The recent cold snap in Cape Town has sent many (including me) into Ugg boots and hibernation. But fear not! When the evenings are long and chilly, the Mother City has a host of fabulous, welcoming eateries with roaring fireplaces to lure you out from under your duvet, be it at home or a hotel, to enjoy a hearty meal and a beautiful glass of red wine.
Cape Town is famous for its near perfect Mediterranean climate, stunning beaches, sundowners and lazy al fresco lunches with a view of the sea, but in the cold winter months all is not bleak and forlorn. Savvy restaurateurs gear up and provide a crackling fireplace, extra blankets and unbelievable winter specials for a cozy winter warming experience.
Here are some of my old-time favorite winter haunts:
Set slap bang in Cape Town’s city centre and trendy Bree Street, The Odyssey is based on the British concept of combining a bar with gourmet food. Unique to Cape Town restaurants, this eatery serves up wholesome and hearty dishes (think Braised Lamb Shank Pie, the Odyssey Burger and Beetroot Tart) that are not your usual ‘pub grub’. Housed in a double-storey building with lots of exposed brickwork that gives it an edgy industrial feel, the Odyssey is equally perfect for after-work drinks or dinner for two next to the downstairs log fire.
2. Societi Bistro
Located in Gardens, within easy walking distance to the Mount Nelson, lies this cozy home-from-home elegant yet informal neighborhood bistro that ticks all the boxes. Not only does Societi Bistro have a roaring fireplace, but impeccable service and a menu that changes every three months with fresh seasonal produce which is consistently superb. This is truly one of Cape Town’s best restaurants. I had the mouthwatering Fillet au Poivre, but why not try their Lamb Shank (aka the Tony Jackman) or their Venison Bourguignon? And … Chris Martin and his Coldplay band members stopped by for dinner on their last Cape Town tour. Enough said.
3. The Roundhouse
This restaurant is hard to beat. Not only is it located in a glen on the way down into Camps Bay or one of Clifton’s beaches, but offers four totally different dining experiences and often has great winter specials. The Somerset Room has incredible views over the 12 Apostles mountain range as well as over Camps Bay and Clifton, the Oval Room features an original 18th century decorative fireplace that is out-of-this-world, and the private dining room is perfect for couples and those wanting absolute privacy. Then there are the Rumbullion terraces which lend themselves perfectly to an outdoor picnic (or tapas-style food with kids) in the summer months … think charcuterie meats, freshly-baked breads and beautiful wines. Steeped in history the Roundhouse is just as fabulous in winter as it is in summer.
4. La Mouette
Set in the heart of Sea Point and totally inconspicuous from the outside, La Mouette is one of a kind. Not only does it ooze warmth, but they have five crackling fireplaces in total throughout three dining rooms, so you are bound to be toasty in winter. There’s a fabulous bar for pre-dinner drinks upstairs, and the French cuisine is ‘to die for’! We happily worked our way through the 6 course tasting menu which is very reasonable and equally perfect for two or to share with a table of friends.
5. La Colombe
La Colombe is simply superb without fail. It’s no wonder that it is consistently rated as one of the top restaurants in Cape Town and also appears in San Pellegrino’s Best 50 restaurants in the world! This well-loved establishment never disappoints, and the food is a fusion of local flavors coupled with French fine dining with an Asian twist. The pork belly and home-smoked Springbok are sublime and if that doesn’t get your taste buds tingling then the selection of Constantia Uitsig vintage wines certainly will. Country-style dining with a crackling fireplace at its best!
6. Catharina’s Restaurant
For those who love nothing more than having lunch at a wine estate, but don’t want to venture as far as Stellenbosch or Franschhoek, this is the ideal option. With sweeping views of the Constantia valley and False Bay in the distance, Catharina’s is situated in the pretty gardens and scenic vineyards of Steenberg Estate. Enjoy each course with beautifully paired award-winning South African wines, whilst you relax next to a warming log fire in the contemporary and elegant surroundings. Catharina’s is well-known for its martini’s and bubbly selection, so be sure to have a pre or post dinner drink at the bar. For an elegant dining experience amongst vineyards, Catherina’s Restaurant is hard to beat!
And finally there’s Polana in Kalk Bay, with its floor-to-ceiling glass windows and enviable position right on the rocks of this working harbor. The large fireplace in the cocktail lounge lends itself perfectly to drinks and conversation with friends whilst the winter storm waves crash outside. In the summer months, you can literally see seals frolicking and whales blowing from your table! Meat-lovers will love this restaurant with its free-range cuts of rump, sirloin and beef fillet. Or sample the fresh line fish with some oysters for a touch of summer, either way, the Polana is well-worth the visit.