With eleven official languages from Zulu to Afrikans, global ethnic influences, and a highly diverse population, South Africa is truly a melting pot with a “rainbow nation” of residents. Founded as a refreshment station along the trade route of the Dutch East India Company in 1652, Cape Town mesmerizes visitors with its Table Mountain towering over the city, penguin-filled beaches, white-washed Dutch architecture, nearby wine country, and circuitous mountain roads that wind along the coast toward Cape Horn (think Big Sur times ten).
One of the city’s most famous luxury hotels, Cape Grace, has recently been renovated and sports a new dining spot that celebrates this cultural diversity and vast global influence in its cuisine. Signal Restaurant, named for the historic, daily midday canon firing on Signal Hill, showcases the talent of executive chef Malika van Reenen whose Cape Town cuisine blends local farm fresh ingredients and fresh catch from the sea with influences from the Spice Route traders who brought English, French, Dutch and Asian cuisine to the area. The creative menu offers savory creations like saffron-scented risotto with grilled prawns; an ostrich duo of tea-smoked carpaccio and tartar with melba toast and fig brûlée; and cumin-crusted springbok loin with spicy potato samoosas, coriander crème fraîche, baby spinach and beetroot chutney.
Van Reenen’s creative flair can also be found in a new cookbook “A Touch of Rooibos,” honoring South Africa’s signature aromatic and healing herb rooisbos. Her Rooibos and Ginger-Cured Beef Carpaccio; Rooibos-Scented Couscous; Rooibos, Lamb & Apricot Tagine, Rooibos & Honey-Poached Pears with Pavlova, Cardamom Cream and Rooibos Reduction; Rooibos & Apple Chutney; Rooibos, Lemon & Granadilla Marmalade are just a few of her contributions.
Set by the sea in iconic The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront area, the restaurant’s design pays homage to Cape Town’s seafaring heritage with nautical murals, anchor lamps, and play of wood. The diverse clientele in the room nicely reflects the multifaceted cuisine, while the beauty of both the local people and the setting makes it all the more a worthy trek to this spectacular city.