It's difficult to have a bad day in Cape Town. Spread over the slopes of Table Mountain, the city is one of the world's most beautiful. With an acclaimed annual jazz festival and a buzzing arts and fashion scene, it's a cultural hub. And with South Africa's Parliament as well as Robben Island just offshore where Nelson Mandela spent most of his 27 years in prison it is a political and historical center too. But Cape Town's main draw is food and wine. With all that fresh fish, Karoo lamb and some of the world's best winelands on the city's doorstep, great gourmet times are guaranteed.
South Africans are famous for their opulent breakfasts, and for a family treat I like to book a table under the trees at Jonkershuis, the eatery at Groot Constantia vineyard (www.jonkershuisconstantia.co.za) here is no better start to the day than taking in a view of the Cape estuary and False Bay, with a foreground of eggs Benedict and Cap Classique Buck's fizz.
Cape Town is an outdoorsy sort of place, and the cooler mornings are the best time to go exploring. When I have friends visiting, I generally send them up Table Mountain for the awesome views of the city and coast. The lazy way up is by cable car, but if you're feeling more energetic, walk from the beautiful Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens. Or skip the mountain and go for a drive down the windswept peninsula to Cape Point one hour south of town for an amble around the Cape of Good Hope. There is nothing between you and Antarctica here, and the two-hour walk offers views that alternate between sheltered empty beaches and giant green seas smashing against rocks.
That scenery may be reward enough, but just in case, there's lunch. Drive over to Noordhoek, halfway down the Atlantic coast, and grab a bite at the Foodbarn (www.thefoodbarn.co.za) which has the finest dining at the lowest prices in the most relaxed setting I know. Whatever you decide to have fried calamari in puff pastry, sun-dried tomato risotto, rack of lamb in a lemon breaded crust with spicy wine jus you're going to need a lie-down afterwards.
No problem just head for the beach: Noordhoek's seafront is five miles of tranquil white-sand serenity. The young, tan and lean flock to Clifton and Camp's Bay, 20 minutes north via the spectacular Chapman's Peak Drive. But the canny travel to the other side of the peninsula and Boulders Beach, where the water is warmer and your companions are African penguins. There, you can take tea at the Sweetest Thing (tel: (27-21) 786 4200) in Simon's Town, home of pastry wizard Doreen Alcock. And those who enjoy an oyster with their sundowner should also visit the Island Deli (tel: (27 21) 788 3583) nearer town in Lakeside, where you can pick up an iced takeaway tray of half-a-dozen West Coasters for $5.
Of course, this is all leading up to the day's main event: dinner. If you're staying in the vineyards, the best place to end the evening is La Colombe, a little piece of Provence nestling on the Constantia Uitsig estate (www.constantia-uitsig.com). In town, you'll be exquisitely served by 95 Keerom (www.95keerom.com): classic Italian cuisine in a beautiful townhouse where the chef, Giorgio Nava, cooks with ingredients he has grown, raised and caught himself (he has his own farm and boat). There's also Aubergine (tel: (27-21) 465 4909), where chef Harald Bresselschmidt serves up world-class avant-garde creations, assisted by the city's best sommelier, Jörg Pfützner. Night owls can then stroll over to one of the many bars and nightclubs on Long Street or in the De Waterkant area for a nightcap and a dance. But don't tarry. Breakfast is just hours away.
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