My city: Cape Town

Our ‘my city’ series puts a new perspective on some of our favourite places, as we catch up with creative residents, asking them to divulge their best-kept secrets. From their recommended cheap eats, to their go-to coffee spot, there are plenty of hints and tips on how to stay like a local.

We caught up with Filippa Harrington, a plant-based chef, menu consultant and food activist based in Cape Town, South Africa. In October this year, Filippa launched gather in Cape Town – a cafe serving breakfast and lunch, and hosting talks, workshops and events.

Filippa harvesting at Tyisa Nabanye, Cape Town.

Filippa harvesting at Tyisa Nabanye, Cape Town. Image: Filippa Harrington

Where do you go for the best coffee in Cape Town?

Bean There, on Wale Street. Fair trade, single origin coffee sourced from countries within the African continent, which is about as local as we can get for coffee in South Africa. Oh and it’s delicious, totally delicious and I’m pretty discerning when it comes to coffee.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve done in Cape Town, and why?

Grow a substantial appetite for Seaweed? I’m lucky to know some pretty wonderful people through involvement with Slow Food Youth Network, and after learning the seaweed ropes from local Cape Town forager Roushanna Gray, I just can’t get enough of the stuff.

If a friend’s visiting and you want to impress them, which is your go-to restaurant?

I take great personal pleasure in cooking for my friends, and sharing with them the wealth of organically-grown produce that’s available to us in Cape Town is a must… so I’d have to whip something up for them at the food and lifestyle space I co-own in Woodstock, a place called gather.

And your favourite cheap eat?

The vegetarian sampler platter at our local Ethiopian restaurants – Little Ethiopia or Madam Taitou – the teff grain wraps and assorted morsels are nourishing and abundantly flavourful… and you get to eat with your hands!

Lion's Head, Cape Town. Image: iStock/kntk

Lion’s Head, Cape Town. Image: iStock/kntk

Can you reveal your best-kept Cape Town secret?

Tyisa Nabanye, the farm on Signal Hill. It’s a small permaculture farm located right in the middle of the city and it offers a moment of calm and a connection with nature that’s hard to find in most cities. Not to mention the 360-degree view of Cape Town, Table Mountain, Lion’s Head and Signal Hill. I get to go there pretty often to harvest herbs for my restaurant and these quiet moments are something I wish more people had the pleasure of experiencing.

What’s the best thing to do in Cape Town for free?

It’s the things we can do in Cape Town for free that make the city so rewarding. Walk or hike any of our amazing mountain trails or head to one of Cape Town’s beautiful beaches or coves to relax by the sea. Most of our independent art galleries have free entry and during the summer months, there are free music concerts in De Waal Park on a Sunday – those are definitely worth attending (bring a picnic!).

Are there any tourist traps that should be avoided?

Long Street – it can be a bit of a mess and isn’t the safest place to find yourself. Also, the Lion’s Head full moon hike is equally as beautiful the day before or after the full moon, with a quarter of the crowds to contend with.

Where do you go when you need to get away from it all?

To Deer Park, which is part of the trail on Table Mountain. Or if its rainy, the basement cafe of The Book Lounge.

Muizenberg, Cape Town. Image: iStock/nicolamargaret

Describe your perfect day in Cape Town.

My perfect day in Cape Town would begin with early morning ashtanga yoga at AYCT, followed by a dart over the mountain to Scarborough’s Whole Earth Cafe for brunch – on the way back, stopping into Muizenberg for a surf. Afterwards, I’d pick up a bite to eat at Organic Zone’s deli section (the best supermarket in Cape Town) and head out for a little more beach time at Boulders, which is a beautiful, sheltered beach. After a quick car-side outfit change and freshen up, I’d head to Publik Wine Bar on Church Street for a glass of wine, before moving on to a showing at the Labia Independent Cinema on Orange Street (the name doesn’t reflect the programme!). A truly perfect day would have to end with a delicious vegan ice-cream from Unframed on Kloof.

In your opinion, when’s the best time of year to visit?

Early November or early March – before and after the tourist mania. December is pretty crazy.

If you didn’t live in Cape Town, where else would you live and why?

Maybe Hawaii? Cape Town has given me a thirst for mountains, beaches and surf. They feel essential for good living.

When you leave Cape Town, what do you look forward to most when you come back?

Everything. Never before have I missed a place before I even get on the plane. The land, the people, the vibrancy, the beaches, the Cederberg mountains… There’s so much magic here.

Cederberg, South Africa. Image: iStock/Dhoxax

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One Comment

  1. I agree – Muizenberg is a fantastic place to surf. Expansive and none of the usual territorial stuff you get from locals… everyone’s pretty much welcome.

    Nice write-up!

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