Aside from being world renown for it’s breathing taking natural beauty, Cape Town has also been recognized as a leading city in the culinary scene. It even earned the title of ”best food city” in early 2016 by Conde Nast Traveler in its Reader’s Choice Awards Survey. As someone that’s been travelling to the Mother City since 2014, I can agree with that accolade first hand, regardless of what your dietary choices or restrictions are.
During my first visit to Cape Town, I was newly pescatarian, having given up meat just two months prior and I was a bit skeptical if this African city would be able to meet my food needs, especially since I had spent almost two months at the end of the previous year in Ghana visiting my mother, where a meat-free diet can be hard to accommodate. However, after a few days in the city, I realized that I wouldn’t have much to worry about in terms of food options to accommodate my new dietary lifestyle. Furthermore, when I did a week-long road trip along the Garden Route, I stopped in coastal cities like Hermanus and Gansbaai and the seafood I had there did not disappoint!
Flash-forward five years later and I’m back again in Cape Town, this time as a vegetarian and I’ve had no issue finding restaurants that cater to vegetarians and vegans, even while dining at traditionally inspired venues like Gold restaurant. My work as a model brings me to the city a few months out of the year, and even though I cook most of my meals at my flat, I do occasionally enjoy dining out. Below are a few establishments that I’ve dined at recently, that are budget-friendly and serve up tasty eats!
Still in it’s first year of operation, Swan Café refers to itself as Cape Town’s first authentic Parisian Creperie and as someone that’s been to Paris a few times I’ll say that the food and ambience are living up to that title so far. I stopped by here for breakfast on a Saturday morning and was greeted with a smile and a friendly bonjour by one of the staff. There was steady traffic by the time I arrived, about half-past 8 which only continued to pick up by the time I left so I recommended arriving early on the weekends or calling ahead to see what seating availability is like. After scanning the menu filled with selections of Sexy Salads, Sweet Crepes and the Swan Specialties, I decided on the Vegan Roma, a Savoury Galette filled with fresh basil, vegan cheese, pine nuts and my fav, avocado!
I also included an egg and ordered a hot chocolate to wash it down. My slightly crispy crepe was served within a few minutes, adorned with juicy baby tomatoes, baby spinach and a good portion of avo smash. I bit into it and knew I had gone with the right option, but judging from how other customers were savouring their orders, including my friend who ordered the Parisienne (a meat option) anything I ordered would have probably been satisfying. They say a good day begins with a good breakfast and this thoughtfully decorated café is sure to set your mood right. Thank you, Jonas and team, for the warm welcome and delicious food.
If you happen to be in a rush and are looking for something on go, try this juice bar that’s been a pioneer of the juicing scene in Cape Town. With a wide variety of fresh and cold pressed juices, smoothies, and food, there’s something for all tastes. Two fresh pressed juices I personally recommend are the beetroot buzz and exuberance. Most of their wraps and burgers are vegan and the delicious monster burger is hearty and a favorite.
A 100 percent vegan establishment, Plant’s ethos is to “provide a space in Cape Town where vegans and people with food allergies can find amazing food without sacrificing taste.” I’ve frequented here a handful of times since February 2018 and have never had issues with the taste of food. I’ve had the Mushroom Burger, The Happy Salmon, Enchilada and Dirty Mac & Cheese and they’ve never left my taste buds wanting for more. I will note that the food portions are slightly smaller, at least in my opinion, so if you are arriving with a big appetite, I’d recommending ordering a couple of items. But it does make for a great lunch location, especially if you are planning on exploring the nearby Bo-Kaap.
Speaking of big appetites, Lekker Vegan is a fun, bright and inviting restaurant that serves up “gourmet junk food” along with wholesome vegan dishes that won’t leave your stomach wanting for more. Opened in 2014, Lekker Vegan delivers bold flavors on its take of burgers, wraps, toasties, Gatsby’s and more. I first ate here in February 2018. I was on a lunch break from castings for an upcoming Autumn/Winter Menswear Fashion Week and it just so happened that the casting location was on the same street as Lekker. It's bright green and orange/red signage and décor caught my attention and I recall ordering the Lekker Crispy- a fried patty with vegan melted cheddar and fried onion rings. I was instantly sold. I hadn’t had a good “chicken” patty since, well since I used to eat chicken!
On my most recent visit last month, one of the friendly staff members who always greets you with a smile, suggested I try the Lekker Messy Gatsby- a mouth-watering larger than life sandwich consisting of juicy beef & chick’n strips, crispy chips (fries), pickled cucumber, red onion and a satay sauce amongst other fillings. I went with the half portion, which I thought was the full portion when it was served up. Just on the first bite along, I was sold, largely do the rich satay sauce that complimented the Gatsby extremely well. If you’re in the mood for some tasty and hearty comfort food, Lekker Vegan is a must stop for you.
If you are looking for some tasty fresh eats that are hearty but won’t leave you with a sluggish feeling, then you have to stop at The Poke Co. I only ate here once last year, but have since returned many times, drawn in not only by the wholesome quality of the food but also by the ocean and beach inspired décor and their friendly staff. I usually find myself getting work done here whilst enjoying one of their Signature Bowls, the Garden Gate, which happens to be the only vegan/vegetarian option in their Signature Bowl selection. But don’t fret, you have the option to build your own bowl with options such as kale, glass noodles and quinoa as your base, followed by a protein of your choice like tofu, along with meat and seafood protein for the carnivores out there. You can also top it off with mango/papaya salsa, edamame beans, pineapples and more. They can be a bit heavy-handed with their sauces, which isn’t a bad thing if you fancy a little extra sauce on your food. As far as Poke spots go, this one gets a pass by me, so be sure to check them out while in town.
Cape Town doesn’t offer much in terms of late-night eats outside of Long Street, so when I stumbled across this 24/7 diner in Sea Point, especially after not having eaten all day (I was recovering from a cold and didn’t have much of an appetite) I decided to pop in, with low expectations in finding satisfying vegetarian options. The establishment is 50’s themed, with a functional jukebox spitting hound-dog music and other hits from the era, and fitted with red vinyl stools at the counter and red booths, and the walls are adorned with American music icons like Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, and more. Sadly, there are barely any African American portraits on the walls. It wouldn’t have hurt for them to include Chucky Berry, Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday, etc. But hey, that’s Cape Town for you.
On to the food! The menu is what you’d expect from a diner; burgers, milkshakes, hotdogs, and more. To my surprise, they offer a veggie patty and my server suggested I order a toastie, theirs being made with thick slices of cornbread. I rarely turn down cornbread, so I said why not and asked her to include an egg and mushrooms. I don’t know if it was because I hadn’t eaten all day, but I found the veggie patty quite yummy, and it’s the only thing I order to eat when dining there.
Okay, that’s a wrap! I hope this blend of a food guide/review leads to you spending less time searching for good eats around Cape Town and more time getting your grub on! Below are some more restaurants that are worth a visit and cater to vegans and vegetarians or are accommodating.
Note: Be sure to check online for the most update restaurant information such as hours and location, as some do tend to close or move locations.