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Dining at Chandani is a sensory experience, which begins with welcoming rose petals strewn outside the entrance and ends with a traditional pan masala – a fragrant bouquet of tiny herbs and spices to freshen the breath.

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In particular, I watched in amusement as a woman across the room made absolutely no effort to hide her fascination with the beautiful building—buildings, rather, as the restaurant is comprised of two houses joined together. Between bites of her dinner, she craned her neck to peer into a nearby room or to stare up at the ornate balconies above us—ones from which Shakespearean citations could be orated.

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What with the great view and the generous portions to work through, the idea is to linger and to lounge at the Clubhouse, which also serves as a venue for private functions such as birthday parties and bridal showers. It doesn’t claim to be overly fancy, pricing is not at all exorbitant, and that’s probably why it’s already becoming something of a local favourite among friends and families.

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It should come as no surprise then, as we sat under the cake-server-laden chandelier inside the Cape Grace’s award-winning restaurant Signal, that our meal was in keeping with our overall impression of Cape Grace. From starter to dessert, our dinner was packed with details made to look effortless by the meticulous presentation and smooth-running service.

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On the plate it looks like seared beef fillet sliced carpaccio style, topped with a heavily sesame-oil-infused concoction of soy sauce, fresh ginger, black and white sesame seeds, and green onion. In the mouth it is an unparalleled party of flavours: an explosion of umami, tender in texture and tangy in taste.

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Situated on Harfield Village’s vibrant restaurant strip in Second Avenue, Zapata has rapidly become a neighbourhood favourite. Not only that, it’s now attracting people from all over Cape Town and drawing them into the Southern Suburbs – lured by the delicious smells of enchiladas, burritos and the promise of a really good margarita.

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Known for his stints at La Colombe, Five Flies, and Pure at Hout Bay Manor, Chef Ian Bergh brings to De Grendel a food profile that is sophisticated, not complicated, full of flavour but not overdone. The Salmon starter, for example, (R 120) is gloriously juicy and soft with a pungent miso savour, the salmon having been marinated for two days in a miso/mirin/sake mixture. No hint of fishiness, just tender bites refreshed by lightly dressed baby leaves on the side. A dish like this has every right to be ostentatious, but here it is entirely unfussy and easy on the taste buds.

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We started with a handmade Pizza Focaccia con Rosmarino e Sale. This we paired with Prosciutto con Gelato di Grana Padano– small cones of Parma ham wrapped with a filling of marscapone and parmesan cheese. It was a delicious taste sensation and I would highly recommend visiting just to taste it.

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They say it’s a crime to leave Cape Town without having been to Mzoli’s.

This meat “restaurant”, the brainchild of entrepreneur Mzoli Ngcawuzele, can lay claim to being the township spot most frequented by non-locals. It’s in an area of Gugulethu easily accessible by taking one of the minibus taxis on Main Road and, when we arrived around 1pm, the streets in front of Mzoli’s were already jammed, with some people sitting on the sidewalk or hosting mini parties in their cars with the music turned up loud.

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Whilst educating his audience on cooking processes and ingredients, he cracked jokes and told stories, laughing at his sister’s attempts to make mayonnaise “from eggs kept in the fridge – imagine!” (cue: laughter from audience while everyone makes a mental note: Remove Eggs from Fridge when Home) and he advocated the use of using your fingers to taste… hygiene be damned, we’re in the country now. He made the process of cooking – daunting to so many – look fun, easy and seamless. And it was, of course, so much better than watching a TV chef, not least because it was all real time with no outtakes. And then of course there were the smells…

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“You heard it here first – seaweed is the new kale. This was one of the many talking points at Dine4Six’s collaboration with Chef’s Table at the Mt Nelson.”

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Award-winning chef Richard Carstens celebrated his first anniversary at Tokara in style last week, with a bevy of loyal followers and food critics. And me. I’d heard of him and I’d heard of the restaurant, but I’d never had a chance to experience either. Boy, had I missed out.

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The pitch-perfect attention – thoughtful and attentive without being intrusive – was one of the highlights of our meal at Sevruga.

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Despite its elegance there is a certain sturdiness to the restaurant that can withstand the ravages of children. We took four along with us, aged between 7 and 11. Again, their food was pretty standard fare but they loved the apparent poshness of it all. And their eyes lit up at the dedicated kids’ playroom. Needless to say they spurned the Lego wall and the colouring books and instead, supervised by an enthusiastic childminder, they played ping pong on the Xbox. With a large glass window between the playroom and the restaurant, parents can keep half an eye on their offspring with all the ease of visiting an aquarium.

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I may have audibly gasped when the Butternut & Gorgonzola Salad (R 65) appeared at our table. Not only was it the prettiest salad I’d seen in a while, it came with a full flavour profile, rich in both taste and texture. I dived straight in for a chunk of the roasted butternut, followed by soft gorgonzola, crisp baby greens, cherry tomatoes, a sprinkling of toasted seeds, and – the best part by far – slices of perfectly poached pear.

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The crust on the Tarte Tartin (R 55) is properly buttery and flaky, and the rhubarb’s tang plays well with vanilla ice cream. And in case you might have been hoping for a trio of ice cream like the pigtailed little girl, you are strongly advised to opt for the Iced Gateau (R 55): iced strawberry and lemon gateau with Cointreau infusion. The creamy not-too-tart layers for the sweet tooth, the tiniest whiffs of the Cointreau for a breezy citrus taste – it’s everything a grown-up summer dessert should be.

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The majestic architectural wonder that is Mandela Rhodes Place houses not only a hotel and spa but a central atrium that boasts various shops and restaurants. I had the pleasure of dining at Doppio Zero, one of the resident restaurants.

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“Needless to say, Chef Ward has a flair for flavour. Most of the magic happens in her wood fire oven, from the breads to the desserts, giving the dishes a unique depth and taste.”

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The dark woods and earth tones in the décor, the jar-lined walls, the wooden boards heaped with fresh-baked artisan bread, and the lilting Italian music in the background all call for a slow enjoyment of these “lifestyle and leisure wines”.

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If ever there was an eatery that embodies today’s young and hip Capetonian, the Woodlands Eatery comes pretty close. Between the lure of the urban boho-chic décor and the creative, affordable menu, it’s the kind of place you don’t tell your friends about in the hopes of keeping it – selfishly but quite understandably – to yourself.

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The name for some may conjure up a rough, tough, smoke­filled, meat­-orientated eatery. But from the decor to the wine, Charcoal Dining is a relaxing place: a quiet, as­ yet­ unknown restaurant perfect for a date night or an evening out.

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