Plant-Powered Eating in Cape Town + Top Cape Town Travel Tips

Plant-Powered Eating in Cape Town + Top Cape Town Travel Tips


If you’re headed to Cape Town, South Africa, you’ll want to make sure you check out my list of the best restaurants in Cape Town for vegan options, as well as my Cape Town travel tips, including hotels in Cape Town, Cape Town weather, and I’m answering the hot question: is Cape Town safe.

Table Mountain, Cape Town

Ahh, Cape Town! Nestled along the tip of the southernmost country in the African continent, South Africa is a feast for the senses. Brilliant blue seas—both the Indian and Atlantic Oceans converge here—meet plains that jut up into the soaring Table Mountain, so you feel that you are always staring up at this magnificent peak, which tends to drape clouds over itself in the morning like a tablecloth. Then there is the plentiful diverse wildlife unique to Cape Town, such as flora (fynbos, meaning fine bush) and fauna (African penguins, baboons, ostriches, bushbuck, white sharks, kingfishers more). And let’s note that there are some pretty fine food options in this cosmopolitan part of the world, rich with multi-cultural food traditions and agricultural regions. But let’s not forget that the people are at the heart of what makes Cape Town so unique. 

Unique flora of Table Mountain, Cape Town

A Little Bit of History of South Africa 

Before the impact of colonization was felt in South Africa, there were (and still are) many tribes, such as Zulu, BaSotho, Setswana, Xhosa, Swazi, Venda, Spedi, and Tsonga. In 1816, the Zulu people were ruled by a powerful militant, Shaka. Under Shaka’s rule, the Zulu people spread throughout South Africa. Today, the Zulu tribe is the largest, estimated at 10-12 million people, and they have close ties to the Swazi and Xhosa people. In May 1910, The Union of South Africa was created, then in 1934, it became a sovereign state under British control, and finally, in 1961, it became a Republic. Throughout this time (1948-1994), apartheid (a system of segregation on grounds of race) took place. Apartheid or “apartness” required Black people to live in separate places from white people. They used separate facilities, and this was all sanctioned by the government. In 1950, South Africa banned marriages between Whites and other races. South Africans began to be classified by their race: Bantu (Black Africans), Colored (mixed race), White, and Asian (meaning Indian and Pakistani). More than 80% of the land was sanctioned to White residents, which happened to be the minority. During apartheid, the Zulu people lost their South African citizenship and were forced to move to KwaZulu from their privately owned land. 

View of a Black township in Cape Town, adjacent to a wealthy White neighborhood

Apartheid led to violent massacres, as well as peaceful protesters, such as Nelson Mandela, who was imprisoned for his beliefs. In 1990, Mandela was released from prison and peacefully negotiated the end of apartheid in 1994. Unfortunately, apartheid has continued to have widespread effects on South Africa, as it ranks as one of the most racist countries in the world. 

I observed many instances of racism during my time in Cape Town, which saddened me deeply. Townships (communities) reserved for Blacks were typically impoverished, overcrowded, assembled from tin shacks, and without basic needs—the residents of which serviced adjacent White communities living in splendor, with heavy security systems to further isolate them from the realities of everyday life for the majority of people. In the mornings and evenings, I would see Black workers walk along the freeway for miles, carrying their bundles as they made their way back and forth from work without the luxury of owning a vehicle or using public transportation. Lack of jobs and opportunities in many of the Black townships was apparent. At one point, we hired a local Black driver to give us a tour of the West Cape for the day. He told us about the struggles of everyday life, from wage and living disparities to lack of opportunities for education and better jobs for Blacks. When it was lunch time, we invited him to join us for lunch at a local restaurant. He looked at us in amazement and laughed, saying, “No, that’s not done here.” We quickly observed that racial integration was not something thriving in local venues in Cape Town—even if laws had changed, social pressures had not. 

While racism is alive and well in Cape Town, it’s intriguing to see such rich cultural diversity everywhere you look, with people from all over the world making their way to this world class city, stamping their influences on the local food scene. 

I enjoyed a delicious traditional plant-based meal of samp and beans at the Mpongo Private Game Reserve in the East Cape.

Common Plant-Based Foods of South Africa

These are some of the traditional foods consumed in Cape Town and South Africa.

  • Pap. Starchy dish made from maize meal is a staple.
  • Stiff pap. This form of pap commonly accompanies stews; it looks like a bread roll.
  • Soft pap. The form of pap is similar to mashed potatoes and is prepared with seasonings. 
  • Samp. Made from maize and rolled into a ball, it is commonly served with beans.
  • Biryani. Because of the large Indian population in South Africa, this Indian dish made with rice and spices is common.  
  • Koeksisters. This Afrikaans dessert consists of fried twisted dough that’s drizzled with syrup and lemon. 
  • Malva Pudding. A spongy cake with flavors such as caramel and jam.
  • Chakala. A vegetable dish that contains beans, spices, and whatever vegetables are on hand.
  • Steamed bread. A delicious bread that is commonly served with soup, as it soaks up everything.
  • Bobotie. Called the “national dish of South Africa,” the meal contains minced meat (typically lamb), spices, onions, and raisins with is baked in the oven and served alongside yellow rice. You can find plant-based lentil versions of this recipe in some restaurants. 

What to See in Cape Town 

Here are a few of my must-see travel highlights in Cape Town:

  • Table Mountain Aerial Cableway. Take the cable car to the top of Table Mountain—one of the seven wonders of the world—and see the majestic views of the region while walking around the indigenous growth. 
  • V & A Waterfront. Take in the city and water views, go shopping, and enjoy amazing food with a glass of local wine. 
  • Bo-Kaap. Enjoy a walk in this multi-cultural, historic neighborhood with its pastel-colored buildings. 
At Cape of Good Hope 
African penguins on the shore
  • Boulder’s Beach Penguin Colony: Visit the protected African penguin colony in Simon’s Town, where you’ll view penguins waddling along the shores. 
  • Cruise along Chapman’s Peak Drive. One of the best ways to enjoy Cape Town is to go for a drive along Chapman’s Peak between Noordhoek and Hout Bay (Uber is a great option!), a short drive from the city center. You’ll see breathtaking views of the seas and peaks. 
Shopping in the Greenmarket in Cape Town
  • Take a City Walk. See sights, such as the City Hall, Greenmarket Square for local handicrafts, and the Castle of Good Hope. 
  • Go Whale Watching at Hermanus. Chances are you’ll spy whales along this beautiful coastline, where you can stop for lunch in a charming café. 
Muizenberg 

Top Vegan Restaurants in Cape Town 

I found it quite easy to eat a plant-based diet in Cape Town. Nearly every restaurant had at least one option, and many had a separate vegan menu. In fact, there are several completely vegan restaurants in the city. On my trip, I tended towards restaurants that offered vegan options. The food ranges dramatically in Cape Town, to glittering fine dining restaurants worthy of a Michelin star (those aren’t offered yet in Africa) to charming cafes and globally inspired eateries. Here are some of my favorite vegan meals I enjoyed during my week in Cape Town. 

The setting of Chef’s Warehouse Tintswalo

Chef’s Warehouse is one of the most famous group of restaurants in Cape Town, under the tutelage of chef Liam Tomlin. Each restaurant boasts a vegan menu. You’ll need a reservation far in advance for these eateries. We ate at the Tintswalo location, which was beautifully set along the Atlantic ocean. 

The vegan menu at Chef’s Warehouse
A smoked beet dish on the tasting menu
Pier, Waterfront restaurant

PIER Waterfront

We also enjoyed eating at another acclaimed restaurant group best known for La Colombe. They had a tasting menu with a completely vegan menu option. The food was divine! Creative, satisfying, beautiful, and inventive. 

The vegan tasting menu
One of my dishes
Cooked at Watershed

Cooked, Watershed

We enjoyed a delicious Mediterranean style lunch at Watershed, which is an innovative shopping space featuring local artisans. 

Boschendal

We enjoyed a wonderful day in the wine region near Cape Town tasting wine, touring the farms, and having lunch at Boschendal—one of the prettiest places I’ve ever seen! They even had a vegan cheese platter to accompany our wine tasting.

The vineyards at Boscendal 
Vegan cheese platter at Boschendal  
Creation Winery 

Creation Winery

If you take time to visit the Winelands in Cape Town, you must stop at Creation Winery, one of the best wines produced in the region. Situated on a beautiful vineyard, you can also enjoy a delicious lunch featuring local produce—of course there is a vegan menu too!

Vegan menu at Creation
Vegan lunch board at Creation

Hang Ten Cafe

Stop for lunch at the Hang Ten Café in the surf town of Muizenberg, where you’ll find tons of vegan options. 

Breakfast at Taj Hotel

Taj Hotel, Cape Town

We really enjoyed the Taj hotel in Cape Town, which included fabulous views of Table Mountain from our balcony, a great location to walk to nearby attractions, and delicious plant-based options. I enjoyed traditional English breakfast (without the meat) each morning! We also dined at their Bombay Brasserie, for a delicious plant-based Indian tasting menu. 

There are lots of local farms in Cape Town, because of their rich agricultural traditions.

Cape Town Weather 

Cape Town tends to have a temperate, Mediterranean climate with hot summers and mild winters (similar to my weather pattern in California). Keep in mind that their geography means that they have several micro-climates. It can be quite cool on the top of Table Mountain, windy along the shores, while very hot in the city and valleys. In addition, their summer months are from December to February, and winter months during June to August. 

Cape Town Safety

Much has been written about the safety of Cape Town. Indeed, their crime rate is high. But it’s important to consider that the Cape Town crime rate is similar to other crowded cities around the world. Still, it’s crucial to follow a few safety precautions—even more so than you might observe on other trips. When you are walking in the city, it’s critical that you do not display valuable items, which can be easily snatched in broad daylight. This includes wallets, handbags, phones, and jewelry. If you plan on taking a photo using your phone or camera, make sure to check your surroundings to make sure it’s safe before doing so. Secure all wallets and personal items in burglar proof cases, such as under garment travel wallets and cross body small purses that are secured in the front. Do not walk around carrying your phone in your hand. Lock up valuables in your hotel safe. Be mindful of your surroundings at all times to ensure that you aren’t being followed. Do not walk at night—instead, take an Uber or hotel car service to your destination. Do not leave any items (not even sunglasses) visible in the car when you park. Make sure to lock your doors while driving. During our trip, we followed all of these rules and had no safety issues. 

I hope you enjoy your time in Cape Town. It’s a beautiful part of the world with many rewards, and it will surely make a meaningful impact on your life.

Cape of Good Hope, South Africa

For other plant-based travel tips, check out the following:

Plant-Based Eating in Tanzania
Plant-Based Eating in Sicily
Plant-Based Eating in Thailand
Plant-Based Guide to Morocco
Plant-Based Eating in Lisbon
Plant-Based Eating in Vienna, Austria

Note: This blog is not sponsored in any way. The recommendations made in this blog are my own, with no financial gain. 

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