Here's a notorious complaint made to a travel agency that sums up just how important it is to do some thinking on the topic: "On my holiday to Goa in India, I was disgusted to find that almost every restaurant served curry. I don't like spicy food at all."
Well, we can all have a chuckle at that, but it’s easy to forget that each destination has its specialities, some of which can be daunting for the inexperienced traveller.
Cape Town has just been voted Best Food City in the world according to the Condé Nast Traveller’s Reader’s Choice Awards, pipping destinations such as Dubai, New York and London to the post, and this shows the extent to which visitors associate travel with food. It’s not an afterthought, food and tourism go hand in hand.
This accolade brings home the importance of food (and wine) tourism. As a city, our array of restaurants and informal eateries represent our exciting approach to this part of our lives. The variety on offer is broad, from fusion tasting menus in fine dining establishments with crisp white linen tablecloths to cosy, intimate family-run seafood restaurants with the sea and the sunset wresting for our attention.
Here are some stunning examples of Cape restaurants: 50 Cape Town Restaurants You NEED to Visit
In the same way that we’re doing everything we can to attract visitors, restaurants and food operators also rely on new visitors as well as regular ones. There’s a gap here, a gap for better-integrated travel experiences, one operators can fill by making it easier for visitors to experience destinations and the local foodie culture, contributing to both the tourism and food and beverage economies.
Spearheading this are operators and businesses tapping into the “travel like a local” trend. Visitors want more than hotel food, they want the experiences that locals have. Only locals know where the hot new pop-up restaurants are as well as the favourite perennials. Want to know where the best burgers in the city are, or the freshest craft beer offerings? Ask a local. There is competition in the restaurant business, so this is of great benefit to visitors. Not only do menus get exciting new additions, but pricing is competitive and many venues have regular specials. Locals know the specials and will let you in on the secret!
The Koeksister Tours hosted by Rhonda’s Tours & Explores guides you around the Cape Flats and surrounds, where you can end the day with a Gatsby, which has become a delicacy for many locals. However, you will need to brace yourself for the sheer size of this experience, and you are not allowed to waste any of it.
If you live on pizza in your hometown, you may want to see how Cape Town does pizza (there’s a lively competition between different restaurants for the title of “best pizza”), but there’s so much more on offer, from a township grill, or ches nyama in Langa, a feast at Mzoli’s in Gugs, to a spicy and sweet Cape Malay adventure in Bo-Kaap. Informal braais abound during sporting tournaments are an introduction to the spectacular world of this vital element of our culture, but then we also have wonderful fish and seafood offerings, all according to the latest sustainability practices. Many restaurants source their ingredients locally, providing an extended boost to the economy with job creation for suppliers.
As for our wines, Constantia, Durbanville and Somerset West are world-class wine-producing areas, and many vineyards offer restaurants and entertainment as well as other activities for tourists to enjoy.
You may be like that tourist, referred to above, who didn’t like spicy curries, but the challenge is to explore the amazing food offerings your destination has, no matter what your tastes.