When I write stories set in Cape Town, I love painting a picture for readers who may not be familiar with the city – the blanket of cloud sweeping down Table Mountain, the paragliders slowly descending in circles around Lion’s Head, the graffiti-covered trains snaking into town.
Cape Town is the best place to go on a date, even fictional ones. Like the secret bridge at the end of the Kirstenbosch Gardens Braille Trail, where Jenna and Robert make out in Dark Poppy’s Demise, or the little sushi restaurant in Mowbray where V and James share a rare, happy moment in Sharp Edges.
The characters in Mine fall in love along the Century City walking trails, and spend time together at scenic spots like Kalk Bay harbour and Rhodes Memorial.
As for real life dates, here are some of the places where the little cartoon hearts have floated out of my own head.
My Favourite Date Night Dinners
A tad on the pricy side, but there is nothing more romantic and intimate than this ever-changing sharing menu. I love the attention to detail, the amazing flavours and the beautiful presentation of the bite-sized tapas. There is also something incredibly cute about running down Bree Street together and making sure the other person doesn’t get run over as you rush to secure a seat after work. (The restaurant does not take bookings.)
El Burro Taqueria
Resembling a set from a Wes Anderson movie, the pastel decor and sunny corner location make this a sweet little spot for a quick after work cocktail. And the ceviche is great.
An American diner-inspired eatery with big burgers and even bigger milkshakes served in iconic silver shakers. We usually reserve this romantic hotspot in Long Street for special celebrations like month-aversaries or the time we got to meet Raymond E Feist on his Cape Town tour.
The courtyard between Clarkes and Hail Pizza
I’m not sure whether it’s a Cape Town secret or not, but if you choose a table in the leafy courtyard between Clarkes Diner and Hail Pizza you get to order from both menus. Clarkes is my absolutely favourite date night spot. We are burger people and the juicy medium rare patties between flaky pastry buns are to-die-for. Plus, they have a great two-for-one special on Tuesday nights.
My favourite sushi joint will always be Hamachi in Kenilworth, with Willoughby & Co at the V&A Waterfront and Sushi Box in Newlands coming in second and third respectively. But for dates, nothing beats Active Sushi in Bree Street with their white paper tablecloths you are welcome to scribble on and cozy, plush seating. For a quick lunchtime rendezvous, the colourful Bento boxes at Obi get my vote.
Another sweet pastel spot perfect for a quick date is The Creamery, which specialises in delicious artisan ice cream. The flavour of the month changes monthly, so look out for daring flavours like matcha green tea, peach crumble, birthday cake and red fig. It’s that ‘fancy artisan place’ Kayla refers to in Mine. Shh.
The Best Dates Ever
The Grand Daddy Rooftop
One rainy evening last year, the Wild Child and I raced down the wet streets and took the tiny clunky lift to the roof of the Grand Daddy Hotel in Long Street to watch an old movie under the stars. It was cold, so the staff supplied blankets we could snuggle under and complimentary hot chocolates to sip on. That night we had the whole roof to ourselves. Sadly, I’m not sure if the Pink Flamingo rooftop cinema is around anymore, but the rooftop bar is still going.
Galileo Open Air Cinema
This travelling inflatable cinema ends up at some of Cape Town’s most beautiful venues including Kirstenbosch Gardens and the V&A Waterfront. My favourite location is the Vergenoegd Wine Estate in Somerset West (home of the famous duck run). It’s such a peaceful place, with old Dutch homesteads and a placid lake creating the perfect setting to await the sunset with a picnic. Their wine is great too. I bought tickets for both The Neverending Story and Murder on the Orient Express and both evenings were equally memorable.
Theatre on the Bay
With apologies to The Fugard, The Theatre on the Bay is my favourite theatre in Cape Town. With its stunning Camps Bay sea view and intimate seating, it’s a great evening out and something fun to dust off the high heels for. We went to see The Mousetrap, Agatha Christie’s legendary West End play. Naturally, I threw on my vintage 1940s inspired dress for the occasion. Other than accidentally booking seats in the front row, it was perfect.
Dinner at the Aquarium
So, it turns out the Two Oceans Aquarium hosts a Valentine’s Day dinner every year. In other words, they close the aquarium for the evening and sell only a select number of tickets for an exclusive dinner around the exhibits. I was lucky to secure tickets before the event was sold out. Our picnic blanket was set up right in front of the predator exhibit, which served as our private entertainment for the evening. Dinner was a delicious basket of breads, cheeses, salads, sustainable fish and other treats. At the end of the evening, we had the whole aquarium to ourselves, and I can tell you that wandering through the jellyfish exhibit at night is beyond magical.
I love Pokémon Go. So does my partner. Our favourite thing to do on a free weekend is to take a drive along the Whale Coast taking over gyms and catching water Pokémon before stopping for fish and chips at the beach. I also love making the most of Community Days and roping in a few friends to participate in raids. The best venues for Community Days are Kirstenbosch Gardens, Sea Point Promenade and Green Point Urban Park. It’s amazing who you run into while you race from Pokéstop to Pokéstop.
Kirstenbosch Summer Concerts
Picture the scene: a picnic blanket and snacks, your favourite local band performing a few meters away and a magnificent mountainous backdrop. The concert series at the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens is synonymous with summer and entry to the beautiful gardens is free with your ticket.
Babylonstoren (worth the drive)
The sprawling gardens are an idyllic setting for a quiet walk or having a farm-to-table brunch near the glass conservatory. It’s my favourite place to get lost in. The gardens change seasonally, so there’s always something new to see. And there’s a giant tortoise in there somewhere too.
Where are your favourite places to go on a date?