There's more to it than the mountain, says Tom Barber.
Is there a city with a finer natural setting than Cape Town? With Table Mountain its focal point, South Africa’s “Mother City” has spilled out of the so-called City Bowl to colonise the bays around the mountain (Clifton and Camps Bay being Cape Town’s classiest beach-burbs), creating a city of villages. These are home to a bewildering number of tribes, from Aryan Afrikaner rugby jocks and their ice maiden girlfriends, to bohos and musos who frequent the city’s superb Afro-jazz venues, and a sizeable gay community (always a good sign).
What’s drawn such a disparate crew to one place? There’s that drop-dead beautiful backdrop to explore, but also a great cultural scene for the less athletically inclined. Best of all, after years in the wilderness on the global scene, Cape Town can now justifiably be called Africa’s finest gourmet food and fine wine destination.
One final thing: with overnight flights from the UK and minimal time difference, this is a plausible weekend destination. Though I’d go for longer.
1 | STAY
If you are eager to ogle the (seriously) beautiful inhabitants of Camps Bay, stay at the Pod, a glass-walled boutique hotel with loungers on the beach where staff deliver caipirinhas all day long. Sunglasses for stealthy hottie spotting essential.
2 | LUNCH
At the Vergelegen Wine Estate. The Cape Winelands are producing some of the new world’s finest vintages, and Vergelegen is arguably the cream of the crop. Even better is the place itself, a classic Cape Dutch manor house reached along an avenue of 300-year-old camphor trees and surrounded by vineyards. Reserve a table at the Rose Terrace Bistro, crack a few bottles of the flagship Vergelegen V red, or the White Blend, and relax.
3 | WHEN IN
It would be quite possible to stay put in Camps Bay, and the place to set up base here has to be Café Caprice, where the young and glamorous head before and after the beach. The party really kicks off on Sunday nights, fuelled by 2OceansVibe cocktails (rum, apple juice, vanilla syrup).
4 | DRINK
At Orphanage, a modern take on a Twenties Chicago speakeasy. As win-win scenarios go, ordering the More Tea Vicar? cocktail of vanilla vodka, rooibos, cranberry and lemon, served in a chintzy tea cup, is right up there — it’s delicious and for every one sold a donation goes to the actual orphanage up the street.
5 | PARTY
After single-handedly ensuring the survival of the Orphanage, wander over to the Fiction DJ Bar & Lounge. Get down to indie or breakbeat on a dancefloor packed with Capetonian hipsters then get some fresh air on the new roof terrace.
6 | EXPLORE
Conquer the mountain that dominates the city. A private guide will show you one of the less trodden of the many routes up Table Mountain, all the while explaining the flora and fauna and giving a potted history of the city along the way. An ideal hangover cure.
7 | DINE
Despite the gourmet dining options, the hottest table in town is at the patently low-key The Dog’s Bollocks. Each night, Brit chef Nigel Wood serves a maximum of 30 deluxe burgers out of the driveway beside his downtown home. Try the Pepperberry Blue
8 | SHOP
No prizes for guessing what bistro-cum-café-cum-boutique Loading Bay used to be. The huge space has been put to good use, stocking brands such as Our Legacy, Acne and Naked & Famous, with a big emphasis on denim.
9 | SEE
Admire the view on Clifton’s 4th Beach. Not the view of the natural setting, but that of the athletic and bikini-clad inhabitants. South Africa has a booming plastic surgery industry, which is much in evidence here.
Surf some of the Cape’s finest breaks. Beginners should head to Gary’s Surf School, with one added motivation to get back on the board — this is great white shark territory. Pros can try Kalk Bay. Be warned: local surfers are shit hot and very territorial.
11 | AVOID
The Waterfront. What was once the city’s harbour had morphed into a ragtag collection of fun bars and pubs, and has now been given the international shopping mall/luxury hotel revamp treatment… with predictably bland results.