Depending on who you ask, the area enclosed by Roeland, Canterbury, Caledon and Buitenkant streets in Cape Town should be called the East City Precinct, Zonnebloem, District Six or Lower Gardens. What most opinionated Capetonians do agree on, however, is that this former semi-industrial stretch is virtually unrecognisable from what it was just three or four years ago. Hailed as the new Woodstock, it’s now a hipster centre of independent design, media and IT start-ups, whose MacBook-toting creatives are sustained by an ever growing number of cool eateries, coffee haunts and watering holes.
1. FOR FRESH JUICE AND INSTAGRAM OPPS APLENTY: THE ELECTRIC
Set in a former auto- electrical shop that burnt down, The Electric is part café, part event space, part shoot location. The new owners retained the soot-stained walls, raised the double-volume roof and worked in a little décor razzle-dazzle to transform it into an industrial-cool hangout for the growing young office set. The juice bar offers a great watermelon, mint, ginger, basil and lime combo (among others), they make their own nut milks
(try the almond and cacao), and the sarmie selection is served on your choice of house-baked sugar-, wheat- and gluten- free five-seed loaf or baguette (both of which can be bought from the small in-house bakery).
48 Canterbury Street; tel: 021 422 2591, the-electric.com
2. FOR GROCERIES WITHOUT THE PLASTIC: NUDE FOOD
A zero-waster’s dream come true, this plastic-free grocery store just off Harrington offers eco-conscious consumers a guilt-free shopping experience. Bring your own reusable bags and jars (don’t worry, you can buy them there, too), weigh and pay. Dispensers are filled with everything from dried adzuki beans and loose-leaf rooibos, to polenta and pasta. There are machines for grinding your own nut butter, along with an organic veggie nook, a fridge stocked with raw dairy products packaged in glass bottles, and a bread section offering freshly baked loaves and “yesterday’s bread” from Cape Point Bakery. Pet treats and cleaning products are also for sale.
5 Constitution Street; tel: 021 437 3003, nudefoods.co.za
3. FOR OUTDOOR EQUIPMENT AND ESPRESSOS: JUST LIKE PAPA
This premium outdoor gear store has a bit of a 2001 Space Odyssey vibe, perfect for displaying their range of retro outdoorsy merch – wood-handled Winkler hunting knives in fine leather sheathes, straight-blade Solingen razors with alum whetstones, and brushed-steel replica 1942 Zippos. Once you’ve bagged your latest bragworthy tool, head to the bar counter for an espresso (brewed over a propane burner, in a Bialetti mini espresso maker, naturally), or a shot or two of single malt from the Kubric-esque drinks cabinet, and bask in the bro-ness of it all.
73 Harrington Street; tel: 021 286 4374, justlikepapa.com
4. FOR BAGELS WITH HISTORY: NEW YORK BAGELS
Locals who queue for the daily cream cheese bagel and coffee special probably don’t know that: a) this place has been around for years, albeit first on Sea Point’s main drag, and b) these deliciously chewy rings are still made according to the recipe co-owner Nina Milner’s great-grandfather brought to SA from Lithuania. “They’re not the rolls with holes some people pass off as bagels; they’re boiled, then baked throughout the day,” says Nina, who, along with her mom, Wilma, and dad, Bernard, opened the new NY Bagels in Harrington Street in 2014. Wrap your lips around the Bart (bacon, avo and roast tomato), available on a plain, poppy, sesame, onion or the “everything” bagel. If you’re really hungry, the Reuben is made with house-cured pastrami, red cabbage pickle and Emmenthal between toasted slices of home-baked rye. The Belgian chocolate cheesecake and citrus chiffon cake are also pretty legendary.
44 Harrington Street; tel 073 577 9132, #NYBCT
5. For the barflies: Surfarosa
Chilled vibes, loud music, cheapish drinks (this is the CBD, sorry) and killer pizzas are the major drawcards of this Hawaiian-inspired locale. Happy hour is between 5 and 6 pm daily and there is a special on offer most days, be it Service Industry Tuesdays (order a beer and pizza for R50), Throwdown Thursdays (you don’t have to pay cover charge for whichever band is playing a set), or Aloha Fridays (your choice of cocktail and a Hawaiian pizza will set you back a mere R80). Check out their social media to stay in the loop.
61 A Harrington Street; tel: 021 461 2276, thefirmct.co.za/surfarosa, @surfarosact
6. For great coffee and the latest scoop: Kamili coffee roasters
Owner and head roaster Theo Snyckers supplies his coffee all along the East City strip, making him a good man to know if you’re curious about the latest foodie happenings in the ’hood. Although he’s obsessed with the bean in all its incarnations, he shows no sign of Cape Town’s famous coffee snobbery, so if you still enjoy your flat white with two teaspoons of sugar, you won’t get the side-eye here. The Kamili Khaya is an all-African house blend of Ugandan and Ethiopian beans and makes for a great everyday cuppa. Purists will enjoy the steady rotation of single-origin beans, from the citrussy Yirgache e from Ethiopia, to the chocolatey, full-bodied Colombian. The menu also offers killer hotdogs – Richard Bosman franks on pretzel rolls – and fillet, Camembert and cranberry sourdough toasties.
48 Harrington Street; tel: 083 444 5375, kamilicoffee.co.za
7. For ribs and beer: Lefty’s
Back when it opened in 2013, this self-styled dive bar slash BBQ joint was one of the pioneering spots that helped turn Harrington Street into a dining destination. It was also one of the first places to serve the now ubiquitous fried chicken, bacon and maple syrup waffles (and still does). Lefty’s also makes great smoky-sticky ribs, crisp-fried falafel for the veggies, and a small selection of gourmet flame-grilled burgers (try the kimchi and white Cheddar) and wood red pizzas (go for the Margherita topped with fior di latte). It would also be sinful not to indulge in the G&T special: two doubles for R40. Lefty’s recently added breakfast and lunch to the mix, introducing the likes of shakshuka, caramel-apple Dutch babies and brisket Benedict to the menu. Praise be.
105 Harrington Street; tel: 021 461 0407, @leftysdowntown
8. FOR NAUGHTY BUT NICE FAST FOOD: Lekker Vegan
Talk about a sign of the times. When bleary-eyed youths stumble out of the local clubs and bars, their fast-food of choice is … plant- based? It happens. While this vegan eatery does well during the day thanks to the creative set, it’s off the hook in the wee hours over weekends. The winning formula has a lot to do with moreish textures and comfort-food flavours. The Lekker Crispy burger, for example, is piled with a crumbed soya-and-wheat patty (without a hint of stodge, we might add), a slice of pretty convincing “Cheddar” conjured from nutritional yeast and coconut oil, crisp-fried onions, a tangy-creamy secret sauce and house-made “sour cream” and onion crisps. Round out your order with some sweet potato fries and bubblegum soft serve, just don’t get us started on the gatsbys…
37 Barrack Street, lekkervegan.co.za
9. FOR TAPAS AND COCKTAILS: Harrington’s Cocktail lounge
All crystal chandeliers, polished wood panelling, plush velvet booths and dramatic drapes, this spot offers a bit of old-school opulence for a night out on the town. Channel your inner Bond and slide onto one of the chic bar stools to order from the cocktail menu (try the Pink Hush with Beefeater gin, bubbly, honey, lemon and raspberry liqueur), or the impressive barsenal of high-brow hard tack and boutique wines. If you plan on settling
in for the night – there are regular DJ and live band sets – you’ll definitely want to dip into the tapas menu, which includes picture-pretty morsels such as crispy buttermilk-fried chicken bites with sriracha mayo; prawn skewers with lime, chilli and garlic butter; Caprese salad served in a jar; and triple-cooked fries.
61 B Harrington Street; tel: 021 461 2276, thefirmct.co.za/harringtons.
10. FOR SLURP-WORTHY BOWLS AND BAO: DOWNTOWN RAMEN
This unassuming noodle joint is just upstairs from Lefty’s (and owned by the same folks), meaning if you’re craving the sticky ribs from downstairs while your friends want bao and broth, you can order up a plate, no sweat. The ramen bowls are filled to the brim with tasty meat-, miso-, or coconut-milk-based broths, along with chewy noodles, Instagram-worthy eggs and either pork belly, shortrib, fried tofu or chicken. Their bao wows with fillings that include the cult favourite – buttermilk-fried chicken with miso mayo. And great news for nigiri nibblers is that they’ve recently opened a tiny sushi bar.
103 Harrington Street; tel: 021 461 0407, @leftysdowntown
SWAN CAFE for sweet crêpes, savoury galettes and exclusive tea blends. This is an authentic Parisian Crêperie!
Corner Buitenkant & Barrack Street; tel: 079 45 44 758, swancafe.co.za
CHARLIE’S BAKERY for crazy-cool cakes and cupcakes.
38 Canterbury Street; tel: 021 461 5181, charlysbakery.co.za
DIAS TAVERN for the best prego rolls and some langarm action.
15 Caledon Street; tel: 021 465 7547, diastavern.co.za
BOOTLEGGER for coffee and breakfast.
50 Harrington Street; tel: 021 201 6708, bootlegger.co.za/bootlegger-harrington
THE FUGARD THEATRE for pre-show drinks at the downstairs bar or on the rooftop terrace, weather permitting.
Corner Caledon & Lower Buitenkant streets; tel: 021 461 4554, thefugard.com