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10 of the best - Western Cape Style

March 4, 2014 By:

 African Image

Harry Sitole has great taste. He also has a smile that makes it hard not to grin back. As the owner of African Image (just around the corner from Greenmarket Square on the corner of Church and Burg Streets in central Cape Town), he chooses every delightful piece in the shop himself.

African Image is no run-of-the-mill curio shop aiming at sunburnt tourists. It’s a treasure trove of funky new stuff, bright cloths, beautiful old artefacts, and more. From quirky to whimsical to plain-old beautiful, the place is heavenly. If I have to buy a present, be it birthday, wedding, new house or new baby, this is where I go.

And I have to admit to never leaving without a little something for me too.

The Company’s Garden

I love the city centre on a Saturday morning. The hustle-and-bustle, the noisiness, the busy-ness, the wafts of coffee and exhaust fumes, a stream of humanity (and, quite often, profanity). It’s just so alive.

After a couple of hours sliding along in said stream of humanity, though, I get claustrophobic. It’s then that I head into the (relative) quiet of The Company’s Garden, to the little café in the middle, its outside tables set in the dappled shade. It feels like a childhood tearoom, like something from a storybook.

I always have a Crème Soda, with lots of ice, its artificial emerald green blending in beautifully with the plants of the garden.

Zapata

Second Avenue in Harfield Village is happening. Want to eat out? If you want steak, Mexican, Chinese, Sushi, home-style cooking, Thai, Indian or Italian, there’s somewhere for you on the little, three-block, restaurant ‘strip’.

Lucky for me, it’s around the corner from my house. I love almost all of the places and so I spread my love around. My favourite, though, is Zapata, the Mexican. I feel like I’m in an episode of Cheers! when I go there. I know all their names, they know mine, our drinks get delivered without even asking what we want.

Beside the friendliness, the food is good, the setting is gorgeous and the frozen margaritas come with a sour worm on top. Who could ask for more?

Arderne Gardens (brides)

Set fronting Main Road, opposite Claremont Hospital, is a hidden gem. The Arderne Gardens. It’s especially a gem on Saturdays and Sundays when flocks of bridal parties descend to have their photos taken on its sprawling lawns or next to the most magnificently huge tree that looks like something out of a fairy-tale.

Brides in dresses like the dolls on a wedding cake, layers of lace, shiny sequins, glittering crystal beads. With them, shy grooms looking hot in suits and multitudes of brightly-coloured, highly-frilled bridesmaids straggling behind.

The Baxter Theatre

The round orange lights outside, like a flock of UFOs, trail after us into the theatre. I have to force myself not to spend the whole evening looking up, at those lights. Circle after circle, they’re at once alien and familiar. They’re part of the reason I love the Baxter.

Like all theatres, the air in the quadruple-volume foyer is filled with whispers from characters past if you listen carefully: snippets of a lonely cello practicing in a rehearsal room twenty years ago, bits-and-pieces of plays – both good and bad, well-received and not-so-much, and a good few drama students (they never change), all flitting about amongst the dramatic buzz.

I love a play at the good ol’ Baxter.

Joe Fish

Pinelands is a strange place. Suburbia. It’s supposedly a ‘dry’ suburb, but I’m not sure if that’s an urban myth or not. I should probably investigate. It doesn’t change the fact that I love Joe Fish, the restaurant situated on the behind corner of the Howard Centre.

I love it, again, because I’ve got to know the people there by name, they know which is my favourite table – the one next to the fish tank filled with happy-looking fish, carefully cared for by Luke. My favourite one is the one with a vacuum-mouth, who sucks on the glass, presumably nibbling on algae that’s too small to see.

Their fish is delicious. Not only their fish, but all their food. It’s a bright, happy, busy place and their banana fritters with ice-cream and cinnamon is surely the food of the gods!

The tree in the middle of Liesbeek Parkway

There are just no two ways about it, morning commutes to work are not fun. However, I am lucky enough to include Liesbeek Parkway on my route. Now don’t get me wrong, Liesbeek Parkway at 7:30 AM on a week days is no fun. It’s two lanes of cars occupied by people mostly with either foul or blank expressions still trying to wake up, making their way to workplaces they’d rather not be at.

No, it’s not the road itself, or its traffic, that is my ‘however’, it’s that tree. The beautiful, enormous wild fig tree on the grass island opposite Starke Ayres. An ancient grandfather tree with roots that are slightly raising the tar on both sides and arms that stretch to cover all four lanes.

I love it.

Brad (at Brad’s)

Another of my Second Avenue favourites, Brad’s Grill is an institution. Mainly, though, it’s Brad himself who’s the institution. He’s loud and present, and has a heart of gold. If he ever reads this he’ll probably shout at me for saying that, but it’s the truth.

Brad’s (and Brad) has been around for over thirty years and is still serving steaks and calamari that melt in your mouth and keeps you going back, again and again.

The Labia Cinema

Despite its rather rude-sounding name which, incidentally, isn’t rude, it’s named after a Princess Labia (her parents should be ashamed of lumping their kid with that name. It was long ago, though), The Labia Cinema is anything but rude. It’s a stately old lady of a building on the bend of Orange Street. One that shows fabulous art movies.

It’s also the only cinema I know of that allows you to drink your beer or glass of wine while watching said art movie with your paper bag of popcorn clutched between your knees . The cinemas range from huge and old, with gorgeous rickety old wooden cinema seats to tiny and intimate and (slightly) more modern.

Mother Shuckers Oysters

Saturday mornings at the Neighbourgoods Market (Biscuit Mill, Salt River). The juiciest, fattest, most delicious oysters, ever. I need say no more.

Just go early, to avoid being crushed by herds of hipsters. Ironically crushed, of course.

Home

I know, I know. It was supposed to be ten, but I just couldn’t limit it because, really, the best of my ten best places in Cape Town, is home.

With my menagerie of pets (and housemate), it’s warm and cosy and I love it. I know its movements, it knows mine. I love it for its squeaks and creaks and airiness and light.

And it contains my bedroom, and therefore my bed, which I love the most of anything. Especially on winter afternoons when the sun falls directly on my napping spot.

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