Cape Town Food Find: Home Cooking from a Top Chef at his Beach House
Here’s a first-visit-to-Cape Town mandate: you must do the scenic Cape Point drive. If you enjoy views, or fresh air, or anything good in life, this is surely one of the world’s most epic routes. Leave the city by looping around the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront and head south along the coast, with stops at Maiden’s Cove and Chapman’s Peak for some stellar photo ops. You’ll pass lovely towns, and may want to drop by the Bay Harbour Market at Hout Bay or the salty waterfront at Kalk’s Bay, where a visit to Olympia Café & Deli is preordained. Beware of baboons—they’re known for letting themselves into passing cars in hopes of relieving people of their snacks—but the ostriches you might spot on the side of the road are harmless.
Then it’s off to Boulders Beach to pay your respects to a tribe of African penguins, en route to Cape Point, where you can ride a funicular up to the historic lighthouse. Finally, end your day by watching the sun bob into the water at the Cape of Good Hope, the southwesternmost point of the African continent, and a great place for a picture like this. Because… why not?
Since this drive is a requisite for anyone who’s Cape Town bound, it’s hard finding something truly unique and relatively undiscovered along the way. (Apparently I wasn’t the only person enticed by the prospect of frolicking with penguins on the beach, judging by the scores of co-frolickers around me.) But thanks to my in-the-know guides at Micato Safaris, my friends and I lucked onto a gem of a dining experience in Scarborough, a tiny beachfront community halfway down the peninsula. In February, chef Bruce Robertson, one of South Africa’s most celebrated toques (formerly of the Showroom and Cape Grace), began opening his charming beach house to the public for two extremely limited (and überexclusive) lunch seatings a day at Boat House.
And what a lunch it is. Five elaborate, seafood-centric courses are artfully presented over the course of a languid afternoon, while the barefoot chef engages guests with rip-roaring anecdotes from his adventurous life (he’s hitchhiked from Cape Town to Cairo, and lived to tell the tale).
We feasted on a seafood chowder with homemade gnocchi, Cape snoek pâté with crème fraîche and peas (this may be the first time in my life I finished my peas), and green fish with mashed potatoes, beans, and spinach, all sourced from a five-mile radius on the peninsula. Just when I was convinced I couldn’t possibly eat another bite, out came dessert, a stewed-fruit samboosa with a panna cotta inspired by the region’s distinctive Cape Malay comfort food. Good thing I have a second stomach for sweets.
Chef Bruce’s table d’hôte is a picture-perfect stop on a picture-perfect drive, but keep an eye on your watch, since you can get so carried away with his stories that you might while away many more hours than planned. Don’t take him up on his offer to take you for a spin on his mountain unicycle (yes, unicycle, you read that correctly)—you don’t want to miss your date with the penguins!
Sarah Khan is a copy editor at Travel + Leisure. You can follow her on Twitter @BySarahKhan.