A Hedonist's Guide to Cape Town: Best Bars

By Keith Bain & Pippa de Bruyn
Bar area at Cape to Cuba, Kalk Bay
¡VIVA LA REVOLUCION!: Cape to Cuba bar in Kalk Bay, Cape Town (Cape to Cuba)
Rainbow Coalition
Check out Away.com's Cape Town Gay & Lesbian travel Guide for the best expert-selected LGBT hotels, attractions, and more in and around Cape Town.

1) Belthazar
Styling itself as the home of the biggest wine-by-the-glass selection on the planet, offering around 250 individual vintages—all from the Cape and stored in high-tech anti-oxidation equipment —Belthazar is a way to tour the Winelands without leaving the Waterfront. (It's also a very decent steakhouse with a good seafood selection, too.) The wine menu is an epic list of different vintages, but an elaborate and impressively detailed chart, rating each wine according to its individual character as well as recording its score in the highly-regarded John Platter's South African Wine Guide, makes navigation slightly easier. It's a very useful way to taste a wide selection of new wines, and the menu pairs them with suitable dishes (and if your memory's rusty, you can check the list on their website, later). If you're feeling more adventurous, or a small group, order a bottle—there are some 600 listed on the menu, starting with some very good daily-drinking bottles, and finishing off with some impressive rarities. Done up, as is the norm among steakhouses in South Africa, in brass and dark wood, décor is not as memorable as the wines.

2) Boo Radley's
Boo Radleys is both a relaxed bistro, good for pre- or post-show dinners, since The New Space theatre is just upstairs (where Clint Eastwood sourced the all-boy band to produce much of the soundtrack for Invictus), and a very sociable place to grab a properly mixed cocktail andor good glass of wine. Black and white checkerboard floor tiles, leather banquettes, lots of polished wood and marble, and a deep space with high ceilings and big glass walls looking onto the little side street (just off Long) on which it's situated, means that this is one of the most immaculate-looking drinking venues in the inner city, well-preserved by the type of crowd that hangs here —a little urbane, slightly sophisticated (but not in the least pretentious), and always celebratory (even if it's just to toast the end of the day at the office). Owner Jay Haupt is a stickler for genuine cocktails, and he prides himself on specializing in the classics, preferring to use only authentic ingredients. Music is a serious mix of wispy and gracious jazz and blues, and occasionally includes local one-man cult figure, Dave Ferguson.

3) Cape to Cuba
This is one of the most fabulous seaside bars in the Cape Peninsula, memorable as much for the detailed Bohemian atmosphere as it is for the unassuming location right besides the railway tracks, with views across the lines towards the low-key commotion of Kalk Bay's quaint little fishing harbour. While you're left with little doubt that you're visiting a small coastal village, there's plenty of Latin spirit and a long list of cocktails—the best mojitos and fruity frozen daiquiris—and an assortment of differently-styled areas for you to try out. Although the island-style bar is groovy, it's really the restaurant alongside that's particularly beautiful, with so much Catholic and antique bric-a-brac that it's like wandering through an overstocked Mexican décor shop—it's not the most reliable place for food, though, so stick to the drinks and maybe order a few snacky starters to stave off a hunger, then dine elsewhere in Kalk Bay.

4) Planet Champagne & Cocktail Bar
You don't need to be a resident at Cape Town's most celebrated hotel to enjoy one of its hippest, sexiest, and most beautiful bars. The Mount Nelson may be a bastion of cool colonial-era sophistication, but this schmoozy bar has a contemporary sparkle in her eye. From the hotel's main lounge, you enter an intimate, sumptuous space, a hip-but-classic reworking of a 110-year-old room with leather floor, gigantic drapes, and lots of plush, decadent fabrics to complement the elegant refurbishment that makes this feel utterly chic. The bar's name is reflected by the intricate mobile sculpture of the solar system that hangs at the centre of the main room, but it's easy to also imagine that it's a reference to discovering your status in the stellar system. Whether you're star-struck (plenty of celebs have been spotted here), or choose to find a seat outdoor beneath the stars, you can't help feeling that this is one Planet you want to be on all through the night. drink

5) Bascule Whisky
Stepping into the Bascule is rather like chancing upon a spacious below-deck cabin that's been transformed into a handsome bar, stocked with a gratifyingly large assortment of whiskys (over 400 at last count, including a 50-year-old Glenfiddich which sells at R18,000 per tot). One of the most sociable and refined drinking spots in the city, the Bascule is right at the edge of Cape Town's international yacht marina, and you can easily spend all day soaking up the good vibes on the waterside terrace. Enquire after one of the regular whisky tasting events, in which you're taken on an enlightening journey through the history and experience of (primarily) Scottish single malts. Some are paired with food (discovering that Laphroaig goes with gorgonzola, for example), and the sommeliers are brilliant—a fantastic way to kick start one of the most memorable nights you'll have in Cape Town. You can also sign up for membership of the city's most exclusive whisky club, making this forever a bar that you'll feel at home in.

To discover more of Cape Town's hottest hotels, restaurants, clubs, and bars, order your copy of A Hedonist's Guide to… Cape Town here.

Published: 12 May 2010 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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