Gone are the days when, if you deigned to ask for a vegetarian meal in a restaurant, they produced the ubiquitous creamed spinach, mashed butternut, baked potato and giant grilled mushroom – if you were lucky. If you were unlucky, you got the defrosted frozen vegetables – the ones cut into squares…possibly with frozen peas.
Whilst you’re still likely to get the former if you ask for vegetarian, say, in Matjiesfontein, in Cape Town vegetarian food is trendy and more than one restaurant is almost exclusively dedicated to this food art.
9 almost exclusively vegetarian restaurants:
Formerly the premises of another vegetarian/raw food restaurant called Closer, bolo bolo is a ‘plant-based café and alternative bookstore’ in Palmer Road, Muizenberg. The restaurant is run by Aragorn and Stefanie, fresh from their travels around the world whilst making a documentary entitled Anarchism.
Which should give you a very good idea of the atmosphere of the eatery that serves up daily specials, fair trade coffees, fresh juices, smoothies and specialities like the Zornia burger – a lentil, sundried tomato and basil patty on a sesame seed bun with hummus, lettuce, carrot, olives and sundried tomato pesto.
The interesting food they couple with books that cover topics like: sutainable living, permaculture, vegan cooking, radical politics, animal rights, anarchism, DIY and far-out philosophy. Every Saturday eat an all-day tofu scramble prepared using a solar cooker (unless the sun refuses to make an appearance, when it’s done in the kitchen).
Where: 42 Palmer Road, Muizenberg, False Bay Coast
Contact: 082 557 3912
Govinda’s Natural Food Café
Govinda’s, which lies behind the Hare Krishna Centre and opposite the Rondebosch railway station, has been there for a while, but you’ll have to know when to time your visits as they only open between Thursday and Sunday from 11am until 6pm. Obviously because of their location, behind the Hare Krishna Centre, the restaurant’s focus is on vegan style south Indian meals.
The eatery is a cosy affair, the atmosphere gentle, and peppered by a distinct reverence for life and the universe. Expect delicious bean curries, crisp papad with cumin, pakoras and eggless desserts.
Where: 17 St Andrews Street, Rondebosch, Southern Suburbs
Contact: 021 685 6804
Organic at Heart
Set in an old-style house in Constantia Road, on the border between Constantia and Plumstead, Organic at Heart (now under new management as Spades and Spoons) offers an alternative to the usual tea-time, lunch-time fare.
The airy, wooden floored home that is a national monument spills out the back into a courtyard – perfect for summer – and is popular for lunch and teas. There is both a raw food and a fresh, seasonal, organic menu, which makes for both interesting and incredibly healthy dining.
Food is either grown on the premises or sourced as ethically as possible. They’re not exclusively vegetarian, but the emphasis is on raw, vegetarian and vegan. Make sure you take little ones for their raw icecream – you never knew icecream not made from cream could taste this good! And their chocolate cake, well…
Where: 23 Constantia Road, Plumstead, Southern Suburbs
Contact: 021 797 0180
O’ways is a real tea café run by soft-spoken, unassuming Liza Tsai. The café doesn’t serve exlusively tea, they also produce incredible coffees – they must do, as the café hums around lunch time when the locals come in to order takeaways.
Whilst tea is the focus of the eatery, and growing, brewing and drinking it the emphasis of any visit – a wonderfully calming experience – they also serve food produced by chef Marion Kumps, of Aubergine fame.
The food is a fusion of east and west with highly imaginative renditions that include entrées of crispy potato and seaweed cigars and mains of creamy polenta with green asparagus and fennel-caper vinaigrette, arrugula salad. Much of the food’s emphasis is on seasonal, vegetarian food.
Where: Shop 2, Heritage House, 20 Dreyer Street, Claremont
Contact: 021 671 2850
The Africa Café
Whilst you might not associate Africa Café with meals vegetarian, they have recently extended their already hugely popular offering to include an Organic Deli that offers mostly organic plant based foods that are vegan, vegetarian, lactose free, wheat free and include raw foods on the menu.
Portia De Smidt and her daughter Lumai are behind the introduction of vegetarian, vegan and raw foods, and Lumai trades raw food at local food market, Gaia Food Market, under the label Raw Religion.
Where: 108 Shortmarket Street, Heritage Square, City Bowl
Contact: 021 422 0221
Set on the corner of Main Road, en route out of Simon’s Town, the Tibetan Teahouse serves vegetarian and vegan Tibetan-inspired food in a beautifully relaxed environment that includes being able to spill out onto a veranda that overlooks False Bay.
Health teas, organic coffees, chai, Tibetan butter tea served in a wooden cup, vegan cakes, vegetarian meals and a genuine link to the real Tibet (in 2010 six monks from the Rizong Monastery in Ladakh visited) mean they have regular customers.
In winter the fireplace and traditional Sherpa stew makes a visit here almost mandatory. Everything is made fresh at the restaurant, and if it’s your birthday, they’ll sing the traditional Tibetan Lui ceremony for you.
Where: 2 Harrington Road, Seaforth, Simon’s Town
Contact: 021 786 1544
The Well Café at Wellness Warehouse serves up ‘well’ food for everyone – vegan, vegetarian, dairy, wheat and sugar free options – that include raw foods on the menu. You will find a range of healthy, and organic foods across the spectrum – smoothies, sandwhiches, salads, snacks, fresh juices and organic coffees and teas.
It’s a sure bet for tea-time, lunch time food that will agree with any diet you may be following. And vegetarian and vegan feature predominantly.
Where: in most of the Wellness Warehouse stores around Cape Town.
In the centre of Cape Town on Loop Street, Zucchinis is one of the only eateries in the heart of the city to produce an exclusively vegetarian menu. The owner is of Lola’s on Long Street fame (pity it no longer does vegetarian cuisine).
This vegetarian hotspot is not big by any stretch of the imagination, so you’re not there to spread out and sip slowly on a latte whilst the day inches past. It is, however, very bright (look out for the orange walls) and does serve the ‘best vegetarian food in Cape Town’, take-away, sit-down or delivery. And they call their food – freedom food.
You’ll manage to grab spinach wraps, burritos, veg curries, soups, pancakes and incredible sandwiches together with freshly squeezed juices, which you can scoff on a barstool, or simply grab to go. Breakfast, lunch and tea was never this good.
Where: 83 Loop Street, Cape Town Central, City Bowl
Contact: 021 424 857
And the half…
Vegetarian fastfood with a difference – Vivo raw food pizza by Earthshine. Order it for Friday collection. It brings new meaning to the term ‘pizza’.
Veggie Buntch Vegetarian Supper Club – a dinner club for veggie-lovers with one event every month. Contact Laura Cooke.