, the menu offers diners a little bit of everything. Constantia Uitsig Restaurant open for lunch 12:00-14.30 and dinner from 19:00.
La Colombe open for lunch 12.30-17:00 and dinner from 19:30.
Spaanschemat River Café open for breakfast 8:30-11.30 and lunch 12:00-15:30.
On Top of Table MountainHaving a meal at the Dizzy Dassie restaurant is one way to savour the breathtaking views from the top of Table Mountain. The restaurant is self service and has a variety of hot and cold meals and drinks on offer. Something to bear in mind is that the restaurant's opening hours are affected by the weather and it functions only whilst the cable car is running. It's open in summer from 8:30 to 21:30 and in winter between 8:30 and 17:30.
The cocktail bar on the mountain is open in summer only and is a great place for enjoying sundowners and magnificent views over Lion's Head, Signal Hill, Camps Bay and the city lights.
Open from 12:00 until half an hour before the last cable car leaves.
Rhodes Memorial Restaurant
Rhodes Memorial Restaurant is situated behind the historical monument, signposted from the M3 highway shortly after passing the University of Cape Town on the left-hand side.
The restaurant has fantastic views onto the Mowbray Ridge, King's Blockhouse and Deer Park, and it is so informal and relaxed, that you could easily imagine you're sitting under umbrellas in a private garden.
Indulge yourself by listening to the breeze through the pines after a mountain hike or a visit to the memorial. You can enjoy anything from a wide selection of breakfasts, lunches and cakes, to very delicious milkshakes or a glass of fine wine.
Open for breakfast 9:00-11.30 and lunch 11.30-17:00.
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden
Kirstenbosch is a real African jewel and, in addition to the spectacular gardens on the mountain slopes, it also offers visitors an excellent restaurant and tearoom.
The Silver Tree restaurant is accessed through the Kirstenbosch lower gate, reached from Rhodes Drive, Newlands. It is a particularly beautiful dining venue in the late afternoon or early evening as dusk settles and Table Mountain beyond Nursery Ravine and Skeleton Gorge forms a silhouette against the sky. The restaurant has an à la carte menu but those just wanting sundowners while watching the sun slip behind the mountain are welcome. Day visitors can order picnic baskets from the restaurant.
The Kirstenbosch tearoom can be found in the grounds near the upper gate. The owners wanted to maintain the original tearoom feeling of 'Local is Lekker' so have kept some of the old time favourites such as fish and chips to complement the many new specialities that have been added. If you have a sweet tooth, try the delectable selection of home-made cakes.
The Silver Tree open 8:00-22:00
Tearoom open 9:00-17:00
The Noon Gun Tearoom and Restaurant
The 'Noon Gun' rests on the slopes of Signal Hill at 273 Longmarket Street, directly below the Noon Gun itself. It's a home-based tearoom and restaurant that offers traditional Malay meals and sweeping views of Table Mountain, the city and V&A Waterfront.
Your hostess, Miriam, is a wonderful character who will not only treat you to the finest curries and briyanis, but will also enrich you with tales of the Bo-Kaap and life's experiences. The menu consists of a fixed three-course meal, which alters each day, so those with dietary preferences must specify this when booking. Tea and coffee are served throughout the day and alcohol is not permitted.
Open weekdays 10:00-22:00 except during Ramadan when it is open at lunchtimes only.