Capetonian night owls have never had it so good! There’s nothing quite like some jazzy tunes or rock jams in a cosy setting to get you grooving. Benn van der Westhuizen scouts out some of Cape Town’s best late-night bars and restaurants where you can burn the midnight oil.
Harrington’s Cocktail Lounge is a chic, refined and exclusive newcomer adding a touch of class to Cape Town’s nightlife scene. Its Ratpack-ish charm, harking back to the nightclub scene of the 60’s, looks set to improve with age. Though panoramic views and sprawling velvet booths filled with an expensively enhanced crowd contribute to its appeal, Harrington’s secret weapon is its East City Sessions every Thursday night. Kick-start the weekend with an evening of mellow jazz tunes from some of the country’s top performers. The alternative line-up for March includes Jozi’s Mandla Mlangeni and his jazzy TRC ensemble, bulked up by the more contemporary-driven Mark Buchanan, and Carla Louw from the Lee Thomson Quintet.
A fiercely experiential and seasonal cocktail list is on offer in the sweeping bar that worships craft gin, fountains and all. Add some luxurious bubbly, a deftly constructed tapas menu and excellent service to the mix, and there’s plenty to late-night love.
A glamorous departure for The Firm – the cool cats who gave us The Village Idiot, Aces and Spades, and Surfarosa – Harrington’s Cocktail Lounge also furthers the group’s penchant for blurring the boundaries between restaurant, bar and nightclub, with DJs every Friday and Saturday evening. This exuberant cocktail lounge is certainly ahead of the pack, and its addition surely underlines Harrington Street’s claim to be Cape Town’s new hip zone.
Address: 61B Harrington St, Cape Town CBD
Open: Thurs to Sat from 5pm
Happy Hour: Cocktails, craft beer and bubbly at half-price from 5pm to 7pm. Or work your way through the gourmet tapas special – 4 x different varieties for R200.
The vibe: Teeming with more glamour, class and quirk than a Chanel suit
Tipple to try: Local craft gin takes centre stage with The Widerer People, featuring flashes of peach, lime and a dash of Vermouth
Foodies, feast on this: A finely constructed and delicate collection of tapas. Go for the white fish ceviche with faint hints of lime, chilli, and a gastro-style avo emulsion
With nearly 13 years of experience in the field, Coffeebeans Routes continues to embrace its unique trademark sensibility towards immersive, sustainable tourism. The pioneering Fair Trade certified company follows an organic direction while highlighting original music and arts initiatives developed by local creatives. As founder Iain Harris explains, ‘We see tourism as a canvas on which to tell stories from the cities that we work in and to share the richness of these cities with visitors.’ The company currently operates in Cape Town, the Cape Winelands and Johannesburg.
Harris and his team specialise in intimate group tours ranging from half day fine art, music and political history tours, all the way to interactive 10-day packages. SHighlights include the flagship Cape Town Jazz Safari tour. Guests have the rare opportunity to meet local jazz musicians in their homes, while dining on carefully crafted local cuisine. A private option is also on offer for a more exclusive feel. Another must-try experience is the ‘Theatre in the Backyard’ concept, a collaborative effort with theatre director, Mhlanguli George. The itinerary includes a 30-minute play inspired by site-specific narrative, a sumptuous spread of traditional isiXhosa cuisine, rounded out by an exclusive Q&A with the cast and crew. It certainly lives up to the ‘theatre dinner with a twist’ tagline!
With Coffeebeans Routes, Harris has tailormade a fiercely sensitive yet enchanting foray into South African culture.
Times: Dependent on tour
The vibe: Authentically raw and South African, while still accessible to both locals and visiting tourists.
Tipple to try: Alcoholic drinks are not included in the itinerary, but may be accommodated as an extra. Please enquire.
Foodies, feast on this: Traditional South African cooking, which oddly enough is not as widespread in the culinary circles of the city as you might think
Live music emanates from the heart of Kloof Street, drawing both Capetonians and overseas visitors into the Vic Bar to enjoy the hearty gastro cuisine and craft beer on offer. This new-ish live music spot in Cape Town has all its good-time ducks in a row, but with a unique twist, particularly for its jam-packed weekend offering. Jazz up a Wednesday evening with the freshest talent in town showcased by Sit The Folk Down. Fridays see a relaxing and moody selection of classic vinyl coupled with the kitschy decor and gourmet cuisine. And because ‘Throwback Thursdays’ are overrated, the resident DJ will help you belt out some of his old-school beats well into Saturday evening. Sundays just got way more memorable with rain dance and house tunes, a perfect kick-off to the new week.
Indie restaurateur and owner, Jurie Blomerus, hopes to attract hungry music-lovers from all walks of life with eclectic cuisine and entertainment. ‘The Vic was scribbled into darkness, now on a wall of a yesteryear home. Inside awaits the sound of a tune that makes you want to sit down, and reach for a drink, a thought or maybe just a hand.’
Address: 84 Kloof St, Gardens
Open: Tues to Sat noon to late | Sun & Mon 4pm to late
Happy Hour: 4pm to 7pm daily, with specials on the likes of Merriment & Co’s accessible Sierra Tequila and Drifter Brewery’s citrus-laced Buchu craft gin among others
The vibe: Indie glamour laced with Gucci-style kitsch
Tipple to try: A variety of local craft beers, bottled and on tap. Notable mentions include offerings from Muizenberg’s The Striped Horse and Woodstock’s Drifters Brewery
Foodies, feast on this: Succulent Karoo lamb chops, and gourmet pizzas with dubious names
Live music is always cool, whether experienced surrounded by scenic nature, or in a vibrant metropole. Serving up sweet tunes since 2006, Café Roux is a crown jewel in Cape Town’s music circles. This intimate live entertainment space in Cape Town plays host to a never-ending array of talented hometown heroes. With two intimate and family-friendly concert venues, guests can look forward to hazy late nights at the quirky Shortmarket Street branch, or a laid-back lunch in the tranquil Noordhoek Farm Village surrounds. Café Roux is a regular platform for genres from folk to rock, guaranteeing a mixed bag of mellowing Afro soul tunes on one evening, with something for the old rockers and indie darlings on another.
And over the years the family of founders have expanded their line-up to include comedians. Ditch the formal feel of theatre halls and watch out for local heavyweight Nik Rabinowitz on a 3-day stint next week.
The atmosphere at this laidback spot is family-friendly, rustic and effortless. And the unassuming – yet superb – breakfast, lunch and dinner menu offers something for everyone.
Address: Chapman’s Peak Dr, Noordhoek | 74 Shortmarket St, Cape Town
Open: City Centre Tues to Fri from noon, Sat at 4pm | Noordhoek open daily at 8am
The vibe: A distinctively Capetonian feast of music, food and culture
Tipple to try: Any of the wines on offer, bound to please the most finicky fundi
Foodies, feast on this: A Vegan delight: Roasted beetroot salad with marinated kale, toasted seeds, sundried tomato topped with a soy dressing.
A stalwart of Cape Town for the past 10 years, GOLD Restaurant still tops the list for a magical night of traditional African cuisine and music. You may have to battle a few visiting tourists to secure your spot, but it will be worth the effort.
Co-founder Cindy Muller and her team are constantly tweaking the finer details to ensure a special and memorable experience. As African drumming pulsates throughout the spacious rooms, guests can marvel at the charm of traditional dance, performance art, and singing. A popular highlight of this immersive live entertainment event is the vibrant Malian puppetry – an ancient Bambara tradition that offers a rare and enchanting glimpse into a country very often overlooked.
And to amplify the entertainment, GOLD Restaurant’s arresting 14-course set menu pays tribute to various pan-African countries. The carefully curated cuisine dispels the myth that our continent tends towards a meat-centric diet. Zambian sweet potato cakes sit pretty next to turmeric-glazed carrots from Zanzibar, coupled with spicy Egyptian-style lentils. Meat lovers needn’t worry as there is a fare of sumptuous dishes on offer as well.
GOLD Restaurant is an ideal destination for a sensory and cultural evening combining the best of African cooking, music and hospitality.
Address: 15 Bennett St, Green Point
Open: Daily from 6.30pm until 11pm
The vibe: Traditional with a warm and mellow African spirit
Tipple to try: Fynbos Mojito – the Cuban favourite gets a local overhaul with Inverroche’s Fynbos Gin
Foodies, feast on this: The fragrant Cardamom ice cream
Stardust is the home of the performing waiter – a dazzling showcase of Capetonians’ abundant musical talents. Distinct from any other venue in South Africa, at this charming Mediterranean-inspired restaurant perched on the edge of Woodstock, diners are served by up-and-coming musical stars. In fact many former waiting stff members have gone on to perform on Idols and The Voice as well as local and international theatre platforms including the West End and Broadway.
Many tourists pass through this hotspot due to its rave reviews on Google, Trip Advisor, Zomato and others, so booking is essential. The menu is dominated by decadent Mediterranean-inspired fare and some of the region’s best wines. Stardust Theatrical Dining is a place that welcomes all comers, and the crowd is a diverse mix made up of different age groups. Guests arrive at 7.30pm and often leave after midnight; the waiters do not turn tables, so you are welcome to stay until closing time.
Be advised: you may well end up dancing on the table!
Address: 118 Sir Lowry Rd, Woodstock
Open: Tues to Sat from 7.30pm
The vibe: Unabashed and energetic razzle-dazzle
Tipple to try: Stardust has one of the most eclectic selections of wine in the city, from imported champagne to classy champions such as Iona’s Sophie Té Blanche (a Chenin), to Glen Carlou’s niche dessert wine.
Foodies, feast on this: The spicy Morroccan fish tagine in a salsa-style sauce with accents of ginger, olives, preserved lemon and flaked almonds
Whilst every venue on this list is important, few are as crucial to the fabric of Cape Town’s music culture as The Piano Bar. Locals will readily vouch for this revue-style music bar nestled in the heart of Cape Town’s historical De Waterkant. The Piano Bar prides itself on unearthing some of the talented and raw rising stars of South Africa. It’s been able to achieve this feat thanks to inspired booking choices and a quality venue that people have quickly grown to love. Music lovers can indulge in unique live performances, a taut wine and cocktail list, and great cuisine every night of the week. The crowd is a diverse mix of urbanites and young professionals, but it’s the musical offering which reigns supreme at this cool spot, with anything from indie popsters to acoustic storytellers.
The dark and intimate atmosphere with its faint vintage touch couples perfectly with the raw and unbridled talent on stage. The Piano Bar is integrated with The Grey Hotel and Sky Bar, which offer sweeping views over the city. Perfect for first date nights or a bluesy Sunday evening!
Address: 47 Napier St, De Waterkant
Open: Daily from 7am (stop by for breakfast at The Grey Hotel)
Happy Hour: Daily 4 to 6pm, with a 2-for-1 tapas special
The vibe: Jazzy, moody, cosy, but with a markedly local flavour
Tipple to try: A classic Martini with Absolut or Tanqueray
Foodies, feast on this: The Falafel pita with mint Harissa, baba ganoush, and roasted red pepper