Why I Can't Get Enough Of Cape Town, South Africa

17 February 2015
Read Time: 3.9 mins

Internationally renowned chef Karen Dudley recently sat down with Jane Dunford from The Guardian to share why Cape Town, one of South Africa's three capital cities, stole her travelling heart from the moment of birth. Speaking on the city's culture, beaches and gastronomic experiences, it's easy to see why Karen will never call any other city home.

Karen Dudley in her new restaurant, the Dining Room Karen Dudley in her restaurant, the Dining Room

Natural Beauty

I’m a born-and-bred Capetonian, and might be biased, but Cape Town is the most beautiful city in the world. We live and breathe the mountains and the sea, and the amazing views.

When you first get here, it’s hard to understand how the peninsula works – there’s this little jut of land and mountain. On one side, there’s the warm Indian Ocean and, on the other, the cold Atlantic. It might be touristy but it’s worth doing a red bus tour to get a feel for the lay of the land and the different areas. Another fun thing to do is take the train from Cape Town to Simon’s Town: a one-hour journey. The train hugs the coast in parts and you can stop off at some wonderful places.

Cultural Mix

I grew up during apartheid – in a typical coloured home. In 1976, when there was so much violence going on, my parents managed to save enough to send me to a private school, so I grew up very aware of the situation but free from it in some ways. I could ride on some trains but not others; my friends could go to the cinema but I couldn’t, but when there were the boycotts and riots in 1985, and my peers in government schools couldn’t sit their final exams, I was able to.

My children are growing up in a completely different world. They go to school with an incredible cross-section of people. Of course, there are still problems but, at the same time, there is such opportunity. Years ago, I would never have been able to own property in a white area, or employ white people. I wouldn’t have been able to marry my husband.

It’s the richness of cultures that makes Cape Town such an exciting place and gives it its creativity. It was a thing of conflict in the past – you had to be one thing or the other, but the excitement is in that diversity. I myself am a little bit of this, a little bit of that – and my food is like that as well, the egg-fried rice next to the hummus ...

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Walk And Swim

If you want to swim, go to False Bay. Muizenberg is where to go surfing. Around Kalk Bay there are lovely sea pools you can swim in. Our lifestyle is very outdoorsy. There’s always a swimsuit in the boot of the car and people are always planning where to go for sundowners. My childhood memories are of being outdoors, swimming and camping, or of going to Grand Parade – made famous when Mandela gave his speech when he was released from jail – and drinking soda floats from little stands.

Visitors walk along the new Boomslang at Kirstenbosch botanical gardens. The Boomslang at Kirstenbosch botanical gardens. Photograph: The Times/Getty

Go to Kirstenbosch, the botanical gardens. There’s a new walk there called the Boomslang (after the green tree snake), with a bridge that goes up into the tree canopy from the forest floor. It’s so beautiful looking down on the gardens from the treetops. They have amazing concerts here, too, in the summer – just take a picnic and kick back.

Foodie Town

We eat extremely well in Cape Town. Even your average restaurant is better than in many world cities because there’s such great produce. If you want to see Capetonians in full force, come to lunch at The Kitchen, my place in Woodstock. In 2011, Michelle Obama visited and it’s always very busy with lots of artists, businessmen and chefs.

The Dining Room opened recently nearby, just two evenings a week – but people want more. If you want high-end dining, there’s the Test Kitchen, also in Woodstock, which is very good. But one of my favourite places is Cafe Olympia in Kalk Bay. It’s a bakery and has been making delicious food for decades. And I love to queue for fish and chips at Mariners Wharf in Hout Bay, too – then you walk on the quay to eat them.

The Neighbourgoods market has given new life to the Woodstock area of Cape Town The Neighbourgoods market has given new life to Woodstock. Photograph: Alamy

Another thing that’s changed so much is we now have vibrant markets. Don’t miss Neighbourgoods markets in the Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock every Saturday – it’s very hip, with a diverse mix of people and great food.

Hip & Happening Cape Town

A cool place to stay in town is Daddy Long Legs Art-Hotel. A different artist has designed every room and it has self-catering apartments, too. They’ve also got a place called Old Mac Daddy in Elgin, just outside the city, with silver Airstream caravans in the apple orchards – that’s a fun place to stay.

Long Street used to be hip but is pretty touristy now. However, one street to look out for is Bree Street, short for Broad Street. There’s everything there from chocolate makers to fantastic coffee. Check out Jason bakery – every Saturday morning it produces a cross between a croissant and a doughnut, a different type each week. There are also lots of new bars. Local craft breweries are really taking off, too. You’ll find them around Bree Street but I like the Devil’s Peak brewery’s Taproom at Salt River.

Woodstock is a great place to wander round for little galleries and interesting shops. Woodstock Vintage has beautiful things, from amazing linen to silverware, and I love the galleries, like What If The World, celebrating young, contemporary South African artists, and Southern Guild, which showcases the best of local design.

Great Heights

You have to go up Table Mountain (1,000 metres). Get the cable car up and walk down. Then there’s Chapman’s Peak (600 metres), which has scenic splendour second to none. From Bloubergstrand, to the north, there are fantastic views of the mountain from across Table Bay.

Chapmans Peak Drive makes for a spectacular trip just outside Cape Town. The road was built nearly 100 years ago by prisoners of war. Chapmans Peak Drive makes for a spectacular trip just outside Cape Town. Photograph: MyLoupe/UIG/Getty Images/Universal Images

Cape Town is an exciting place to be today. We’re finding our true identity and are proud of who we are, the food we produce, the literature, the art that we make ... In the past, it wasn’t so – we always felt we were missing out on something. Now we realise we have something so special to share.


This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk

This article was written by Jane Dunford from The Guardian and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

Jane Dunford

Jane Dunford is a Travel Editor for The Guardian in the United Kingdom.