There’s an old joke that in South Africa, chicken is classed as a vegetable. This is a country where the braai (barbeque) is a national symbol and meat plays an important role in all of the country’s cuisines. But as people seek out a healthier lifestyle and look for ways to reduce strain on the planet, vegan living is gaining ground – and the Mother City is not one to be left behind when it comes to culinary trends. Here are some of the best vegan restaurants in Cape Town.
Perched on the corner of convivial Dunkley Square, Jessy’s Waffles is a dessert cafe specialising, would you believe, in waffles. Everything on the menu is vegan and gluten-free, but the emphasis on health-conscious treats doesn’t get in the way of a little decadence. This cafe is all about flavour, with waffle toppings including homemade caramel sauce, vegan chocolate chips and dollops of Unframed ice cream. There are a few savoury waffles on the menu too, including one topped with guacamole and smoky 'faken bacon' coconut chips.
One of the longest-running vegan restaurants in the Mother City, Plant specialises in comfort food, including hot dogs, mac and cheese, nachos and burgers as well as crunchy salads and poké-style bowls of sliced ingredients over rice. Vegan cheese and mayo are made on-site, and Plant even smokes its own 'bacon', made from tempeh, a soy-based product. It’s not all super-clean living though. You can wash down your plant-based lunch with a cocktail, a craft beer or a glass of local cab sauv.
Again, eating vegan doesn't have to be all about beansprouts and quinoa. Unframed is one of the city’s best places to slurp an ice cream – and many of the scoops are vegan. At any one time there will be ten flavours available at the Kloof St shop, with at least three vegan offerings. The chocolate, beetroot and ginger ice cream made with coconut milk will make sure you’ll never miss dairy again.
Raw and Roxy
When turning to a raw, plant-based diet cleared up a number of health issues, Danish-born chef Beatrice Holst wanted to share her findings. Raw and Roxy specialises in raw, vegan cuisine at its impressive new premises right in the city centre. Most people are surprised by just how many things on the menu tickle their fancy, so Beatrice added the tapas platter, allowing you to nibble on a range of dishes including Thai curry, lasagne and sushi (with raw cauliflower in lieu of rice). The sweet treats are decadent – but you’ll have to replace your coffee with a superfood smoothie or matcha latte.
Although not everything on the menu at Honest Chocolate is vegan, there are plenty of dairy-free treats to choose from. The sweet potato chocolate brownies come topped with a rich layer of dark, dairy-free chocolate and the signature Banana Bread Bunny Chow (curry in a loaf of bread) also comes in a vegan version. Coffees can all be ordered with an almond milk option or try the Coconut Dream, a refreshing blend of coconut milk, cocoa and dates.
When you think of vegan food, your mind probably conjures up ‘body is a temple’ type cuisine: piles of raw vegetables sprinkled with sprouts and seeds and superfoods. Lekker Vegan offers another approach – vegan junk food, because vegans get hangovers too. On the menu are faux meat burgers topped with vegan cheddar, fried onion rings and jalapenos; soft serve ice cream; chip rolls; NugNuggets and vegan versions of one of South Africa's favourite junk foods, the Gatsby. The Gatsby is a giant roll stuffed full of salad, chips, spicy sauce and some form of meat, or in this case, a well-seasoned meat substitute.
High Tea at the Twelve Apostles
Ah high tea. So elegant, so scrumptious, yet usually so full of eggs and deli meats and lashings of cream. Luckily the Twelve Apostles Hotel & Spa has introduced a vegan version of its very popular high tea. The three-tiered stand comes topped with aubergine sandwiches fried with dukka (Egyptian mixture of herbs, spices and nuts), slabs of rich chocolate cake and even vegan scones served with fruit compote in lieu of cream.