Recent years, South Africa’s food scene has grown exponentially with innovative chefs and restaurateurs bursting on to the scene with fresh new ideas. Of course, it helps the raw ingredients South Africa as a country produces are of such a high quality, and that some of the worlds best wine regions are located conveniently in the same country.
South Africa stands out as a foodie destination because of the range of experiences on offer, and how accessible they are to the masses. In this country, food culture is more than a gimmick. It is a national way of life – certain types of cuisine or dishes are part of the history of the country, some are generation defining and some are simply iconic.
One of our favourite food experiences is Chef Luke Dale-Roberts’s Test Kitchen, in Cape Town’s Woodstock area. Coming from a fine dining background, Luke previously shook things up at La Colombe at its old location in Constantia Uitsig. The Test Kitchen moves away from this quite formal dining background (as formal as you can be in South Africa, the country champions smart casual) to a more relaxed dining experience, without sacrificing the fine dining and quality of the dishes produced. Consistently topping the best restaurant lists in South Africa, The Test Kitchen has also been internationally ranked among the best restaurants in the world. Expect dishes featuring local produce like springbok and other game meats, freshly caught local fish and expertly selected wines.
Cape Malay Cuisine
The turbulent history of South Africa has resulted in a layered, culturally rich country – with different cuisines to reflect this. Cape Malay cuisine was born out of the enslaved Javanese people (from modern day Indonesia, which was a Dutch colony) who were brought over to the Cape with the Dutch East India Company, as well as slaves from other regions in southeast Asia, and India. It is characterised by bold flavours and spices, such as cumin, turmeric, ginger, fennel, cardamom and cloves to name a few. A particularly popular dish is bobotie, which essentially is a meatloaf made with onions, sultanas, almonds, bay leaves and spices, then topped with an egg custard, and served with chutney.
If you know nothing else about South Africa’s food culture, you should know about the braai. While taken from the Afrikaans word for barbecue, this is nothing like the barbecues of Britain where everyone seems to be found huddling around a withering fire with a few sad looking sausages. Our southern friends simply would not accept that, instead expect roaring wood fires (never gas, ever), a healthy amount of boerewors (literally ‘farmer sausage’) and other meat, and enough small dishes complimenting the main event to feed an army. So revered is the braai that die-hard enthusiasts have rebranded Heritage Day, 24th September, as National Braai Day.